Monday, 30 January 2012

Fern learning: Lesson 2

On 20th Jan I wrote a bit about four ferns which you can hunt for at Filnore Woods. 

Bracken - the one with a central stalk,

Harts Tongue with rosettes of simple fronds,

Polypody where the fronds are "simply pinnate", which means just divided once - each leaflet of the frond is called a "pinna",

and Male Fern, where the fronds are bi-pinnate, which means divided and then divided again - each pinna is divided into "pinnules".

Today's new fern is the Broad Buckler Fern.  This one is "tri-pinnate", so each pinna is divided into pinnules and each pinnule is divided into "pinnulets".  Very feathery.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Clearing the way

Another work morning has made it a bit easier to make your way through Filnore Woods. 

A small but  energetic group of volunteers have widened the steep muddy pathway up from the stream crossing to the top of Cowshed Field.  It was a good fun activity lasting only a couple of hours - with a coffee break in the middle. 

The next two work parties will be on Sunday 12th and Wednesday 22nd Feb from 10 am to 12 noon.   Please come.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Fern learning, Lesson 1

The most common fern is bracken.  It is so common it is in fact a global weed.  It's the one that grows a stem with leaves branching off all the way up.  It can be 2 metres tall.  I should really say "fronds" not "leaves" for a fern.  I posted a picture on 2nd January of what it looks like in winter, brown and crispy.  This is what it looks like in spring.

Most other ferns either grow in rosettes or "shuttlecocks", or they grow individual fronds along a creeping stem or rhizome.  The next photo shows several HartsTongue ferns.  Their fronds are quite undivided.  Do you think they are in rosetttes or on a creeping rhizome?

The fronds of Polypody Fern below are divided into pinnae  ( the plural of 'pinna').  Polypody often grows on walls or, here in Filnore, on the bark of a tree.  It has a rhizome, not a rosette.

If the pinnae are divided again into simple pinnules, i.e not frilly pinnules, then it is Male Fern - see below.   

All these ferns are growing at Filnore and also two more frilly ones which I shall describe in lesson two, coming soon.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Birds are often hard to see in the woods.  Try spotting them with your ears instead.  Check out "Brett Westwood's Guide to Birdsong" - link shown on the right below the blog archive. 

Birds heard this week in Filnore:

Robin:  This is a musical song full of trills and twitters, usually delivered from a high perch in a tree or bush.  Robins are one of the few birds that sing through the winter.
Dunnock:  A warbling song that doesn't seem to go anywhere.  Not as vigorous as a wren and not as wistful as a robin.
Great tit:  The teacher bird beacause it sings "teechah teechah teechah" over and over again.
And the Blackbird, who is not really singing yet but shouting out its rattling alarm call if you disturb it.
The Green Woodpecker has a laughing call "plue plue plue" which gives it its country name of Yaffle.
And the shy Jay with its harsh "skaaaaak skaaaaak" sounding like a very angry Donald Duck.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Meadow buttercups

Perhaps it is time to remind ourselves of sunnier days.  Here is a photograph taken at Filnore in May 2001 by Allan Burberry.  A field of buttercups with hawthorn blossom in the background

Monday, 9 January 2012

Alders by moonlight

After all the rain and wind of recent weeks, the skies have been a bit clearer in the last few days.  When the moon shines through branches in the early evening, it adds a cold but ethereal beauty to the tree silhouettes

But what is this tree with its bunches of little pom-poms and worm-like appendages?

"Two sets of dangly wotsits!  How exciting.  Cones and catkins!  This is surely a completely new species."  (from Will Cohu's book Out of the Woods - the armchair guide to trees, pp 14-18)

A closer look shows last year's cones (or 'conelets' -  they can't really be cones because this tree is not a conifer) . . . . .

 . . . . . and the coming spring's catkins of . . . . .

. . . . the Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Bramble bashing

Today the first work party of the year cleared some brambles to improve access down the slope from the Pylon Field towards the stream crossing at the eastern end of the Valley.  The photo on the right shows what it was like before we started.  One of the work party took a picture on his mobile phone, of what it was like afterwards, which you can see at the bottom of this page. 

The stream was full of water today, which isn't always the case.  Walkers found they could not cross without paddling, unless they went a little bit upstream.  We hope to improve access in this area by putting in posts to hold while negotiating the slippery sloping path, and maybe eventually by building a simple bridge across the stream.  In summer the stream, which runs from Merry Heaven Farm, is dry.

And this is what it looked like after we had finished.

                                                                                                                 Photo: Derek Hore

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Signs of Spring - bluebells

This week I noticed bluebell leaves pushing up through the leaf litter under the hedge which runs between the old tree nursery and the sloping Cowshed Field.  This ancient hedge, probably 600-900 years old, may well be a remnant of ancient woodland.  It contains Dog's Mercury (photo below) as well as Bluebells, which are both ancient woodland indicators.  It may be that when the fields were created, a row of trees and shrubs was left as a hedge, rather than being planted.  This is known as a ghost hedge - the ghost of ancient forests.  Consequently we have to decide whether to conserve it as a hedge or allow it to become  part of the woodland.  As a trial next winter we propose laying the top, eastern end of the hedge to see how this impacts on wildlife as well as the health of the trees and shrubs.  Any offers of help would be welcomed.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Raging torrent

We have a stream running from east to west through the middle of Filnore Woods.  In summer it usually dries up completely and even in the winter there is sometimes no flow of water.  Well I was at the site yesterday, cutting some brambles that were blocking one of the paths, and I noticed that the stream was running merrily.  It doesn't look very dramatic in the photo but the presence of water on the site adds to the habitat variety.  We are considering making a small dam somewhere along the stream so that we could have a pond with all the wildlife that that might attract.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Summer, autumn or winter?

What a mix of seasons at the moment. If you look at the picture you can see fresh green summery leaves and brown autumn foliage - and officially it's winter! 

The bright green leaves on the left of the picture are bramble. It's usually evergreen but the leaves are often more purply in the winter.

In the centre of the picture we have the dead fronds of last year's bracken.  Bracken is one of the five different ferns found at Filnore Woods.  It is easy to distinguish because it is the only one to have a tall stalk with fronds branching off it.  all the other ferns have their fronds coming directly out of the ground.

The golden brown leaves at the top of the picture are dead leaves clinging on to the lower branches of the oak ree, whose trunk you can see on the right.  Like beech and hornbeam trees, oaks often hang on to to their leaves in the winter, especially young trees.  And this winter has been comparatively mild so far.

Can you make out the nettles beginning to send out fresh green growth and the dead stalks of last summer's hogweed seed heads?