The conservation and heritage charity for the
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Weekly Nature Watch

Keith Graham's weekly update on the nature of the Park.

Weekly Nature Watch 14th February 2020

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The weather has been making the headlines as storm Ciara drenched us and battered us with high velocity winds and just to make a proper job of it, rounded things off with a peppering of snow, all of which caused chaos and disrupted travel.  It did not, however, disrupt the local gang of rooks which seemed to revel in the hostile conditions and clearly rejoiced in the swirling wind. Soon, they were also hurtling about the sky like dancing dervishes. We may think of rooks as common or garden birds, yet give them a wind to play with and they really do respond.

They come rushing down that wind before cutting up and diving headlong into it with absolutely gay abandon. It seems to me that this is their excuse to demonstrate that despite a reputation as comparatively unexceptional birds in the general scheme of things, they nevertheless can boast exceptional flying skills that would knock those of most other birds into a cocked hat. It may seem incongruous but rooks definitely respond to wind by deliberately setting out to enjoy themselves, challenging the wind with a whole range of fantastic aerobatics.

But whilst I was admiring the bravado and enthusiasm of the rooks, another bird hove into view. In recent weeks we have had daily visits from a red kite. The rooks demonstrate remarkable flying skills but even they are put to shame by the kite. It has to be the most magnificent aviator of them all - by far in my view, the noblest, most skillful flyer of all our birds of prey. If the peregrine may be regarded as a master of the air with its capability of reaching 200 mph in the stoop, if the hawks are dynamic, short distance flyers, kestrels handsome hoverers and eagles simply magnificent, the kites of this world are the most sumptuous flyers of them all. Nothing in my view is quite as dexterous and so much at home in the air.

Kites were once welcome visitors to urban areas before Environmental Health Departments were even thought of, for they were the ‘scaffies’ of such areas, cleaning up the detritus of the streets and generally accepted as a positive force in society. Of course, the kites also made a good living from that detritus. Life for human occupants was, one imagines, rather smelly to say the least. Kites still decorate their nest with bits of plastic and cloth, and are known occasionally to steal items from clothes lines. Indeed, they had a reputation for stealing the handkerchiefs from gentlemen’s breast pockets; Kites have never been overly shy!

However, as folk started to turn their attention towards a healthier environment, the kites became surplus to requirements. At the same time, the notion of game shooting was taking hold and raptors and carnivores suddenly became the enemy, targeted for their potential predation upon the much-prized game. Of course, the nature of the red kite’s flight legislated against them. They were very easy to shoot and their numbers accordingly began to decline until they had disappeared entirely from England and Scotland and only maintained a presence in the Welsh hills.

Happily, the Welsh were proud of their remaining kites and efforts were duly made to ensure their protection with a caucus of folk dedicated to that task. For a long number of years, the Welsh kites remained the only ones in Britain. However, in the latter part of the twentieth century, a programme of re-introduction began. Between 1989 and 2004, kites were brought from Spain and re-introduced initially to the Chiltern Hills in southern England. Since then, various organisations have combined to bring red kites to various parts of both England and Scotland. In this airt kites were released in the Doune area and on the Argaty Estate, between Doune and Dunblane, a centre has been established where kites are fed on a daily basis and a hide has been constructed to enable the public to enjoy the majestic kites coming in to feed. This centre offers excellent opportunities to see kites at their very best and is well worth a visit.

The first thing that strikes you about the flight of a kite is its complete control. It literally sparkles in the sunshine as it turns and its chestnut red coloured back and wings really flash brilliantly. But it is the sheer dexterity that amazes, the bird’s ability to turn, as they used to say about adroit footballers, ‘on a sixpence’. It uses every eddy of the wind to its advantage, its wings and that long forked tail flexing this way and that providing it a with rare buoyancy and at times almost giving the impression that it is capable of flying backwards.

Of course, for a medium sized bird of prey, the kite is very light which is what makes it so wonderfully maneuverable. It spends much of its time soaring over its territory, rising in loose, widening circles, its wings just forward, angled at the wrist and slightly arched. It constantly seeks out rising thermals and as it circles, it is constantly adjusting its position, gradually gaining height and forever flexing that magnificent forked tail. No other bird of prey uses its tail in the same way.

