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Go on a nature walk around Sidehill Wood, Perry Green and Green Tye in East Hertfordshire





Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham covers your fortnightly look at nature around Bishop’s Stortford

In my last piece I said that my ancient 4x4 had gone in for a service and MOT. Pleasingly it passed so I was back on the road. After a day trip to Norfolk and a three-day jaunt to Portland Bill and back the weekend before last, some of the parts that had been replaced during the service needed a quick check. So last Tuesday I dropped the car off once again in Much Hadham and then set off for my Nature Notes wander.

A circular walk taking in Sidehill Wood, Perry Green and Green Tye had been mapped out as I wandered along Danebridge Lane and into the wood. It was so grey that any cricket match would have been called off for bad light and so photography was going to be challenging.

Distant buzzards
Distant buzzards

Blue tits and great tits flicked through the remaining leaves on the hornbeams and oaks, the latter species invariably the last to lose its vegetation. The ground was damp so I searched for fungi species, full in the knowledge that the hard frosts recently will have finished most of these off. A group of Infundibulicybe geotropa (trooping funnel) fungi pushed through the leaf litter as the smooth bark of the hornbeams glistened with dampness. On a dead tree stump, Xylaria hypoxylon (candlesnuff fungi) could be found, an unusual-shaped species reminding me of corals.

A group of ramblers overtook me as I took a short detour to check the River Ash. From the footbridge I got a glimpse of a rapidly-departing kingfisher and the call of a nearby moorhen whilst, overhead, a red kite circled in the darkening sky. Rather ominous, but I retraced my steps to the path and carried on through the wood.

Great spotted woodpeckers chipped unseen, jays screeched and magpies clacked. A coal tit called its rather repetitive call and a wren darted for a pile of brushwood, firing off its staccato alarm call. All were impossible to get a photo of in such conditions. I had set the camera up to make an attempt to document their presence, but the shutter speeds were too slow and the ISO too high so there would be no strong definition in the resulting shots.

Nuthatch
Nuthatch

I arrived at the end of the path near Bourne Lane and headed uphill towards the Henry Moore fields. A modern 4x4 came by, stopped to engage full traction in the mud and slid off towards the old landfill site at the brow of the rise. Here a second truck had got well and truly stuck in the mud, axle deep, so a rope was tied to the tow bar and it was successfully dragged out.

A common buzzard mewed in the distance as I skirted around the landfill field and into the area where there is a Henry Moore sculpture adjacent to a pond. Nothing here so I carried on over a footbridge onto the lane and picked up the footpath that runs parallel to the Henry Moore Foundation land. With only a few leaves on the trees, it was possible to get good views of more sculptures.

I stopped under a sycamore tree where there seemed to be much bird activity. Along with assorted tit species, including wisping long-tailed tits, were two smaller birds, constant in their movement as they checked twigs and leaves. Goldcrests, the UK’s smallest bird. I optimistically fired off a series of shots, but these were little more than poor silhouettes. Good to see this species, nevertheless.

Soon I arrived in Perry Green, right opposite The Hoops. I decided I would probably see more by following the lane rather than trekking along the footpath via Bucklers Hall to Green Tye and so it proved.

Raindrops on umbellifer seedhead
Raindrops on umbellifer seedhead

A song thrush burst into melodic voice from a telegraph wire, fieldfares “chack chacked” and the thin call of redwings could be heard near St Thomas’ chapel. Better still, a nuthatch burbled away in full, but distant, view so I managed a few half-decent photos considering the conditions.

Upon a dead tree trunk, a bracket-type fungus I was not familiar with was spreading across the chainsawed smooth edge. More had succumbed to the frost and had fallen off. I got a record shot to help me identify it when I returned home. It turned out to be a rather old example of Laetiporus sulphureus, chicken of the woods.

In the hedgerows, many of the plants were dripping with dew and raindrops. An umbellifer seed head looked quite spectacular in the dismal light and the damp made the rosehips look highly polished.

Chicken of the woods fungi
Chicken of the woods fungi

Before the tomato farm is a broad footpath that leads downhill along a brook and onto Danebridge Lane. To my right, in their regular roosting tree, were the resident common buzzards. Again, with hope more than anything else, I took a few shots, safe in the knowledge these too would be just outlines with no definition. I messed about with the settings to see if I could improve on the originals and managed to get a little more detail, but not a pleasing shot came from this session.

Soon I was back on Danebridge Lane and heading back to collect the car. I stopped off to check the brook where more tit species could be seen and a second kingfisher glimpse of the wander. A second song thrush was particularly vociferous as I checked the hedgerow for the resident barn owl. I haven’t encountered it yet this winter, but last year it was a regular sight along the lane. No luck with my search.

Rabbit
Rabbit

In a field, a solitary rabbit. A species I see far less regularly than just a decade ago. In fact, the rabbit population declined by 67% between 1995 and 2016, but there is now evidence that this decline may be halting. Certainly the days when you would see a whole warren of rabbits bolt for their burrows are a thing of the past. I suspect this fall in the population figure is caused by a mixture of issues, including predation from the increasing buzzard population, a rise in myxomatosis and now other diseases such as RHD (rabbit haemorrhagic disease). The rise in the badger population may also play a part as they are known to prey on rabbits.

Trooping funnel mushroom
Trooping funnel mushroom

I arrived back at the car to find all checks complete, nothing to pay and off I went. At this point I realised this would be my last article before Christmas and, traditionally, I head further afield for my festive piece. Christmas has come around too quickly, so I hatched a plan to include some of my favourite photos from my travels in 2023.

Peacock, Sri Lanka
Peacock, Sri Lanka

Trips to Sri Lanka and Portugal were made as well as a few days away at Bempton Cliffs, north Norfolk and, only a fortnight ago, Portland Bill. I have also had day trips to numerous habitats including Dungeness, the Essex coastline and RSPB Rye Meads. I had a wonderful birding year, recording over 200 species in total in England.

Asian elephant, Sri Lanka
Asian elephant, Sri Lanka

I thought the inclusion of these photos would add a little variety as well as remind us we did have a sunny time earlier in the year. Well, to be honest, it was simply because I didn’t have enough from my walk, courtesy of the light conditions!

Purple-faced macaques, Sri Lanka
Purple-faced macaques, Sri Lanka

I have concentrated on a few mammal species and birds here and I shall conclude this round-up in my next piece with insects such as butterflies for a high summer colour spread.

Guillemot, Yorkshire
Guillemot, Yorkshire

Finally, I would like to wish all readers a most peaceful, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable Christmas. Hope you all have a wonderful time.

Rock pipit, Portland Bill
Rock pipit, Portland Bill
Small four-foot monitor lizard, Sri Lanka
Small four-foot monitor lizard, Sri Lanka
Little green bee-eater, Sri Lanka
Little green bee-eater, Sri Lanka
Nettle-munching muntjac, Rye Meads RSPB reserve
Nettle-munching muntjac, Rye Meads RSPB reserve
Redshank, Portugal
Redshank, Portugal

Got a story for the Stortford Indie? Email us at newsdesk@bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk.



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