Nature notes for January

Vernon, 6th Lord Bolingbroke, was a well-known naturalist. During 1967 he contributed short articles to the Ringwood and Fordingbridge Journal, the editor of which kindly gave permission to the Friends to publish. Here is one from January 1967 talking about birdlife during the winter months.

JACOB THE THRUSH (11 January 1967)

Ever since seeing my last cuckoo of 1966 on 15 September, flying southwards over one of Ringwood’s lakes and escorted by a host of small birds, I wondered how our climate would treat wild life in the months to follow. Well, as the Autumn tints were allowed to manifest their full glory for longer than usual by the absence of gales or frosts, so too did the late summer butterflies, red admiral, peacock, comma, speckled wood, as well as that wide-spread migrant moth the Silver Y, and also the small copper butterfly with its lustrous wings seen flitting about an unusual wayside plant of the wild succory, its deep flowers still conspicuous near the end of October.

Of our birds, perhaps, my favourite is the homely, familiar song thrush. One reason for this is that during the open spell which followed the November frosts and over Christmas and after, the thrush could be heard in the Avon Valley at first light, while a particularly fine songster heralded the day outside my windows further East. Another reason happens to be that I once kept a tame thrush which answered to the name Jacob. He flourished on a diet of oatmeal dumplings and provided the initial interest that led me to study the thrush family in the wild. Many will surely agree that his song is a distinguished one, even when competing with the dawn chorus in Spring and, indeed, how well it harmonizes with the countryside.

And so, as Christmas Eve drew near, another, softer, more warbling voice was heard: it was that of the innocent, hopeful dunnock – a pleasant change from the plaintive twittering of robin redbreast. Then, as the green Christmas of 1966 came and went, nightly the December moth glanced up and down our lighted window, and the smaller, paler, abundant winter moth flickered in front of our torch as we shone our way through the darkness.