As Roger Lovegrove, a keen observer of kites in their Welsh homeland, said in his wonderful book, “The Kite’s Tale”, ‘… no bird is more ethereal on the wing, drifting and floating with the gossamer lightness of blown thistledown.’ Yet, in level flight, its wingbeats are deep and its lightweight body rises and falls with every beat. Sometimes it will indulge in a shallow glide, wings angled back and tail closed. It is, therefore, a flyer of great versatility and when kites come in to take advantage of food, they really do make you catch your breath.

To further quote Roger Lovegrove, “Of no bird is it truer to say, its whole essence is an aerial one whose being is as a part of the skies, the winds, up-draughts, thermals and eddies which bear it aloft and sustain it there, riding in buoyant flight on the air currents.’

Unlike most other birds of prey, red kites are quite community orientated birds, often roosting together.  Although largely a scavenger, the kite is also well equipped to pluck small birds out of the air and also to haver in search of small mammals. Above all it is an opportunist, capable of earning its living in a multitude of ways.

I think the daily visitor we have here is probably a male, slightly smaller than the female and a little more dexterous in flight. He had a little tussle with a buzzard the other day but there was only ever going to be one winner, for the kite completely out-flew its heavier, clumsier rival and therefore reigned supreme.

 

Weekly Nature Watch 7th Feb 2020

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The transformation has been incredible. Furthermore, the effect has not been just localized but widespread and grey squirrels have disappeared like snow off a dyke since I saw my first pine marten here. Happily, we now have a burgeoning population of red squirrels in place of the greys. The arrival of pine marten in this area has had that transformative effect. And although my little clan of hens – all bar one - was cleared out by one of the said pine martens which still potters round with pheasants for company, the spectacle of seeing red squirrels now in abundance is ample recompense.

In essence, the pine marten is around the size of a slender cat, with a noticeably bushy tail. The orange- coloured bib, which makes this such an attractive animal, contains an ‘indentikit’ spot marking which enables us to recognize individuals.

I’ve enjoyed several sightings of pine marten in recent years, the first when I passed an old hollowed out tree which had been commandeered by one and which, at the arrival of me and my dogs, briefly caused consternation on the part of the marten.  So much so that it rattled around in panic for a few minutes before calming down. Several encounters later, pine marten sightings have been regular events with perhaps the highlight being the arrival of a female pine marten in the roof space of the house belonging to friend, which chose that human habitation as a nursery for her young. We ended up being right royally entertained that summer! The latest sighting this week was brief but heartening.

Like all carnivores and birds of prey, pine marten had, of course, been on the ‘hit list’ during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, regarded as ‘the enemy’ and mercilessly pursued and slaughtered. Hunting man came up with a particularly nasty way of eliminating martens. They would work to isolate them in trees, then light a bale of straw or other damp vegetation which would consequently emit lots of smoke.  A huntsman would scale the tree, the smoking bale mounted on a pole would be passed to him and it would be thrust at the trapped marten which blinded by the smoke and in not a little panic would fall from the tree into the jaws of waiting hounds. There was an easier method, of course, which was to have simply shot the martens!  Doubtless in their panic when pursued, the pine martens would have shrieked and growled, giving the impression that they were doughty opponents. Such things apparently counted with the huntsmen of the day!

Foxes, badgers and even hedgehogs were treated with such disdain and slaughtered wholesale. All that counted was the game, keepers were paid to protect. Thankfully times have changed although there are still those who given the chance, would maintain that level of persecution. Strange to think that the Ancient Greeks, actually kept beech marten – a close relative of the pine marten – as pets as a means of controlling rodent populations.

Such was the impact on pine marten that they came close to joining the polecat, the osprey and the sea eagle on the extinction list, just managing to hang on in small numbers in some of the remoter parts of the Highlands. Indeed, I well remember seeing pine marten on Ardnamurchan many years ago – a really rare sight.

In 1981 the pine marten at last received the protection of the law thanks to the Countryside Act of that year. Thus, began their slow recovery and eventually, the spread of pine marten across Scotland. Following their demise in areas such as this, another major change to have occurred was the introduction to Britain of the grey squirrel from America. The earlier generations of pine marten would clearly have not known grey squirrels at all but with a new generation able to extend its range, they soon encountered the alien greys – an unexpected bonus for them.

The grey squirrel has, of course, displaced the native red squirrel right across the country except in the Scottish Highlands. Grey squirrels do not kill reds but they out-compete the smaller animals for food sources. The grey is roughly twice the size of the native red and carries a disease called squirrel pox to which they are immune but which is deadly to reds. However, also being heavier than red squirrels, greys are slower and therefore easier to catch.  This has meant that expanding populations of pine marten, which found themselves in grey squirrel populated areas, enjoyed a real benefit.

I can confirm that when I first arrived here over forty years ago, this area was choc-a-bloc with grey squirrels. However, as more and more pine marten have established themselves locally during recent times, red squirrels have taken over the vacant territories of the greys. Of course, pine marten also take red squirrels but because squirrels are lighter, they are able to reach the branches which are unable to bear the weight of pine marten, therefore giving them a far better chance of surviving.

The fact that the pine marten is now being reintroduced to places such as the Forest of Dean in the south of England, where of course grey squirrels are completely dominant, acknowledges that they are able to do a job in controlling grey squirrel numbers. It is to be hoped that this new generation of martens will seriously reduce grey squirrel numbers there and that red squirrels can mount a recovery, albeit that this may require assistance from wildlife lovers to help them on their way such as their reintroduction.

Those, who in their wisdom, introduced grey squirrels to Britain, could not have known that this would have had such a deleterious effect upon red squirrels. However, now there is a chance to restore the balance with the spread of pine marten which it should be remembered has largely happened quite naturally. These arboreal mammals add another dimension to our wildlife and their presence is an added bonus for those for whom wildlife is such an important factor.

Such is the overall distribution of grey squirrels that reds are now excluded from vast swathes of the British countryside. The introduction of pine marten to key areas may help us in the longer term to re-establish red squirrels to the exclusion of greys and I cannot think of a more natural process. Introduce pine marten and in time perhaps, the red squirrel will once more reign supreme!

 

Weekly Nature Watch 31st January 2020

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Among the jumble of birds using my bird-table is a solitary sparrowhawk. I caught it the other day flying into the branches of the rowan tree in pursuit of small birds – almost certainly chaffinches. It stretched out those long legs hoping to waylay one of those as it tried in vain to get past some of the branches that were obstructing it and, in the end, came away empty handed or should I say empty footed. Somehow the chaffinches had avoided the clutches of its far-reaching feet and it served to illustrate that on occasions, sparrow hawks do fail in their quest for small birds.

To further illustrate the point, some time ago in the summertime, I watched a sparrowhawk fail in its quest to nail a meadow pipit. The pipit flew past the tree in which the hawk had laid its ambush and immediately the hawk launched its attack. However, the pipit was not for catching and dodged this way and that to avoid the hawk. Time and time again, the hawk made a bee-line for the pipit but every time the pipit dodged each advance to such an extent that the hawk eventually tired of the chase and gave up, returning somewhat sheepishly to the tree where it had laid its ambush. It appears that sparrowhawks don’t have much stamina or resolve.

It got me thinking about the unsuccessful sorties birds of prey must periodically make. I’ve certainly watched ospreys dive and miss their targets, presumably when at the last moment a fish dives to avoid the mighty swoop of the bird. Only ospreys do dive deeply so a fish has to be pretty quick to sidestep that dramatic impact. However, it is a fact that ospreys by no means succeed with every dive they make.

The various methods of hunting are as many as there are different birds of prey. Each has its own particular technique. The kestrels I used to watch with such enthusiasm as a lad, either used their lovely hovering flight or occasionally would use a pole – a telegraph pole perhaps – as their aerial vantage point from which to spot a tiny mouse or vole way below them on the ground. However, the full hover is when these particular raptors are at their very best. There is in my view, nothing so beautiful as a hovering kestrel with its wings trembling, tail fanned, it is simply magnificent. However, I do not know whether a kestrel is more successful at the end of its dive than for example, a hawk!

I have often thought the goshawk to be the deadliest attacker amongst raptors. This opinion is gleaned from a single instant when I saw a goshawk launch a very final attack upon a hovering kestrel. It was a very brief attack and it lasted seconds. Wham-bam and that was it. A flurry of feathers drifting down to the ground – the kestrel gone! Goshawks are truly awesome raptors and absolutely lethal. Little wonder that keepers have a pretty jaundiced view of them.

Speed is what does it for peregrines. I well remember being high up in the hills when a peregrine took off from the cliff above me heading down the glen. It seemed miles away but far below me I could see a group of pigeons flying along the floor of the glen. The peregrine was clearly homing in on them and accelerating fast. They say peregrines can attain a speed in the stoop in excess of two hundred miles an hour and I guess this bird was edging towards that kind of speed when it caught up with the pigeons. It singled one out and struck it a mighty blow behind the head. Game, set and match! Magnificent!

I’ve watched hen harriers fly low over moorland – a magnificent sight.  We used to see them patrolling the hedges here during the window months. They flush out small birds from the hedgerows, heather or bracken reaching out for them with their exceptionally long legs. But the real joy of watching hen harriers is to see them in courtship when they become really high flyers and present-bearers. The pair will soar to great heights and the male will drop a ‘present of food’ to the female which she will catch, sometimes by turning upside down. Of course, hen harriers are among the most persecuted of raptors due to their predation upon grouse moors. Yet the presence of some predation surely produces stronger grouse.

Short-eared owls hunt in a similar way, flying low over open moorland, although voles as opposed to small birds, are their principal prey. This is, of course, an owl which unusually does its hunting in daylight hours. In my view, nothing quite looks as facially threatening as a short-eared owl. Somehow, short-eared owls always look very angry indeed, its eyes are simply melting! But then the large eyes of a long-eared owl bear the same kind of threat.

Buzzards, together with kites, are perhaps our most familiar birds of prey, which somehow adapt themselves to many different methods of procuring food.  Although they take a lot of carrion you may also see a buzzard hovering, kestrel-like, as they search for voles and mice. I have also seen a buzzard launch itself hawk-like at a rabbit albeit unsuccessfully, for the adult rabbit, although bowled over by the impact of the strike, survived to reach another day.  However, they do catch a lot of young rabbits. By and large I regard buzzards and kites as opportunistic. I once saw a buzzard seize a blackbird a-la-sparrowhawk. It just happened to be in the right place at the right time – flying past a hedgerow, doing nothing in particular, when a blackbird exploded from the hedge and landed literally in the talons of the buzzard.

Golden eagles rely quite heavily on speed to catch their prey, whilst sea eagles often literally scoop up fish from the surface although occasionally, they will commit themselves to a full-scale dive. Both are awesome predators and take a wide range of prey including mountain hares and ptarmigan. I remember well watching my first sea eagle take off from the shore and soar. Before long, it was no more that a dot in the sky so fast did it climb.

One raptor relies more on its fine-tuned sense of hearing than upon its eyesight. The barn owl has such a sensitive sense of hearing that it can very precisely locate exactly where its prey is and home in on it without seeing it. The juxta-position of the ears – one marginally higher on the head than the other, enables this very precise location. By turning its head, those ears locate exactly where the prey is.

The thread that runs through nature, is perhaps sometimes too much for us to understand, especially the interdependence that runs right through every stage of nature and the reliance that every facet has on the next phase of natural life. It is perfectly true to say that nature is indeed red in tooth and claw.

Weekly Nature Watch 23 Jan 20

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There are two important events to mention this week - the RSPBs annual bird count to be run this weekend and of course celebrations of the birth of Robert Burns, also tomorrow.

I cannot help but feel that Burns would have keen a keen contributor to the bird count for his poetry is full of all sorts of birds and animals he observed and of course included in his poetry. Burns clearly had an eye for such things but then he lived in an age when people in general were closer to the land than we are today. Indeed, there are times when I think that these days, we live in a world in which we are in many ways isolated from the harsh reality of life, especially on January days.

When Burns bent his back walking behind the horse-drawn plough, he was much more closely connected with the environment compared with today’s ploughmen who sit in their all singing, all dancing modern tractor cabs, in reality, far removed from the environment in which they are working. Not that I’m advocating that a return to tramping behind a horse-pulled plough is the way it should be done now, it’s just worth remembering what being a ploughman once meant.

