November gold and local wildlife
Autumn is moving on and now into early November the beech trees are turning gold and the hazels, limes and maples are turning yellow. The winding road up Stoner Hill locally known as ‘Little Switzerland’ is golden as the beech trees turn; and, in the sun, the view from the lay-by east from the chalk across to the clayey lands of the Low Weald and on to the sandstones of High Weald on the horizon is a blaze of colour (image 1).
It is good to see our footpaths opening up. We have had some kissing gates installed over the past few years, but now we have more. There is a new kissing gate off Ramsdean Road opening east on to the footpath leading to a further kissing gate giving access to the footpath through Furzefield Copse (image 2). The path through Furzefield is now easily accessible (image 2) and it is good to see the regeneration of hazels and hollies after the devastation caused by the clearance of diseased ash trees. Walking quietly and slowly up the woodland path recently I spotted both a brown hare and a roe deer but both were saw me first and were off before I could focus my camera. Walking on from the Copse, through the grass and arable fields of New Buildings Farm, you finally come to the A3 Petersfield Bypass where the footpath turns left (north) alongside the A3 towards the Winchester Road / A3 junction. For some time this path has been overgrown and it was good to find it completely clear of scrub and easy to walk along.
We are waiting for the first wintering redwings and fieldfares to arrive but meanwhile, red kites and buzzards still command the air above our parish.
I am concerned at the over-management of many of our parish hedgerows and that have been so closely clipped as to remove all the shelter and also the berries that our autumn and wintering birds would be feeding upon. I see that even some newly planted hedgerow shrubs, still in their tree shelters, have been devastated by the hedge cutting machinery. By leaving our hedges to grow out and only cut back in sections on rotation every few years we would greatly provide for the enhancement of the biodiversity of our parish.
Walking into town along the Winchester Road to get the Sunday paper I crossed the road just before the A3 junction (image 4) to look at the Michaelmas daisies growing there. Garden escape Michaelmas daisies have become common along our roads and all along the A3 south of Petersfield and their nectar is a real boost to our local insects as the ivy flowers die back. To my surprise, there were three brightly coloured red admiral butterflies gorging on the nectar (image 5). Not only the red admirals but a whole host of honey bees, wasps, hoverflies and other insects and spiders were present here. A garden cross spider captured two wasps and harvestman spider within seconds as I attempted a photograph.
We have had some visits outside of the parish. including the wonderful woodland, heathland and wetland of Passfield Common, open access land (managed by the National Trust) to the east of Whitehill. We found many small creatures but the real glory was the herd of Old English Longhorn Cattle (image 6), a rare breed used here to control the scrub and which seem to relish holly. The site is fenced but there are access gates around the boundary although they are not easy to find.
We do not have any heathland in our parish and so to find this specialist habitat it is necessary to visit Petersfield Heath, Hogmoor Inclosure at Whitehill or other sandy sites to the north and east of us. I visited Woolmer Forest, or at least the accessible parts as the red flags were flying around the ranges, and was pleased to find a range of fungi and lichens including this singly fly-agaric mushroom (image 7). Visiting Petersfield Heath recently, I was pleased to find a lizard resting on a sun-warmed birch log but of course it saw my movement before the camera focused. A juvenile frog appeared in front of the lawn mower and which was good to see. We had some frog spawn in the spring but the local grass snakes are probably responsible the decline in our garden frog populations.
I came across this rather splendid orange peel fungus growing on a rotting log and worthy of a photograph (image 8).
Moths are few at this time of the year but those that do fly are end-of-the-year specialists, of which the most frequent in Hampshire at the moment is the pretty Feathered Thorn (image 9), two of which came to the light trap a few days ago.
While it was good to see deer and hare, and rabbits are still around, we were pleased to film this young boar badger (image 10) scratching, grooming and taking in bedding.