Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Invasive plants

I suppose any plant that does well and spreads can be called invasive.  We could just as easily call them 'successful' plants.  However, if we want to maintain a varied collection of plant species and a lot of different habitats for invertebrates and other creatures, we have to 'control' the dominant plants to give the others a chance.
So the hogweed with its statuesque seedheads is one.

 And creeping thistle with its creeping roots and it seeds carried by fairies - or thistledown more prosaically.


The Friends of Filnore Woods expend a lot of energy trying to prevent brambles taking over the grassland.  At the end of the summer they send out these long looping stems to root in the grass and form new plants.  (The brambles, I mean, not the FFW.)

 Even oak and ash, the main trees at Filnore, keep trying to turn grassland into wodland.
Acorns planted by jays produce tiny oaks that if left become mighty trees.

 And ash trees produce so many ash keys that they can turn up anywhere.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Path cleared again

The path through the rosebay and bramble in the part of Filnore Woods known as the tree nursery field gets overgrown very quickly.  So our stalwart volunteers set to.
The arisings were stacked, either to be burnt later or to be allowed to rot down. 
The entrance near post 13 now looks much more inviting.

And the path is pleasantly passable as far as post 14.

But we needed a second work day to clear the jungle . .

. . . up past the row of beech trees . . .
. . . as far as post 15, which had, by the way been broken off and removed.

More debris was stacked up.
But this time it was all burnt.  The brambles burn well and once the fire is hot the grass will burn too.   It's not an ideal solution but with the composting site closed, we have to dispose of the arisings somehow.  And bonfires are fun.  In a people-free untamed wilderness fire would be a normal and natural if infrequent process.  So we can think of ourselves as a force of nature.

And to complete the job, post 15 was found and re-installed.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Hip hip hurrah - an autumn stroll

Rose hips shining on their thorny stems. 
One of the sights of autumn.

There's so much to see at this time of year so try and get out for a stroll while the good weather lasts, even if it's not sunny.
We have wild pear trees fruiting in the pylon field.

 And a different sort of fruit - the ash keys which carry the seeds all over the place.  Although we know about ash die-back threatening to kill 90% of our ashes, whichever trees survive will quickly re-colonise, I am sure.

If autumn seems like a sad time to you, with leaves falling to the ground and so many plants dying back, take comfort from the signs of next year's spring.  Already the hazel catkins are showing, ready to grow into 'lambstails' in January and February.

Speckled wood butterflies are still on the wing.  I tried to get close to these two sitting on dock leaves but they fluttered off.

One was still parked when I clicked the shutter but you can see his pal just taking off.

Signs of mammal life.  could it be a badger dropping?  I'm not sure but it was full of the remains of berries.

I can't resist another shot of Old Man's Beard.  In the pic below you can see flowers and seed pods on the same plant.

The garden cross spider females are fattening up with eggs for next year's spiderlings.  She will die in the frosts and never meet her children who will hatch out in the spring.  Sadness and hope together.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Crane fly - mummy longlegs

Here she is, mummy longlegs.  You can tell she's a female because the end of her body is pointed.  This is her ovipositor, which means 'egg-placer'.  She pushes it down into the soil and lays her eggs on grass roots. 
The male's body has a square end.
Like all true flies they only have one pair of wings.  The family name Diptera means 'two-wings'.  Instead of the second pair they have two drumstick organs called halteres.  You can see one in my photo, just behind the wing on the right.
These insects, also known as crane flies, are on the wing now.  The larvae, which have been chomping away on the grass roots through the summer, pupate and hatch out every September. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Haw! Haw Haw ! More berried treasure

Hawthorn bushes are now turning rusty red with haws.
And spindle trees are showing their pink fruits.

They will soon split to show the orange nut inside.

Dogwood's leaves turn beautiful reds and purples in autumn but the berries are shiny black.

Saturday, 13 September 2014


While most birds have become rather quiet we are still hearing the harsh squawking of Jays.  They are in the crow family but are much shyer than most of that gang - crows, rooks, jackdaws and magpies.  Consequently you are more likely to hear jays than see them.  They have a harsh scolding call.

They like acorns and cache them in the grass, so they in fact are important planters of oak trees. 
Grey squirrels who also plant acorns, have a similar call but not quite so loud - kwk kwk kwwwwwk,  kwk kwk kwk kwwwwwwwk.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

leaflets under attack

When I went to replenish the leaflets at the entrance to Filnore Woods, I thought the leaflet holder looked a bit odd.
Looking closer I could see that it had been peppered with (probably) air pistol pellets. 


Monday, 8 September 2014

Thistle amaze you

I saw this swelling on a thistle stem today at Filnore Woods.  Looking it up I discovered it is a gall caused by the Thistle Gall Fly (Urophora cardui).  The eggs are laid in the thistle stem during summer and a fat brown grub develops.  The thistle supplies it with food by growing this gall.
I've never seen this fly but found a picture of it on the NatureSpot website.  Thanks to photographer Barbara Cooper for the image below.
These clourful little flies are about the size of a house fly and are around between May and September.  The larvae grow inside the gall and overwinter inside it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Eliminating hazards

The path edgings and steps, which we have constructed at various points on the trail round Filnore Woods, were made from hazel poles and stakes coppiced from the woodland, with a filler of woodchip.  Unfortunately some of these poles become dislodged and have to be re-staked.  Please send an email to filnorefriends@gmail.com if you see any such hazards.
The trip hazard of the loose step in the lefthand photo below was quickly remedied with some extra stakes and woodchip.
Some unidentified lumberjacks of the future have been practising their undeveloped skills on some of our/your trees.  Here is a small alder tree chopped down in its prime
Once felled, it was obstructing the path a bit but presented no danger - except perhaps to the feller who cut it down without leaving a proper 'hinge' to direct the fall.

More hazardous was the sizeable birch tree cut through and left resting on other foliage, hanging over a path.
This had to be moved and laid on the ground.  Big thank you to the walker who told us about these hazards.

The trees have to be thinned out but we prefer to choose which trees and do it safely.  Perhaps these guys could offer their services as Filnore Friends Volunteers.  We can always do with more.