In fact, there were a few breaks in the cloud letting the odd shaft of sunlight through, which was invitation enough to scramble into some clothes and gather together my optics for May's trip to Little Linford Wood.
As I drove through Newport Pagnell, there was an occasional patch of frost on car or shed roofs and the road in the river valley was still half-covered in flood water. Fancying a longer walk than normal, rather than use the usual car park, I stopped in the corner of a field, just off the tarmac road, and set off on foot along a broad path towards the wood.
In the distance, mist was blanketing the southern edge of the trees and, as I worked my way along a hedgerow, there was the welcome song of a Whitethroat, Sylvia communis. Another Summer migrant arrives! Nearing the wood, the weak sun had burnt off the mist and all was clear and crisp once more. It felt like the landscape had been freshly unwrapped and spread out in the warming light. The lush green growth of the leaves and the swathe of colour from innumerable Bluebells were still glistening in the early morning dew.
Arriving at the car park on foot, I startled a Buzzard, Buteo buteo, that was roosting in an Oak tree in the clearing. There always seems to be a pair of these raptors around the wood and they certainly have plenty of choice for a nest site.
Following the recent rain, I was pleased to find that the ephemeral pond by the car park was holding water again. Who knows, if we have a wet summer, this could once more prove to be a good spot for dragonflies.
On through the woodland paths and there were more signs of Spring. Greater Stitchwort is now in flower and there were a few specimens of Wild Strawberry (though as I didn't take a photo, I'm unable to say which species, sorry).
|Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea|
On the path to the west of the wood, I was fortunate to see a Hare across the field. It was sat in a furrow made by a tractor wheel, which at least rendered it visible, as the crop is now too high otherwise. As the ground was very wet with dew, I couldn't disagree with its reasoning. I had been employing much the same tactic, walking wherever the grass was shortest! The Hare was busy grooming (or just drying itself, I guess) and then with a final flourish, it sat up and boxed the air, before loping off along the furrow.
Up by the old barn, the songs of Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, and Lesser Whitethroat, Sylvia curruca, (another arrival) could be heard. As I was trying to photograph a few of the sparrows, another pair of birds flew into the hedge and perched in my viewfinder. Linnets! (Carduelis cannabina!)
The skies were growing darker by this point, heralding a return to the prevailing dreary drizzle, but before that, I was allowed one more ray of sunshine in the form of a sumptuous Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella.
Here's hoping for some warm sunny days in June and the promise of insects on the wing.