Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Filnore Woods time - nature's clocks

A memory of last summer and a foretaste of next spring
One o'clock, 2 o'clock, 3 o'clock . . . . . . dandelion clocks are a good way of calculating the time.  You can decide what time it is for yourself by how hard you blow.
And away go the tiny seeds on a downy parachute.  Several flowers per plant and hundreds of seeds make it a wild flower which is very successful at spreading  ---  or a weed as we often call successful and common plants!  

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Visitors from the north

Fieldfares have now been recorded again at Filnore Woods. 
 I last mentioned them in my post for November 5th last year.  You may have heard the "chack, chack" squawks of them in your garden if you have left fallen apples on the ground.  They come to us every winter from Scandinavia and northern Europe. 
Fieldfares are large grey thrushes with long tails and they will sometimes be  feasting in flocks on berries, in the company of the smaller and slightly shyer Redwings, another Scandinavian thrush species, which, as you may have guessed, have reddish-brown patches on their flanks and under their wings . 

I often think Fieldfares look rather more severe than redwings.  It must be that dark patch around the eye.  Redwings have a white eyebrow stripe and another stripe across the cheek.
To hear their calls listen on 'Brett Westwood's Birdsong Recordings'.  There is a link on the right of the blog page, below the blog archive,  headed <Helpful links>.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

November stroll

I took a few pics on my stroll round Filnore Woods.  Even on a dull day there is colour in the woods and fields.  As the leaves die they in turn will feed the growth of next spring.  Living and dying goes on all through the year, each dependent on the other.
Although it can overwhelm other plants, bracken brings an attactive splash of colour right through the winter.
Dogwood leaves are still painting the woodland edge.
Guelder Rose shines with both golden leaves and scarlet berries.

Rosehips glow like scarlet jewels.

Do you see a white patch along the path?

Somebody killed a pigeon here.  If it was a fox, the feathers would have been bitten off but it looks to me as though the feathers were pulled out.  This would suggest a bird of prey made the kill.
 There are still flowers to be found.  This pignut flower I found the other day usually shows between May and July.  But like the buttercup I found recently (29th Oct), it's having a late flowering.
And here is a mystery.  We haven't planted any horse chestnut trees and there aren't any nearby.  So who planted a conker here?  Was it a squirrel?  or a jay?  or a human? 


Saturday, 16 November 2013

Busy volunteers

Last Sunday a team of ten Filnore Friends set to work widening paths and making a first cut of hazel coppice.  Here are a couple of hazel stools, as we call the cut bushes.  (plus Mr Darcey the dog rushing helpfully around)
The twigs are trimmed off.  You can see them stacked on the right in the photo below.  The remaining poles of various thicknesses and lengths will be put to work.

  One of the uses is to edge paths and to make steps.  These steps near the wooden footbridge were fixed in place last year, which made the path a bit easier to negotiate.  We shall be doing more where the path is steep. 

The handrail of the bridge had been snapped somehow so it has been temporarily repaired

On the other side of the bridge our workers cut back the overgrowing sides of the path.  The wider the paths are the less wear they get.  Use the sides of the path, if you can, rather than churning down the muddy middle.  This will help to keep them open.
Thanks to Gemma for the photos.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Track improvements

It looks like a motorway at the moment but it will blend in soon enough. 

South Gloucestershire Council gave us a grant to re-inforce this small section of track, which has been a quagmire in recent winters.  We have had it professionally done by contractor Chris Belcher, with stone over a membrane, topped off with stone dust.  The camber slopes so that any surplus surface water will drain off the track.

Hopefully this bit of track re-inforcement will allow us to drive in when necessary, even in winter.  It should also make it pleasanter for walkers once nature has softened the appearance.
It will be interesting to see how soon the bare earth is colonised again by plants.



Friday, 8 November 2013

Coppicing hazel

Hazel is a plant that naturally produces a lot of stems from the roots.
   If left alone, many of these stems will die,

but if you cut it back to ground level you can get a crop of poles every five years or so, ideal for bean sticks  The twiggy tops can be used for pea sticks.
If you leave it a bit longer than five years the wood gets thicker

and can be used for rustic poles and pergolas, or for hedging stakes. 
Coppicing is traditionally done in winter when the plant is dormant.  The harvested poles are then less likely to rot.  They only last a few years if left outside, but you can always cut another 'stool' or two, as the roots are called.
Most of our native broad-leaved trees (not the conifers) will coppice.  That is, you can cut them right down without killing them.  This technique for managing woodlands produced a mosaic of habitats with bare ground, half-grown coppice wood and mature trees, which was great for a very varied wild life.
Coppicing was used in the past to produce all sorts of products that are now frequently made of plastic. 
In about 1900 coppicing was pretty well abandoned
because it didn't pay. 
Since the 1970's it has been used more as a conservation tool to create varied habitats for flowers, insects and birds.  Ideally it can be used to make useful stuff as well as to promote biodiversity. 

At Filnore Woods we will be making use of the wood we cut for posts, hedging stakes, stepbuilding and path edging. Any left over stuff will become bean poles, pea sticks, firewood or even charcoal. This could become a source of income for the Friends of Filnore Woods, as we have no income at all at present.



Saturday, 2 November 2013

Not animals, not plants

  There are about 1000 species of larger fungi in Britain, and autumn is the season when they are most easily seen.  The bits we see, the toadstools and the brackets and the other strange forms, are just the fruiting bodies.  The main part of the fungus is the white threads of mycelium which grow out of sight under the soil or inside wood.
The fruitng bodies produce spores which give rise to more individuals of the species.  These spores usually fall out of the gills or the pores on the underside of the fruiting body.  Under this little parasol in the grass you can just about make out the gills radiating from the centre.
Most of the bracket fungi have little holes or pores instead of gills and the powdery spores drop out of these.  Here we have four brackets of The Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa), which specialises on willow.

You can tell the brackets grew after the branch fell down because they grow parallel to the ground.

Underneath, the bracket is grey but if bruised when fresh it turns red .  Hence thename "blushing bracket".  The little pores start off like dots but elongate into slots.

Some striking, edible or poisonous fungi have English names but most only have scientific names in a sort of Latin.  Efforts are being made to give them all English names so that they become more familiar to more people.  Fungi are very important in the ecosystem, breaking down wood and leaves and animal remains but this makes them rather unattractive to most people.

I know about 30 so far, which means only about 970 more to master.  This one is the Candle Snuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon).  You can see how tiny it is.
All these pics were taken at Filnore last Friday, 29th October.  Now's the time to go and hunt for more.  If you can get over the inbuilt prejudice we have against them in Britain, there is a host of new fungal friends to make.