Spring is definitely on its way, and more boxes are getting filled in on the Spring Index sheet in the tutor’s office! I took a walk up Juniper Top last week one evening, and there was so much birdsong in the air. Almost the first bird I spotted was a blackcap, its squeaky sharp call drawing my eye. First one of the year, perched on a branch of a hawthorn. I paused to admire him and the view before heading further up the hill.
Blackcap, image source: british-garden-birds.com
The grass is peppered with yellow meadow ant nests as you walk up, huge grassy knolls that would be teeming with life if you were to peel away the vegetation from the top. Not a wise idea, unless you really like ants! In Ants, by Derek Wragge Morely, Lasius flavus’ nests are called “climbers’ compasses” by the author, as;
“…climbers who are lost in a mist or fog can nearly always establish their compass points by observing the way in which the nests of the Yellow [Meadow] Ant are built.”
The steep side of a nest nearly always faces east- and this is the case on Juniper Top! Along the path, there was a surprising lack of nests, when there were so many further away.
View to the west
Heading into the woods, the quiet of the open meadow was broken by a thrush, singing from a high-up branch. Another spring tick!
He was overshadowed by a chorus of blackbirds belting out alarm calls as I went further, each surprising the next with their loud chuk-chuk-chuk. A squirrel was surprised too, complaining from the undergrowth as I came to Box Hill viewpoint. It was too late to stop off at the National Trust cafe, so I kept walking down the Burford Spur now, heading back towards Juniper Hall. Dorking was glowing with streetlamps as the light dimmed, the church just about visible along the High Street, a train speeding along the railway tracks towards London. The valley was full of mist hanging low to the ground, Denbies Vineyard and Norbury Park dim outlines. By the time I was back to Juniper Hall, it was dark enough for the goats to have already been put away for bed. A bat zipped across the front lawn as it decided it was nighttime and safe to come out!