Saturday 8 December 2012

Staying Local 8th December 2012

Foxholes BBOWT Reserve is very close to my home, not more than seven minutes away in the car. Somewhat shamefaced I have to say that I do not visit it as often as I should. Today I decided to pay it a visit on a day of glorious sunshine and still, calm conditions. It is mainly woodland and fairly damp woodland at that, even more so at the moment due to the excess of rain we have had lately. 

The River Evenlode flows by on it's northern boundary and the damp habitat looks prime for both Willow Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I have been lucky enough to record the former from here but not for some years now and reluctantly I have grown to accept they are now gone. Although the habitat also looks perfect for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker I have never heard or seen them here although I know they have been present in the past. Today my focus was to try and see if any Woodcock had taken up residence. They usually frequent the bracken and brambles at the highest part of the reserve but it normally requires a prolonged cold spell to bring them in. There were up to fourteen during last winter's cold weather but today I drew a blank. No matter, there was plenty more to keep me happy.Wandering up the track from the tiny car park I checked the feeders in the garden of the isolated bungalow beside the track and it was not long before my first Marsh Tit appeared in the company of other tits and Chaffinches. Carrying on up through the open woods which are mainly Beech and Oak I walked on a bed of golden brown leaves looking up at all the bat boxes attached to the trees, until I reached the Woodcock spot.

No Woodcocks today but a charming mixed flock of Long tailed Tits, Marsh Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Goldcrests and two Tree Creepers were feeding in the silver birches and hazel understorey. The Goldcrests were particularly active, their thin, shrill calls ringing through the woods and their tiny bodies silhouetted  against an azure sky as they moved restlessly through the canopy. As I watched, two came lower and lower, finally alighting on the bole of an Oak. They were very close to each other and now not feeding and I could see it was a male courting a female. His crest glowed orange and red in the gloom of the wood as he raised it to show its full effect. The female's crest was just bright yellow with none of the red. They chased each other around the tree or at least the male chased the female who in typical fashion showed no apparent interest but still made sure she did not stray too far from the attentions of the male. 

Eventually they flew off through the wood and were lost to view. I carried on, finding some Redwings feeding on a large holly in the company of Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush. The Redwings would fly out and hovering, seize a holly berry from the tip of a holly branch and retreat back into the centre of the tree. A Muntjac barked deeper in  the wood. Both Muntjac and Roe Deer are relatively common here and I often encounter them away from the main paths through the wood.The reserve is also famed for its numerous species of fungi. It was bit too late now for most but I did find an intriguing collection of fungi growing like satellite dishes high up on the trunk of a dead Silver Birch. 

Nuthatches clear whistling notes rang through the woods and a loud tapping betrayed the presence of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. I do occasionally find good birds here on my winter visits such as Mealy Redpoll, Lesser Redpoll, Common Crossbill and of course Woodcock. Today there was no such excitement but just the pleasure of watching woodland birds in a peaceful and deserted wood. As I walked back to the car two Ravens flew overhead, cronking in conversation and disappeared southwards over the wood and a female Sparrowhawk did a 'red arrow' impression banking at speed through the tree trunks  

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