Saturday, 18 December 2010

Tracking time

Little wildlife was visibly present on the snow-covered Trail today, but that did not mean it had not been around! All the paths were heavily trodden by now with human and dog footprints. But where they could not go, such as on the bowling greens, rabbit tracks were easy to see. Bird prints were here and there including sweeping patterns where a bird had stretched its wings as it flew. Other species were not so easy, such as foxes whose prints differ little from smaller dog tracks. However, a walk to the side of the bypass opposite Offley Wood, where an animal trail crosses the road, was worthwhile as a couple of fox tracks (one going each way) were clear where at least one animal had patrolled its regular route during the night. (There were no badger prints). Nothing in Creation leaves no trace! - George

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Leaf fall

A walk round the Sandbach Environment Trail after Thursday's gale has shown that only the odd weak sapling came down, but fallen leaves are deep everywhere. Apart from an odd nuthatch calling there was little about, but it was very pleasant to be able walk through tree areas in sunshine for once. A visit was also made to "Brook Wood", where the new Sandbach Woodland and Wildlife Group is considering a project (supported by A Rocha locally, perhaps under its planned Friends In Action scheme) and this area was also pleasantly sunny, with a couple of charms of goldfinches enjoying the daylight probably more than a solitary jay who had lost its shady refuge.
Apologies, by the way, if you log onto the main Sandbach Environment Trail website, as this does not look as it should due to a change in Gooogle's website system! The homepage is still correct despite not having a tile now. It will be restored (or revised) when our very busy webmaster has time. - George

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Autumn wildlife

An autumn walk round the Environment Trail was more interesting than expected. It began sadly, near the old town pump where several well-grown young Horse Chestnuts were laden with conkers. But two had yellow leaves, clear evidence of the dreaded Phytophthora. The conkers on these trees were much larger than the others, a desperate biological response as the dying tree tries to produce one last crop of seed to propagate itself. There could be no clearer picture of a broken Creation and our helplessness to mend it except with the aid of the Creator. However, yellow stars in the grass were the cheerful flowers of the little Autumnal Hawkbit, a favourite flower of mine. Plenty of birds were around, but only Robins were singing yet - the only bird that sings in all twelve months. Research has shown that Robins sing more than can be explained by any biological necessity - they must just enjoy singing! So Creation rejoices even when broken, another lesson for humanity. At the Park pond several flowers still bloomed, with Water Mint and Water Forget-me-not around the edge and Hemp Agrimony behind them. The pond itself was choked with late summer Broad-leaved Pondweed and Water Starwort. Elderberries and Hawthorns were laden with berries and Bullfinches piped nearby. They were also calling in the thick hedge at Waterworks Farm, which (as I have always suspected) indicates there are families at both places on the Trail. Back on the Park, a faint sound made me look up, to see a Greenfinch far overhead against the high cloud. My last sighting was not living, but caught my attention equally as the Park suddenly appeared to turn Welsh! Then I realised it must have been an imaginative Cymric vandal who by selective removal from Sandbach had produced "an bach" - I wonder what it means? - George

Monday, 2 August 2010

Watching and being watched!

A small but well-formed party on the last Environment Trail guided walk of the year found itself being watched as intently as it was watching, by one of four impressive Southern Hawker dragonflies, this one by the stream opposite St Mary's Wood, where Gatekeeper and Green-veined White butterflies were also around. Other butterflies on the day were Comma, Speckled Wood, Small White, and, as a special sighting, a Holly Blue on a hedge near the Dingle. Although there were still Banded Demoiselles flying further down the valley, they seem scarce opposite St Mary's now; they seem only to like stream where both banks are sunny. Lots of Knapweed and thistle heads were in flower and were laden with at least 4 species of Bumblebee including some Large Red-tailed. Very few birds were noted in the quietest month of the year for woodland birds. But Creation was full of hidden life! - George

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Stalking by the stream

It has long been my ambition to get a photograph of one of the most beautiful of British dragonflies, the Banded Demoiselle. One or two green females and the odd stunningly iridescent blue male, with its black wing-band, are usually to be found along the course of Arclid Brook beside the Sandbach Environment Trail in hot June weather. This June, I had my camera ready!

Also near the stream were a nice fresh Meadow Brown butterfly ( a species I usually encounter in a seriously battered state)
and an engagingly tame Large Skipper. All these with thirty yards of a major roundabout gridlocked with traffic in all directions . . .
The Bible tells us that the perfect Son of God came to walk in our imperfect world. Perfection next to (very) imperfection is a contrast that should make any of us think! - George

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Bumbling around the Trail

Our organised walk round the Trail took place on a rather windy day, so we never heard the soft peeps of the resident bullfinches, only the strong song of Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Insects are surprisingly little troubled by wind, however. Brown Carder, Large Red-tailed and other bumble-bees were very busy, though apart from the odd Blue-tailed there were no damselflies or dragonflies, the Banded Demoiselles not having shown up yet this year. Many flowers were in colourful bloom and the Hard Shield Fern in Front Street was in good condition. - George

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Summer in full swing

A walk round the Trail today - the hottest day of the year so far, as this gasping blackbird found! - brought the expected sight of (at last) a selection of butterflies - Large White, Small White, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Orange-Tip and one fast-moving Brimstone . . . plus a less expected sight in the form of three beautiful little Small Coppers. The birds were also active, with Blackcap and three Bullfinches near Waterworks Farm and many others. When life is at its fullest, we see in Creation everything that the Bible tells us started with "In the beginning, God" - George

Monday, 3 May 2010

Sandbach town birds!

The first Swifts of summer were heard screaming over the town centre on Thursday 29th April, where they nest in holes in old buildings. Down by a newer part of the town, the Waitrose car park was an unusually good place for birdsong on the same day, when Chiffchaff and Blackcap were signing adjacent to the car park and, even more pleasantly, a Bullfinch was piping here, too! - Andrew

Monday, 26 April 2010

Summer seen

Our first A ROCHA walk around the Environment Trail clashed with other events but ours was surely as pleasant as any, with summer migrants singing and showing themselves. Chiffchaffs were singing on high but by Brook Bridge what was presumably a female was giving a chirping call unlike the usual "fooeet", and great views at close range. Probably more than two Buzzards soared over near Filter Bed Wood. By Waterworks Farm, similar good views were had of an elegant little female Blackcap. Speckled Woods were on the Dingle and a definite Small White butterfly along Front Street. Many Celandines were still in flower as were a mass of Marsh Marigolds at the Park Pond. The season as well as the message of Easter has launched a season of new life, and anyone with eyes to look for it will find it easily. - George

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Spring sings

The title of this entry was supposed to be "Spring signs". However, my typing slip will do just as well! The first Blackcap was reported singing near the Enivornment trail yesterday by Andrew B as we were undertaking the annual litter removal along the Enivronment Trail using equipment kindly provided by the Sandbach Litter Team (who were also busy in parts of the Trail area). Little wildlife was in evidence mostly, other than many birds which were clearly establishing their plans for spring all over the place! - George

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Wagtails and Buzzards

Andrew B tells me that this morning a Pied Wagtail in fine plumage was very confidently making its way amongst the shoppers in Sandbach town centre; these birds are beautifully bright and tame - unlike the dozy pigeons on the roof of Debra! Elsewhere, a walk along the Environment Trail revealed no special sightings apart from (on the thin coating of snow) a large number of rabbit tracks which were mostly quite small, suggesting that a lot of little rabbits had been around during the night! A little way off the Trail, however, it was a different matter. A visit to Filter Bed Wood, an area to which our A ROCHA group has permission to pays study visits, found the wood quite difficult to negotiate due to recent tree falls. The stream was high, with the buds of the first Golden Saxifrage just begining to appear along the water's edge. The snow in the wood was little touched apart from the clear prints of a wandering Fox that had walked nearly the wood's whole length (Fox prints are similar to dog, but no dogs visit here). The wood's relatively impenetrable nature is great for shy birds which fly from there to visit nearby gardens. A beautiful cock and hen Bullfinch looked great in the morning sun, as did a Nuthatch and various Tits. The shy Jays could be heard but not seen, and at the corner of the wood, the Jackdaw colony was in noisy and protesting residence around the trees in which they doubtless nest. But the most piercing sound came from a magnificent Buzzard which was reluctant to fly and circled when it did, mewing loudly around what will very likely be its nesting site later in the season. For obvious reasons I will not say exactly where I think this could be - George

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter scenes

The Trail was frozen solid last weekend. The most obvious wildlife were the Redwings and Fieldfares that had flooded into town to look for food and, being little familiar with humans, became very tame in our gardens. This was a particularly obliging Redwing! - george