The biodiversity survey team have agreed to continue their recording sessions through the winter. So for the first time we will have data all year round. In January there are few plants in flower so sighting patches of winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) is possible. Look out for the hazel trees (Corylus avellana) who’s catkins, which are plentiful this year and give so much pleasure. Both male and female flowers are present but the female catkins need very close scrutiny as they are miniature structures resembling sea urchins with red filaments waving in the wind.
These capture the pollen from the yellow dangling male catkins and will eventually produce the hazel nuts. Hazel forms a really important part of the understorey. Their leaves are edible as well as the fruit and they provide shelter for a variety of birds and small mammals.
So it’s not just the opportunity to add a tick to the sightings checklist; it is another hint that spring is not too far away. On sunny mornings, when it is a little milder as well, the birdsong is a delight. While the birds we see and hear may not be the rock stars of the birding world, their song is melodious and joyful. Robins, wrens and blackbirds all seem to have their local patch; while blue tits, great tits, coal tits and long tailed tits travel in small flocks rolling along the length of the meadows in search of food. One or two have even been spotted eying up nest boxes. Just the other day I had the great pleasure of watching a goldfinch grazing for seeds on a spent teasel head, well past its best. It must have spent ten minutes working away on the plant, disappearing only to return a few minutes later to spend another ten minutes seed picking. It was a pleasure to watch.
L: winter aconites in the undergrowth. R:Little egret fishing in the Lark on a frosty afternoon, early January
photo credit: Iain Carruthers Jones.