Sunday 20 December 2020

A short winter walk in the woods - 18th December 2020

I had a few errands to run on Friday and ended up near Blean in a vague break in the drizzle and therefore took myself off on a walk through the lanes towards Clowes Wood.

The wind was getting up but the wet largely held off and it was good to get some air for the first time this week.

The wind was keeping most birds hidden but a series of paddocks and a fallow field held a volatile flock of noisy thrushes with brash Fieldfares chacking wildly and sounding paranoid alarms with some regularity causing those on the deck with the Redwings to erupt back into the hedge line. I was delighted to find a couple of Yellowhammers with them. This quickly multiplied and at least 34 were then found shuffling around where the yellow heads of the males bobbed around like little knobs of creamy butter in the green field. 

It may not look much but this field was just fantastic!

During my lockdown walks I only found one singing male (at Jeskyns) and a few to the east around Lullingstone and after the Reculver ones remaining invisible last week, this was an absolute joy.

They too, dashed for the hedge when the thrushes bolted, flashing chestnut rumps and one of Michael Warrens atmospheric paintings came to mind although I can’t remember which book it is in at the moment. Re-acquainting myself with those books will fill another winter’s evening and perhaps they will inspire me to draw again like they did 35 years ago.

A rather plump Buzzard poked around for worms in the same field but the other birds were not bothered in the slightest and all the while more parties of Fieldfares dropped in from the surrounding orchards.

A slightly muddy horse with a romanesque nose...

I don't do grasses but I saw a post from Enid the day before and thought it looked the same - which it nearly was - Ceratochloa cathartica - Rescue Brome - ooh look at those tiny awns!

As seems to be the norm now, I spent some time casually looking for leaf mines and found a few of even what I am now calling the usual suspects.

Coptotriche marginea  - the Bordered Carl on Bramble

Phyllonorycter leucographella - Firethorn Leaf Miner on Pyracantha

Phyllonorycter quercifoliella - Common Oak Midget on English Oak

There were others to found including a Stigmella sp wiggle on an Oak leaf and several different fly mines including one on Holly. Amazing to think that any insect larvae would be designed to tackle such a tough leaf!

Stigmella sp on Oak - they can't be identified once the tenant has moved out!

Phytomyza ranunculi on Buttercup

Phytomyza ilicis  on Holly

Phytomyza ilicis  on Holl

Phytomyza pastinacae or similar on Hogweed

The tall pines in the woods were swaying and swooshing with the increasing wind and I only heard the odd Goldcrest and Coal Tit.  Apparently it is good for Crossbill but no gypping was heard.  Some areas of Pine and Chestnut had been cleared and there was a good Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Long-eared Owl, Nightjar feel going on so I shall earmark it for a visit next spring and see what happens.

There were quite a few flowers to be seen including Red and White Dead Nettles, Hogweed, Knapweed, Field Scabious, and Heath Speedwell but no insects at all bar a few dancing Gnats.  A lovely little patch of Orange Peel Fungus aptly demonstrated how it got its name.

Field Scabious with no petals?



Heath Speedwell

Orange peel fungus - Aleuria aurantia

The loop took me back into the lanes where every Cow Parsley plant was riddled with the mines of the fly Phytomyza chaerophylli and I found Eulieia heraclei on Alexanders too.

Eulieia heraclei on Alexanders

Phytomyza chaerophylli on Cow Parsley

I stumbled on several more interesting plants with Winter Heliotrope and Sowbread leaves in a hedgerow bank along with Periwinkle, Bramble, Spear Thistle and Yarrow still in flower.


Sowbread - Cyclamen hederifolium


Winter Heliotrope

With more rain looming to the west I retreated to my car where several Rosemary Beetles were colourfully chomping their way through a host of front garden foodplants. It was time to head home before darkness fell.

Rosemary Beetles - Chrysolina americana



  1. Great read Howard. I’d love to accompany you on one of your walks sometime.

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