Sunday, 28 April 2013

The birds they did sing

Our Dawn Chorus Walk was attended by 14 people which was a really nice number. 

Steve Gilliard and Rob Collis provided the expertise, helping us to identify several species by their voices including: blackbird, robin, carrion crow, great tit, blue tit, blackcap, chiffchaff, wren, chaffinch, wood pigeon, collared dove, dunnock, greater spotted woodpecker (drumming), herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, magpie and, just as we finished in the car park, a greenfinch.
Rob is involved in the production of a bird song programme on the BBC called "Tweet of the Day", which is starting on 6th May.  A different bird and its song will be featured every morning just before 6.00 am.  If you're not up that early you can go to the website, where all 265 broadcasts will be available eventually.
Here's a link to an explanatory article:
You can already sample clips of the cuckoo, the nightingale, the tawny owl and the storm petrel on the website at :
There is also a link to Brett Westwood's birdsong recordings on the home page of this blog.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Action Plan and Radio Broadcast

At the annual general meeting of The Friends of Filnore Woods on Monday night, the latest action plan was revealed.  This includes the aims and objectives of the Friends, features of the site, surveys of wildlife conducted so far and proposed action to enhance the site and your enjoyment of it.

If you would like a copy please contact me, Jerry Dicker,
on   and I can email it to you.
We had 9 volunteers at our work party this morning and much bramble was cleared in the area near our three memorial lime trees.
If you didn't catch it tonight, you can 'listen again' and hear me talking about Filnore Woods on BCFM (Bristol Community Radio) on their website.  Go to  and click on the programme title 'Shepherd's Way'.  Then listen to the broadcast for 24th April.  I'm on after about 26 minutes.  It will be interesting to see whether it has any impact.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Coppicing and chifchaffs

On Sunday we had one of our working management mornings at Filnore Woods.  There was some path clearing and cutting back of encroaching vegetation and a bit of coppicing. 

Derek and Steve coppicing
Alan and Steve with the finished job

We have harvested a lot of fairly stout poles from the hazel stool near the footbridge.  We shall use these to add to the steps up the steep slope and to make the slippery path through the valley woodland easier to negotiate.

Poles thick and thin for use on site

A by-product of this operation is a pile of material which can be used as pea-sticks.  Help yourself.  The sticks are lying on some metal sheets near the footbridge.  You will need a pair of loppers to trim them up a bit but there is plenty.  Leave it tidy afterwards if you would.

Pea-stick material - first come first served

The hazel stool looks ravaged but there is a considerable root there so lots of fresh growth is expected.  In a few years' time this hazel stool can be coppiced again to produce another crop of poles.

The hazel stool

The stirrings of Spring were evident everywhere.  Primroses in the Valley Woodland are looking really good at the moment.  And we heard several chiffchaffs for the first time this year.  They nest on the ground hidden away in the brambles and scrub but they like to perch high up in a tree to sing their cheery 'chiff chaff chiff chiff chaff chiff chaff choff'' song.   (There may even be a 'chuff' in there sometimes.)  Plucky little creatures to be so full of life, after flying from their winter quarters by the Mediterranean, to be with us again.

Chiffchaff singing

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Coo - pigeons or doves?

At Filnore Woods two sorts of pigeon or dove have been observed:  the collared dove and the wood pigeon.
The collared dove is pinky grey with a black collar round the back of its neck and black eyes.  It coos in threes.  I think of it as saying "a colll-ar, a colll-ar", with the emphassis on the "coll", the middle syllable.
Collared doves also give a cheer when they land "yee-airrr". 
collared dove
The wood pigeon is much bigger and fatter with a white patch on its neck.  Its call is longer, five syllables, which it repeats several times.  I was told as a child that it was saying "my big toe's bleeding, my big toe's bleeding, my big toe's bleeding, ouch".  Well the rhythm is right though you can't actually make out the words.  And there is a little noise at the end as if the bird was going to say it again but changed its mind.
When they are on and around the nest, usually a raft of twigs in a tree, wood pigeons make a growling noise.

wood pigeon
Feral pigeons are definitely town birds.  As they are decended from rock doves who nest on sea cliffs, they use buildings as cliffs, and pavements as beaches to scavenge on.  We don't get them at Filnore Woods.
feral pigeons

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Primroses announcing spring

In the shelter of the Valley Woodland at Filnore Woods, a host of primroses are greating the pale sun of spring
Some are sheltering by logs, ferns and bluebells on the woodland floor

Others are peeping at the sun from under the ubiquitous brambles

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Dawn Chorus Walk, 28th April 2013

From late April till early June, song birds have to find enough food to feed their newly hartched nestlings.  There is great competition for territory in which to forage for food. 
blackbird                                       robin
song thrush
crow                                           rook

So if you are a bird you have to sing loud and strong to scare your rivals off.  Otherwise they will get all the goodies.  You do this while waiting for it to be light enough to see where the worms, insects and seeds are to be had.  On the other hand, once the sun is up you need to stop singing and start searching.  To get the worms, etc, you have to be an early bird. 

wren                                            chiffchaff

All this birdsong just before sunrise on spring mornings  creates a symphony of sound called the dawn chorus.  All over the northern hemisphere there are organised dawn chorus walks, which you can locate on the internet at
chaffinch                                       goldfinch
If you want a really local one, come along to Filnore Woods on Sunday 28th April, a week before the official Dawn Chorus Day date.  Just one thing - we start at 5.00 am.  Meet on the far side of Thornbury Leisure Centre car park.  Bring your own coffee and buns, if you wish, and wrap up warm.  You will hear a wondrous natural concert and experience overwhelming feelings of virtue at being up so early.  Further info 01454 416945. 

collared dove                                                 wood pigeon
Practice listening on the birdsong link  (right)