After lunch we walked the Woodland Trail. It was slightly warmer up there, less frost. The branches glittered with drops of moisture and our feet slithered on dark slimy leaves. The air was heavy, still and silent except for a drip-dripping sound and the occasional crunch of twigs under foot. Then we heard a noise like tiny football rattles and saw a troupe of long-tailed tits swinging through the branches. Then, the ‘demented’ call of a nuthatch, the thin ‘tsee’ of a goldcrest high in a conifer and the ‘squeaky toy’ sound of a great-spotted woodpecker. Someone whispered, ‘There’s a treecreeper,’ and we all looked up to see the tiny bird, doing exactly what it says on the tin.
‘Woodcock!’ We shouted, looking at each other for confirmation that we hadn’t been imagining it.
It was on the edge of the Woodland Trail hiding in the leaf litter, until we approached with our clip boards. I had a quick glimpse of its stocky body and long dagger bill before it disappeared.
Kate pointed out some King Alfred’s Cake fungus, hard, oval and shiny black, growing on the bark of a dead tree. She told us how it can be used to light a fire. I never knew that. I also never knew that I could see woodcock just down the road from my house. I always imagined I’d have to get in the car and drive to a deep, dark wood somewhere miles away.
Oh and there was also a ‘possible snipe’ near the wetland, but that flew off so quickly that none of us could be 100% sure.
The next winter bird survey is on Saturday 26th January. I’m going to do my best to be there. Who knows, we might see a ‘definite snipe’ this time?