Thursday, 29 November 2012


As promised, here is the first bird post about one of our commonest british birds, the blackbird.  Although it is often seen in gardens, it's probably because it thinks our gardens are woodlands. 

John Sheppard, Sulgrave Village website
 Only the male is black and he has a bright yellow bill and a yellow ring round his eye.  The female is better camouflaged for sitting secretly on the eggs in the nest.  You can see that blackbirds are in the thrush family.
from the RSPB website
Blackbirds eat worms, grubs and insects and also berries and fallen apples in autumn and winter.  They are successful because they are so adaptable.

The song is very fluty and attractive.  Brett Westwood (see link on right) says their contralto song is at its best on mild spring evenings. 

At sunset on summer evenings, and even now in November,  you can hear several birds with their contact call "pik", repeated at intervals.  I was hearing them in Filnore Woods this week.  The more alarmed they get, the faster the "piks" come.  And when they are really upset there is an accelerating machine gun shriek "pik-pik-pi-pi-pi-pi-pi-PI-PI-pi-pi".

Monday, 26 November 2012

Bird survey results

Here you can see an alphabetical list of birds observed in or above Filnore Woods. 
Many thanks to Rob Collis for conducting surveys and compiling this list.
You can see that some birds are always with us such as Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Crows, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Wood Pigeons, 
Blue tit
while others have been seen or heard only once, for example Yellowhammer, Spotted Flycatcher, Heron and Coal Tit. 
By surveying each month we can see when birds come and go.  Fieldfares and Redwings are only with us in the winter while Willow Warblers and Whitethroats are summer birds. 
Whitethroat singing
Over the years we will be able to see if numbers are going up or down.
 A feature on each of these 44 birds will follow on the blog in coming months.
Bird photos are not taken by me.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Commemorative lime trees

In 2002 three small-leaved limes (Tilia cordata) were planted at the top of the pylon field near what is now post 3. 

Jerry watches anxiously while Allan hammers in a tree stake.  Sandi Shallcross with a spade, stands ready to plant
They were to commemorate:
(1) the 750th anniversary of Thornbury's Town Charter, granted by King Henry III in 1252
(2) the 50th anniversary of the current Queen's accession to the throne
and (3) the life of the Queen mother who had died that year.

The trees have suffered a few setbacks from competing vegetation, munching insects and even attacks by sharp-toothed dogs.  Nevertheless they have survived and are now revealed again since their enveloping blanket of brambles has been cut back

This is the central one of the three.  It looks a bit more impressive with its leaves on so I'll post another picture next summer.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Autumn sunshine

November can be beautifully sunny and on the Sunday before last, our work party was blessed with such a day.

Nine volunteers turned up and did clearing work by the comemmorative limes (more in my next posting), at the viewpoint, and at the old ruined cowshed.

Although it was sunny, the brambles were still
a bit too wet to burn.  This is a task waiting for a future work party

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Autumn colour mystery

In the misty moisty days of November, there is still a lot of colour in the wild.  This is a patch of blackthorn. The yellow leaves contrast strikingly with the rusty brown oak leaves and the silhouettes of the trees behind.
But here's a strange thing:  in the misty photo above, the blackthorn on the right has yellow leaves, while on the left the leaves are green with a tinge of brown.  The same plant but completely different colours.  And so too with the brambles.
Some of them are bronzy red while others are still green and growing.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Flowers in November

November starts off with glorious autumn colour but wet days can feel a bit gloomy in this month.  Birds are quiet, except for corvids, insects are mostly in their winter quarters or dead from the cold, and the plants are looking a little tired.

But fortunately, even now, there are wild flowers to enjoy.  This week I found a late ragwort still providing pollen for any surviving insects.

White dead nettles still in flower

And good old hogweed which seems to be in flower all through the year.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Winter thrushes - grey and orange

If you see a flock of thrushes eating rowan berries or fallen apples, look out for grey headed fieldfares, and redwings with a rusty orange flash of colour under their wings.

Both species of birds spend summer in northern Europe - Scandinavia and Russia, but when winter comes they move south and are quite common in Britain. 
Fieldfares are quite big for thrushes with very spotty fronts and a rusty tinge on their chests. They look rather smart with their grey heads and rumps, black tails and brown backs.

Redwings are smaller, shyer and a bit more homely with streaky spots on their tums and white stripes above and below their eyes. 

When they fly off, the rusty orange under their wings is surprisingly bright and is what gives them their name, whereas the fieldfare has white 'armpits'.

Redwing                                       Fieldfare