A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar: Stobswood by James Common

Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!

My patch is somewhat unique in the sense that it has only really existed for three years or so. Whereas other birders and wildlife enthusiasts focus on longstanding reserves, both the grandiose and the renowned my passions centres on what is in essence little other than a small area of pasture and degraded woodland adorned with a few muddy pools. Restored from opencast operations a few years past, Stobswood truly is an outstanding abode, boasting an array of creatures to rival any of the more publicised local sites, a claim particularly true in our final season when my reclaimed, post-industrial wilderness truly comes into its element.

Despite the ebb and flow of human traffic my patch ‘forests’ still boast a wealth of wonderful woodland wildlife, all of which becomes more visible as the chill sets in and the leaves begun to blow. Among these, some real treasures. Willow Tit, a species now absent from most of our country still thrives here with a pair on occasion visiting my bird table alongside their more common, colourful cousins. Marsh Tit too persist here, another declining delight whilst Nuthatch, Jay, Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch show fantastically throughout the festive season. With these a true British icon, the Red Squirrel. Unusual in current climes, my patch thankfully still holds a good number of these tuft bearing treasures, despite continuous incursions of a less rustic nature.

A stone’s throw from my personal arboretum lies the opencast itself, now unrecognisable in its restored state. Here a series of shallow, seemingly barren pools hold a wealth of wildfowl to rival any WWT reserve. Wigeon, Teal, Tuftie, Mallard, Pochard, Pintail and Goldeneye, all abound alongside some real Christmas quackers including Scaup and Green-Winged Teal. Beside their smaller cousins, Geese! Some 2500 of them, comprising a host of sublime species. From common Canada’s to perky Pink-Feet this is one winter spectacle I find myself awaiting year in, year out whatever the weather. My personal favourite however? Bar-Headed Geese! Returning as regularly as the season itself. Undoubtedly feral but fantastic nonetheless, seven of these birds now add a touch of exotic glamour each winter.

I could talk all day about Stobswood, its sublime sights and incredulous critters though I must refrain. From Thrushes to Foxes, Harriers to Herons ‘my patch’ truly is a fantastic place to spend a dreary winter’s day, though the site has one final ace up its sleeve. A real claim to fame, at least on a regional scale. Here, within a one mile radius of my house all five British owl species can be found year round, with winter perhaps the best time to view said bug-eyed delights. From seasonal Shorties to twitwooing Tawnies this is one spectacle I truly hold to heart. Though this said, we all have favourites and for me the intense, seemingly scornful glower of a Little Owl is enough to brighten up even the most woeful of winter walks,