Sweet violets are the first to bloom into January’s leafless landscape and frosty air. Their scent can carry on a damp wind over fifteen metres. It’s only a brief encounter however as the plants also produce a chemical called ionine, which temporarily dulls the sense of smell. Come and go by clumps of scrub off the Ladies mile to discover this for yourself.
January is mating time for foxes, so do not be alarmed when you hear yowling at night in the upcoming weeks. Vixens (female foxes) are known for their eerie screams which dog foxes (male foxes) find irresistible. To those not familiar with the sound it can be quite a creepy thing to hear!
The Downs are very important when it comes to supplying food for a wide variety of birds. Flocks of long-tailed tits can be seen busily searching for tasty tit-bits. Family parties of 2 to 20 birds are common. Akin to small rockets, with soft, bubbling contact calls, look out for their black, white and rosy pink plumage as they perform fantastic acrobatics amongst the treetops. For more information on the birds of the Downs pick up a copy of the ‘Downs bird trail’ leaflet available at the café next to the Water Tower.
Photographs © Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project, Denice Stout