Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

August 2014

August, a quiet time

The churchyard and the woods are at their quietest in August.  The spring chorus has ceased and the birds are moulting their old feathers in readiness for the coming autumn.

There are still a few birds to be heard but none of the springtime excitement. Amongst these the wren still keeps up a song as he produces a late brood and the persistent 5 note call of the wood pigeon continues and can be a rather doleful note especially in the early morning when one wishes to sleep.  Meanwhile the occasional ‘chip, chip’ of the wood pecker is heard in the wood but the springtime drumming seems to have ceased.

Many a robin is now looking decidedly dishevelled with much plumage and tail feathers gone.  This makes flying more difficult and explains why most birds when moulting, prefer to hide from predators at this time of risk. Robins will be all smartened up before Christmas when they begin their winter song and greetings cards will, of course, show them in their bright new attire.
Unfortunately one of our large Elm trees located near Thomas Merritt’s  grave has died and will be cleared in due course . This appears to be a case of Dutch Elm disease which still lingers on throughout the country but which we had not seen in the churchyard for some years.  Recent milder winters may have encouraged the tiny bark beetles, which carry the deadly fungus, to spread more widely. Meanwhile many of our new Chestnut trees are making good growth in the North –west section of the churchyard where there have been losses of large trees in the past

It is good to see that major pathways have been levelled and rolled smooth before the winter rains return. Also, the churchyard team, by mowing a network of new pathways has given us opportunities to explore and enjoy different vistas within our historic churchyard.

One of our visiting students proposes to carry out a special study comparing the wildlife in the churchyard with that in the adjacent cemetery. This should be interesting.