29th February, Our man at Mill Park Reserve, Dean, reports Kingfisher from earlier in the month and that 3 Mute Swans have been in residence at Evans’ ponds for about 3 weeks. David leaves a message, as have others to report a Badger along Station Road. This animal has been about for a few weeks. Previous daylight records for Badgers have coincided with housing development within the village. It was once a forest then a field, and now it’s tarmac and concrete. Badgers have been living in the UK for about 400,000 years, and have adapted to a fair bit of change, though to add to displacement, and to please a very small minority, us tax payers are spending millions each year, trapping and shooting them.
28th February, as a child, like every other child back then, I spent many a happy hour in the countryside around the village, exploring, playing, cycling, climbing, and fishing, and birdwatching. There were always birds, many species and constantly present to a point where during my teenage years of methodical note-taking I would not bother to mention House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch or Starling, and a few others, as they were just too common. We took their presence for granted, as had our predecessors, there was never any question. I grow up, I work, I travel, I raise a family, and my time is always taken, but now I want to get back to basics, to rediscover that burning spark of early interest. What I find now is not what I left. It looks the same but is lacking the sight and sound of those once-too-common-to-mention birds. I walk for miles but the countryside of today is empty, silent and sad. The tens of millions of countryside birds, of dozens of species that have disappeared from Britain in my lifetime, haunt me every time I open the garden gate. But it started with the insects. Nobody noticed or cared about the apocalyptic decline in insects. It’s the same for Amphibians, and next will be reptiles, and then the mammals. I tell you now….we are on that list.
27th February, a long, grey and yellow, pattered caterpillar is making its way up the garden path. I stop Pixie our Jack Russell from having it as a lunchtime treat and rescue it. I give myself the pleasure of looking it up in a book (!). Large Yellow Underwing. At night a soft, short, regular hoot is coming from our now resident Little Owl out back, and constitutes its song, replacing the usually heard startled yelping calls. Alan is still seeing the Goosanders down on the Canal. Storm Jorge is upon us, that’s one storm per weekend this month, although I’m not sure what happened to Ellen.
26th February, a sprinkling of snow is gone before the morning rush. I sit in the queue of traffic at the lights on Station Road. I look up and watch as a Raven goes over, and momentarily wish I was that bird. Alan sees a Barn Owl hunting in daylight (1700hrs) at The Wharf. Owls are known to hunt in the daytime, being forced to do so if there are too many nights that are wet and windy and unsuitable for hunting.
23rd February, a break in the weather is timed perfectly with a rather late Wassailing event at Cotton End Park. Our Community Orchard manager, CEP committee chair, and organizer Daniel Tabor, along with a dozen brave souls attend. After a blast from the Trumpet we set off and creating a din with pots, tins, buckets, etc, attempt to cast out the bad spirits, and to wake up the fruit trees. Daniel as the master of ceremony and ‘Green Man’ is sporting a rather fetching green cape that turned out to be one half of his dining room curtains. (That’s what I call commitment). The ‘mother’ tree (probably our best Apple in the lower orchard) is blessed with Cider and we all sing the Wassailing song. (I know you’ll want to look that up) Anyway the fun doesn’t stop there, and Diana walks to the pond and alerts me to no less than 12 clumps of Frogspawn. We find 2 more in the dew pond and a pair of Frogs playing piggy-back, and also see a Bumble bee. Such fun in the sun.
22nd February. I succumb and mow the lawn. Easier to poo pick, is my excuse.
21st February, it is grey and windy but actually not raining, and Billy and I at last get a chance to lay a chain of hedge at the Park. Donna’s sheep gather around and crunch on the Hawthorn and Elder twigs, as the boughs fall. It’s hard work and after a couple of hours of being buffeted we retreat to the truck for a flask of tea and a sandwich. There’s something deeply satisfying about working the hedge and even more so with my younger son alongside me. Daniel reports a flock of 40 Fieldfare heading NE.
19th February, Richard reports Reed Bunting, 20+ Linnets, Redwings, Fieldfares and singing Skylark from his walk along the Brington Road. I hear a singing Coal Tit and Goldcrest from near the Surgery.
16th February, Storm Dennis is upon us, and at the bottom of The Banks a bit of flooding isn’t stopping the cars. I have a walk over to the arable field and see the culvert over-grown and blocked thus pushing the water up onto the surface where it then flows overland through to the far end of the Co-op field below the church. There are 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Pied Wagtail, 25 House Sparrows, and numerous Jackdaws. Somewhere a Skylark is in full song. Cath reports 2 Barn Owls together off the Brington Road. Alan reports 2 male and 1 female Goosander on the Canal, and there seems to be a bit of courtship display.
14th February, a reasonable frost and a perfect half-moon hangs over the village. CEP has 3 Snipe, 1 prospecting male Reed Bunting, 30 Redwing, and singing Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Song Thrush. Alan sees a lone Swan go over The Wharf towards the village.
12th February, next door mow their lawn! And a Bumble Bee is reported.
10th February, in a garage I find a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly still tucked up in hibernation, but inches away a Herald Moth is awake and quivering its wings, warming those muscles prior to flight.
9th February, Storm Ciara hits, 24hours of strong winds, and the pylon insulators, that normally hang vertically are being held at fair angle by the force. A line of dots coming at me against the wind turn into Gulls. They tack the air and with seemingly little effort make forward progress into the wind. There are hundreds of them trailing back as far as I can see and all following the same invisible path through the onslaught, like parts of an endless ribbon. I check the park for fallen debris and looking up see a Song Thrush gripping onto a swaying Ash twig, belting out a song of defiance.
4th February, a white-ish shape in a field off Foxhill Road looks to be an immature Mute Swan. It didn’t look quite right but I do not have time to check whether it is injured. There are power lines nearby, which are on the list of things swans collide with.
1st February, a couple of reports of Butterflies on the wing. The grass is growing, and there always seems to be a Kite in the air.