Wednesday, 22 February 2012

An abandoned football?

When I found one of these in the grass near the entrance to Filnore Woods, I thought someone had dumped an old sorbo-rubber football.  Inside it was just like foam rubber. 

But when I found another and then another I realised that these were last year's Giant Puffballs.  Snow-white when they first begin to grow, they get bigger and bigger and then break away from their umbilical cords, which anchor them to the earth, so that they can puff their spores around the place as they roll. Millions of spores are produced, as with all fungi, but only a few will grow to be giant puffballs them selves.

Friday, 17 February 2012


Moles are busy all the year round.  I've only ever seen one live mole but there are plenty of molehills to show where they have been.

You may not welcome them in your garden but in Filnore we have no lawns to ruin.  They hunt worms and any other mini-beasts underground and every now and then throw up a molehill to take a breather.  Late March is the mating season so things will soon be hotting up underground.  The molekins arrive in April and are cared for by Mum who builds a nest of grass and leaves, carried underground in her mouth from outside.

If you look carefully at this molehill picture you will see the trail of a bramble leaf miner.  This is the caterpillar of a tiny moth called Stigmella aurella.  The egg is laid between the top and bottom layers of a bramble leaf and the caterpillar, when it hatches, eats the juicy green stuff leaving a thin transparent skin above and below its tunnel.  As it eats it gets fatter and so the tunnel becomes wider.  Eventually it drops out and pupates on the ground, waiting to become a moth itself and repeat the life cycle. 

Sometimes you get two or three in one leaf, which produces a beautiful piece of natural abstract art.  Send me a photo if you find one and I'll put it on the blog.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Path through the woods

Our work party this morning cleared a path through the blackthorn and most of the bramble so that the path through what we call the "Valley Woodland" is now open again.  If you look at the map, which is on the blog page called "Leaflet 3rd edition", it is the path from post 8 to post 11, though it is a bit brambly still near post 10.  Here are some jolly workers by the bonfire during our coffee break.

Alan, Derek, Brett, Steve, Mike and Allan

Lots of bluebell leaves are showing in the Valley Woodland.  A wren was heard and dunnocks and a jay.  Spring is almost here!

Next two work mornings 10.00 am to 12.30 pm on Wed 22nd Feb and Sunday 11th March.  Don't miss the fun !

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Heard but not seen - a wren

Heard a wren for the first time this year yesterday, while I was in Filnore Woods.  Wrens feed mostly on insects and spiders so they suffer badly in severe winters.  I haven't heard any wrens for months so I was really pleased.

They have a very loud and jolly song with lots of trills.  When they are cross they go "tit, tit, tit" and when they are really cross or alarmed they make a long "churrrrrr" sound. 

Have a listen to the wren's cheery song on Brett Westwoods site listed under "helpful links" on the right of this page below the "blog archive".  The birds are listed alphabetically so the wren is the last one.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Friends of Filnore Woods

Today there was a meeting to discuss setting up the "Friends of Filnore Woods".  This would be for active members who want to get invloved in doing the work BUT ALSO importantly for any member of the public who visits Filnore Woods and would like to know a bit more about what is going on there.

Allan Burberry and Jerry Dicker (voluntary wardens) met with South Glos Countryside Officers, Richard Aston and Chris Giles and with South Glos Tree Officer, Phil Dye.  We are planning a public meeting in April to which you are invited.  The dates will be advertised here on the blog and in Thornbury Magazine

Pictured today from left to right:  Richard Aston, Chris Giles, Allan Burberry and Phil Dye

Monday, 6 February 2012

Fern learning lesson 3 - Soft Shield Fern

Today's fern, the Soft Shield Fern, is bipinnate.  So here you see a single frond divided into about 30 pinnae and each pinna divded into about 30 pinnules

But the thing to notice is that each pinnule is shaped like a tiny mitten, with a palm and a thumb.  I have torn off all the pinnules except one on one pinna to make it clearer.

And here is that one pinnule, showing a little soft hair at the point of the 'thumb' and the point of the 'palm'.

You can remember that a woolly mitten on your hand is soft and it is a shield against the cold.

Frosty buttercups and velvet

Winter is not a dead season.  A bright sunny morning stroll through frosty Filnore Woods provides lots of opportunities for spotting wildlife stuff.

Next year's buttercups are growing merrily and a bit of frost shows up their distinctive leaf shape.

And growing on a dead tree trunk, here is a cluster of Velvet Shank fungi.
This is one fungus species that keeps its toadstools even in frosty weather.  It's called the velvet shank because although the cap is orange, the stem has a brown velvety covering.  Its scientific name Flammulina velutipes means 'litttle flames with velvet feet'. 

Tidying up the world, as fungi do, this species is one that decomposes a lot of dead elms following Dutch Elm Disease.  The clump shown here though, was on a dead Silver Maple stem in the old tree nursery (see the map on the leaflet - black menu bar at top of blog).