• Barbara Copperthwaite

Wild weather for wildlife


It was a bit of a wild day yesterday! The wind was gusting so hard that a huge section of one of the willow trees by the Long Pool duck pond in Highbury Park tore free from the trunk and crashed to the ground.

I always find that sort of sight incredibly sad, but it is a part of nature – and thanks to the management practices in the park, the branch will be left so that wildlife can still make use of it. Birds and small mammals can still shelter in it, insects will burrow inside, and when it rots away it will help to nourish the land. I know some people may complain that it looks untidy but…life is untidy.

I was only briefly visiting Highbury though, on my way to Holders Lane Wood once more. This time I was hoping to catch a break in the weather to get some bluebell shots in decent light.

The wide variety of birds there was evident as soon as I stepped into it. There was a wonderful array of birdsong, presumably celebrating the break in the downpours and the brief reappearance of the sun.

Amongst the songs of Robins, Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Mistle Thrush…I could go on! cry was louder and stranger than the others. It was the Green Woodpecker. I always think it sounds as if it would be more at home in Africa or the Amazon rainforest, rather than Birmingham; it is a wild, exotic call, with an almost cackling quality. Unlike its cousins the Great Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, the Green Woodpecker does not really drum on tree trunks either (although it does on rare occasion). If you see it, it will most likely be on the ground, busily feeding on ants, rather than up a tree. But it is a shy bird, more often heard than seen. If you are just starting to learn to identify bird call (I am!) then this is a very easy, distinctive one to start with.

The bluebells were looking magnificent despite the awful weather. I could wax lyrical for some time about their delicate petals, the soft curl at the edges, the way the bright green of new shoots surrounding the flowers contrasts beautifully with the purple blooms…

But I won’t. Instead, I will say that while I was drinking in the sight, I noticed a Blackcap fly into the brambles with a little twig or piece of long grass in its beak. I could just see where it had flown into a little hollow - and there was the nest. I quickly looked away and moved on though, so as not to put it off, although a curiosity of Blackcaps is that the male will build several flimsy nests for its mate, scattered here and there in undergrowth, before finally creating a proper one to raise its family.

After half an hour or so in the woods the wind started to pick up again and sky blacken as if the end of the world was nigh. Taking that as my cue, I headed home, head down as the rain started to lash at me. I hope the Blackcap’s nest is waterproof…


#highburypark #HoldersLaneWoods #blackcap #greenwoodpecker #bluebells

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