Monday 12 March 2012

March in Little Linford Wood

That title makes this post sound more like a demonstration, possibly against the proposed wind farm on its doorstep, than a monthly update of life in LLW, but I'm not opening that can of worms again!

On a mild weekend in mid March, there were definite signs that life is stirring from its Winter slumbers. Unfortunately, we chose to go on Saturday, the cloudier of the two days, as Sunday was reserved for the last practical session at Hanson Environmental Study Centre before the bird breeding season begins. But not to worry...
Not too dissimilar to the January view. Still dry.
Not long after setting off from the car park, it was immediately obvious that a new season was under way. The ephemeral pond might look the same as two months ago, but the first flowers were starting to grace the edges of the rides. Eponymously enough, the first flower we saw was, in fact, a Primrose, Primula vulgaris, here seen in the presence of some Bluebell shoots and a newly emergent Dog's Mercury.

Towards the centre of the wood, a new glade had been created by some hard-working volunteers from the local wildlife trust. I have since learnt that the coppicing is left deliberately high, so that the new growth emerges above the browse line of the Muntjac Deer that inhabit the wood.

Walking west from the wood, along the hedgerow that follows the top of the ridge, we were heartened to hear the soft "chirrup" of a few Tree Sparrows, Passer montanus. It's good to know that they've survived the Winter, as we only ever see them in this hedge, and never more than half a mile  from the wood. If I was of a more belligerent bent, the survival of this species is the one I would champion in the fight against development.

By the old ruined barn on the hill top, we could see a few other birds flitting about. Whilst not able to get too close, we could see that they were Yellowhammers, Emberiza citrinella. It appeared that we were watching two males displaying in a territorial dispute. They would swoop at each other, chase around for a bit and often perform some sort of aerial act of derring-do. This was difficult to capture on camera, but I rattled off a few record shots because it was such an odd behaviour.

In pre-swoop mode
Bizarre birds!
Rubbish shot of a more sedate individual
As we wandered back into the wood, it was obvious that the Rooks, Corvus frugilegus, had returned to their rookery from wherever their Winter roost had been. There was much repair activity going on around the two dozen or so nests, with twigs and moss being brought in by the beakful.

If you ever want to learn more about these fascinating birds, I can heartily recommend Mark Cocker's "Crow Country", possibly the most beautiful book I have ever read.


Tales of a Bank Vole said...

Nice Blog Graeme and well done on spotting so much activity. I normally see very few birds outside of the normal bunch of tits (pardon the expression)at LLW - I must make another visit soon to see if the dog fighting yellowhammers are still perfoming.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Thanks, Tony. I had assumed that "hammer" referred to the bird's head, but perhaps it was meant more in the way of "... and tongs".

Spadger said...

amazing record shots - they look just like two planes in dog fight mode! Brilliant. Of course you know what my answer to the Muntjac would be - BANG!!!