Church of England Diocese of Sheffield Fishlake

Countryside File

Here’s the latest interesting Countryside File update from Jane Johnson for the current Fishlake, Sykehouse and Kirk Bramwith, with Fenwick and Moss Parish on-line News.

Here’s the latest interesting Countryside File update from Jane Johnson for the current Fishlake, Sykehouse and Kirk Bramwith, with Fenwick and Moss Parish on-line News.

March 2021

The old weather prediction that “If March comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb” may not be very accurate this year. The start of the month has been misty and quiet and it seems to be ending with temperatures of 24 degrees – not seen in March since 1968!

4th March

Today it’s very still and pleasant. Birds are singing in the wood as we set off on a morning walk – great tits loudly calling ‘teecha-teecha-teecha’, song thrushes tuning up and there’s a loud drumming from a greater spotted woodpecker announcing his territory. In the distance I hear the sound of geese – a lot of geese!! Looking round I can’t see anything but it gets louder, then I notice skein after skein of pink footed geese, so high in the sky they look like faint scribbling pencil lines, miles high – there must be thousands! They’re flying north-west, so I’m guessing they’re starting their journey back to Iceland, probably stopping off at Martin Mere and Leighton Moss reserves on the north-west coast to refuel. On a large puddle in the far grass field a pair of curlew are probing in the mud. We stop to admire a smart male reed bunting on a branch just above the drain which heads towards Haywood, then notice some footprints on exposed mud at the water’s edge. The prints are about 4 to 5cm across, round in shape and with splayed out toes and claws. Something has partly emerged from the water, but then gone back in – far too big for a mink – it has to be an otter!! How amazing! Otters were virtually extinct in this country until a few years ago, mainly due to river pollution and persecution by hunting. However since 2017 there are lots of reports of them making a comeback in the River Don in Sheffield. So much work has been done to clean up our industrial rivers and the presence of otters is testament to that.

6th March

Another pleasant, still day as we walk with the dog round Lowlands Farm. There are deer and badger prints along every hedge side as the mud is now the perfect consistency to show them. The place must be very busy at night! It would be good to put some camera traps up to see what goes on. As we go round we’re looking at holes in tree trunks before the leaves obscure them - so many birds nest in holes and there are lots more than we thought. One old oak tree in the hedge has holes and a rotten middle and as if on cue, a little owl is sitting nearby. Paul is enjoying rediscovering places on the farm he once knew and we come across two patches of bluebells under a hedge he remembers from 40 years ago. We disturb flocks of redwings, but we’re not hearing any fieldfares now. They should both be going back to Scandinavia and Russia soon. We find a section of tree branch on the ground with a perfect cavity down the middle. With lids and bases it would make a couple of beautiful natural bird boxes and there’s just enough time to get them in position before birds really get started nest building. We make bigger entrance holes than for blue tits to hopefully make them attractive to woodpeckers, starlings or kestrels.

20th March

A pleasant morning, grey but quiet, with clouds gradually clearing to reveal blue sky and warm sun. The blackthorn in the hedge is at my favourite stage – full of round white buds just ready to burst out, and every year I think the bare black twigs look like they’re decorated with tiny pearls – a contrast to the branches with brilliant yellow lichen. The first real wild flowers of Spring are coming out now – coltsfoot has been flowering for a week and celandine and red deadnettle are just starting to flower, while white plum blossom stands out among bare branches in the hedgerows. The reed mace heads are beginning to shed tufts of fluffy seeds and the breeze snatches them and carries them away – an ideal lining for bird’s nests, or so thinks a male reed bunting, clinging to the stem and pulling off beaks full of fluff. In Copley Springs wood a familiar sound has returned – a chiff-chaff is singing loudly. Sunshine filters through the bare branches, warming up the dead leaves underfoot and highlighting trees lit up grass-green by a thin layer of algae on the trunks. No sign of bluebell buds yet, but the leaves are lush and green.

23rd March

A friend sends me a link to a Wildlife Trusts webinar about swifts which is so inspirational I order a special swift nest box. We’ll soon lose swifts altogether if modern housing continues to block all possible entrance holes, so we thought we’d try to help if we can. When it arrives Paul makes another two, using the same design, as ideally swifts like to nest communally. They’re very particular, so to drastically increase chances of success, playing recorded swift calls as they arrive in May is highly recommended and there’s a small device designed to do that – fingers crossed it will work!

26th March

A report from David in Sykehouse today: “Hello Jane, Certainly felt spring like yesterday, the wild plum tree in our garden is absolutely laden with blossom and the fragrance is so strong, the beehive is under the tree so on warm days, when they're active, they don't have far to go. Saw three of the early butterflies yesterday, a Brimstone, Peacock and two Small Tortoiseshells, along with a few Buff Tailed Bumblebees and some hoverflies checking out the currant bushes which are almost in full leaf. The Bluetits are busy nesting in one of our bird boxes, and a pair of Blackbirds are nesting nearby and coming into our garden for the moss which is growing in an old pig trough we have as a pond”.

28th March

Stop Press! A bird with a huge wingspan and forked tail cruising low over the house – of course it’s a red kite! A pretty rare sight in Moss but I understand two have been seen recently in Campsall Park – quite spectacular close to! March weather has been unpredictable and extreme as we’ve come to recognise recently – one minute cold March winds, then still, warm days. It would be nice to think April will be as warm and pleasant as last year, but without a return to total ‘lockdown’.

© Jane Mawson 2021

Please e-mail me if you see anything interesting, and pass on the word to others who’re missing the Parish Magazine that I could e-mail them the Countryside File.

Jane Mawson: [email protected]

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