De­lighted to find cuckoo in nest

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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 char­lot­tekar­mali@out­look.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

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