Helen and I decided to checkout Old Down Wood. The snow was very wet and was thawing quite quickly, leaving plenty of water on top of the still quite frozen ground. The road too was very wet with plenty of quite deep puddles
We walked into the wood, and decided to take the track around the outside path parallel to Brislands Lane. The walk was difficult as the melting snow was was making it slippery on top of the frozen ruts. The snow was not too deep under the trees, and the Blackbirds appeared to be everywhere amongst the leaf litter. Other than these the first part of the walk was quiet. We scanned the fields in hope of something but could only find a few Common Gulls flying around. Yesterday at Bransbury Common we had seen Hares in similar habitats, but not here. As we came to the furthest point of the wood, something was running quickly across the field, I hoped Hare, but it turned out to be a Roe Deer, I managed to get a few shots, and this was the best, it seemed to have been spooked by something, there had been gun shots earlier maybe that had something to do with it.
After scanning the fields and paddocks to the south, we walked back into the woods. The area here is dominated by elder trees, some were dead but others were definitely alive, however the dead trees were covered in Jew's Ear Fungi, they definitely look like ears but where the Jew bit comes from I don't know. According to the books they usualy gather in large amounts especially favouiring Elders. Against the light the fungus looks translucent, and quite beautiful.
The bird life had been quiet, but along the path we could hear Goldcrests, but for once they were not in the tree tops but on the ground. They were moving very quicky amongst the moss and leaf litter. We watched them for a while but had to move on when a couple walking along the path decided they wanted the whole wood to hear what they were talking about!
The trees in this area were mostly covered in snow on one side of the bark, as a result they produced a lovely scene with the orange appearance of the bark, and the rich brown of the dead beech leaves.
The mild winter up to now was probably the reason why the bluebells are very advanced, you can see them all over the floor of the wood under the trees. The snow seemed to enhance them on the floor. I have seen snow and bluebell flowers, I hope that is not the case this year.
We turned of the perimeter track and continued on into the wood, mainly because of other walkers, this proved to be very fruitful, because we found tracks in the snow that were definitely those of badger. They came from and could be found leading to an area of dead trees and leaf litter. They clearly had been digging and stripping the dead bark in the night. The tracks continued along the main footpath, and we even found some further on in another area of the wood. The snow had revealled their prescence something I had never realised before. The tracks are quite distinctive, and easily picked out from the mainy dog tracks around
In the area to the east of the wood we came across lots digging and over turned leaf litter. It soon became apparent that this was caused by Redwings as we disturbed a large flock and they took off to the tops of ther trees. The fields around the wood were sparsely covered by snow, but this managed to creat a lovely scene against the very wintery trees along Brislands Lane.
We continued on around the perimeter, stopping to check the tree tops for Redpoll and Sisken, and then the floor of the wood for Thrushes. The footpaths criss cross through the wood, and lead out over the surrounding fields. In the summer you walk through the cereal crops that have been sown, today there was no doubt as to where the path went.
We decided to come out of the wood, and check out Swelling Hill Pond, but this proved to be very quiet, the sought after Woodcock just not there. We went back into the wood to finish off the perimeter walk. Stopping at a gate to look over the fields and paddocks Helen pointed out the refracted view of the gate in the water drop on the tree branch, here is a view of the gate and fields beyond upside down in a drop of water!
We walked out of the wood, and back down Brislands Lane, the cold was now beginning to bite, so we were looking forward to a warm up and a cup of tea.