Country Diary: Sit, watch and wait patiently to observe wildlife

Thus wears the month along in chequered moods,

Sunday, 27th November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 9:29 am

Sunshine and shadow,
tempest loud and calms...

From November, by John Claire.

Driving over the Wolds, even in mid November, was a pleasure highlighted by blue skies and brilliant sunshine – quite a contrast to what followed!

Previous gales had torn away many leaves, leaving trees beautifully silhouetted on the horizon. Hedgerows still glowed with the fiery hues of hawthorn berries, whilst farmers trimmed those hedges yet awaiting attention.

Around Sledmere and neighbouring villages, beech trees and oak, still retained their handsome foliage illuminated by the sun’s rays. Usually by bonfire night the trees are bare. Ash trees were heavily laden with bundles of ash keys, the single-winged fruits which have hung from trees since July.

Returning home from Wetwang, in the vicinity of Fimber, a kestrel hovered overheard seeking prey. How skilfully it remained suspended in the air. It appeared quite rigid apart from the quivering of the tips of its narrow-pointed wings.

Our pal Martin, recently had a badger on the front lawn bordering the busy A171 Scalby Road. We occasionally see their footprints in the flower borders of our garden. Badgers, foxes and grey squirrels thrive locally if they’re aware of traffic!

Friends nearby, reported having discovered a couple of hedgehogs whilst raking up fallen leaves. Should you come across any, please put them in a safe, cosy nest away from danger.

Numbers of wigeon continue to increase considerably at Scalby Mills, and at high tide the harbour is worth visiting to view turnstones along the seafront.

Turnstones are aptly named. As they move over their feeding grounds they turn over small stones. They have strong necks and bills, lifting up patches of seaweed or digging in the sand to catch any invertebrates. They are confident little brown and black birds with orange legs, and can be very approachable.

Below Oliver’s Mount, the mere resembled Swan Lake. Dozens of mute swans, greylag geese, Canada geese, a Chinese goose, mallards and gulls congregated near the Mere Cafe. One Canada goose 
waved to each visitor with its right foot! Beckoning for food? No, it was limping, and holding its foot well above ground.

The Chinese goose, with a bold, black stripe down its long neck; an orange knob at the base of its bill, and matching orange legs, gave it an air of superiority.

As the geese grazed the mere’s embankment, a common brown rat shot out of the bushes and across the path to feed on the corn and bird food. Racing around between the birds, it almost crashed into a gull. Startled, the gull swirled out of its way and regarded the rat disdainfully.

A second rat appeared on the scene, providing us with continued amusement and entertainment! Sit, watch and wait patiently to observe wildlife.