Yellow Flag Iris
Orchids and Buttercups
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Nature Observations: Eastcliff(Mules)Park – May 2020
by Catherine Locke
3rd of May 2020
A misty day, and overcast. The tall Tree Mallows are in flower by the park steps. A
stray yellow poppy was growing near the entrance arch of the park. The wild cherries
are now bearing hard green fruit. I heard and saw so many Blackbirds in the park
today especially in the Dell where the mixture of trees and shrubs make ideal
Blackbird nesting territory. Everything is lush and green and flowering after recent
rain. Just walking along the Lower Path I heard the songs of Blackbirds,
Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Robins and the calls of Wood pigeons. The scent of
elderflowers was sweet and lovely, after the rains. I saw two rabbit kits nibbling on
grass near a warren on the bank above Lower Path. They didn't run away as I
Yellow Flag Iris are in flower in the corner of number 1 pond in the Dell. Along by
the wooded path above the ponds, which I call Overdell Path, pendulous Sedge
grass was growing, with it's long dangling spikes of female flowers and long thin
leaves. Red Campion was glowing pink in the wooded gloom. I heard a bird with a
very rapid 'chip chip chip chip chip' song I couldn't identify. In a steep and muddy
bank at the very top of the Dell were the obvious multiple claw marks of badgers that
had clambered over the bank during the night. Evergreen Alkanet is flowering by the
Dell Path near the first pond. Pretty blue flowers related to Forget-me-nots and
from which Henna is extracted from the roots.
I saw my first pair of House Martins flying over the park today, having returned
from an epic journey from Africa. The buttercups of Lower Meadow had all shut their
petals in the mizzle.
7th of May 2020
Hazy sunshine today through layers of a light cloud. As the trees are becoming
more leaf-covered I mostly only heard the birds, it is handy to be able to identify
most of them from just their songs. I heard mostly Blackbirds, Robins and
Blackcaps but also twittering Goldfinches, mechanical sounding mixed notes of
Greenfinches, the songs of Dunnocks which always sound like they are asking a
question, the little 'tsirrip' of Long-tailed tits as they came and went to their nest in
the bramble rabbit warren, the chip-chap chip-chap of Chiffchaffs, the lovely loud
liquid warble of Wrens, Robin fledglings being fed, the harsh and sudden 'kok kok'
of male Pheasants in the grounds of Cliffden Hotel, the raucous screech of a Jay,
the snoring whistles of a pair of Bullfinches.
The butterflies I've seen today day:
Small and Large Whites, (mostly the Small Whites), a Green Veined White, a
Comma, two male Orange Tips and a Holly Blue.
In the Dell a young woman was looking into the water of the deep edged smaller
pond of the four. I asked her what she had seen and she pointed out all the frogs in
there. Also she showed me where some female smooth newts were clinging onto the
underwater vegetation. Suddenly, as we were watching the frogs and newts, a Grass
snake, light green and around 40 cm long, swam across the middle of the pond,
grabs a huge frog and struggled with it for some time as the snake wasn't a fully
grown adult. When the frog stopped struggling and was obviously dead the slim
snake tried to drag it up the steep bank but was unable to, so it dragged it further
along where the bank was shallower and hauled it out, disappearing into the
I thought, that's not something you see everyday. The young woman was amazed
too, as were a couple that were walking past.
9th of May 2020
A lovely still and sunny day. I heard a 5 Chiffchaffs in the park each one
chipchapping in a different area. Abundant Blackbirds both seen and heard (at
least 25). I saw 9 Small White butterflies, 2 Large Whites, 5 Holly Blues, 4
male Orange Tips, and 2 Speckled Woods. A lot of rabbits seen by their warrens
today in the sun, most of them kits of which I counted 9 and saw only one adult
In the woods above Overdell Path I followed a trodden trail and saw Woody
Nightshade with its delicate mauve little flowers with yellow centres. Also Red
Campion and Celandine flowers. The woodland Bluebells were going over. In the
sheltered bottom of the Lower Meadow, red clover, buttercups, daisy, and the very
pretty early purple orchid growing in a clump near the scrubby edge of the meadow.
