Monday, 16 December 2013

15th December - "Badger... we should run!"

We were away last weekend, up in North Norfolk.  Once again we picked a dramatic time, and you can see the details here.  As well as the weekend away I was in Germany this week, so today was the first chance to get around some of the patch.  It was misty, and rain was forecast so I decided to limit it to an investigation of the devastation progress.

As I left the house there seemed to be Blackbirds everywhere.  I could hear them clacking away, and counted at least a dozen as I walked to Lymington Bottom.  Their numbers have increased probably due to migrants coming in from the continent along with the Redwing and Fieldfare.

As I turned up Brislands the view down the lane has taken on a real autumn / winter feel, misty and damp.

The development land was my first stop, they have really advanced and where there was long grass, charms of Goldfinches, Cinnabar Moths Essex Skippers and Marbled White Butterflies there now is mud and wreckage.

It is even worse at the old entrance, where there were bushes and trees, with Blackcaps singing, Banded Demoiselle damsel flies and Comma butterflies there is now just stumps and dinosaur like digging equipment in the distance.  The field was used by Roe Deer, there were probably hundreds of Slow worms too, Kestrels sat on the poles and wires, and who knows what else lived there the lucky ones have all now had to run away, but what of those that just can't?

A little further on there was a gathering of corvids, mostly Rooks and Jackdaws in the trees and on the wires above the road.  This Jackdaw watched as I walked past.

I wasn't sure if it was the horse paddock that was the attraction or something else, the overnight rain probably having soften the ground and turned up something interesting to feed on.  A little further along I noticed them gathering in the the field.  I haven't seen this many here for some time, so something must be an attraction

When I set off it was misty, and felt damp, but there was no rain, and in fact the early morning had seen some clear skies, but these were quickly replaced with what was probably more low cloud.  As I came out into the open once passing the houses on Brislands the breeze was evident, and you could see the cloud being blown by.  

The field to the south has been left to fallow for now, and as a result has thrown up some interesting patterns and colours.  Looking across to Old Down Wood in the mist it looked quite eerie.

A little further on and I began to doubt whether in fact it was low cloud, as looking across the north fields towards the Watercress Line was a complete white out.

It has been ten days since I last walked around the patch, and fifteen since I had come this way, and I was struck how quickly everything has sunk into winter.  We have had differing weather from rain, to wind, and frost, and this has finally killed off the bracken, and it is now sinking down, to rot and breakdown along the roadside verge.  The cycle of growth will start again next March, but for now the dark brown leaves will provide some cover as they rot down, opening up the lane for the winter.

In the mist and cloud the air was becoming much wetter, I turned off the lane to go into the wood, and was greeted by a muddy track leading into the wood.  The path was lined with tree trunks still, but now they were mostly Beech.  There was only a small stack of Larch, so maybe that part of the "management" was over, and now it was the turn of the Beech trees to be felled, stripped and piled up to wait before loading and shipment away.

One of the logs in the stack in the stack of Beech had a mass of fungi coming from the centre of the trunk.  Strange that this was the only one, and probably a sign this particular tree was going to fall any way.  I am not sure if the wood is still of any worth to the end user,  The fungi in question is a Branching Oyster, and has probably only just recently emerged.

As I walked down the path I could hear drops of rain falling, and assumed this was as a result of the mist collecting on the branches and then falling, it didn't seem like rain yet, just in case though I covered up the camera, the day was becoming very quickly not the best condition for photography was not. 

The wood was silent, and as I looked around there were huge swages of mud where caterpillar tracks or tractor tyres had thrown mud up as they ploughed their way through the wood.  I made several attempts to cross one of these tracks to reach the north perimeter path.  Finally I managed to get across without losing a Wellington boot.  the path was strewn with branches, and in places the course has already been changed as parts are just completely blocked.  

I stopped every so often, and could hear the calls of Long-tailed Tits.  As I watched parties of these energetic little birds stream through the tree tops, I could also pick out Blue and Great Tits with them.  A Nuthatch would also call, and in one spot I could hear Bullfinch, but was never able to find it.  As I approached the west end, the path ran into yet another huge barrier of mud, and I had to take a route that brought me out at the field.  I scanned the field, but by now it was very misty, and I could see it was also raining.  I headed back into the wood and walked along the main path.

This forestry work was advised on the signs in October as "essential management", however for me there is no management at all, it just seems like an excuse for mindless vandalism.  Surely management would not just break trees and leave them half intact, or cut trees and leave them suspended amongst others?  Surely management would clear some of the fallen branches and trees.  The other statement was that it would remove non-native trees, so why then have the young conifers been left, and the native Beech removed?  In the UK there are only three native conifers, the Scots Pine, the Yew and the Juniper.  For management I would read commercial gain, without any care for the wood at all.  I have tried to find out who is conducting this work, but there does not seem to be any information.

As I walked around the main path I disturbed at least two pairs of Roe Deer.  they are now in their winter coats which are more grey than the chestnut red you see them in during the spring and summer.  Their white behinds were all I could see as they bounded over the fallen trees and branches once flushing them out.

I walked around the south perimeter, here there were hardly any birds other than the call of a Wren from somewhere amongst the dead branches.  At the Brislands exit I flushed two Song Thrush feeding in the leaf litter, they flew off calling in alarm.

Coming out of the wood I looked across to the Four Trees, they were almost obscured by the mist, a sight I had not been able to photograph last year.

I headed down Gradwell and took the footpath to Lymington Bottom.  There were a lot of black and white birds in the field, but not the recent Pied Wagtails.  This time there was a large flock of twelve Magpies on the ground.  They are extremely nervous though, and as I raised the camera they were off.  As well as the Magpies I disturbed a group five Redwing, and again a Bullfinch called from the hedgerow, but never showed itself.

The rain started to get harder as I made my way home.  It looked like it was settling in for the rest of the day.  Back at home the bird feeders were busy during the afternoon, the first time I have seen it this way this winter.  There were up to at least ten Goldfinches at one time, three Greenfinches, a Linnet and Blue, Great, Coal and long-tailed Tits.  The "Buggy Niblets" seem to be the big attraction!

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