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The Water Meadow Chronicles, part 21

Writing Chronicle 21 at the beginning of the New Year 2002, I am thinking about the events that have been notable over the last two months. My thoughts go straight to the weather we have experienced. There seems to have been a lot of overcast, grey and cold days. And yet the photo of a sparrowhawk in the North Crankles on 2nd Nov shows me that we have had some spectacularly lovely days as well. Taken at about 9 a.m. the sky was an amazing blue and this sparrowhawk was sitting at the top of one of those small trees beside the Lark path in the North Crankles. Hardly noticeable, it sat quietly but all the time looking around and watching. Perhaps looking for something that might make a nice breakfast. And then, while I blinked, it was gone.

Around the same time, Julian Case and I had a meeting with Simon Evans who knows a lot about owls. The BWMG committee has been thinking about
whether it would be possible to attract birds, particularly owls, to nest in the Water Meadows. Last year, as was mentioned in the 2021 Biodiversity Survey Annual report, there was only one sighting of a barn owl. There were no sightings of Tawny Owls but one or more have been heard in the South Crankles during the evening, and indeed through the night, during December. On one occasion, the calling was so loud, and therefore close by, that it woke me at 2.45 am. Hopefully we will have a couple of owl boxes installed in the Crankles and No Mans Meadow soon. We are hoping to install a couple of raptor boxes soon as well. If this is successful then we will possibly have a couple of boxes installed in Ram Meadow as well.

These last few months have been wonderful for funghi. The example above was “in decline” by the time it was photographed in the Great Churchyard. When photographed it looked like a discarded plastic bag but in its’ prime (a few days earlier) it would have measured perhaps 20 cm across. And it would have looked like a white football. I am told that sliced and sauteed in butter they have a taste like crisp apples.

At this time of year (December 2021/January 2022), especially on a grey and drizzly morning with a sharp wind, it is easy to think that nothing much is happening in the Water Meadows. Anticipation of a mug of tea, a hot toddy or a hot chocolate (with or without marshmallows!) has a strong appeal. And yet! Stopping for a moment to listen, there is a lot of birdsong and it is varied so there must be several species singing away in the trees and bushes. Certainly there are blackbirds, robins and wrens. The “little brown things “(LBT’s) are well represented even when you can’t identify them. They are small and rarely perch long enough in one spot to enable identification. They can be elusive little bundles but they make the most wonderful symphony of song. One good place to stop and listen is by the Lark Bridge in the Crankles. There are lots of shrubs and an old stone arch covered in ivy. It is a rich feeding ground.

There is a lot of die-back at this time of year. Some plants look very bedraggled and there is an aroma of decaying leaves. Yet when one looks more closely there are several types of tree and shrub beginning to bud. Many plants are beginning to show small green shoots and one or two are going one step further. There are the little white bells of early flowering snowdrops to be seen in several places around the Water Meadows. And there is a carpet of winter aconites near the new bowling green. Their yellow flowers will make you smile. They are the early hint of spring.

Iain Carruthers-Jones