Country Diary: Attractive bird resembles the woodpecker

...fallen leaves,

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 8th January 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:43 am
A nuthatch was seen at the bird feeding tables in Forge Valley.
A nuthatch was seen at the bird feeding tables in Forge Valley.

That lie upon the dark earth brown and rotten,

Miry and matted in the soaking wet,

Forgotten with the spring that is forgotten,

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By them that can forget...

By Robert Bridges

Happy New Year! Hope you enjoyed a most memorable Christmas. With no snow to impede travel – so far, and the days gradually becoming lighter, it’s time to look ahead and make plans for summertime.

Unfortunately, with sodden conditions in fields and woodland, Tigga’s daily walks have been restricted to country lanes, or it would have meant daily baths too!

We spent a quiet, peaceful Christmas appreciating the simple pleasures of life. Drives through our beautiful countryside with ever-changing scenery, with Tigga sharing every moment, and seeking sheep!

Travelling by way of Thornton-le-Dale and Pickering, we headed north towards Cropton, and Caw-thorne which is noted for its Roman Camp. Immediately beyond, we took the next turning left to Keldy Castle and Keldy Cabins. The peaceful lane roller-coasted around bends to a lovely, secluded clearing midst silver birch, oak and beech trees of Cropton Forestry. Golden-brown fronds of bracken carpeted the forest floor, and nothing stirred. Wooden cabins were perfect retreats for those wishing to escape the madding crowds over the festive season. Our fleeting visit to this remote location was punctuated only by pheasants and carrion crows.

Johnson’s Pond, beside Burniston Road, was a different story.

Strong westerly winds appeared to have driven many ducks and geese inland. At least 70 wigeon were recorded here, along with many Canada geese. Handsome herons huddled beside the hedging, numbering about ten in all.

Visiting the bird-watchers’ paradise at Forge Valley’s popular bird feeding tables, all was a flutter. Birds of great variety took advantage of the food provided, and our feathered friends provided great entertainment. Along with the familiar chaffinches, blackbirds, robin, and five species of the tit family, were nuthatch and pheasant. The pheasant mounted the table itself to obtain an easier meal.

The nuthatch resembles a miniature woodpecker in shape and actions, with a large head, short tail, and perky movements. It’s a smart, attractive bird that’s blue-grey above and chestnut flanks brighter on the male. Its white cheeks highlight a striking feature which is the broad, black eye-stripe. It has the ability of climbing up or down tree trunks and branches. They eat insects when available, but love beech mast, hazel nuts and acorns. They wedge nuts in the bark and hack them open by whacking them with their bill.

What a joy to discover our first flower of 2017 – the winter heliotrope, which blooms from late December to March. Its leaves are heart-shaped, and 10-20cm across. The flower stems beat several pinky-white, fragrant flowers so reminiscent of vanilla. Ah – spring lies just ahead!