Wednesday, 22 January 2014

22nd January - Green Shoots of Recovery?

After two dry days the rain finally returned overnight, but by dawn it was gone and all that was left was a mist.  The garden was busy with the usual suspects, the numbers of Goldfinches beginning to rise once again.  Earlier in the year I found out that the Tits and Robins liked the Buggy Nibbles the RSPB provide, and once they ran out I bought a tub of the Gardman equivalent, it appears I have very fussy birds because they completely ignored the Gardman nibbles, and now having bought more RSPB buggy nibbles they are consuming them as if their lives depend on it.

There has been no sign of any Blackcap this year so far in the garden, and the Garden Birdwatch this weekend looks like it will be quite light compared to previous years.  The weather would have to change significantly and I don't see that happening soon.

By midday the sun had burnt of the cloud and there was patches of blue sky about.  I decided to go and see whether there had been any developments in Old Down Wood, and to check if any other areas had suffered from trees blown down.  To help with the descriptions of the footpaths I have copied from the Hampshire Rights of Way web site the identity of the footpaths, and I will refer to these.



I drove to the pond, parked there then walked to the Old Down Cottage entrance on footpath 15.  The path in was flooded.  This was not due to any work, but it usually floods here, but not quite as deep and full as this.



Birds were singing almost everywhere.  I could hear at least four Robins, a distant Song Thrush and many Great Tits.  The calls of Blue Tits would also puncuate the song from the top of the remaining larches.  

Looking down the path the Silver Birch that I saw down on my last walk into here 10 days ago was still lying across the footpath.



I made my way around it, only to come across an even bigger oak tree that had come down, again blocking the path, and forcing me to find away around it, and even through it.  This is a view looking back towards the entrance and from where I had just come from.  So sad to see this beautiful mature tree lying on the ground like this.



I must admit there was plenty of light, and the birds did seem to be enjoying it.  There was a large flock of Long-tailed Tits in a fallen birch alongside the path, it didn't seem to bother them if the tree was up or down, they still poured over the branches in search of a meal.

The path was very wet and muddy.  Wellingtons are a must if you want to walk through here.  Heading north I looked to the east at a trail that leads off the footpath towards footpath 19.  It has been used as a track by the machinery, and the furrows are deep and full of water.  It is no longer passable but the pools created if they remain could very well be an attraction to the frogs and newts that have laid the eggs in much smaller pools here before.



Just before the cross roads there were more trees blocking the path, but not so drastically.  These were smaller and younger birch trees.



Up to now the footpath 16 heading west has been un touched, and the one area you could walk relatively easy.  However now like the others it is blocked by at least two fallen trees.



The cross roads area is a mess, and just to emphasise that these are official footpaths that are blocked I took this view with the footpath indicators in it for paths 17 and 16 looking south.  You can see how much damage there is.



Looking north is not much better but it is possible to wade through the mud and puddles, but only in wellingtons, the water is quite deep.



I headed north towards Brislands on what is footpath 15 again.  It was clear, probably because this is where the trucks come to take the logs away.  A Song Thrush sang from its usual tree.  Footpath 18 branches off towards the west here, and again you can see it is completely blocked.  This though is not due to storm damage but by the mess left by the contractors.



I turned around and walked back towards the cross roads, then headed to the east along footpath 16.  Footpath 19 branches off this after about 100 metres, and heads south, but getting on means you have to cross large furrows.  The water is deep here and you can't wade through it, so I had to find away through the fallen branches to get onto the path.



I walked on, stopping to look west along the trail towards footpath 15, the position I had looked down earlier.  You can see the mess.  Sweet Chestnuts have been removed here along with Larches, the two species vulnerable to the fungus disease.



As I approached the gate and stile, the two trees I had seen on my last visit were still blocking the path.  Lying prostrate across the path, there were signs of shoots coming from the fallen bases of the trees.



One of the benefits to come from the felling is the opening up of the canopy and the letting in of light that would benefit the flowers.  The mild conditions were probably more the reason for finding the small green shoots of the Bluebells, and I must admit it was nice to see them, maybe they will come through early this year and brighten up a very dismal place.



As well as the Bluebells the leaves of the Wood Sorrel could be found in amongst the leaf litter close to the open areas.



I had decided to walk out towards Kitwood, but before I did I stopped to listen to the bird song, and calls that were all around me.  I didn't take a long lens with me, but this Treecreeper came close enough.  It looks like they are benefiting from the broken trees, as it spent quite a bit of time exploring the broken part of the trunk.



As I walked across the field I could hear two Skylark above me singing, and along the footpath I disturbed several groups of skylarks feeding amongst the stubble.  There was a total of 17 birds that flew away across the field, plus the two above me.

Looking back I decided on a panoramic view of the wood.



As I made my way back to the car I could hear a Blackbird rattling out its scolding alarm call.  This is usually a sign of an owl about, especially at this time of day, and sure enough as I got to the pond the blackbird flushed a Tawny Owl from the ivy on one of the old Oak trees.

A nice walk in very pleasant sunshine.  The mild weather continues and the wildlife behave as if spring is nearly here.  We shall have to see.

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