Another article from the archives. The weather was clearly much better two years ago today!
8 June 2008. Today’s gorgeous weather provided an ideal opportunity to give myself and my camera some exercise. I decided to visit Edge Hill Wood in Warwickshire, and stopped off at Everdon Stubbs en route home, to see how Spring is giving way to Summer.
Both woodlands provided some welcome shade and cooler conditions, with occasional shafts of sunlight piercing the canopy like the one highlighting the horse chestnut leaves in the photo above. After all the recent rain the ground was quite muddy in places, especially at Edge Hill, but that provided opportunities to look for animal tracks.
The spring wildflowers have all but gone, with just a few tatty-looking bluebells and a patch of stitchwort remaining at Everdon Stubbs. Now herb robert is in bloom, along with red campion, wood avens and a clump of wood sanicle at Edge Hill. Both Everdon Stubbs and Edge Hill wood were full of birdsong – robins, wrens and blackbirds were the main act, supported by chiffchaffs, garden warblers, blackcaps, and one or two willow warblers. At Edge Hill I was treated to close-up views of a buzzard just above the trees, while at Everdon I found two greater spotted woodpecker nests and watched the parents bringing food for their noisy youngsters.
With the trees now in full leaf, conditions inside the woodlands tend to be rather dark and taking photos can be tricky. Glades and clearings are brighter, and it was in a bracken-filled clearing at Everdon that I found a female beautiful demoiselle damselfly (that’s the species’ name by the way, not just my opinion regarding the insect’s appearance!), a creature which would normally be found by rivers or lakes.
Brighter conditions can of course also be found along the borders of the woods. Amongst the long grass growing there, the striking blue flowers of germander speedwell can now be seen. This is our most abundant species of speedwell, and the distinctive white ‘eye’ in the centre of each bloom makes it easy to recognise. Alternative names for this species include eye of Christ, angel’s eyes and cat’s eye.
Along one edge of Everdon Stubbs, I heard the tell-tale trilling calls of long-tailed tits, one of my favourite birds. Noticing that the youngsters seemed to be busy preening themselves in the sunshine while waiting for their parents to bring them food, I slowly made my way to a spot where I could get a better view, and even managed to take some photos. The youngsters don’t seem to have the pink patches of plumage present on the adult birds, though they did have noticeably red eyelids.
Beyond the fringes of the woodlands, the lush green pastures are now tinged with yellow thanks to large numbers of buttercups. The views across the Warwickshire plain from Edge Hill were, as ever, a joy to behold. Mile after mile of fields, hedgerows and trees, with just the occasional farm or village. Some of the fields were grazed by cattle, while the one closest to me was occupied by horses.
Finally, back into the relative darkness of Everdon Stubbs, where incessant chattering calls led me to a group of fledgling great tits perched just a foot above ground level on the base of a tree. At my approach they froze and kept quiet, no doubt an instinctive response to possible danger. I took a few photos (conditions were so gloomy I needed to use the flash), and then moved off so that the parents could carry on feeding their hungry brood.
All in all, a great day out. And the icing on the cake? This evening after my walks I paid a visit to a local sett on the off-chance that I might see some badgers there, and was treated to views of two cubs foraging. From the noisy munching sounds I could hear it seemed they were foraging with great success!