The work on the Common this Winter and early Spring focused on felling willows overhanging paths and reopening the view below Windmill Hill. We coppiced four big hazels, several collapsing blackthorns and two big willows. All these trees will grow back up from their coppiced stumps again, not as the trees that they were but as sprays of shoots.

We opened the view at the request of some villagers who think it is wise to be able to view the Common from the road for the sense of security to people walking on the Common. To some this openness spoils the sense of the Common being a tranquil and secluded place. Of course the trees and shrubs will grow again so the view over the Common will ebb and flow between seclusion and openness.

Contractors removed the electricity cable which ran across the main Common pond through a pipe, the flanges of which had opened up revealing the cable! A tunnel was driven through the soil under the pond, so as to not disturb its base, and a new pipe and cable threaded through it and reconnected at the other side. The pond is a breeding site for Great Crested Newts so an ecologist from the Environment Agency was on site to monitor the work and protect any newts disturbed by the work. The old pipe has been removed. We are pleased that it has gone at last. (But we’ll have to stop calling it the Electricity Pond!)

 

We did not have any response to our request in the last issue for new volunteers so we thought that we would ask if there are villagers with any particular wildlife interests. For instance, we have an ornithologist, a mycologist and now I hear of a lepidopterist living in the village. I would describe myself as a ‘generalist’. I am interested in all of it but particularly how it all fits together - ecology. I wish we had an ecologist here.

The Wren

This Winter I read a book entitled The Wren: A Biography, by Stephen Moss. His first observation was that this little bird though so actively industrious is easily overlooked but is our commonest bird as it can be encountered almost everywhere “from the heart of London to the remotest off shore island”. It is reckoned that there are about 8 million breeding pairs in our islands.

This Winter I read a book entitled The Wren: A Biography, by Stephen Moss. His first observation was that this little bird though so actively industrious is easily overlooked but is our commonest bird as it can be encountered almost everywhere “from the heart of London to the remotest off shore island”. It is reckoned that there are about 8 million breeding pairs in our islands.Its story, much précised here, began many millions of years ago in what is now the “heart of North America”. Over the millennia it spread north and west across the land bridge (Beringia) and on across Eurasia until eventually they were stopped at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, but they did get to Iceland. Therefore, as someone observed, they had colonised seven-eighths of the way around the world. It is unique amongst our birds in that it is the only species with its origins in the Old World. They seem to have managed this due to their ability to thrive in a very wide range of habitats, wherever there is leaf litter to forage for insects.

What arrests me most about the Wren is its song - if it is a song. In reality it is a territorial call to deter rival males and attract females. It is the second loudest of all our songbirds, in fact if it was scaled up to the size of a cockerel it would be ten times as loud. I have watched a Wren through my binoculars singing with such intensity its body vibrated with the effort.

Reading the book, it was satisfying to have some of the apparent myths about this wonderful little bird clarified. The one I have picked out is the one I was always curious about; the story of the ‘cock’s nests’. The cock Wren has been known to build the frame of up to a dozen nests whilst continuing his tasks of keeping himself fed and defending the territory. His energy output is phenomenal but then that is just what they do. When his building is done, he does, as the author describes, “a kind of estate agent’s tour” with a hen in tow. She indicates her acceptance of his nest by spending a day or two turning it into a home by ‘furnishing’ it with tiny feathers to make a soft bed for the eggs.
Graham Thorne