Sunday, January 10, 2010

I always seem to start a post with a brief synopsis of the weather; well, I think this one deserves to start with a brief mention; its been brutal! Temperatures across the UK have been in the eye watering minus 20's, though at Scrag the lowest I have recorded is minus 7.6C.
Although very beautiful, this weather has a potentially serious effect on the wildlife. Weak animals may die through starvation; birds cannot find food because the ground is covered and this will effect species from thrushes to tawny owls. Robins, often claimed to be 'tame' by gardeners are merely following us around in the hope that we'll disturb some invertebrates from the leaf litter in the same way they have followed wild boar in pre-history. During times of snow-covered ground they adopt this behaviour all the more, taking the opportunity to grab something from any footsteps that expose the ground and any tasty insect morsels. However, because I have been feeding the robins regularly on mealworms for several months, they associate me with the presence of food and fly up to me as soon as I arrive; I have to tread carefully as one even sits on the toecaps of my wellies! I must admit though, its lovely to have them around as they are so endearing, especially one who is now happy to sit on my feet or hands waiting for some food. He, or maybe she, even darts into the storage shed as soon as I open it and always seems to find a big spider within a couple of seconds; you have to marvel at their eyesight to be able to enter a very dark shed, see prey and grab it. You also have to appreciate their opportunism.
Spare a thought for other species too; all over the woodland, butterflies, like all insect species, have to survive the winter freeze in one form or another, either as egg, larva, pupa or even adult insect. So, somewhere in Scrag, near the bud tips of willows there are purple emperor caterpillars toughing it out so the regal, stunning adults can grace the canopy in late June/early July. Right now, however, that time of year feels very distant.
If the dominant sow badger was fertilised at any stage in 2009, her eggs, which go into diapause, will now, hopefully, have implanted and started to develop for a birth time of around February; the dry Autumn and cold, frozen winter may affect this though; no cubs were born in 2009.
Anyway, Scrag Copse has existed for at least 500 years or so and I'm sure it has endured tougher and colder in its history and the diverse woodland wildlife will endure.