Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Field Experiment

The countryside of Britain is covered in fields. Pastures, grazed by cattle or sheep, with a low uniform sward of grass, or arable fields with dense monocultures of alien crops. As we all know, pasture doesn’t generally support much bird life. A few thrushes, some pigeons and crows, and if we are lucky an occasionally Lapwing, or wagtail.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a field was just left to revert to some kind of original state? What birdlife or other wildlife it would support? Well courtesy of the field neighbouring the road at the bottom of the house, I can give an answer.

The meadow borders a stream on its north edge, and then rises towards a wood. There’s a small rough wood on the eastern edge, and another field on the southern edge. There are unkempt hedgerows all around. The ground is not particularly wet for the most part but there are rushes along the stream.

I have no idea when it stopped being farmed, but a couple of years ago it had some waist high thorn bushes and a pair of Linnets. This year the field is thick with brambles and thorn bushes, and a number of trees are dotted round the field. Many plants are now over head height, and the eastern half is just about impenetrable. The pictures show this clearly.

So far this spring the birdlife has been spectacular. There are numerous Linnets, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, and Chaffinches and a Reed Bunting has been seen and heard occasionally. There have been records of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and recently even a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. With all this birdlife a Sparrowhawk is regular chasing birds along the edges. And I’m no expert on butterflies but currently there are numerous Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, and Speckled Wood butterflies.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the field is the birdsong. When the birds are all singing it’s a real racket. If this field is indicative of what ancient Britain was like then ancient Britain was a noisy place.

No comments: