Sunday, 28 July 2013

Marbled white butterfly

This handsome, black and white butterfly is like no other.  Hurry to see them feeding on bramble flowers, scabious and knapweed at Filnore Woods NOW.  In the early mornings and late afternoon they like to sunbathe with their wings spread.  (seee above)
But when the sun is out in the middle of the day they feed with their wings closed up over their backs so you can see the underside.  (see below)

The caterpillars feed on grass so that's another reason to manage our grassland well. 
(Photos from - thank you)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Rosebay breakthrough

Our last work party managed to forge a passage through the encroaching rosebay jungle in the tree nursery field at Filnore Woods.  This is the least visited part of the site and so the paths grow over more easily.
The Rosebay Willow Herb has a beautiful magenta plume of flowers.  In America it is called Fireweed, either because of the bright flash of red made by a clump of these plants in bloom, or because they are one of the first to colonise a site where there has been a fire.
Please use our path and help to keep it open.  It's at the top of Vilner Lane, leading into the old Northavon tree nursery.

Jack, Will and Eric in the jungle

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Ringlet butterfly

Currently the most frequent butterfly at Filnore Woods is the Ringlet.  It gets its name from the tiny rings on its wings both on top of the dark velvety wings and underneath.  When they are newly emerged you may also notice the white edging of the wings but this fades as the butterfly gets older.
The rings are clearer on the underside of the wings, if you can get close enough to a ringlet when it is perched.
The dark colour helps them to absorb heat and warm up on even a dull day so they fly around even when it's cloudy.   The flight looks rather feeble, as if they are just about to land, but they never seem to when I am following them with my camera.  The peak flight period is mid-July so hurry to see them now.
The caterpillars feed on lush, green grass.  They are hard to spot but have a dark line down their back.  Sadly the grass at Filnore is rather dry this year so we may not have so many successful caterpillars to provide next year's Ringlets.
The three excellent shots above are from the UK Butterflies website
The adults feed on bramble, thistle and ragwort so they are having a fine feast at Filnore.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Judgement Day

Filnore Woods entered the "In Your Neighbourhood" awards for Britain in Bloom.
Yesterday the judges had a short tour of the site.  We shall see if they think we are making a valuable contribution to the community.
Allan Burberry, Judge Rod, Jerry Dicker and Judge Alison
You too can give us some feedback by completing a short 10-question e-survey at this address:

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Small tortoiseshell butterfly

I have seen small tortoiseshell butterflies in two separate places in the last couple of days.  They used to be one of our commonest but they have declined sharply in recent years.

This may be because of a parasitic fly which has spread to Britain with the change to a warmer climate.
When they perch, small tortoiseshells are harder to see because the underside of the wings is drabber - good camouflage - but look for the two black triangles on the front edge of the forewing.
Don't confuse the small tortoiseshell with the red admiral.  Torties are mostly orange with black and yellow markings on their forewings and tiny blue patches along the other wing edges. 
Red admirals are mainly black with scarlet markings in a sort of circle over both wings, and white blotches on the wing tips.

Both these butterflies lay their eggs on stinging nettles along with the comma and the peacock.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars on a nettle leaf

Credit to for these photos.  Their website is brimfull of photos and interesting facts about butterflies.

And . . . I just went to the post office for some 1st class stamps and look what has been issued today!

             Comma,                 Orange tip,      Small copper,      Chalkhill blue,      Swallowtail 
        Purple emperor,       Marsh fritillary,       Brimstone,         Red admiral,     Marbled white
The ones in italics are a bit rarer but
the ones in bold have all been recorded at Filnore Woods.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

New tools

Thanks to a South Gloucestershire Environment Grant we have been able to buy some new tools including 2 slashers, a rake, a hatchet, a lump hammer, a spade, two loppers and a post-holer (for digging narrow holes to put our numbered posts in).  Exciting or what?

The grant has also helped finance the new leaflets and a weather-proof leaflet holder, which is now attached to the interpretation board near post 1.

We try to keep it topped up with leaflets so let me know if you find it empty, on
We have applied for another South Glos Environment Grant for a tool store which we hope to install on the site of some old pigsties just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods.
We also intend to buy some scythes in case mowing by the council becomes a thing of the past.  Aaaarrrh!  It's good to revive those old country skills.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Mowing reveals poisonous plants

Now that South Glos Council have mown the grass paths through Filnore Woods, we can spot two more umbellifer plants:  hogweed and hemlock

Hogweed has large flattish flower heads loved by insects in summer, when it flowers most, but you can find this large and common umbellifer in flower all the year round.

The stems are grooved.  The leaves are large and divided into coarse lobes. 

Hemlock on the other hand has a more limited period of flowering - between June and August.  The plant is tall but more delicate than hogweed. 

The leaves are ferny and finely divided, a bit like cow parsley.

This is very poisonous plant. The way to recognise it and to learn not to pick it, is to look at the stems.  They are blotched with purple. 

Purple blotches means hemlock means poison.  Socrates, the Greek philosopher was sentenced to death by drinking an infusion of hemlock.