Saturday, 13 September 2014


While most birds have become rather quiet we are still hearing the harsh squawking of Jays.  They are in the crow family but are much shyer than most of that gang - crows, rooks, jackdaws and magpies.  Consequently you are more likely to hear jays than see them.  They have a harsh scolding call.

They like acorns and cache them in the grass, so they in fact are important planters of oak trees. 
Grey squirrels who also plant acorns, have a similar call but not quite so loud - kwk kwk kwwwwwk,  kwk kwk kwk kwwwwwwwk.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

leaflets under attack

When I went to replenish the leaflets at the entrance to Filnore Woods, I thought the leaflet holder looked a bit odd.
Looking closer I could see that it had been peppered with (probably) air pistol pellets. 


Monday, 8 September 2014

Thistle amaze you

I saw this swelling on a thistle stem today at Filnore Woods.  Looking it up I discovered it is a gall caused by the Thistle Gall Fly (Urophora cardui).  The eggs are laid in the thistle stem during summer and a fat brown grub develops.  The thistle supplies it with food by growing this gall.
I've never seen this fly but found a picture of it on the NatureSpot website.  Thanks to photographer Barbara Cooper for the image below.
These clourful little flies are about the size of a house fly and are around between May and September.  The larvae grow inside the gall and overwinter inside it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Eliminating hazards

The path edgings and steps, which we have constructed at various points on the trail round Filnore Woods, were made from hazel poles and stakes coppiced from the woodland, with a filler of woodchip.  Unfortunately some of these poles become dislodged and have to be re-staked.  Please send an email to if you see any such hazards.
The trip hazard of the loose step in the lefthand photo below was quickly remedied with some extra stakes and woodchip.
Some unidentified lumberjacks of the future have been practising their undeveloped skills on some of our/your trees.  Here is a small alder tree chopped down in its prime
Once felled, it was obstructing the path a bit but presented no danger - except perhaps to the feller who cut it down without leaving a proper 'hinge' to direct the fall.

More hazardous was the sizeable birch tree cut through and left resting on other foliage, hanging over a path.
This had to be moved and laid on the ground.  Big thank you to the walker who told us about these hazards.

The trees have to be thinned out but we prefer to choose which trees and do it safely.  Perhaps these guys could offer their services as Filnore Friends Volunteers.  We can always do with more.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Season of mists and fungal fruitfulness

Autumn, which is upon us, is the time of year when many species of fungus produce their fruiting bodies.  These can be toadstools, brackets or just a crusty covering, mainly on wood.  They are the fungal equivalent of flowers, and if we can get over the dread of death and decay which surrounds fungi, many of them are impressive and even beautiful.
I'm not so hot at naming them but here is a group I found near the entrance to Filnore Woods.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Nightshade but not deadly

This plant is often thought to be deadly nightshade.  In fact it is Woody Nightshade or Bittersweet.  It scrambles over other plants - on a bramble in the photo - and has these pretty purple flowers with a yellow cone of stamens in the centre.

The red berries are the most tempting to children but in fact are the least poisonous part of the plant.

When the berries are green, however, they contain much more solanine which is poisonous if eaten in quantity.  Think of green potatoes.  The last recorded death from eating bittersweet berries was of a nine-year-old in 1948.

Its botanical name (Solanum dulcamara) shows that it is related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum) and the so-called winter cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum). 
The Latin species name for Woody Nightshade or Bittersweet is dulcamara, a combination of dulcis (sweet)and amarus (bitter).  Apparently the red berries taste bitter at first with a sweet after-taste.  I haven't tried them and I advise you not to do so either.  But don't panic when you see this pretty flower or its brilliant berries.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Now is the time to go and pick blackberries for your jellies and pies and crumbles.
Elder berries are also nicely black now but the birds will soon gobble them up.  If you want to make wine or jelly with them hurry up.
Other signs of autumn approaching: 
two-tone leaves on the Dogwood,
a green-veined white butterfly
on one of the last scabious flowers
Flowers of Old Man's Beard going over and soon to pop open and produce the fluff that gives the plant its name.