Grass Snake and Ramsons
With the dust barely settled after the recent house move, I’m beginning to get a feel for the new surroundings. The feeders are out in the garden and the list is up to 40; Green Woodpeckers and Nuthatches every day are a bit of a novelty so far. House Martins have returned to old nests under the eaves.
Just beyond the garden, Wormley Woods stretches in all directions. ‘Wormley’ apparently is derived from the old English word meaning ‘the clearing infested with snakes’. The ‘Woods’ themselves are considered the best UK example of Sessile Oak-Hornbeam woodland, a stand-type found on acidic, well drained soils. The ground flora of such woods is often poor, with abundant bramble, bracken and honeysuckle but little else. However, some specialities do occur; Wild Service Tree, Great Wood-rush and Golden-scaled Male Fern. The woods have a series of deeply cut streams running through them, many of the flatter areas swathed in Ramsons and Golden-saxifrage. These were the woods of the Redstart, Hawfinch, Nightjar and Woodcock in Hertfordshire, now all thin on the ground or gone. The snakes are still there though.
The first trips out into the local patch have not been that exciting. Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and a few flyover Crossbills, which appear to have bred locally. Today was a better day though; a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a fly-over Honey Buzzard. The decline in Lesser spots has been attributed to low breeding success, with a lack of food being a possible cause. The disappearance of one of the adults, often the female, is suggested as the cause of failure, with the remaining parent failing to bring in enough food. Female Lesser spots have been shown to have lower survival compared to males and their disappearance may be an adaptive strategy, but it fails to work if the male cannot up the provisioning rate to match that of two birds.