Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thistles, scotch and creeping

The sun shines through the gold-coloured grass stems and these heads of thistledown.

We used to call the flying bits of fluff 'fairies' when I were a lad.  But of course they are the thistle's very effective way of distributing its seeds over quite long distances.

These are the seeds of the very common Creeping Thistle, (Cirsium arvense)which not only spreads by seed but by creeping underground stems as well.

The flowers are quite pretty and very attractive to pollinating insects.

But even more impressive are the flowers of the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgarealso known as the Scotch Thistle. 

Very spiky!

Saturday, 26 September 2015


Dogwood bushes at Filnore Woods are full of bunches of rich black berries - but slightly toxic to humans so don't try them unless you want the runs.

Dogwood leaves turn all sorts of colours as autumn approaches, from pinks . . . .

.  .  .  to  bronze .  .  .

.  .  .  to dark red.

Whole bushes will stay green or turn dark purple, depending on where they are and what soil and weather conditions they meet.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Still flowers to enjoy

There are still some colourful flowers to enjoy, though admittedly not in such large numbers.

The old favourite Dandelion keeps on through the year but it's in March that they appear in their thousands.

Herb Robert quietly shines out from under other taller plants

Buttercups are also ordinary, if you like, but they light up the grass  .  .  .

.  .  .  as do Ragwort flowers

The last of the yellow Agrimony flowers are turning into tall stalks with tiny velcroed shuttlecock fruits which attach to your clothes.

And perhaps less dramatic, the Sow Thistle.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Things on trees and in the grass

Autumn is the time when many of the fungi, which have been living out of sight underground, or inside trees, produce their fruiting bodies.  These can be toadstools or bracket fungi.  

These fruiting bodies are called King Alfred's Cakes and grow mostly on dead ash wood.  Inside they have concentric rings like tree rings which gives the species its scientific name of Daldinia concentrica.

In the grass by post number 1 found several examples of this big orange job.  Our fungus expert, Simon, tells me it's probably a Boletus toadstool.  Some of them can be poisonous so don't eat.

These two, probably Macrolepiota proceragrowing near one of the large beech trees, were just flattening out into a toadstool shape when I came across them.  What a piece of architecture!

The dead and fallen branches of the beech tree itself are decorated by another fungus, Bjerkandera adusta.

Just inside the main entrance in the grass, we have our annual crop of giant puffballs.  These would grow to the size of small footballs if left to develop, 

.  .  .  .  but unfortunately they often get kicked to bits and never reach their full glory.

One rather less welcome arrival in the grass was left by a large, probably canine, mammal, so watch where you are treading.

These can also appear in a longer-lasting form on trees and bushes.  Look out!

We are grateful to all those who clear up after their dogs and those who take their litter home.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Raucous Jays

At our work morning last Sunday, there was not a lot of birdsong to be heard.  There was a Dunnock chattering and a friendly Robin, who came looking for any insects or spiders we had disturbed while clearing vegetation.

But one very loud call was heard repeatedly.  We didn't see any Jays, because they are very shy and wary birds, quite unlike robins.  But the call is unmistakeable.

I'm not quite sure if this picture is of a juvenile but you can hear the call quite clearly on this video.

(Louise Bailey has kindly pointed out that this photo is of an American Blue Jay, but later pics on the video are of the European Jay)

Jays are very busy at this time of year collecting acorns and stashing them for a snack later in winter.  This makes them one of the prime planters of oak woodlands.  Acorns will not grow unless they touch the actual soil so Jays do the job.

I wrote another post about Jays on 13th September last year.  check it on the archive on the right side of the blog page. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Fallen beech branch

One of our two massive beech trees, near post 19, has suffered some injuries in the last few months.

Two large branches actually peeled off and fell.  Thank goodness no-one was underneath.

Some of the remaining branches were also covered in Bjerkandera fungus, which showed that the wood was largely dead.

The branches have now been shortened  .  .  .

.  .  .  leaving some useful timber on the ground.  
Notice how the nettles and brambles are encroaching now that the deep shade of the beech canopy has been removed. 

The twigs and small wood were turned into woodchip, 
which we can use on the paths and steps.

 Some of the other branches were also shortened 
to reduce the leverage forces exerted by the wind.

We have been able to retain the tree but it now presents less of a risk to people.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Blackberries and the Devil

Now is the time to pick your Filnore Woods blackberries.

Some have gone over and shrivelled up but you can see in the photo that some are still ripening from green to red to juicy black.

Don't leave it too long though because on October 11th the Devil spits on blackberries and the taste is not so good - sort of 'thin'.  

The legend tells that the Devil was thrown out of Heaven on October 11th and landed in a blackberry bush.   If you've ever fallen into a prickly bramble bush you'll know why he takes his revenge every year on October 11th. 

In the Radio 4 series 'Natural Histories'  (highly recommended)  the next programme is about brambles.  'Brett Westwood explores how brambles appear in art, literature, forensics and religion.'

Radio 4, Tuesday 15th September, 11.00 am.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Fritillary butterfly

Here is a photo of a Fritillary butterfly, taken by one of our volunteers near the Tyndale Monument at North Nibley.

Photo Derek Hore

It could be a Silver-washed Fritillary or a Dark Green Fritillary, depending on the colour on the underside of its wings.

Could we attract some of these striking butterflies to Filnore Woods? That's about 10 miles away in a straight line 'as the crow flies.'
(or should I say 'as the butter flies?')

The Silver-washed likes woodland and the Dark Green prefers flower-rich grassland, but they both depend on violets as a food plant for their caterpillars.  
And at Filnore Woods . . . .violets we have.

They flower in spring at the same time as primroses but it's the leaves that the fritillary caterpillars eat.

We even have white violets.

Violet photos: Simon Harding