It was fantastic to see the return of some decent weather yesterday and after finishing work we decided that it was high time we made a first trip of #30DaysWild out onto our local patch. Regular readers will by now be more than a little familiar with this area as it’s probably the one place that I visit more than any other. This is thanks in no small part to it being positioned literally on our doorstep making it ideal for those evening rambles when being able to mentally unwind is just as, if not more important than the physical exercise. It’s also provided an unexpectedly fruitful home for my Patchwork Challenge exploits which has led to such discoveries as breeding Shelduck, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Whitethroat and Stonechat to name just a few. Not bad for an old colliery site really. Spending so much time in a place you inevitably become tuned in to its changing character and this most recent of visits was notable for the eruption of fresh Bracken growth which in a matter of weeks has caused the hills to shrug off their winter brown overcoats to don a fresh, vibrant green dress. Everywhere you look new life is springing into action and, even when you think you’ve seen everything there is to see, mother nature throws an unexpected curve ball. Last night’s was the discovery of hundreds upon hundreds of tiny ripe Strawberries hung from plants barely a centimetre tall, swathes of which covered the thin soils of a landscaped spoil tip. Quite how I’ve never noticed these before is anyone’s guess but perhaps it was just the fact that we were wandering almost without objective, simply happy to exist in the moment and experience whatever came our way.
Those Strawberries weren’t to be our only new discovery either as a short distance away we found a Dog Rose in full flower. Using its curved thorns to gain purchase as it wove its way through a Gorse bush has led to a specimen some ten foot high at least, an impressive achievement where poor soils and exposed slopes typically lead to more stunted growth.
Of course what we were really after though were some birds and on that front we did pretty well. Overhead both Buzzard and Red Kite were recorded along with a lone Raven whilst up at the new dam a pair of Grey Wagtails were clearly defending a nest site. Here too we observed a family of young Blue Tits and somewhere in the valley there’s at least a couple of Song Thrush nests if the adults carrying food we saw are any indication. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are also still present in good numbers, though much less vocal now than when they first arrived, but despite much searching we just couldn’t turn up a Dipper. I know that at least one pair is using our river much further downstream in the village but it looks like a previously used nest site up here is silent this year. That could have something to do with the amount of disturbance going on around it as part of some long running flood alleviation works so fingers crossed they’ll be back next year.
Our biggest surprise of the day however was thanks to not one but two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Now before you cast aspersions my way you need to understand that these are like absolute gold dust around here and despite a couple of single sightings previously this is the first time that I have ever recorded a pair. Even better I managed to get one of the birds on camera in what I’m going to claim is an artistically composed and most definitely intended silhouetted shot.
If only that sun could have lasted.
Today is day seven of #30DaysWild and it’s been an absolute shocker weather wise. Things started pretty promisingly sure and I did manage to spend most of the day looking longingly out of the office window at sun drenched hillsides but, come home time, the clouds rolled in and the heavens opened. Even I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm to venture out so this evening’s wild encounter has been through a particularly fascinating episode of Springwatch. Fostered Peregrine chicks, home made Snipe display experiments and a whole lot more. Just what was needed to cut ourselves off from the raging winds outside.