November 12th – It was a remarkable day. On Penkridge Bank, I saw something I was very privileged to see that I have only seen twice before in my entire life, and never with such close proximity and clarity: A fallow deer rut.
A victorious male, with the unique combination of pomposity and stupidity only male deer can truly demonstrate, was protecting and attempting to serve his largely disinterested harem. He called repeatedly, paced around and nuzzled his companions. He was a big lad, in good condition. There were probably upward of 30 animals in his group, scattered in a copse dappled with soft autumnal sunlight.
This was a splendid sight and one I was very lucky to see.
April 23rd – In the sun, it was warm, but otherwise another cold, quite windy day with very bright sunshine. I headed out on a beautiful St George’s day and found the English countryside at it’s springtime peak. Trees verdant, coconut-smelling gorse lined lanes; bluebell woods were a carpet of strident violet and orange tip butterflies mated in the hedgerows.
Even the oak plum galls growing in profusion near Hilton were sort of beautiful, in the slightly unnerving way only these parasite generated growths can be.
Again, I’d appreciate a bit more warmth, but not a bad day at all, and a lovely ride.
February 15th – The day had been warm for the time of year, and the morning commute grey and foreboding but dry. During the day it rained, and on my late return in darkness, it was on a warm, April-like wet night after the rain.
The journey was unremarkable until I came across this fellow on the canal towpath near Silver Street. A large, healthy looking frog, clearly on the move.
Awakened by the warmth and seasonal imperative, it will be off to the water to mate, then another year of avoiding herons and other predators whilst doing little more than eating. Not a bad life, really.
Pretty soon, the roads and paths at night will be full of frogs and toads on the move, and there will sadly be carnage as many are lost under vehicle wheels. But I shall have my eagle eye out, and like this one, I will assist any I find to a place of safety.
It’s coming on spring. The snowdrops know it. The crocuses know it. The light knows it. My heart knows it, too.
I stop for amphibians. And occasionally, for no perceptible reason whatsoever.
June 21st – It may be the solstice, but the mating behaviour continues on the canal. With many mallards now on second broods, I noticed this industrious moorhen building a huge nest on the canal at Pleck.
She was very busy and the structure contains some interesting items. I’ll be intrigued to see if she uses it.
April 2nd – A cracking day. My seasonal clock a bit on the krunk, I went again to Shire Oak Nature Reserve to see if there were amorous amphibians getting busy, only to find none, but some spawn remaining. Clearly, I missed frog soup this year; however, some spawn under the overhanging trees that clearly couldn’t be reached by the dining heron I sacred off was, remarkably, hatching.
Yup, tadpoles are hatched.
There’s a running joke amongst my pals that one should be careful to check my hands for tadpoles and other wildlife slimies before shaking hands.
The cycle of life continues in a small corner of the town, largely undisturbed, as it has done for decades here. Poor heron had to go somewhere else for his tapioca meal, though…
March 28th – On my return, I popped through a very boggy Shire Oak Park to see if the frogs were busy mating here yet – sadly no evidence of that (although they may have been and gone, the spawn here tends to get eaten by foxed and corvids pretty quickly) but spring is here with green shoots, bright yellow gorse and a lovely, warming atmosphere.
This really is a gem of a place and so little known. Visit if you can, it’s well worth the time.
May 13th – The Walsall Canal swans at Pleck had hatchlings when I passed them midday; I was very pleased to count four, and I suspected she was hatching more. The cob patrolled on the open water, and the scene was tranquil.
I returned the same way that evening on my way home, to find a drama unfolding. An elderly heron was perched on the rear rail, his beady eye making unfailing eye contact with the cob, who was perched on the nest with his mate. There was clearly deadlock – the heron obviously had spotted an opportunity, but the swans were having none of it.
In a couple of days when grown, they’ll be safe from the herons and other predators, but it’ll be a tense few days for mum and dad as they guard their precious charges.
Nature, red in tooth and claw.
April 3rd – This is a crime warning.
The canal towpaths and waterside footpaths are, as is usual at this time of year, inhabited by attackers, muggers and aggressive beggars. Hormonally aggressive, the Canada geese and swans really aren’t messing around at the moment and will go after anything – walkers, cyclists, dogs.
This pair at Walsall Wood have been hanging about all week, and I now carry tidbits for the male to stop him pecking my ankles as I pass.
I’ll be glad when mating is over and they go back to their usual grumpy but relatively nervous state.