Wildlife Update November 2017
Trustee & bird expert Dr Gareth Thomas has been connected with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for many years. This is his monthly bulletin describing what he has seen on his regular visits to Barton.
November: where the night comes early and the dawn comes late
Our trees were 'still and bare' throughout the mixed weather of November. The most eye-catching shrub was dogwood in the North Gleve (NG) hedges, where their red stems stood out from the surrounding plants. Glades were largely flowerless with a few isolated knapweeds, ox eye daises and persistent mallows. Some chicory flowers remained too.
As the trees have shed their leaves it has become easier to see some of our mammals. Rabbits abounded and there was widespread burrowing with mounds of underlying white chalk brought to the surface. Grey squirrels have colonised Barton Glebe this summer and were seen on 2 occasions this month in the tall birch trees. A pair was seen near a recently constructed dray in the South Glebe. A pair of muntjac (a well antlered buck and doe) was present in a dense blackthorn thicket.
For the record, we have an occasional stoat, there is often evidence (smell) of fox activity. Badgers feed extensively amongst all the Glebes at night: and we probably host an outlier sett in the dry ditch separating the Glebes, linked to a much larger sett on neighbouring land. Brown hares are regularly seen in both glebes.
Another benefit of leafless trees is that we can realistically estimate the breeding numbers of some bird species that build conspicuous nests. 3 pairs of carrion crows, 5 magpies and a jay built nests in the hedges of the SG. However, the commonest nester by far was the wood pidgeon - with 10 nests in the NG hedges and 25 in hedges and older trees of the SG.
Bird highlights were the wintering thrushes. A single song thrush and up to 11 blackbirds were scattered amongst groups of redwings (around 35 birds), and the recently arrived highly mobile flock of about 90 noisier fieldfares. All were feeding amongst the hawthorn berries. A sparrow hawk stalked them on 2 occasions but without success. There were small numbers of finches including 4 goldfinches, and 2 pairs of yellow hammers.
The most unusual bird was a woodcock, flushed out from halfway cross ditch.