Saturday, 28 March 2015

Blackbird, first to wake up

video credit to pat.sparrowhawk

In preparation for our Dawn Chorus Walk on 26th April, here is a youtube video of a male blackbird singing.  It's him singing all through the 3 minute video but you also see pictures of 'his friends' a cock chaffinch, a pair of dunnocks, a greater spotted woodpecker and a blue tit.
Blackbirds are the first to start singing just before sunrise.  Open your window at about 5.00 am and you are sure to hear several.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Daisies, dandelions and celandines

Although few and far between as yet, these harbingers of spring are already beginning to appear.    They are common, in fact their success at growing everywhere and spreading easily earns them the title of garden weed.  All three open and close with the sun.
Daisies, the 'day's eyes' are happy in short grass

Dandelions ('dent de lion' or lion's tooth) are around all year but have their big blooming at this time of year.  If they were rare they would be highly prized.
And the lesser celandine, also ubiquitous, gives a cheery display of springtime stars when the sun shines.


Monday, 23 March 2015

Tree planting in the rain.

 We have received several donated trees recently and had a tree planting session to give them new homes at Filnore.  We planted
  • an oak, a field maple, a holly and a yew up near the viewpoint, 
  • two conker trees on the meadow at the top of the pylon field - turned out to be very rocky ground
  • and a spruce and two scots pines as a nucleus for a conifer area near post 15.
    I mentioned the possibility of planting a few conifers in my blog post dated 14 May 2014.   Although it is more usual for conservation groups to remove conifers from woodland, there are some birds, plants and fungi that prefer the habitat offered by conifers of various sorts, so it seemed a good idea to include just a few.  They are in the old tree nursery area where we have retained several non-native trees.  So it's a slightly weird place anyway.
    Full marks to Eric, Steve, Andy, Allan, Cynthia and Roger for braving the drizzly weather to plant these trees.
To hear more about our future plans, come to our AGM on 15th April at 7.30 pm in the Swan pub, Thornbury High Street. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


The lights of Thornbury industrial estate and Oldbury nuclear power station at dusk. 
In the silence of the early evening I like this prospect from the Filnore Woods viewpoint.  The darkening sky and the glow of the lights. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pollarded willows

You may have noticed that two of our white willows have been cut down to a height of about 2.5m.
This was the scene beforehand.
And this is what it looks like now.
This is not wanton destruction but a combination of safety precautions and tree management.
These two trees had dangerous branches overhanging the path.  We could have just cut those branches off but we decided that the safest way forward was to remove the top part of the trees and effectively pollard them.  Pollarding is an ancient tree management technique where a tree is regularly cropped to produce poles.  It's a bit like coppicing but higher up.  It was used to manage trees where coppice re-growth was threatened by browsing livestock or deer.
Tree 1 nearest the path had a broken off branch lying in the top of the tree as well as damaged branches over the path.

Tree 2 had serious bark damage and exposed wood in the branch fork 4m up.
There were also branches overhanging the 'White House' as we call our tool store container.

We didn't have time to pollard tree 3 but you can see in the pictures below that there are broken branches and bark damage.  We think this may be caused by squirrels shredding the bark, followed by fungi which attack the exposed wood.  We propose pollarding this one at a later date, but at the moment it is not a danger to pedestrians on the path.

Tree 4 along the stream is dead and offerring a home to some interesting decay fungi.  Check out the trunk - but don't lean on it!  This tree may have to come down completely.

We shall be looking out for new shoots on the pollarded willows and the photograph below shows the sort of re-growth that we hope for, when the trees will have to be re-pollarded. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Dunnocks are singing now

One bird that is singing a lot at the moment is the Dunnock.   It's a mousy, secretive little bird creeping about in the undergrowth looking for insects and fluttering its wings as it sings.
I learnt on 'Tweet of the Day' on the BBC that they practice polyandry (lots of husbands) and polygamy (lots of wives).  you could say they were promiscuous little beggars, but who are we to judge.  Polyandry seems to be more common, so you sometimes get two cock birds singing and defending a joint territory while mating with the same hen bird.
No wonder they are so secretive and hide in the bushes.
The song is like a squeaky wheelbarrow wheel and a very cheerful sound on a spring day.  I guess they are pretty cheerful, all things considered.
Watch and listen to this excellent video published on YouTube by June Sobie in February of this year.

or follow the link

Sunday, 8 March 2015

More bluebells than ever

Spot the bluebell plants eagerly pushing up from the underground bulbs.
One of the benefits of clearing back brambles and laying our bit of hedge is that we are revealing more bluebell plants. Some of these have been lurking unseen beneath dense undergrowth but hopefully this year we shall be able to see more bluebells in flower than ever before at Filnore.
With more light the plants can also build up more energy for flowering next year.