Some might suggest that Burns spent too much of his time observing things natural which is why he failed as a farmer. It was hard graft in those far-off days and as we all know Burns’ health suffered for it not even reaching his fortieth birthday! Yet in his relatively short life he produced absolutely reams of truly epic poetry. What is apparent in our technical age today is that most of us are insulated from the reality of our countryside, whether we work in it or not. Not only are our modern ploughmen able to ride in their high tech tractors with heating and piped music available at the touch of a button, most of us now live in centrally heated homes with double glazing and all mod cons and, perhaps like the ploughmen,  to some degree isolated from the reality as Burns and his contemporaries knew it.

Perhaps too, when Burns was writing about his linties, his mavis, his laverocks and merles, there would have been no need to count the birds for there were probably enough of them to cause little concern about their numbers. Then our landscape would still have had enough wildness about it to satisfy most species of birds. Burns, I’m sure, would have been horrified to think that the likes of curlews and lapwings – his whaups and peewits – would have declined in the way they have in our chemical filled modern landscape.

Now, such activities as the count are necessary because of the serious declines in farmland birds. My own observations might indicate that the summer of 2019 was a pretty good year for many of our birds with good conditions prevailing throughout the breeding season. Now we’ll find out if my observations are born out! Some might ask why are such things important? They are important because if conditions are threatening the existence of our birds, could they also eventually be threatening us? An environment bereft of birds could be an environment in which perhaps we are the next to suffer!

For example, who would have thought that house sparrows would be one of the birds which today are in really serious decline? My own garden is full of these once very commonplace birds and there doesn’t appear to be any decline here! In fact, it is in the environment which over the years has suited them – our towns and cities – where the decline is most marked. Similarly, the ubiquitous starling which is another urbanized bird that is in serious trouble. Apparently, there is also real concern for the greenfinch, one of those birds with which I became familiar as a lad but now these colourful characters are declining alarmingly. Here, we used to be almost overwhelmed by them but in recent years they have become as rare as hen’s teeth. Thankfully, some of these have returned but only in small numbers.

And where have our yellowhammers gone? There was a time when you couldn’t walk one of our local lanes on a summer’s day and fail to hear the famous ‘little bit of bread but no cheese’ ditty – the anthem of that little yellow headed bird. Now those lanes are silent, utterly bereft of that cheery little song. Every winter, I would be visited by a handful of these attractive wee birds but I haven’t seen one now for at least two winters. Yellowhammers feed extensively upon the seeds of weeds which these days have a chemical war waged upon them and a dearth of such food has caused the species to decline alarmingly. In Burns’ day, there would have been no shortage of weeds and one imagines therefore, no shortage of yellowhammers.

The poor old yellowhammer has been abused down the years. Time was when young boys would be encouraged to harry them, find their nests and destroy their eggs. It was known in various parts of Scotland as the yellow yite or the yellow yorling though I doubt if Burns ever used either name in his poetry, However, I am not sufficiently familiar with the immense folio of work produced by the Ayrshire man.

According to the old legend, the yellowhammer drinks a drop of the devil’s blood every May morning as stated in the following verse:- ‘The brock and the toad and the yellow yorling, Tak a drop of the devil’s blood ilka May morning.’ The fact that the yellowhammer’s eggs are covered with scrawl-like markings resulted in the bird being given the pseudonym of ‘scribbling lark’ or ‘writing lark’. Indeed, it was also believed that the name of a future lover could be deduced from such scribbles!

I wonder how Burns would have reacted to the mass feeding of birds that is a characteristic of twenty-first century Britain. As I watch the birds flock to my bird-table, I see robins, wrens, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, sparrows, starlings, great spotted woodpeckers, dunnocks, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, collared doves, blackbirds, magpies, crows and sparrowhawks all, bar the latter, eager to take advantage of the seeds, nuts and fat I supply on an almost daily basis. Of these, Burns would not have known of collared doves which didn’t arrive in Britain until the twentieth century.

Recording the birds in your garden will help them in the long run because it is necessary for us to know what the trends in populations are. Only then can we take remedial action to try and redress the balance. It is a very much worthwhile exercise and I’m sure Burns would have approved. So, pencils at the ready

Weekly Nature Watch 17 Jan 20

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Mid-January and thoughts of spring are automatically diminished by the dreich conditions, yet there are hints of spring in the sounds we are hearing. A week or so ago, it was the eager drumming of great spotted woodpeckers, an interesting variation on a theme in which the frantic drumming in a sense substitutes for a vocal intervention. Then on a more vocal note, there was the laughing ‘yaffle’ of a green woodpecker adding to the hint that some birds at least are projecting their thought processes ahead to events that determine the future of their kind. The breeding season may seem a long way off on these bleak January days but these early markers tell us that the age-old cycle is beginning to turn … even now!

