Archive | February, 2018

A guide to some of the nature that can be seen on my Central Nottinghamshire Walks

25 Feb

At the moment the underfoot conditions are very muddy and many of the walks I have described aren’t seen at their best. I thought that rather than doing a new walk in muddy fields that for a change I would describe some of the nature that can be seen on my earlier walks. This may help with your choice of walks if you are interested in the flora and fauna of the area. I don’t pretend to be a great expert on plants but I have a reasonable knowledge of birds and animals.

Many of my walks involve paths through fields and you will often find yourself flushing out pheasants and partridges which are lying low in the undergrowth. Overhead you may see buzzards soaring and making their “mewing” call. The best places to see them can be near woodland. My record number at one time is half a dozen which I saw circling as I walked between Bilsthorpe and Eakring. That area is also somewhere I have seen kestrels.

Skylarks have suffered a large decline in numbers over recent decades but there is still a good chance of hearing and seeing them in the fields near Farnsfield. I have seen them in the fields to the south near Combs Lane, to the west on the way towards the White Post and to the north on the way to Hexgreave. They can be difficult to spot as they fly high but I once saw a dozen on the ground in the fields just beyond Belle Eau Park on the way from Farnsfield to Eakring.

The hedges next to fields can be a good place to spot birds such as the yellowhammer although these have declined somewhat. A good place for these are the fields to the west of Halam on the high tracks near Newhall Farm (Walk 12).  Large arable fields are the best places for birds such as lapwings although my closest sighting on one of my walks came when walking across the fields to the west of Blidworth on the walk from Rainworth (Mansfield to Newark walk stage 2) .  I once encountered a flock of golden plover on a winter’s day near the disused railway track when crossing the fields from Kirklington to Farnsfield.

The best place close to Farnsfield to see ducks and geese are the ponds near Kirklington. Crossing the fields from Farnsfield takes you close to the “big” pond. This will often have ducks such as mallard, tufted ducks and gadwall on it although they are usually at the far end from the path. If you are lucky you may see swans, a heron or little grebe. Near to the pond I have seen grey and yellow wagtails although not for some years. The smaller pond also usually has ducks on it and occasionally greylag geese.  The pond known as Eakring Flash which is on my walk 37 has had regular visits from the quite rare garganey duck in recent winters.

In winter the fields may sometimes contain members of the thrush family from Scandinavia, fieldfares and redwings. These birds also congregate in trees sometimes with fieldfares being quite noisy in larger groups. The trees near Robin Hood Hill near Oxton have been a good place for seeing these flocks as have the trees and fields near the disused railway track running from Bilsthorpe to Southwell.  Another rare visitor is the waxwing which I once saw on the track near Combs Wood.

Summer visitors include house and sand martins, swallows and swifts.  As I mentioned in the description of the walk at Fiskerton (Walk 32) you may be able to see all four of these in one area.  You are only going to see sand martins if walking along the Trent in my area but the other three species can be seen elsewhere.  You are more likely to see the martins in areas of housing but swallows are common on many walks around the fields in summer and come as close to Farnsfield as Parfitt Drive and the Acres playing fields.  One of the best places to see them is the barn just off the road going into Southwell which you walk past on Walk 10.  In the area of this walk near Kirklington station I have also seen a little egret in the one of the fields.  The first sign of summer migrants is often the sound of a chiffchaff, although often they are less easy to see.  A good place for them near Farnsfield is where the path continuing from Brickyard Lane meets the railway track.  I once saw a treecreeper near here in a tree on the track.

There is a variety of different woodland in the area covered by my walks.  The walks to the east of Farnsfield tend to be where there are more deciduous trees whereas the west is more coniferous.  These latter trees can be a bit oppressive with the dense cover they provide but they are good homes for birds such as goldcrests and if you are lucky crossbills in the areas of heathland near the Major Oak.  I prefer walking in deciduous woodland as the variety of trees is greater.  One of the nicest avenues of trees near Farnsfield is the 300 yards long one of lime trees on the road to Hexgreave from Farnsfield from Walk 2.  A little further along in the Hexgreave woodland I have seen nuthatches.

The area of my walks doesn’t have too many smaller rivers to speak of but the Maun about a mile west of Edwinstowe is my favourite for birds.  I have seen mandarin ducks several years ago and last year saw a kingfisher.  The Trent is of course the main river on my patch and you may see black-headed gulls in many places along the river, especially perching on the fence north of Fiskerton.  Cormorants frequent the river and once I saw oystercatchers near the power station at Staythorpe (Walk 22).

Cuckoos have become a rare sight and I haven’t seen or heard one in the area for two years.  In the three years before that I did hear and see one near Greaves Lane to the south of Farnsfield. The plantation just beyond the Acres when leaving Farnsfield can be an area where jays make an occasional appearance and on the Acres I have seen green woodpeckers.

Moving on to some of the animals I have seen on these walks.  There aren’t many really unusual ones in Nottinghamshire but it is nice to see something like the deer in Blidworth Woods (Walk 39), a hare running across the fields near Haywood Oaks (Walk 12) or Combs Wood, or a lizard in the sun in the grounds of Newstead Abbey. For more domesticated but also interesting animals you can find alpacas in the field to the south-west of Farnsfield which features on my walk 1.

Finally I shall just remind you that with nature you never know what you will see and nothing is guaranteed.  This is just a guide to what I have seen but if you keep your eyes and ears open you may be lucky to see some of these things or something even better.