Autumn Colour and Snow, Squirrels and Garden birds, a Stoat and a Winter Moth.
Well, since my last blog we have had a truly wonderful golden autumn and then, came the snow.
My first three pictures are from a walk in mid-November along the fabulous North Stroud Lane and along the footpath through Mustercoombe Copse. Mustercoombe Copse was fabulous with the clump of tall beeches golden in the autumnal light (image 1). I have often wondered about the origin of the name and while there is a deep valley in the copse (a coombe), I thought perhaps ‘Muster’ referred to the English Civil War, but I read that the name appears to be of at least Saxon origin.
Leaving the copse, I turned south along North Stroud Lane. The first part of the lane is metalled and passes below a wonderful row of overhanging oak trees (image 2) and then passes downhill over a small bubbling stream and then rising up the Upper Greensand escarpment where the roots of the tall beeches grip the rocky exposures alongside the now deeply sunken lane (image 3) and eventually ending at Ramsdean. Historic maps (see the map section on the Village Hall website) show that the north end of North Stroud Lane served the one-time Stroud Brickworks and from where clay would have been taken from the clay pits along to the works on the north side of the Winchester Road. The sunken nature of the southern end suggests an ancient trackway but I have yet to research that section.
We often get woodpeckers in the garden and this great spotted woodpecker posed briefly for the camera on our garden oak tree (image 4).
Later in November the weather was fine and Mary and I launched our kayak onto the Upper Hamble estuary from the YMCA jetty at Fairthorne Manor, near Botley. You can paddle north to Botley but this time we headed south and then east along a winding creek passing through the National Trust Curbridge Estate with its reed beds and fine oak trees (image 5). The following day, Mary and I took another trip out of the parish and headed for the National Trust Waggoners Wells Estate where again there were splendid colours reflected in the three lakes but here, many of the oaks had shed their leaves and much of the colour was from the freshly leaf-covered valley sides (image 6).
Then, on 28th November, we had snow and what a contrast with the previous few weeks of sunshine. I headed to Petersfield Heath on the to see the snow covered heathland walking along part of the Serpent Way, although too cold for reptiles (image 7). Back in our garden, a row of small candle-snuff fungi were growing out of a snowy mossy log (image 8).
By December we had re-filled the bird feeders and, when not attacked by squirrels (image 9), they were soon being used by bluetits, great tits, coal tits, house sparrows and robins. Other birds in the garden at the moment include blackbirds, chaffinches, goldfinches, magpies, jackdaws, wood pigeons, pheasants and a pied wagtail. Red kites fly over and, at night, we hear the wonderfully eerie calls of tawny owls.
On 2nd December while walking from Rothercombe Lane east across the field towards the village green we saw a stoat. Stoats are cautious animals and seldom seen but this animal was running fast alongside the hedge, its long black-tipped tail stretching out behind it. We watched as it suddenly paused, reared up on its hind legs and spotted a rabbit. The stoat started to chase the rabbit, but the rabbit sunk low down into the grass so as to be barely visible and at which the point the stoat gave up and headed back through the hedge.
That winter had really arrived was demonstrated by the appearance of winter moths on 5th December. These are small pale delicate moths fluttering at night around the hazels in our garden (image 10) and quite able to withstand really cold wintry conditions.