Saturday 4 February 2012

Livin' on the edge

This was going to be my February post for Little Linford Wood, but as you will see, things didn't quite work out that way.

Firstly, yesterday evening, whilst I was washing up, an Aerosmith song was played on the radio, "Livin' on the edge". Excellent track, for all sorts of reasons. And particularly prescient...

It was bitterly cold this morning with a sharp frost. When I looked out of the bedroom window, the bird feeders were lying on the lawn and a bemused Wood Pigeon was trying to figure out whether this was a good thing or not.

This wasn't vandalism, this was ice. The pole that supports the feeders is in several sections and when the lower section fills with water and then the water freezes, the middle section is forced up and out. Result - feeders on the ground, many unhappy birds and a brisk trip into the garden for me. A jug of warm water helped to restore normality, and whilst our porridge was cooking, I watched some very hungry visitors tucking into sunflower seeds, peanuts and a fat block.

The rising winter sun cast a pink glow across the frost on the neighbouring rooftops, like the warm breath of a lover on a cold cheek. And you can't waste a morning that inspires a sentence like that.

Our Lass already had her nose stuck in a text book, so after a quick call to the Admiral and the donning of much fleecy clothing, he and I set off for Little Linford Wood. From the car park on the east side, we decided upon a clockwise route down the south eastern edge, halfway up the south west side, out in a wide arc through the fields, back into the north west side and east through the wood to return to the car.

Halfway along the south eastern edge, we spotted a fox. He was a long way off, but we stood still as he hunted in the hedgerow, moving towards us. Predictably, he turned into the wood on our intended route, so we set off once more with the faint hope of perhaps spotting him again.

Once in the wood, we did indeed spook the fox, who ran off west out of sight. Then, the Admiral saw him dash across the footpath ahead of us and deeper into the wood. Unless, of course, this was a different fox, for as we exited the woodland into the fields, a very vulpine face was watching us from the hedgerow.

Across the next few fields, we saw up to 6 hares, although only ever 3 at once. There was a bit of romance in the air, despite the cold, and one particular male hare was caught a swift blow about the ears by the object of his affections.

Whilst all this was going on, another fox appeared, hunting further down the hillside. It was unperturbed by our presence and eventually trotted off into the wood, passing a Muntjac deer in the process.

No sooner had we taken our eyes off that scene, and carried on towards the valley floor, then what should we espy? Yet another one, sunning himself in a sheltered spot out of the cool breeze.

It had obviously been a tough night, if they were still all hunting in daylight the next morning.

Once across the stream in the valley bottom, we disturbed another Muntjac deer, grazing as best it could in the conditions. Again, these creatures do not like to be out in the open in daylight with humans around, so the cold weather was definitely having an effect on the wildlife.

After circling through the fields, passed an old moated enclosure, we returned to the wood by the side of a ruined barn. Here, on the sunward wall, were sat 2 Little Owls, Athene noctua, basking as far as was possible in the freezing temperatures.

They may be little, but you certainly know you've been stared at if one of these looks at you!

So, to return to the "Livin' on the edge" theme, most of the animals and birds that we saw were not actually in the wood, they were hanging on to Life through this cold spell, hunting or hunkering down at the edges of woods, hedgerows and buildings.

And tonight, it snows...


holdingmoments said...

It must be tough for these poor animals this weather. It amazes me how some of them manage to survive.
Those Little Owls certainly know how to give the 'look'.

Imperfect and Tense said...

It was weird. I don't think I've ever seen so many wild mammals in a morning. Well, not since the last wildebeest migration through Campbell Park.

Those eyes! I just know that I'm going to wake up screaming after a Little Owl-induced nightmare :o(

Spadger said...

Yes those eyes are awesome - first view I eve had as a kid was in Richmond Park when looked up from beneath one of those very scary veteran oaks to have one glare at me before it flew off! It scared the pants off me!!
What a lovely morning though to find all those mammals - superb! I hope you've logged them onto the Mammal Soc's website!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Yeah, they reckon Paddington Bear had a hard stare, but he hadn't anything on these mean critters.