Into March & some warmer days to look forward to. As we moved into the new month I counted the number of frosts we had experienced this winter season and, as I write, we are already up to thirty nine! This contrasts with last year's count of seven. What a variable climate we live in!
The Bird group, that meet each month at the Bricklayer's Arms in Hadham Road at 8 p.m. on the first Monday of each month, is about to undertake its annual breeding bird survey of Hatfield Forest. This survey has been carried out by the group since 1976 and only aviation accidents, foot and mouth outbreaks and surveys for the BTO have interrupted this work. The survey has been invaluable in tracking the variations that occur to the forest's bird population, with the current casualty being the Willow Warbler that failed to breed in any of the sample habitats in the four sample areas covered.
Since my own local patch covers the Wickham Hall Farm & that of Stortford Park, it has been interesting to note the way that the rape crops have been ravaged by the Flea beetle infestation. Many fields have had to be re-cultivated and sown again (mostly Spring Barley), which, of course adds an unwelcome production cost. Add this to the drenched fields and the sheer difficulty of getting mechanical equipment onto the fields, it is not surprising to hear the farmer justifiably going on about it!
However, with our climate, it is always something of a miracle to see the fields dry out and the first butterflies emerging from their long winter rest. And, of course, the reward of an early outing to catch the first Chiffchaff in song, or even to catch a glimpse of a Wheatear as it flashes its black and white tail along the edge of the arable fields. More recently, this bird has become less common hereabouts. Some ten/twenty years ago it was a regular passage bird but, of late, it is unusual to come across one. Keep a lookout. It is a spirit lifting experience just to catch a glimpse of that tail!
Stuart Banks, Reserve Officer for Danbury Common was giving a talk to the Society during the winter and mentioned that the Nightingale still breeds on the Common. What was puzzling about this is the fact that we used to have up to eight breeding in the forest in the ‘old’ days but it has not been recorded for many years there. Why? Airport might be one reason. I can recall the days when they were singing at the north end of the forest and positively erupted with gusto as each plane took off! Perhaps, in the end, they just couldn't compete with the noise!
To come, daffodils, primroses, violets and wood anemone. Enjoy the month.