Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Moving Mountains

This autumn has been a very mild one with temperatures frequently in double figures until a cold snap descended over the weekend, bringing a thick frost. 
Did you hear the clockwork calls of pheasants repeating along the woodland edge in the early morning?
The night before, a barn owl crossed my path, a moments apparition from the dark illuminated in headlight beams. A few miles away (off the patch) another had been perched on a fencepost. A pale shape turned, crouched, prepared; flight was close.

Tuesday morning however dawned mild once more, and damp. The weakened sun struggled to draw back a curtain of heavy drizzle. 
By mid morning the sun had eked out a small victory, and so I decided to walk to work across my patch. 
I have been busy, and have not had opportunity to walk the route I took yesterday for at least several days if not a couple of weeks, so it was good to catch up, see what changes the weather and ever-turning seasons had wrought. 
I certainly wasn't expecting to encounter a waft of golden summer! But my nose didn't lie and there in the hedgerow, beside the fire station, was indeed a tendril of honeysuckle complete with a couple of sweetly-scented clotted-cream-coloured clusters of flowers! 
Another unseasonable flower beamed at me from the bog alongside Jubilee Path. Unreachable, out in the muddied and waterlogged reaches at the edge of the snippet of woodland was a bright yellow kingcup or marsh marigold, bold as brass, cheered by on the the calls of a tit flock in the branches above. 
The tit flock was mixed, including the great tit in black bowler hat & tie and blue tits the colours of Spring flowers beneath Spring sky.

For the first time this year, I found that attempting to walk the path alongside the Rother and skirting the edge of Cowdray meadows required me to pick my steps carefully and stick to the grass where the vegetation bound the mud tightly. Squirrels chattered to one another in the branches, and the ever alert blackbird took panicked flight as I approached the corner of the path. He had been feasting on windfalls from a feral apple tree at the edge of the meadow, beyond the old iron gate at the foot of St Anne's Hill. 
Mistle thrushes guard clumps of mistletoe in the tops of the linden trees, a high view point from where they mark the progress of any threat to their living winter food store. 
The moles had moved their mountains up the bank. beneath the rushes the flood meadows are becoming waterlogged; a sure sign winter is coming. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Autumn winds

Off to the far west of the patch, out over the atlantic, multiple low pressure systems spiral in, queueing up so that as the winds of one blow themselves eastwards, another can pile in behind it with successive waves of squally rain and gusts.  The wind is vicious, tearing the last of the autumn tinted leaves from the trees and sending birds scudding sideways from their flight paths. 

The fieldfares and redwings have arrived in good numbers during a break in the weather, forced to take refuge in the face of the oncoming storm. The redwings move in squadrons seeking berries, whilst the fieldfares argue agitatedly with the wind from the top of the buffeted linden trees. 

In those Linden trees clumps of mistletoe hang, already heavy with berries, and in the nearby churchyard holly and yew berries light up the damp gloom. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

My Patch on Film

Well, here we are in November! Can you believe it? BBC's 'Autumnwatch' has been on our screens all week, the winds and rains have arrived and the leaves are now falling fast. 

Thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you have enjoyed our explorations over the past months; perhaps you have learnt a few things, been inspired to look at your own local area with new eyes, or perhaps have adopted a 'patch' of your own? 
Whether you have only recently discovered my ramblings about my local patch, have popped over from my other blog at, or have been following the blog since the very beginning, it is fantastic to be able to share this area that I love so much, and its wildlife, with you all.  
I always welcome comments, either here or on Twitter (@OakByTheRife) so do let me know your thoughts. 

It is with slight amazement that I write that The Oak By The Rife Blog is approaching it's 1st birthday! I started this project 11th December 2014, and so we have nearly completed a full year cycle together, and will soon be heading into our second winter. 

As a little celebration of that upcoming anniversary, I decided that it was time for something a bit different. So this week, I have stepped out from my usual position behind the camera, to show you some of my favourite places on The Oak By The Rife Patch in person....

As I typed on that first local patch blog post: "Let's go for a walk"!

About Me

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis