By Simon Knight
The weather has certainly been changeable over the past few days! The temperature dropped pretty quickly Monday night and combined with clear skies, it ensured that Tuesday saw the reserve carpeted in frost. It wasn’t a heavy frost, but it was certainly a welcome change after seeing the park flooded just a few days ago.
Underfoot, the reserve is still saturated and when the temperature rises and the thaw happens, it will go back to being muddy and slippery. I thought this as I walked along the path towards the Old Dog Pond where on Thursday, the path was under a foot or more of water. I paused at the Old Dog Pond and thought of the wasp spiders that made this small oasis their home during the Summer.
If any of the females mated, their spiderlings would have hatched before winter and they would hopefully emerge from their egg sacks in spring. But think about what they have had to survive through first: heavy frost and temperatures down to -10 in December, snow, flooding, and now frosts again. There were at least 30 female wasp spiders in the grass of the Old Dog Pond last year. I wonder if the weather will have an impact on their numbers in this important little part of the reserve this year?
There wasn’t too much wildlife about on this cold morning. Jays were calling in Kestrel Field, I spooked a buzzard that was perched in a tree in Village Green, there were a large number of redwing in the Hope Nature Centre that I could see from Brunt’s Field, with the odd redwing flying around as I walked the reserve. Wrens and robins were active along the stream up to the pond, as were blue tits and great tits and black birds.
I do love the reserve on a cold, frosty winter morning, but I also long for the first signs of spring and I eagerly wait for green to return to the trees, which will also bring with it nesting birds. I also look forward to new grass growth, which will bring with it new insect life and hopefully, my favourite, the wasp spider.