In the meantime, Summer is well and truly upon us and the patch is changing by the day; new flowers blooming, old ones fading and setting seed. I saw a Silver-Y moth yesterday, my first of this year, but the orange tips no longer dash brightly along Jubilee Path. Cuckoo flowers and celandines, even the bluebells, have all been replaced by tassel-topped grasses now beginning to dry to seed, hemlock-water-dropwort rocketing skywards, and bramble flowers that promise finger-staining, sharp juicy blackberries, in just a few short weeks.
I have found oak-apple galls on an oak sapling, and hawthorn berries starting to form. Spiky nodules where candles of flowers recently cloaked the horse chestnut trees are waiting with swell into conkers, with rain from late-summer storms. A red kite drifted over the town car park earlier this week, and grey heron has been fishing at South Pond in the seclusion of cool evenings. It has been good to hear the yellow hammers sing. The female blackbird was too intent on collecting mud to line her nest, and she forgot to keep an eye out for the male sparrowhawk. Her mate has soon moved on, there is little time for grief in nature, he has already found a new partner.
When I started this blog, we took a walk 'together' through three main sections of the patch; Pitsham Farm, South Pond and the town, and Cowdray flood meadows and St Ann's Hill. This month, I have been pleased to acquire a larger scale map of the area in which my patch sits, and decided to set a specific boundary to the patch. With the help of some string and a steady hand, I decided a two mile radius circle from my front door would form the outside edge of the local patch, with the previously mentioned locations fitting snuggly within a one mile inner circle that is my 'Doorstep Patch'. Much of the blog will feature this 'Doorstep patch', as I make forays into the wild for some nature therapy squeezed between busy shifts at work, but occasionally, when the weather is set fair and time allows, I will share with you some adventures and sightings from the less frequently visited extremities of the patch.
Why two miles? It means everything is within approximately 1 hour's walk from my house, accessible and tangible.
From where I am sitting as I write this blog, I am nearly level with the bird in my neighbour's garden birch tree, through an upstairs window. Goldfinches are amongst the green triangular bunting-leaves, eyeing up their breakfast in the seed feeders in my garden.
The finches have been a delight over the past few weeks, as they have been coming to the feeders more frequently and in increasing numbers. Their flickering gold, white and black, their constant twittering and noisy scraps have become a daily, almost permanent fixture, whilst they seem determined to empty the feeders with ever quicker efficiency.
Often these dainty birds with their painted porcelain appearance are joined by their larger bulkier cousin, the greenfinch, which I am pleased to say also seem to be doing well.
Greenfinches have been hit hard by disease in recent years, so it is great to see 'mine' looking so healthy (and hungry!)
Beyond my doorstep on the wider patch, as summer rushes on, there are many wonderful nature moments in progress which I am desperate to fit in the time to see.
I made my annual pilgrimage to the silver studded blue butterflies on Stedham Common slightly too early this year and on a cloudy day; I must make another trip.
On warm evenings, when the midges are out in force, nightjars have been heard making their other-worldly churring songs over Heyshott Heath.
Soon, majestic fritillary butterflies will glide along sunlit forest rides, and at dusk, fallow deer does will tip-toe from the shadowed tree-line with their growing fawn a few steps behind.
I saw a young robin at the allotments a few days ago, still speckled and lacking the characteristic red breast, but already with the bold attitude that makes us smile every time they follow us around the garden hoping to steal a few worms. I wonder if its parents are already thinking about a second brood?
On downland fields and road verges orchid season has begun, and the general abundance of growth across the hedgerows and lanes, woods and meadows means there is always something new to see.