The walk to Love’s Copse is lovely at any time of the year with lovely views of the village and surrounds as well as a variety of woods including ancient beech, hazel coppice with oaks and plantations. At the moment the birds are singing and starting to nest build – read on to discover what you might see on this walk – it’s well worth heading up there yourself and if you do then please do let us know how it was and what you saw!
1. On the byway up from Southward Triangle you should keep you eyes open for Bullfinches and Yellowhammers. The Bullfinches will take short flights ahead of you with their soft hugh call and pure white rump – a little stalking will reward you with the bright pink and black male. The Yellowhammers are in full yellow plumage now (they moult in late summer but through the winter wear away the brown tips on the head feathers to reveal the bright yellow underneath) and are singing their little bit of bread but no cheeeese song.
2. By the gate at the top (the one that hums when the breeze is from the right direction) stop and listen. From this point to Love’s Copse itself you have a good chance of hearing Woodlark singing. These are a very rare bird in Wiltshire but we are lucky to have a good population in these fields (in fact these fields hold the Wiltshire record for most Woodlark seen together!). Check out this website before going to brush up on the call and key ID features for separating Woodlark from Skylark – the Woodlark are singing very well at the moment – several birds – loud and clear!
3. At the entrance to the pine wood look to the left and you will see a collection of small holes dug in the soft soil – these are a badger latrine. Badgers make latrines around the edges of their territory – a marker to the neighbours.
4. In the calm still interior of the pine wood stop to listen for the high-pitched song of Goldcrests – there are at least four or five pairs in this wood and they will often all sing together if you stop and listen for a minute.
5. At the far end of this wood, looking over the valley, the Ravens are currently nest building. These are the largest species of crow in the world (HUGE) and match their vast size with their incredible cronking voice – for many of us this will transport us to the Welsh Mountains or similar places but how lucky we are to have these as a common breeding bird so close to home.
6. As you walk through Love’s Copse itself listen for the peoo peoo peoo peoo song of the Nuthatch as these are now making themselves known. Also listen for the sharp Pi Choo of the Marsh Tit – this very smart woodland tit with its jet black cap has declined markedly in recent years but we are lucky to still have several pairs in this wood.
7. When you reach the fork in the path at the edge of the larch plantation stop and listen. For the last couple of weeks there has been a very reliable large flock (100+) of Siskin making a racket in the tops of the larch trees. The small finches are strikingly smart and alone make the walk worth it. Initially you might be able to hear them but struggle to see them – allow yourself 10-20minutes to stand close to the muddy puddles (on the start of the left path towards Ramsbury) and wait – if you are still and quiet the birds will come down to the lower bushes and the puddle and afford you excellent views. As the come done look carefully as there are some Goldfinches and some Lesser Redpolls also in the flock.
8. On the path back along Love’s Lane there is another badger latrine on the left to look out for. In the fields either side there is a good chance of a Skylark singing to further brighten your day – also keep an eye out for Stock Doves (Blue Rocks) these very beautiful small pigeons have subtle blue grey tones across their wings and lack the white on the neck and wings that woodpigeons show so prominently. They are open farmland specialists and only nest in cavities, a very nice pigeon to stop and appreciate before completing the walk back to the village.
Around an about in the last two weeks it has been a joy to hear the building up of bird song and to see the rooks and ravens nest building. This is the best time of year to see winter finches and in the parish this week have been Siskins, Lesser Redpoll and Brambling. All three of these will come in to bird feeders, especially in the coming month, so keep a close eye on and under your feeders – we have not had any on our feeders so far this year but would absolutely love to hear if you have.
Mammal-wise a Stoat ran across the road near West Leaze and Brown Hares have become very visible again after their conspicuous absence through winter. Enjoy these beautiful hares that we are so lucky to have in Wiltshire – the lower track from New Barns is a good bet if you wanted to try to see some yourself this week.
We’d love to hear when you start to spot frogspawn around the village. One of the characteristic markers of spring, it has been appearing earlier and earlier. Toads usually wait a little longer to get going but bonus points for anyone who can report toad spawn!