And then came the far carrying, unmistakable twin notes of a great tit, ‘tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher’ confirming that, although we may not necessarily have noticed it, the days are at last fractionally longer – a sure herald of spring days to come. The cock birds, resplendent in their best bibs and tuckers, long black chest stripes dominant, are always amongst the first to pronounce that distinct approaching change of mood.

The louder the pronouncement, the better chance of getting a mate and the longer and denser that black chest stripe, the better again will a cock bird be regarded. The great tits, that have graduated to our towns and cities, actually sing louder in order to make themselves heard above the sound of traffic. As in almost all bird species, it is the male that does the running and the singing and the female that makes the choices. When it comes to selecting a mate, it is the female’s prerogative that counts! However, when it comes to great tits, there is always a very clear pecking order. There are some circumstances in which heavier birds dominate, others when heavier birds, deemed more vulnerable to predation by the likes of sparrow-hawks, are regarded as a disadvantage and therefore downgraded.

And, if it is that two-tone call which currently dominates due to an initial lack of competition from other songsters, the great tit is one of the avian world’s more versatile singers. Walk through a woodland on a spring day where great tits are present and you will find yourself listening to a remarkable variety of calls, most of which emanates from these birds. I remember playing a recording of some forty different calls to an audience and asking them how many different birds were involved. The answer was that they all were uttered by great tits!

By nature, great tits are woodland birds, given to constant searching woodland floors for beech-mast and the like but they have very willingly become garden birds and take extremely well to nest boxes. As a result of their willingness to accommodate themselves so, great tits are among the closest studied of all birds. As most readers will know only too well, great tits are present in most gardens and happily feed upon a variety of nuts, seeds and fat, despite the fact that by nature they are mainly insectivorous.

However, readers may also be surprised to learn that in some cases, great tits can be regarded as predators. They are known occasionally to kill small birds such as goldcrests and will also feed on small lizards too. Great tits will also devour small frogs and surprisingly large insects. A recent discovery showed that great tits in Hungary also have a penchant for eating pipistrelle bats, which are about a quarter of the size of the tits themselves,

Caterpillars however, are the vital element in feeding their young and knowing that, the parent great tits have had to adjust their own breeding programme. As a result of global warming therefore, these caterpillars are now being produced that bit earller than used to be the case. The tits therefore have had to advance their own breeding activities in order to maximize the capture of these moth larva which are of the right size to suit their fast growing young.

The great tits, with which we are familiar here in Britain, are widespread in distribution being found right across Europe and Asia and even down into North Africa. Their range stretches from Ireland in the west to Eastern China in the east and there are several sub-species which penetrate well into the Southern Hemisphere. Caterpillars are the main source of food for all of them when they are rearing a family.

And of course, the size of caterpillars has also to be taken into account. Small chicks cannot handle large ones so initially the parent birds know they must find smaller caterpillars, gradually increasing the size of prey as their brood grows. Therefore, timing is again of the essence. Great tits, although agile, are not quite as adept as some of the other, smaller tits such as blue-tits and coal tits and feed extensively on the ground in their natural woodland habitats.

The largest member of the tit family, the great tit rejoices in several pseudonyms, locally known as a ‘black-headed tomtit’, elsewhere as ‘black- headed Bob’. ‘Saw-sharpener’ is another name that emanates from the ‘tea-cher’ call alluded to earlier. Few of our garden birds are so attractively plumaged, from the black cap, which gives it those localized names, to the yellow body, greenish back and wings. Its distinctive white face markings bring yet another colloquialism, ‘ox-eye’. The body stripe is fulsome in the males, in the females it is often broken.

As said, it may not yet feel like spring but these early sounds signify that sooner or later, winter will give way to the season of re-birth. The woodpeckers know that and so too do the chanting great tits with their challenging ‘tea-cher, tea-cher’ calls. The urgent nature of the great tit’s calling promises much but January and February may have to pass before spring really does begin to function. However optimistic that sound makes me, the fact is that two woodpeckers and a great tit do not a spring day make! Not yet anyway!

Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods