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Curiosity Wins the Day

With so many commitments last month, I found it impossible to find the time to write a blog, so I am going to combine April and May. Spring, here in Creuse, has been very dry and sunny with temperatures reaching the thirties on several occasions. The absence of any rainfall was a real worry as threats of a drought loomed. However, all is well because, whilst I sit writing this blog at my kitchen table, it is now raining!

At the beginning of April there was quite a storm. Strong winds caused a few trees to topple and also claimed my hide from the orchard. I eventually found it two fields away, wedged into some bushes and completely unsalvageable. The loss of my hide prompted the decision to build a permanent wooden one, properly anchored to the ground and hopefully indestructible. On completion, I will make it available to other photographers, or people who just want to sit and view the local wildlife. I will keep you updated on progress.

I have also dug out a small, shallow pond, in the area in front of where the hide will be. It will provide some water for the birds and wildlife, and, of course, there will be further photography opportunities. I am looking forward to seeing all the creatures who visit. I have poured some water in to start it off, but it will mostly have to rely on rainwater. I am planning to install a water butt to catch the rainwater from the roof of the new hide.

However, with just a small amount of water, already a male Broad-bodied chaser dragonfly has claimed the pool as his territory. It has been fascinating to watch three of them arguing over it! The victor now perches close by keeping a beady eye out for any challengers.

As I mentioned in my last blog, a pair of Blue Tits were showing an interest in one of my nest boxes. I am pleased to announce that they did build their nest in the box and I have been watching them recently going back and forth with beaks full of food for the young. I did manage to get close enough to the box the other day, without alarming them too much, and I caught sight of one of the chicks through the hole in the front, looking as if it is likely to fledge at any time now.

Whilst on the subject of breeding birds, the Black redstarts returned to the garden again this year. I have seen very little of the male but the female has been working tirelessly to feed her chicks. They fledged just before the rain came down, but luckily they made it into the barn where they stayed up under the edge of the roof and let their mum fly back and forth with food.

Meanwhile, in the orchard, we have seen the return of some old friends. The Red-backed Shrikes arrived back last week and the Melodious Warblers have been warbling away in the chestnut trees for a couple of weeks now. Another interesting resident is one I only became fully aware of this spring. At the end of last year, I mowed a path from the entrance of the field down to the hide area. This year, as the weather warmed up, I began to catch quick movements on the ground out of the corners of my eyes as I walked up and down the path. On closer inspection, I saw the path was dotted with holes that appeared to have residents. They turned out to be Field Crickets. The movement I had noticed was when they dashed back into their burrows as I approached. They are fascinating to watch. If I got close and kept still, it wasn’t long before I got a better look at these dark-coloured flightless insects as they poked their heads back out, once they thought the coast was clear. Unfortunately, I failed woefully to get a photograph because the cricket I chose to focus on insisted on hiding behind a piece of grass and never fully came out. I will have to persevere when I have more time. I did see another one emerge and do some ‘chirping’. The famous singing sound of crickets is created by rubbing their back legs together, to attract females. The orchard has a full chorus of chirping crickets at the moment.

The orchard sits on a plateau and the ground falls steeply away on two sides as it drops down into a wooded river valley. I can really only see the tops of the trees from my orchard, but I can hear the river gushing when there has been a lot of rainfall. I have been meaning to go and explore down there for a while, knowing that the river I can hear is a tributary of the Petite Creuse river and that the confluence of the two is really just a stone’s throw down the hill.

A few days ago, I set off early one sunny morning and headed off in my usual direction towards the orchard. But this time, I turned off onto another path that leads into the forest, which is beautiful at this time of year and cooler than the sun-soaked orchard. I didn’t know if the track would lead anywhere or just peter out once it reached the river, but my plan was to discover if I could navigate the valley that curves around directly below my orchard. Following a reasonably comfortable trek down the track, the splendour of the Petite Creuse River was revealed. Once at the river, I found a narrower path that continued along the bank.

It wasn’t a stroll. The undergrowth is growing fast and I had to duck under trees and shrubs and push past some large clumps of chest height stinging nettles, as well as crossing the smaller river several times. I would guess the trail is impassable later in the year, and when the river is swollen with heavy rainfall. However, the peace and tranquillity was incredible. Early morning sunlight filtered through the trees and there was the gentle gurgling of the water, but not enough to mask the birdsong from all around. Along the river, beautiful damselflies and dragonflies were perching in patches of sunlight. There was so much going on to occupy the senses. After a walk of about two and a half miles, I achieved my goal and arrived back on the familiar farm track, directly opposite where, earlier, I had taken the path down towards the river. It was immensely satisfying to have walked an entire circle without having to retrace my steps.

When I am in the orchard, I cannot see through the trees into the valley and, not having actually been down there, it was a bit of a mystery. Curiosity won the day. It felt as if I had opened a door and explored another entire section of my new home, where I have been living for only a relatively short amount of time. Finally, I now know what lies through the trees beneath the orchard and can connect it all up in my imagination. The walk represented several more steps toward orientating to my new place by expanding my mental map and filling in some details of the location. Although I wasn’t sure if there was a way through, finding out was definitely worth the effort in order to make a deeper connection with the land around me. It’s good to let your curiosity lead, go and explore, you might have an adventure.

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May 25, 2022

Great to catch up with you and your surroundings after a short break Andy. Apart from the storm damage it all sounds wonderful.Do hope you have a phone signal when you are exploring the unknown territory , or someone at home who knows where you are.😊

Andy Jenner
Andy Jenner
May 25, 2022
Replying to

Thank you Lyn, I hope you enjoyed your Portugal trip. This area has always amazed me. It doesn't seem to matter where you venture, there's always a phone signal and normally 4G too! 😀

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