Wild @ Rivers - January 2015

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Diary Entry by Charmaine Cooper


After a cold start rain quickly moves in and the orchard site is deluged with water. The Hazel trees’ immature catkins drip a steady flow of water from their tight buds. Rabbits slip through the wet undergrowth as a Grey Squirrel bounds across the tangled branches of the Beech hedge. A swift movement reveals the small dark brown body of a Vole as it dashes across the path. Freezing fog descends and the scrub and orchard are shrouded in swirling mist. The previous days rain drops have frozen overnight and hang motionless at the tips of the twigs and catkins. The weak winter sun penetrates the fog and slowly the frost melts away leaving only pockets of frost in the sheltered dark areas.

Wind whistles through the leaves and hums merrily on the wires that cross the orchard’s meadow. A startled Yellowhammer is flushed from the hedgerow and its striking yellow plumage is illuminated by the sun as it sweeps across the dull branches and twigs. Gentle thunder rolls across pewter grey skies and large fat raindrops begin to fall. As the rain increases in intensity the birds flee from the orchard seeking the shelter of the hedges.

Catkins in the Snow

A brief snow flurry in the orchard does little to cover the grass and the wild birds continue to forage among the discarded rotting fruit. Fieldfares are joined by waddling Woodpigeons and Magpies as they feast on the apples. Great Tits and Long–tailed Tits call as they bounce through the skeletal limbs of the trees searching for food. Blackbirds screech their alarm as a Kestrel swoops across the orchard disturbing the Great Spotted Woodpecker. A distinctive honking fills the quiet chilly air of the orchard as four Canada Geese emerge from the thick clouds passing low over the site.

The snow quickly melts and two Muntjac forage at the base of the Hawthorn trees as a male Bullfinch picks the tiny buds from the ruby red stems of the bramble. Along the footpaths dense puddles have formed surrounded by thick mud revealing the footprints of passing Deer, Fox and Rabbit. Under the Hawthorn small green shoots of the Snowdrop are beginning to show as they push their way up through the old leaf litter, while under the Beech hedge the green leaves of the Lords and Ladies plant slowly unfurl. Suddenly from behind the hedge a Fox emerges. Startled, it freezes before it rapidly turns tail and runs off into the thicket of brambles. The old nursery is stirring from its winter slumber.

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