On the weekend I decided to get up (comparatively) early, and take a stroll out onto the heath to enjoy a beautiful crisp winter’s dawn. When I say crisp, I mean -7 degrees Celsius.
Nevertheless, there was not a cloud in the sky, and if you wrapped up warm enough, it was a lovely day to be out on.
Watching from the top of a hill, I saw the blanket of lead grey gorse and heather, frozen solid after two weeks of sub-zero temperatures, gradually turning golden. An alchemist’s dream, perhaps, but this area is worth more than its weight in gold to the naturalist. Common Lizards, Adders, Nightjars, Tawny Owls, Redstarts, Stonechat, Woodlark and Crossbill are all here – and they’re just the species I’ve seen; I’m sure there are plenty more still to discover.
It is easy to see why this is an SSSI.
Stonechat on Gorse
One particularly surreal sight is frost on Gorse flowers. Gorse is in flower throughout the year – not just in Spring.
Hence the old saying ‘Kissing is out of season when gorse is out of bloom’
Why? There aren’t many insects around to pollinate them. In fact, they self-pollinate, create clones of themselves asexually during winter. This allows them to reproduce at a time when the seed eating weevils aren’t around, increasing the chance of successful seed dispersal.
In Spring, when pollinators are about, they sexually reproduce to create genetically varied offspring.
And to cap it all off, the beautiful call of the woodlark, praised as one of the most wonderful birdsongs. It is a series of rapidly alternating notes falling in pitch – I think a bit like a Curlew call in reverse. It is beautiful.
Here’s my best photo (not saying much, I’m afraid)