Birdwatchers, like mosquitoes and many other irritating pests, favour watery habitats.
I think the logic goes like this: while it is usually possible to find non water-loving birds near water (in the hedgerows, fields and woods nearby for example), it but all but impossible to find waders, waterfowl, kingfishers or other water-dependent birds unless there is actually some water to hand. Thus, with the odds of a good morning's birding swung firmly in our favour, we flock like thirsty warthogs to the nearest water holes.
I like to think that a lack of watery habitats is my main reason for not not visiting Cubbington Wood more often. Sadly I think it may also be down to the fact that my (ir)regular route is quite a long walk - all too often my head and heart say "good idea" while my legs and stomach say "why not take a quick stroll rounds Leam Valley / Ufton / Napton Reservoir / Brandon, and then slope off for a quick fry up?"
Well, today my head and heart won. Spring is a great time to visit woodlands, so with the promise of warblers, wildflowers and wilderness, I set off on my stroll.
The walk starts at St Michael's Church is Weston-under-Wetherley and sets off towards the wood across farmland which is voluntarily managed for nature - broad and shaggy hedgerows, wide grass margins full of wild flowers, and permissive paths to allow everyone to enjoy the fruits of this enlightened regime. The farm in question has a sign at its entrance promoting Leaf - Linking Environment and Farming, a wonderful initiative that makes so much different to a simple stroll through the countryside. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - thanks guys.
So, from the church past the farm to the wood, through to South Cubbington Wood, up to Cubbington itself through fields of rape seed, turn right across more fields and a road to reach the edge of North Cubbington Wood, then back to the church via the road. A nice walk, and no more than 90 minutes of anyone's time.
And what did I see?
Well, the highlights of a rewarding walk were a bird, a flower and mammal. The bird was spotted early on the walk - a bright Yellow Wagtail in a horse / sheep field near the farm. This a wonderful little bird which I always expect / hope to find and then rarely do - in fact I've been successful only two or three times in my five or so years on this patch. I was thrilled.
Then into the wood, where I found myself surrounded by the most wondrous carpet of blue. These, of course, were bluebells, the original English variety and splendid to behold, whichever way one turned.
And finally the mammal. As I paused to read a sign near the north tip of North Cubbington Wood and rabbit darted to the edge of the wood, saw me, skidded, turned and darted back, pursued by a beautiful Red Fox. With respect to the rabbit, it was the Fox that wins my 'mammal of the day' nomination - what an animal.
So there you have it - a lovely walk, great flora and fauna, beautiful surroundings, and an environmental success story to boot. I really must get to Cubbington Wood more often.
Bird / Flower / Mammal of the Day: Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava) / Common (English) Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) / Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), all brought great joy to my morning.