Sunday, 16 May 2010


"I well remember that dreadful winter of 1739-40, that cold north-east wind continued to blow through April and May...." wrote the Rev. Gilbert White in a letter to the Hon. Daines Barrington.

And the cold wind is still blowing, although one good day was had from the weekend, and I spent part of it kicking up leaves on Selbourne Hangar, looking for a needle in the proverbial - a small brown shoot in a dark brown wood.

We've been to The Wakes before, where the good parson spent his time investigating nature and writing advanced thoughts about it, and about birds in particular.... whether they migrate, what drives their behaviour, how many willow-wrens there are.... If only he could have met Charles Darwin working a century later.
So instead of visiting the house again, there was time to explore his village and its surroundings, including the Hangar, a hill covered in beech trees which give such shade that little can grow beneath. The new leaves shone fluorescently, but the woodland floor was dark.
But with a little fortune I found what I was looking for - a Bird's-nest Orchid.
Not very prepossessing - like a small shoot of asparagus blanched under a pot. The flowers had yet to open, but I think that will not change the plant much.
Also in and around the woods were plants that aren't seen in East Kent, despite being on chalk.

Sweet woodruff

A commotion of strange mewling calls made me look up at a hole in a beech tree, in time to see a large brown bird flying off - a buzzard or an owl? A similar noise from a nearby yew gave away the position of a ball of fluff and confirmed the parent's identity.
The parent flew again and perched - I wish it luck in dealing with the troublemaker in the yew.
Gilbert White wrote that "the young of a white-owl are not easily raised, as they want a constant supply of fresh mice: whereas the young of a brown owl will eat indiscriminately all that is brought; snails, rats, kittens, puppies, magpies, and any kind of carrion or offal'.


Greenie said...

Steve ,
All that way and you didn't visit Noar Hill ?
Like the Owl shots .
BNO just starting to emerge at High Elms .

Kingsdowner said...

Fred, I also spent some time trying to find the reserve at Noar Hill, then discovered that cold wind and rain were not conducive to butterflies or orchids.
It'll be a great place in a couple of weeks, no doubt.

Warren Baker said...

I am a great admirer of Gilbert White Steve. Visiting Selbourne is on my to do list.

Like the owls mate.

Mary said...

Great owl shots! I like that first shot looking down on the village and the one of the tree, too. Lovely! You seem to have a knack for finding owls...something I almost never see.