Starting at 1000, Murray Brown led another of the morning walks that form part of this year’s programme of guided wildlife walks at Heartwood Forest. Although no new birds were added to this year’s total, certain species performed well including a lovely female Kestrel which remained perched on a post before flying off to continue to hunt and dive into the long grasses. Later, a male hovered quite close, allowing comparison between the plumages of the two sexes. Buzzards put in regular appearances but surprisingly Red Kites were notable by their absence this morning.
Green Woodpeckers gave good views, Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling and walkers were also enabled to differentiate between the cooing calls of Stock Dove and Woodpigeon.
Most birds have become quiet as the breeding season slows down and they begin to rest, start to moult and feed up before migrating or in preparation for the winter. However, a Chiffchaff was still singing in the area of Well Wood, with snatches of Blackcap song as an accompaniment. A Song Thrush was also in full song, as were several Wrens, a species which can pretty much be heard singing all year. Preliminary indications for this year’s breeding season indicate that it will be a good year for most species and the speckled juvenile Robin (no russet breast yet!) that was seen was hopefully testimony to this. Of course, the Skylarks were singing all morning…lovely!
Yellowhammers were much in evidence and a fine cock was seen bathing in a puddle on the footpath to the south of Hill End Farm. Keith, one of the walkers was delighted as he had not seen one for years. The infant forest is proving a very important habitat indeed for declining farmland species that are so much in need of our help.
Butterflies recorded included Meadow Browns joined by Gatekeepers which are now on the wing. We also saw Small Heath and Red Admiral along with several Marbled Whites. Look these ones up or do a Google image search (it seems to be a very good year for them!) and then show off your wildlife knowledge to your friends by telling them that they’re not actually ‘whites’ but belong to the butterfly group known as ‘the Browns’. Those stunning little Cinnabar Moths that were reported in previous posts (and are now absent) had been busy as their black and yellow striped caterpillars were found on their Ragwort food-plant in several places.
The group also sniffed some weed…no need to call the police, we’re talking about Pineappleweed or Pineapple Mayweed, a relative of the daisy that is common in bare, often well-trodden places. Crush the petal-less, yellow flower heads and they really do smell wonderfully of pineapple!
The next “As day turns to night…” walk starts at 2000 on Friday. With four Barn Owls seen on the last one, places are filling so please book well in advance. For this and the rest of the summer’s programme of walks at Heartwood Forest, visit: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/news/events/heartwood-stroll/