Friday, 28 February 2014

Nestboxes and nests

As the nesting season is supposed to start on 1st March, I thought I'd check the eight nestboxes we put up last spring (see blog post for 18/3/13).  Well we know one had been broken up but I could only find four of them.  It's not immediately obvious to me how to tell if they are occupied.
But something has been happening on this one.  Either a nuthatch, a woodpecker or more likely a squirrel has been trying to make the hole bigger.

The nest boxes are for small hole-nesting birds like tits but what I did find was loads of nests in the trees.

Some are probably pigeons and maybe we have some crows. The ball-shaped one (photo below right) is a magpie, I think.  They include a roof on theirs.

Some nests are quite close together but I don't think we have a rookery yet.  Rooks prefer bigger trees - and they make a lot of noise.
These trees certainly need thinning out, don't they.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Signs of spring - primroses

I came across this gallant little flower in the Valley woodland just above post 9.

Then I noticed a little bunch of primroses lower down the slope, surrounded by hundreds of waking celandine plants with their heart-shaped leaves.

Spring is arriving!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Know your onions

Photo: Simon Harding
Crow Garlic is the commonest member of the onion genus in the wild.  A whole lot of them are colonising the woodland near the pylon at Filnore. 

Photo: Simon Harding
The leaves are like chives but the flowers in May and June are less spectacular.  Sometimes they just produce little bulbils instead on the top of the flower stalk.
Photo: wikipedia

These bulbils or little bulbs can lie dormant in the soil for a long time and then become new Crow Garlic plants.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Holes in the hedgerow

Simon pointed out to me that there is an advantage in winter for mammal watching:  their burrows and holes show up better when there is less vegetation around.  He took these pictures.
Probably a rabbit's entrance

A hole for a vole?  in the middle of the picture.
Another rodent's front door
Definitely rabbitty

Mole development


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Heaps of moles

We know that someone's awake.
Moles seem to be very active in the welcome area just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods.
Bad news if you're a worm, but it's good to have evidence of some mammalian wildlife at Filnore.
According to BBC Nature, where I found the picture, they can create up to 20m of tunnel in a day!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Signs of spring - white dead-nettle

In flower now at Filnore.  Hurry, hurry, hurry!
Perhaps this is not so much a sign of spring as a sign that we are having a mild winter.  The flower books tell me that it normally flowers from May till December, or March till November, depending which book you read.  Either way it should not be blooming in January and February - but it is. 
The white deadnettle leaves look like stinging nettle leaves but they are quite stingless, hence the name deadnettle.  But once it produces its rings of white snapdragon-like flowers there is no mistaking it for a stinger.
   Stinging nettle flowers are clusters of long green catkins which appear in summer, June to August.

If you're not sure which plant is which you can always touch them and you'll soon know if it's a stinger.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014


Steve and Derek harvesting poles
What is coppicing ?
Roger and Simon with saws and loppers
The idea is to harvest a crop of wood, small diameter poles, every ten years or so.  Most broadleaved trees (not conifers) will grow again if cut nearly to the ground (coppiced) so you get a continuous production of poles.  One of the most productive is hazel.
 Simon and Roger in the plantation in pylon field
A different bit of the woodland is coppiced each year and the stools (roots) are left to re-grow

What is the wood used for ?
The poles can be used to make fences, hurdles, beansticks, plant stakes and supports, tent pegs, besoms (witches' brooms), furniture, baskets and much more.

bean sticks                                                 hedging stakes

a laid hedge

 a hazel hurdle just being finished

twiggy peasticks
Why re-introduce coppicing ?
Many woodlands were managed in this way until the second world war. Since then many have been left unmanaged and have become less varied habitats for wildlife. To bring these woodlands back into production and to increase the numbers of primroses, bluebells, butterflies, nightingales and dormice, it is often a good idea to start coppicing again. After 50 years the trees will have grown too big to be much use except as firewood or barbecue charcoal.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Bird survey 2013

Here is Rob Collis's Filnore Woods bird survey for 2013.
We have 4 new species compared to 2012: 
Pied Wagtail, Little Owl,Lesser Whitethroat, and Stock Dove,
  . . . . while seven of those recorded in 2012 (see blog post dated 28/03/2012) were not noted in 2013, namely Coal Tit, Grey Heron, Mallard, Yellowhammer, Swallow, Whitethroat and Mistle Thrush
By looking at the relative numbers and which months they occur in you can see, for example, that Fieldfares and Redwings are winter visitors, Chiffchaffs are summer visitors and Blue Tits are there all the year round.
Many thanks to Rob for his continuing efforts.