Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It is a phenomenal time of year in British woodlands and it is no exception at Scrag. The bluebells are now at their peak along with dog's mercury and primroses, lit through an increasing light green filter of the opening leaves in the canopy. Consequently with so much emerging at this time of year I am spending more and more time there and combined with so many teaching commitments this is probably why I have not updated the blog since 14th April, so I apologise for that. However, here is a synopsis of the past couple of weeks.
With the help of my friend Simon Tomlin, we re-constructed the small dam managing the small drainage
ditch on the east side of the wood. Historically this ditch has fed an ancient pond which has long since dried up. The aim of the dam is to back up the water so that it re-fills the pond. If the water level rises too much it will just flow over the top of the dam and continue on down the ditch into the stream. The dam I made in the Autumn was too temporary and somewhat porous, so once the pond filled up the water gradually seeped out. The new dam is constructed out of the clay dug out of the bottom of the pond site, so by both deepening the pond and adding this clay to a dam I have hopefully managed the water levels to provide a more or less permanent area of standing water. Fortunately, a couple of days of the heavy digging a heavy April shower provided enough water to put the dam to the test and you can see the result in the image.
The re-planted hawthorns and willows appear to be doing well, although it is early days. These are planted to 'scrub-up' New Meadow and create a barrier to trespassers. The 'scrubbing up' aspect is aimed to provide valuable foraging and nesting sites for migrant birds. Some of these migrants are arriving too, with Chiff chaff, willow warbler, blackcap and to add an iconic sound of spring, a cuckoo. If you have been listening to Radio 4's World on the Move series covering the global migration, you may realise just how far species like willow warbler have travelled to breed here, so providing good nesting territories for these tiny birds may mean that I get generation after generation travelling to and from sub-Saharan Africa solely to use Scrag Copse to nest.

Last Thursday, 24th April, I had Penny and Dave Green and Sheila Boughton over for a spot of badger watching. Before we trudged to the sett, we stopped off at the eastern fields to catch views of the barn owl hunting over the long grass. Amazingly, this male owl was then joined by a female, who hunted even closer to us and landed on the ground maybe no more than 12 metres away! During the viewing time both male and female returned to the box several times and on one occasion, the male carried a small mammal very determinedly to the box closely followed by the female which demonstrates pair bonding behaviour. I am now convinced that we have a pair of barn owls who are now attempting to breed and this is way beyond my expectations, having had no barn owl at all to now having a potential breeding pair. Once an owl selects a breeding site they are very loyal to that site for several years and indeed it can lead to repeated generations nesting in the same location for years. Therefore, I intend to leave them undisturbed, certainly through this crucial period of their first breeding season and I can only hope that we have many generations of these ghostly owls to come.
Finally, I leave you with an image of one of the footpaths through Scrag at this glorious time of year.

1 comment:

Ali said...

Sounds like you've been busy!
Excellent and exciting news of the Barn Owls, you must be absolutely delighted.

The last image certainly conveys the beauty of Scrag in spring, quite stunning.

Note to self: sort out the badger watch!!