Sunday, 20 April 2014

Who's next in the Dawn Chorus

Apparently the next most common bird call after the blackbird, robin and wren is the tawny owl.  I don't think we are likely to hear one of those at Filnore on 27th April but we may hear a pheasant shouting and we shall certainly hear chaffinches.

The Collins Bird Guide, the one with the black cover, describes the chaffinch song like this:
"highly characteristic, rather constant in delivery and tirelessly repeated, a bright, loud, almost rattling verse introduced by 3-4 rapidly repeated sharp notes which turn into a similar series of lower notes, the whole terminating in a lively flourish, zitt-zitt-zitt-zitt-sett-sett-sett-chatt-chitteriidia."
I think of it as tumbling downstairs and jumping up at the end, and Rob says its a bit like a cricketer coming up to bowl and finally delivering the ball.
As well as songs, which can be to attract a mate or to establish a territory, birds have contact calls, alarm calls and other chirps and squeaks.  The chaffinch has a very distinctive "pink pink" call which is the colour of the cock bird's breast, so highly appropriate and easy to remember.
The next singer is the song thrush.  Now this species has been in decline for some years but I have heard more than one singing while I have been working in the coppice coupe, so Filnore must be providing a good habitat.
This is another one with a distinctive voice.  Although the parts of the song are very varied, the song thrush sings each part three or more times as if it is practicing for a concert.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

First birds in the dawn chorus

The blackbirds start up really early in the morning.  They have a fluty musical song except for a little sneeze at the end.

 Next to wake are the robins. Theirs is a quieter song but also very tunefu.  It is more varied than the blackbird and more delicate.  Sometimes they sing at night, encouraged by street lights to think the sun is rising.
 The wren's song is far from delicate.  Although it is almost our smallest bird, its song is loud and perky.  There are usually about four or five verses to the song following quickly one after the other.  The last but one verse is nearly always a churring sound.
Remember: Dawn Chorus Walk, Sunday 27th April, 5.00 am at the field gate

Friday, 18 April 2014

Dandelions - I just love 'em

A thousand splendid suns beneath your feet.
(with apologies to Khaled Hosseini but I don't expect he reads this blog)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Wayfaring tree

Tucked in amongst the other trees on the edge of the wood in the pylon field is another flowering tree.  This is the Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana).  Despite its name it is barely a tree and is not included in many tree identification books.
The flowers are the typical white pompoms of a viburnum and the leaves are very wrinkly and covered with white fur on the under-side.  The species name 'lantana' means 'woolly'. 

Some of the flowers are still in bud so expect to see more in the next weeks.  Notice how the stems always divide in two.

In autumn the berries are at first red and then ripen to black.
My 'Observer's Book of Trees and Shrubs of the British Isles', which I was given for Christmas in 1953, has the following to say about the various names: 
'The local names of this shrub include Mealy-tree, Whipcrop, Cotton-tree, Cottoner, Coven tree, Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, Twist-wood or White-wood. 
Mealy-tree, Cotton-tree, Cottoner and White-wood all have obvious reference to the appearance of the young shoots and leaves, due to the presence of the white hairs with which they are covered. 
Lithe-wort, Lithy-tree, also Twist-wood and Whipcrop, indicate the supple and elastic character of the branches, which are often used instead of Withy to bind up a bundle of sticks or vegetables, or to make a loop for a gate fastener. 
On the Continent the shoots, when only a year old, are used in basket weaving, and, when a year or two older, serve for pipe-stems'
Wikipedia also mentions Hoar Withy as a name.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dawn Chorus Walk 27th April

At this time of year the birds start singing while it's still dark, to establish and retain their territories.  Once the sun is up they have to stop singing and get busy looking for food so dawn is the best time to hear the chorus of tweets, twitters, chirps and trills.
Join us at 5.00 am on Sunday 27th April for a walk through Filnore Woods and a chance to learn more about the feathered songsters. Meet by the gate on the far side of Thornbury Leisure Centre car park. Feel virtuous by getting up early.
Between now and then I'll post some info about the birds we are likely to hear.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

I bought the scythes !

Took a trip down to Dorset to buy three scythes from Simon Fairlie at The Scythe Shop last summer.  Simon gave me some instruction and a bit of a demo.  He is a jolly mix of gruffness and joviality.  His book "Managing Grass in Britain with the Scythe" is the most interesting, thorough and useful I have read on the subject, whether you are making hay or promoting wild flowers.   
As well as the blades with covers and snaths (handles), the Friends of Filnore Woods now own 3 allen keys, three files, three wooden wedges, 6 sharpening stones, three steel sheaths for the stones, two sanding blocks and a peening jig.  If you want to know more about the peening jig look at Neil Dudman's video on YouTube: "How we use a peening jig".  Very thorough.

Scythes are clearly very fashionable.  Bunny Guiness of Gardeners' world fame had an article on the subject last July in the Sunday Telegraph.
 If you want to read the article, here it is.  I'm afraid it didn't upload very well.

And Monty Don was using one on "Gardener's World" recently.  It's so trendy!
And here is 'Scythe Workshop: How to Mow with a Scythe' by Botan Anderson.  Watch this video and the secret will be yours.
We are hoping to make our first cut tomorrow!

Friday, 11 April 2014

Spring flowers

Buds are popping so quickly that I have to show you a whole lot of different flowers in one post or they'll be gone.
First the Blackthorn is in flower all over the place.  It's a Prunus species, related to plum and cherry.
And on the increase at Filnore, we have the English Bluebell.

Then this strange sheath or hoodie is the flower of the Wild Arum ( or Lords and Ladies or Cuckoo Pint or Jack-in-the-pulpit and various other rude names).  The flowers attract tiny flies which pollinate them by briefly getting trapped inside.
This is Honesty, which may be a garden escape.

And having its springtime flush of flowers the humble, invasive but beautiful Dandelion.

If you cast your eyes upwards you may see the short-lived flower sprays of the Bird Cherry.

Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower is growing profusely in the skateboard/allotment field.

Spring is springing!
First four photos on this post are by Simon Harding