Sunday, 26 January 2020

Stoatally dead

Unfortunately this stoat had not only been killed but the tail had been bitten off.  The black tip of the tail is a key identifier.  It's a rather gruesome picture but (a) it proves they are around and (b) it's the best photo of a stoat I shall probably ever get.  They are very secretive and hard to see and don't like crossing open ground.  

This photo below is what a living stoat looks like.  They are fierce little killers closely related to weasels (which are also pretty vicious if you're a rabbit or a mouse or a vole), and pine martens (which like peanuts but also squirrels, nestlings and  birds' eggs.)

Stoato photo: Vic Sharratt of the Wildlife Trusts

There's a really good Natural World broadcast available on BBC i-player called 'Weasels - feisty and fearless' with footage of weasels, stoats, wolverines and honey badgers, all members of the weasel family Mustelidae.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Aldernative catkins

You may be familiar with the golden catkins of hazel

But these below are the catkins of common alder.  
We have common alders near post 20 by the stream.

There are three species of alder frequently found in Britain:  the native Common Alder, the Grey Alder with silvery bark, and the Italian Alder with shiny heart-shaped leaves and bigger conelets than the other two.
See my 'alder year round' post of 18th December

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Who was here?

Patterns of human footwear in the mud .. .. ..

.. .. .. and canine companions

Infinitely variable.

But who was this?  Two toes side by side.

Photo: Simon Harding

The cloven hoofed imprint of a deer.  Could be Roe or Fallow or Muntjac.

How much happens when no-one is there to see?

Saturday, 18 January 2020


Bullfinches are shy but they are around in Filnore Woods and Vilner Lane Wood. The cock birds are very recognisable with an orangey red front and black face mask but the hen birds, with a more greyed out colouration, are harder to see.

They tiptoe round bushes using their strong finch beak to eat seeds, especially of ash, elm birch and even dock and nettle.  They used to be shot by orchard owners as they love to devour the flowering buds of fruit trees in spring when seeds are scarce.

As they are so secretive, listen out for the rather quiet and sad whistling call and then try to spot them.  Practice by clicking this link to the British Birdsong website.

Here is a quote from the discoverwildlife website which shows how important it is to retain even the smallest patches of woodland, scrub and thick hedges: 

'Your odds (of seeing them on your bird feeder) are increased if you have a rural or suburban garden, especially one connected to a small area of scrub or woodland by thick hedgerows as they have a preference for thick cover.'

my underlining, to emphasise the importance of connectivity

Friday, 17 January 2020

Filnore Stream

Our stream runs dry in summer but recent heavy rains have got it flowing to such an extent that sometimes it overflows the bridge.

You can see where it has been flowing over last year's bank repairs and has started eroding the next section of the bank -  on the left of the picture below.

There has been so much water that it has flooded Vilner Lane downstream  ..  ..  ..

..  ..  ..   and flowed into Vilner Lane Wood, which acts a sort of soakaway

Today (Friday 17th Jan) is the last day to sign the e-petition to save Vilner Lane Wood from redevelopment (, but you can sign the paper version tomorrow in Thornbury High Street or at the Community Compost Site, which is also threatened by the proposed development, 

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Long-tailed tits

This is the time of year when long-tailed tits are more visible in the leafless trees and bushes.

I usually hear them before I see them though.  They tweet to each other as they move through gardens and woods in family groups, picking off tiny invertebrates.

Saturday, 11 January 2020


These leaves are all that remains of our patch of coltsfoot, under a young oak tree near post 7 at the viewpoint.  
They will disappear before the flowers appear briefly in March like pale dandelions.  So briefly that I usually miss them - this photo was taken in Woodchester Park.  

To be followed by fluffy seed heads in May - here again rather elusive  
but I caught these in Perthshire.

Check now for those tattered leaves under the oak tree, so you know where to look for the flowers in March.