Delighted to find cuckoo in nest
THE plaintive call of a cuckoo reverberated through the trees in Finemere Wood near Aylesbury at the beginning of the summer, its hollow, pitch perfect song unmistakeable. The cuckoo is a summer visitor to the UK arriving here towards the end of April. By the end of June, having laid its eggs in the nest of an unsuspecting host, it sets off on its journey back to wintering grounds in central Africa. The haunting song accompanied the volunteers as we worked hard to complete a deer fence. It’s a challenging time of year, when fences of all kinds must be created. With satisfaction we looked upon the completed fence, the enclosure now a sa fe place for the emerging new growth of flora.
The cuckoo did not show itself, and yet we could still hear it as we finished for the day. As these birds are no longer commonplace it is deeply gratifying to hear it year on year in Finemere Wood. The reasons for its decline could be many, but it’s evident that BBOWT’s work at this nature reserve is making a good home for cuckoos.
As the summer progressed we found ourselves back in the impenetrable ‘jungle’ of Finemere Wood; vegetation so lush and bountiful.
The task: to remove a fence raised some three years ago to protect new growth from deer that had now done its job.
From there we moved to the drovers track to remove another fence, also surplus to requirement. Whilst disentangling wire from behind an old oak tree, we became aware of a droning noise in the base of the tree; it could only be one thing.
The hornet has a fearsome reputation, and yet these creatures are described as peaceful and docile, only attacking if their nest is threatened. They play an important role in our ecosystem, being top predators in the world of insects. We decided to give the nest a wide berth, better to be safe than sorry.
By now, the colourful season is coming to an end; flowers have done their job and successfully pollinated plants pour their energy into seed development and dispersal. Grasses grow high, swaying in the breeze, they too are reaching the end of their flowering period.
It’s at this time of year that the grassy woodland rides and meadows are cut: to prevent encroachment of scrub and to keep competitive plants under control, thus allowing a diverse array of the more delicate wild flowers to flourish. Scythes were the weapons of choice with which to commence this immense task. Scything, a newly acquired skill by the volunteers, was used for centuries to mow grass and reap crops. It is a very effective method of cutting the long grasses of the nature reserves and with so many willing volunteers, a great adjunct to machines.
Once the swing and rhythm have been mastered, and the grass is falling around you, it’s possible to settle into a state of mindful contemplation, immersed in the exquisiteness of the wilderness while knowing the work will bring more special wildlife experiences next spring.
If you would like to join the Finemere Wood volunteers, please email email@example.com.
Our next dates are Thursday September 22; Thursday October 13 and Thursday October 27; 9.30am - 3pm.
Tradition: Volunteers and nature reserves benefit from traditional scything techniques and, inset, fences protect wildflowers from nibbling by deer. Pictures: Charlotte Karmali