Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tree ID 7: Sallow buds and bark

The buds on sallow or pussy willow are distinctively fat, like beads.  In shade they are yellow-green but may turn red in the sun. 

Sallow bark is covered in diamond shaped lenticels or breathing holes, though not on very young twigs or very old trunks.

With the unusually warm weather, some sallows have even retained a few of their leaves.

Thursday, 4 February 2016


The dunnock is a busy hunter of invertebrates creeping in and out of hedges and dense shrubby growth.  But it is easier to spot when it sings from a high point on a hedge or bush.

It is also known as the hedge sparrow but it is not in the same family as other sparrows.  

The house sparrow is beginning to make a come-back after a serious drop in its population of 71% between 1977 and 2008. The tree sparrow population declined by a massive 93% between 1970 and 2008 and is virtually unknown in south-west England.

But the dunnock is still quite common round here.  

Check out the song on this video by Rob Mellowship

Monday, 1 February 2016

Tree ID 6: Rowan buds

The winter buds of rowan trees are purplish but covered in long grey hairs. 

Owen Johnson in the excellent 'Collins Tree Guide' says they look like "the conic abdomen of some big spider".  No head or legs of course.

Rowan twigs in winter look rather untidy with lots of dead or broken ends.

You may also see the stalks left where bunches of berries were devoured by blackbirds and thrushes.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Holes in the ground

I wonder who has been digging round cherry tree roots in the old nursery.  Could it be badgers, squirrels, rabbits or deer?

There are aslo about ten excavations near the bench up at the viewpoint.  Mysterious!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Tree ID 5: Early elder

Although elder is usually the first broad-leaved tree to produce leaves in the spring, it is unusual to see the buds opening so early in January.  In fact I took this photo on December 29th.

Identify elder by the purple or pink buds in opposite pairs along the pale, spotty twigs.

The bark on the trunk and mature branches is marked with deep grooves or fissures (pronounced 'fishers'). 

Elder bushes or trees often have broken branches but new ones grow to replace them, arching up and curving outwards.

Another clue is the Jelly Ear  or Jew's Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)  which grows almost exclusively on dead or dying elder branches.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Green woodpecker

The other day, during a sunny spell, I heard and saw a green woodpecker at Filnore Woods. 

photo from www.2

They are often easier to see when stabbing for ants in short grass or when flying away with their undulating switchback flight, but the one I saw was in an ash tree.  I noticed it because of its laughing call.  I didn't get the joke myself but the woodpecker was clearly very amused.

Below is a link to Gradimir Jovtchev's excellent recordings of the bird's laughing song and more strident calls.

I have heard several green woodpeckers this December and January.  Is this unusual?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tree ID 4. Beech twigs

The long pointed buds on thin, zig-zag twigs help you recognise Beech.

We have a ring of beeches planted up at the Viewpoint in Filnore Woods.

As winter progresses you can see the white lining of hairs on the end of each bud scale.

Some of the buds on the big trees near posts 18 and 19 are already swelling prior to budburst.

They may regret it when the frosts come.