Bossenden Wood is at the western end of the Canterbury circle woods known as the Blean. In May 1835 a series of events culminated in the Battle of Bossenden Wood when an insurrection against the Poor Law ended with eight dead, and subsequent concern about the use of the army in civil matters led to the formation of a police force.
This weekend the Wood was peaceful, under a blue sky with no wind, and cold covering of snow - perfect conditions to watch the birdlife of a British wood in winter.
The number of 'pecker holes showed how rich the wood is in birds, and the almost constant flitting and calling around us confirmed that there is a greater density of birds here than in most woods. It's a thickly wooded place with little evidence of active management but the place is alive.
An hour's walk gave good views of almost all the birds expected in a wood - the usual tits, treecreepers, nuthatches,
plenty of goldcrests and a firecrest, song thrushes, blackbirds and a redwing, green and great 'peckers and - yes - at least one lesser spotted woodpecker, which kindly stopped its relentless search for food to have a rest and a preen in the treetops.
"Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is one of the most strongly declining bird species in Europe, having decreased at an annual rate of 7% during 1980–2005" (PECBMS 2007, 2009) and the rate of decline has been positively correlated with the incidence of grey squirrel dreys, although the direct cause and effect has yet to be established.
The healthy bird population in this wood has not gone unnoticed by the local photographers, who have baited a convenient log with nuts, and I have to admit to borrowing it for my own purpose, adding a stash of my own and then waiting with frozen feet until something showed up.
First up was a male chaffinch, unimpressed with the unsuitable fare on offer. A blue tit and great tit pairing visited frequently (why are they together?) while a more conventional pair of blue tits gambolled around nearby.
The main target, however, was nuthatch, one of which appeared on a 15-minute circuit, dashing onto the log and then dashing off again, leaving photographic confusion in its wake. Eventually though, it lived up to its name (an old word meaning pecker-of nuts-from-a-crevice-in-a-piece-of-wood - "nuthacker") and stayed around long enough for some portraits.
Other fascinating facts about nuthtches can be found here.
Early signs of spring have mostly been snuffed out by the snow, but hazel catkins remain
with a few female flowers showing crimson in the black and white world.
A dusk walk around Stodmarsh was planned to see mumurations of starlings - one single solitary one was seen (not murmering at all) but plenty of chacka-ing fieldfares flew in from nearby orchards, an obligatory woodcock was flushed and flew around us in a circle, while half a dozen marsh harriers circled over their chosen roost in the reeds, sometimes landing in the small trees.
The sound of footprints in the reeds indicated an unseen heron or maybe bittern, waking a group of bearded tits that pinged in irritation. Squeals of water rails showed they were around, and one scurried along the path like Secret Squirrel, keeping its head down and it won't be seen.
The sun set over the frozen lake, marked with fox-prints showing the constant threat to ducks whose safety is compromised in such conditions. Jupiter shone and Mars glowed, at the end of a perfect day.
And just to finish it...... a gig with Fairport Convention in the good company of friends - lovely.