Saturday, 21 May 2011

Jogging my memory

Although I love the scenery round here at times it is nice to wander through a piece of mature woodland, even a partly man made environment like Denge Wood. The wood dates back to at least 1600 and is dominated by Horse Chestnut coppice. It is part of a complex of semi-natural ancient woodland on the north downs. Bonsai Bank is famous for it's colony of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly, but today I failed to find any. It is possible that they had a very early season, but normally I would expect them to be around on the 21at May.

One of the joys of Denge Wood is the warbler song as you walk through, and as far as I'm concerned right at the top of the list is the Willow Warbler.

I can remember reading the description of their song in my first Peterson as a "liquid, musical cadence, beginning quietly and becoming clearer and more deliberate". Once I found out what it meant it was gratifying to find out that the real thing is as poetics as the field guide description.

Of course there were other warblers around, the very similar Chiffchaff singing almost alongside the Willow Warblers. Chiffchaffs have dark legs and shorter wings, but the real give-a-way at this time of year is that they go "chiff chaff, chiff chiff chaff chaff" etc. In addition Blackcaps and Garden Warblers could be heard singing close to each other. I have always been puzzled that many people find the songs of these two difficult to tell apart as the tonal quality seems very different to me.

As I walked through one of the denser parts of the wood I herd a song that prompted my memories filing system and I was pleased that it immediately retrieved the file labelled Marsh Tit. A simple repeated "chip chip" call, which doesn't get into the top ten, but quite distinctive.

It seemed quite content in it's shady area and once it moved further into the canopy I lost it, although I could occasionally hear it "singing".

Passing an old Silver Birch the noisy young of a woodpecker made me stop and look around. On the next tree an adult Great Spotted Woodpecker with a beakful of good protein filled bird food was obviously waiting to visit.

The tree had three holes and I wasn't sure where the noise was coming from, although the middle hole did look the most likely.

It wasn't going to come back while I was close to the nest, so I retreated to a group of tree about s25 metres (or yards) and tried to look inconspicuous.

Eventually both adults returned full laden with all sorts of legs and wings protruding from their beaks. One went in and fed the noisy kids while the other waited out side.

And then it was mum's turn to offer her collection to the youngsters. One or more were almost up to the nest hole and she could just reach in and feed them.

But either there were others that couldn't be reached or there were some domestic duties to be done and she dived into the nest hole.

There was no hanging around when she came out, although it doesn't look as if she is carrying anything. It's always good to watch the antics of woodpeckers, there are full families that are quite as much fun, and they occur in all the continents, other than Australia, and of course Antarctica, and in all cases they are obviously woodpeckers.

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