Near the 'doggie dip' by the old croquet lawn cow parsley is flowering, with the
plants around seven or eight feet tall. A Robin was bathing in the doggie dip as
there were no dogs to disturb it. I heard a lot of Greenfinches in the park today, at
least 14. Such a pretty bird in close up, the Greenfinch, especially the male with his
bright green plumage and yellow wing flashes. A pair of Jays flew over lower
Meadow towards woodlands. It is in the hedgerow by this meadow that I hear and
see most of the Greenfinches, ideal nesting territory.
19th of May 2020
A blue sky with no jet trails during this lockdown, and I've noticed how much bluer
the sky is without all that air pollution. A Mediterranean blue.
The bramble is flowering now in the park. Such an important habitat for insects,
birds and small mammals. Let it be left is what I say, and Chris Packham would
agree with me. The nettles are growing tall and flowering. Another important wildlife
plant, it is the main food plant of the Red Admiral butterfly and it is also the food
plant of the Small Tortoiseshell and one of the food plants of the Comma butterfly,
the others being Hop and Elm flowers. Another tall plant in flower in the park is the
thin but tough stemmed Oilseed rape. The flowers attract many honey bees and
hoverflies. I saw several pairs of Greenfinches and a group of three. They fly across
the park in undulating loops twittering as they go and are often to be found as a
flock in one particular English Oak tree where their twittering is incessant and
cheerful as they pick insects off the leaves and twigs. Later they will take seeds from
thistles, teasels and similar plants.
I walked up to the top of the park and across Top Meadow where many wildflowers
and grasses were growing. I noticed Red Clover, White Clover (both of which
bumble bees love), Buttercup, early purple orchid, Cow Parsley, Horse Tail, Cuckoo
flower, Plantain, Meadow Vetchling and all kinds of different grasses. The meadow
grasses are such important food sources for butterflies. Speckled Woods, Wall
Browns, Marbled Whites, Graylings, Gatekeepers and Ringlet butterflies all feed on
23rd of May 2020
Clouds massing rapidly from the West, but some blue Sky showing through.
Abundant nettles and brambles in flower all attracting bees and hoverflies. I have
only seen a few ladybirds in the park this year. They are really in decline now, when
they used to be everywhere especially in the summer. Bunches of Sycamore 'keys' are
hanging from the branches now, the winged seeds of the tree that will spin to the
ground at the end of summer. The pretty little yellow flowers of Wood arens are
in the shady wooded areas.
Passing under an Ash tree near the Walled Garden I heard the urgent and
incessant call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker chick. The one making all the noise
had been pushed up by his siblings so that it could be fed when the parent birds
returned. Since the chicks take it in turns to be pushed up towards the whole they all
get fed in a cycle, and the only noisy one is the one at the top of the chick pile. I
watched the parent birds busily coming and going with food. They will bring back
insects and their larvae, small bird chicks, seeds and berries. In a dense
Blackthorn bush I could hear chicks cheeping and then I saw the parent birds. It
was a family of Greenfinches and the nest well hidden and well protected by the
Blackthorn branches. The black and orange insects on Sweet Cicely flowers were
Strangalia melanura. They fly from May to September and feed on a variety of
flowers, mainly in wooded areas. The musky scent of nettle flowers with docks
flowering nearby in case of nettle stings. White-tailed bees in Tree Mallow flowers
by the park steps.
28th of May 2020
A warm day with clear blue skies and a cooling breeze, much welcomed. In the park
were Wrens, Magpies Robins, Chiffchaff, Wood pigeons (abundant), Blackcaps,
Blackbirds(abundant), Greenfinches, 1 Chaffinch(a handsome male), a Song thrush,
a family of Goldcrests, a family group of Goldfinches, a Dunnock, and a couple of
pairs of crows. It was good to hear the loud repeated phrases of a Song thrush.
Along the wooded path that skirts the Rowdens lawn I spotted some Greenbottles
these were shining in sunny spots on leaves. This wooded path I call Rowdens Edge
Path and is where Butterbur grows prolifically. There are always Grey squirrels to
be seen in the trees there, and Wood pigeons of course. When the path ends there is a
copse of Japanese Larch trees and the scent of the pine on a hot day is lovely. This is
where I heard, and saw a family of goldcrests and the parents would have nested
somewhere in these pines. The Goldcrest makes a little pumping call that ends in a
quick flourish. Our smallest native bird makes a nest of a tiny cup of cobwebs, moss
and lichen slung beneath a pine branch. They lay 7 to 8 eggs and have two broods
between April and July.
The news tells us this was the hottest May on record.
photo 1 © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]