Most of my meanderings are across fields adjoining Histon on the northen edge of Cambridge, UK. Farmland here stretches almost unbroken, with the exception of the Cottenham to Landbeach road, and a few minor lanes, for 6-7 miles to the Wilburton to Streatham Road and is interspersed with scrub and plenty of mature trees offering shelter and food for the local wildlife. I’ve been keeping a wildlife diary since the middle of 2009. The 2010 edition is here and I’ve drawn a map of the Histon north fields area which is a little bit ‘Lord of the Rings’ style but it shows where all the locations mentioned in the diary are in relation to each other. Of course, all the location names are figments of my imagination from two years ago, so none of them would be found on an official map!
The photographs below will hopefully help you visualise the places and habitats I’m describing. I have lots of pictures of the landscape features taken at various times of year, but all the pictures below were taken late in the afternoon, 3-4.30pm, last Sunday (7th November, 2010) and I’m using these because the sun was low in the southwestern sky making the colours wonderfully vivid. There are no animals or birds in these shots, unless you’ve zoomed in and have spotted some that I haven’t. So if you wanted to see animals I apologise, and if you find any please let me know! The pictures start and finish with my favourite poplar tree and get progressively darker, and the light more blue, as the sun dipped below the western horizon:
Entering the fields from the B1049 I walk along the Linnet Hedge where in the summer numerous linnet appear most days perching on the power lines and feeding in the fields immediately adjacent to it. Not just linnet though, there are dunnock, house sparrow, blue tit, great tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, blackbird, wren, whitethroat, yellowhammer, blackcap and kestrel regularly sighted in or around it.
Heading east-south-east towards the Poplar Tree I turn left and head towards the sycamore tree at Hedge End along West Ditch to the Merlin Hedge.
Poplar Hedge on the left leading to the small sycamore at Hedge End where it becomes the West Ditch, Middle and North Bean Fields on the right, Merlin Hedge at the end of the track. Lone dog walker in the distance.
West Ditch is a great place to see all kinds of wildlife. Apart from being full of many wild flowers from Spring through to Winter, it is full of birds too, such as wren, linnet, goldfinch, reed bunting and corn bunting. One evening this summer at the far end of the West Ditch I was distracted by the buzzing of an insect which turned out to be a privet hawk moth. Alas, it was too dark for a photo, but they are black and pink and up to 12cm wingspan, so an impressive sight. Common darter dragonflies also patrol up and down here.
Ditch running northwest to southeast between the sycamore tree at Hedge End and the farm
The Merlin Hedge is so called because not long after I started walking there I was half way along it when a merlin approached at quite incredible speed flying 2m off the ground and as it crossed the hedge, 10m in front of where I stood, it dived to catch a swallow which proved too elusive so it veered back on course and went on its way. All that lasted just 15-20 seconds or so but it was immensely exciting to watch.
Merlin Hedge running southeast towards the Bonfire and a machine store
At the end of the Merlin Hedge I usually double back round the wooden post down the other side of the West Ditch towards the sycamore tree, turning right down the southern edge of the Beet Field:
At the end of this track a left turn takes me along the back of the gardens, allotments and horse paddocks to the South Fallow Field at the far end of which I cross the B1049 and head for home. But I can’t finish without including this picture of the Poplar Tree across the PX Field: