Nature notes from John Holt
March the 9th – late again. February is a short month but to me it seemed to fly be – we had the snowdrops and aconites both quite splendid this year. The daffs coming through – mine are mostly blind this year and then we seemed to fast forward to March.
From the weather watchers a pretty average month, Tim Finn-Kelsey advises 14 frosts in the 28 day span, should help to kill some of the bugs, on the other hand the bugs are what the birds need to survive and it is nesting season; keep those bird feeders topped up.
The water table is slowly dropping and I am surprised to see the trout are still spawning, saw my first Bullhead in two years on Saturday, got quite excited by it as I thought they had all disappeared with the coming of the Little Egret (pictured) – six on the cress beds in mid-February, Egrets that is. These wading birds started to arrive in the UK only a few years ago and returned to Europe to nest but now are staying on and resting in the Southern Counties, the wetlands of Beaulieu would be an ideal habitat. First report of frogspawn from Henrietta Wood (as usual) spot on half term, after the rains last year there should be no shortage this year but I must say that, as of this date, I have not seen any in the many small ponds on the water meadow.
On a more sombre note, the last five weeks have seen the passing of two friends and long term residents of the valley. Eric Fishlock and Mark Ferguson, both in their own way very knowledgeable of the valley, its countryside and its fowl and fauna. Eric lived and worked on the land all his life, learned about the wildlife and the domestic animals by observation and hands on experience. Eric was a good wildlife sounding board for me when we moved into the valley. He always knew what time the fox went by his house, the direction it came from and the direction it was going, great fun. Mark on the other hand cut his teeth in the city but his love of fishing and the country side enabled him to gain a deep knowledge of the birds, butterflies and aquatic bugs that shared his various fishing habitats. Mark and Celia moved into the valley some 48 years ago. For me and many of his friends he was the “expert” you went to when you couldn’t identify the butterfly or creepy crawley you had seen. I will, as will many others, miss them both, but the fox and the butterfly will always jog the memory.
Image of Little Egret from www.rspb.org.uk