Reg Snook's "park jottings" have been a special feature of the friends' noticeboard since early in 2010. He publishes a new one each fortnight, providing a naturalist's insights into the lives of the birds and animals of our park.

Jottings – 14 November 2017 – “In Flanders Field – the Lark”


poppiesJudging by the noise during the evening of 4th November, the great fireworks extravaganza in Christchurch Park must have been a great success.  That is good.  The next morning, Sunday, was a bright autumn day but it seemed that the majority of our Park was covered in litter.  I have said this before:  “Why do people just drop their waste paper and plastic bottles?”  However, very quickly the 11th Ipswich Scouts did a splendid job in clearing it all up and the Park regained its beautiful autumn looks.  A day later, we had the first frost of the season and our Park looked even better.

As we approached the Remembrance Service weekend, there were of course poppy appeals on the TV.  Excerpts from “The Flanders Field” were included in one particular appeal especially the section which mentioned that after an almighty battle and pounding of the earth by thousands of tons of explosives, skylarks rose in the morning air, singing as they went.  How on earth did these little birds survive?  What a mockery of war these marvellous songsters made of it all.  Thousands of men slaughtered on a single day, the earth ravaged by shells, all signs of plant life destroyed and yet skylarks rose into the air singing.  How ironic!  Incidentally, it is November and poppies are still flowering in the hedgerows.

It is the rutting season once more and I have tried to encourage readers to seeing this on their bucket list.  You could visit RSPB Minsmere to view the red deer rut or follow a footpath through the grounds of Helmingham Hall, not far away, and see both the red and fallow deer rut.  It is a must.  Also the grey seals on the Norfolk coast are beginning to pup.  You must go and see these delightful white-coated young seals lying on the shore line.  Yes, I know it is Norfolk but I am sure that my friend Rod will not mind you visiting his county.  Speaking of bucket lists, on 11 November I was one of many standing beside the Norwich to Ipswich railway line at Great Blakenham.  Smoke billowing in the distance was the cue for everyone to get excited.  A couple of minutes later the Flying Scotsman was roaring past in all its former glory.  Yes, I know it is not a bird or a rutting stag or a seal pup but the sight of this British icon should be on everyone's list (just like the last Avro Vulcan).  We once were 'great', weren't we?

So much for all the good intentions regarding the Park's orchard.  Unfortunately it remains a mess, unkempt and overgrown with weeds, the thistles and nettles rapidly regrowing.  Uncared for as before.  Yes, the Education Hut was burned down but if nothing is going to be done about the state of the orchard why then proclaim in the last FoCP newsletter that continued regular management will take place to keep the area clear for future education visits.  Not much evidence of this yet.  Sad, very sad.

The hornet's nest in the barn beams next to my studio is now dead, or rather the hornets are dead.  I have thus had an opportunity to study this nest without being stung.  The hornets encased a series of cells known as 'combs' with a casing or envelope for protection.  Closer inspection revealed that the whole nest consisted of chewed wood pulp and the casing in particular was a beautiful design of various shades of brown and pink.  How do these small insects manage to produce such great works of art?  It really is a thing of beauty like so many other things in nature that as a whole we generally tend to ignore.

Reg Snook