Sunday, 18 October 2015

A few house martins clinging on….

An occasional post by guest editor Judith Passingham

One of the delights of Rickmansworth is an afternoon ramble in the Aquadrome area, encompassing the River Colne, the Grand Union canal and a series of flooded gravel pits forming a lovely string of lakes along the Colne Valley, reaching almost up to the A40 area. (We can only hope that the HS2 development will not be allowed to blight this area of important wildlife habitat, and recreational facility for its enthusiastic residents. Enlightenment may occur when our politicians finally realize for themselves that business people don’t need to arrive 15 minutes earlier at the expense of the English Countryside, but simply need an adequate table on which  to place their laptop or tablet, and a really great Wifi connection….)

The canal itself is showing some hints of autumn, with hawthorn berries along its banks, and swirling patterns of leaves in the canal water. 

Along the old wall adjacent to the bridge by the stables at Stockers Lock, ivy flowers are profuse, with lovely bobbles of black and green showing against the darker sheets of ivy. Adjacent to Stockers Lake, ground ivy is changing colour, with red, orange and yellow patterns starting to emerge along the ivy leaf veins. 

Leaving the dog walkers and canal boatmen behind, by the lake, the parsleys are turning crispy brown, with soft taupe seeds clinging around the umbrella spokes of the Summer flowers. Red seeds and berries are in evidence, with rose hips starting to show, and great tendrils of deadly nightshade with vibrant red lush berries wrapping themselves around the trunks of trees.

Over the canal we see a few stray house martins flitting about catching flies. The River Colne is a well known migration route for hirundines and during the Autumn, columns of birds can be seen making their way down this watery corridor towards the South. These birds are the tail end of this Autumn procession.

On the other side of the lake there are a number of mature trees and at their base we make out one or two Autumn ladies tresses orchids, now in seed. The work done in this area to prune the trees appears to have decimated this orchid population, but thankfully a few remain.

Further along are a number of juvenile Oak trees. Their leaves are starting to crisp black and brown at the edges, making a pleasing contrast with the electric emerald colour shown through the light from underneath. The blackberry bushes are almost done, with dry black berries over large bushes. Occasionally the red jewel of an unripe blackberry, and a few tail end blackberries can be seen shining out from this sea of desiccated leaves. 

The lake was pretty quiet on the bird front but the red-crested pochards gave an exotic splash of colour.

and the sound-track of Autumn and Winter was provided by family flocks of long-tailed tits in the trees.

and pleasingly this kingfisher was showing very well nearly at Maple Lodge reserve.