Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Cow Parsley or Hogweed

Cow Parsley is a flower of roadsides, fields and woodland.  The delicate white flowers are like lace decorating the grass, so they are also known as "Queen Anne's Lace".  At this time of year they line country lanes and bow as cars pass.  We have plenty at Filnore - Cow Parsley plants, I mean, not cars.

The more chunky Hogweed flowers are much more robust.  They bloom all throught the summer and even in winter a few brave hogweeds continue to flower.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

St Mark's Fly

Did you notice large numbers of these black flies drifting about in recent weeks?  They are black and clumsy with long, trailing hind legs.

Photo by Kent Ornithological Society
The males have clear wings and big eyes.  They swarm up and down looking for females which usually cluster on a nearby bush.  They are called St Mark's Flies because they're usually about on St Mark's Day, 25th April.  They only live for about a fortnight so most of them have gone now.  It's a short life but sweet.  They feed on nectar, they mate and the females lay eggs in the soil.  That's it.  Then they die.  But the larvae or grubs live on, underground, eating decaying vegetable material or grass roots.  Then next April they emerge as adults and the whole life cycle starts over again.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Gateway from darkness to light

14 cubs from the 2nd Thornbury pack came for a guided walk round Filnore Woods on Wednesday evening, 16th May.  They will be doing their 'Naturalist' badge this year and so this was a first step on the way.  They were introduced to a number of wild flowers including Red Campion, Pignut, Cowslip and Hemlock.  They also learnt the names of some trees:  Bird Cherry, Beech, Yew and Oak.  One of the first plants that we all learn is the Stinging Nettle and there were plenty of those about as well.

The post in the middle of the pcture is post 17 on the self-guided trail

What they really enjoyed most was charging about in a wild place.  Quite right too, although the 'charging' bit meant that every bird within 50 metres flew away or hid in silence until the cubs had passed.  But it was a good beginning.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Red Campon

As the bluebells are starting to go over, the bright pink  flowers of the Red Campion are appearing. 

They seem to be doing well at Filnore Woods and insects enjoy the nectar, as this Orange Tip butterfly is doing.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

I just noticed the "draft action plan" (click on the box above) had two copies of page two and no page three.  This has now been corrected.

Vandalism ? - Oh deer !

At first I thought some lunatic with a knife had been attacking the apple trees in the old Northavon Council tree plantation in Filnore Woods.  But closer examination revealed that it was deer who had been eating the bark.  They really like apple tree bark.  It's a pity about the trees, which may survive, but it's interesting to know that there are deer visiting the woods.  Has anyone seen them there?  If so, which species?

Saturday, 5 May 2012


During the recent sunny spell, (way back in mid-March)  ladybirds emerged from their winter torpor to start feeding on aphids.  These are the ladybirds that hatched and grew to maturity last year.  Now it is their turn to mate and lay eggs from which the next brood will grow.  Then they in turn will find a sheltered place in September/October to clamp themselves down and try to survive the frosts and cold of winter.   These photos were taken in Filnore Woods on 24th March.

Stinging nettles are a great source of aphids for the ladybirds to feed on.

The seven spot ladybird is the commonest of the 26 species of ladybird beetle in the UK.  It has three black spots on each side and one more just behind the head

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Nettles that don't sting

The leaves look like stinging nettles but this white flower shows it is the white dead-nettle.  (Stinging nettle flowers are like green catkins.)  The name "dead" nettle tells you that it is not a stinger.

Bumble bees visit the white dead-nettle flower to collect the sweet nectar at the bottom of each flower's tube.  What they don't realise is that when they alight on the lower lip of each flower like a landing platform, the stamens in the hooded upper lip dust their furry backs with pollen.  The bees then carry the pollen to the next flower and so fertilise it.