Williamson Park & Fenham Carr Nature Reserve

Wonders of Winter

Winter trees and rocky slope at Fenham Carr Nature Reserve (c) Ros Jones
Winter trees and rocky slope at Fenham Carr Nature Reserve (c) Ros Jones

Wet but wonderful

Our walk started out in the beautiful Fenham Carr Nature Reserve at Williamson Park. Despite a persistent drizzle (which soon had us all pretty damp), our spirits remained high. There was wildlife everywhere we looked: Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds at the feeders. There were plenty of other bird species as we walked, and signs of the coming spring in the trees.

Butcher's Broom in flower
Butcher’s Broom in flower (c) Ros Jones

Ancient indicator?

As we walked around we discovered plenty of Butcher’s Broom. This plant is found in ancient woodlands, and is generally an indicator that woodland has been present in the same place for several hundred years. This is because the species doesn’t easily colonise new habitats on its own. However, it is a widely cultivated species and has been used in medicine (as a diuretic and laxative), so it may be that the large number of shrubs of this plant we saw were introduced by human hands.

Hazel catkins
Hazel catkins (c) Ros Jones

Early signs that spring will come

Despite snow having lain on the ground just the day before, nature continues its inexorable march through the seasons. At this time of year it is true to say that species are doing all they can to survive. However, there were also clear signs that many are preparing for the year ahead. Hazel trees with catkins, thrushes and tits singing, and leaf buds everywhere (if you know where to look!).

Nearly 100 years on…

Amongst the birds we saw and heard were Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, But Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Pigeon, Nuthatch, Treecreeper. If you look at the entry above for ‘A Countrywoman’s Diary’, from the same date in 1927, you will see that our list is very similar, including which birds were singing. Despite all that is negative in our world (and there is a lot to be concerned about), it is comforting to know that in places where wildlife is valued and given the right conditions, that it can continue to thrive. Almost identical poses of the treecreeper in the Countrywoman’s Diary drawing to the photograph taken by Joana on our walk.

Poetry corner – Robin

We talked a fair amount about Robins – their behaviour in relation to humans, and to each other. I found this lovely poem in an anthology published by the RSPB (sadly no longer in print, but secondhand copies are still available). You can find out more about Robins on the Woodland Trust website here.

If on a frost morning
the robin redbreast calls
his waistcoat red and burning
like a beggar at your walls

throw breadcrumbs on the grass for him
when the ground is hard and still
for in his breast there is a flame
that winter cannot kill

Iain Crichton Smith

Forthcoming events

Our next talk walk is Saturday 4th February 2023 (1.00-3.30pm) on winter tree identification, then a longer circular walk on Sunday 19th February (1.00-4.00pm). For more information and booking, please visit the Events page.