A Sunday Walk in Coldfall Wood

Dear Readers, as if by a miracle the temperature has gone up a tad, the mud has (probably temporarily) abated in Coldfall Wood and on Muswell Hill Playing Fields, and so it was a good day to get some air. The woods have been more heavily used this year because of lockdown, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the understorey quite so bare. The leaf cover makes it difficult for smaller plants to survive in the uncoppiced areas, but because of the need to socially distance, many new paths have been carved through the trees. Still, some plants are still popping up, like this Italian Cuckoo Pint (Arum italicum), poking out from below the holly.

We head out to the fields for the first time in ages – it was such a mud bath for a few months that we decided to give it a miss. But today it’s full of people walking their dogs and playing with their children. It’s been such a hard time for everyone, in so many different ways.

On the way round, I spot the crossbar from at least three football goals. I wonder if people swing on them and they collapse?

The pyracantha berries on the big hedge look to be well-nibbled, and I wonder if it’s the redwings.

There is a small group of black-headed gulls – the ‘black’ mark behind the ear of this one is gradually getting bigger. Soon it will have a fine chocolate-brown hood, and summer will be here, and this gull will probably be much further north. Over two million black-headed gulls overwinter in the south of the UK, so they aren’t rare, but they are elegant, and noisy!

I have a look at ‘my’ wildflower border. Not much to tell at this time of year, except for some impressive burrs and the new leaves of the lambs-ear.

Oh, and the fennel seedheads.

I almost walk past the Japanese knotweed, though I do like the mixture of browns and tans that the dead stalks make at this time of year.

But then I spot this.

I thought that it was some kind of man-made object, but when I waded through the stems to get a closer look, I was fairly convinced that it is in fact a bird’s nest. It’s attached to the stalks by a filigree of plant stems. What bird made it I’m unsure, let me know if you have any thoughts. I did wonder about long-tailed tits, but then they tend to be mossy rather than grassy. At any rate, it proves that Japanese knotweed is at least good for something – I doubt that anything could have reached the nestlings while the plant was in full leaf. And what fun to find a nest! Considering how many birds nest every year, they do a fine job of keeping the locations pretty secret.


6 thoughts on “A Sunday Walk in Coldfall Wood

  1. SilverTiger

    Black-headed gulls with their piratical screeches are another favourite of mine not least because they are such skilful flyers. I have seen them swoop and pick pieces of bread neatly off the surface of the sea. Once when someone was feeding them, a crowd of black-headed gulls hung almost still in midair like a curtain of gulls, despite the gusty breeze. When a piece of bread was thrown, one gull would swoop down and catch it in the air then return to station in the “curtain”. A remarkable performance.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      ah, I remember something similar when I was on a ferry to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the way the gulls held steady above the ship while it was moving forward at quite a pace was most impressive!

  2. Erik Kiviat

    I’m interested whether you have any further information or observations about the bird nest? I’m writing a paper about birds nesting in knotweed and I have not seen anything that looks like the nest in your photos elsewhere. Have you seen birds at this knotweed stand? Thank you for any assistance!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Hi Erik, I don’t have any further information I’m afraid – I’ve seen wrens, robins, chiffchaffs in and around the Knotweed, but none that looked as if they were nesting. I’ll have a good look next time I pass….

      1. Erik Kiviat

        Thank you! Later in spring you might see birds carrying nesting material, or food for nestlings, into the knotweed stand.

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