Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 12, 2014

Down in a Hole

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita).  Ross Gardner 2014

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). Ross Gardner 2014

There is a hole in the ground in a large Essex town.  It is, it has to be said, a large hole filled now with many ornamental shrubs, ponds and a stone lined stream.  A hole that was once a sandpit and which takes a good few minutes to walk from one end to the other.  It is a place perhaps typical of the others found in many other towns.  Not that there are large holes in the ground to be found as a matter of course in every built up area of the UK, but typical in that every town has that green place – the proverbial oasis – intensified by the urban trappings that surround it and where nature seems to live in glorious ignorance of it all.

This place, on a chilly April morning, was alive with the doings of small birds responding to the urgency of spring.  I seemed to be counting everything in twos.  A pair or Blackcap tchack-tchack-ing among the shrubs growing of the steep slopes; of Long-tailed Tit purring through the branches of the birch trees just beginning to flush; of vigilant Robin and bustling Blue Tit.  The Chiffchaff sang alone, but one would think not for long.

The water too, was busy enough.  Stickleback darted through the stream and below the floating lily leaves on the pond, where a resplendently-crested, male Smooth Newt floated with much more of a patient demeanour than the little fish, although he also would have shared in the sense of urgency around him.

Perhaps the biggest surprise though, given the chill in the air, was a single Speckled Wood, unblemished and seemingly fresh from its cocoon, fluttering down to absorb what it could from the intermittently exposed sun.  While the temperature struggled to rise, I nevertheless felt sufficiently warmed.


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