Friday, 29 January 2016

Holes in the ground

I wonder who has been digging round cherry tree roots in the old nursery.  Could it be badgers, squirrels, rabbits or deer?

There are aslo about ten excavations near the bench up at the viewpoint.  Mysterious!

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Tree ID 5: Early elder

Although elder is usually the first broad-leaved tree to produce leaves in the spring, it is unusual to see the buds opening so early in January.  In fact I took this photo on December 29th.

Identify elder by the purple or pink buds in opposite pairs along the pale, spotty twigs.

The bark on the trunk and mature branches is marked with deep grooves or fissures (pronounced 'fishers'). 

Elder bushes or trees often have broken branches but new ones grow to replace them, arching up and curving outwards.

Another clue is the Jelly Ear  or Jew's Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)  which grows almost exclusively on dead or dying elder branches.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Green woodpecker

The other day, during a sunny spell, I heard and saw a green woodpecker at Filnore Woods. 

photo from www.2

They are often easier to see when stabbing for ants in short grass or when flying away with their undulating switchback flight, but the one I saw was in an ash tree.  I noticed it because of its laughing call.  I didn't get the joke myself but the woodpecker was clearly very amused.

Below is a link to Gradimir Jovtchev's excellent recordings of the bird's laughing song and more strident calls.

I have heard several green woodpeckers this December and January.  Is this unusual?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Tree ID 4. Beech twigs

The long pointed buds on thin, zig-zag twigs help you recognise Beech.

We have a ring of beeches planted up at the Viewpoint in Filnore Woods.

As winter progresses you can see the white lining of hairs on the end of each bud scale.

Some of the buds on the big trees near posts 18 and 19 are already swelling prior to budburst.

They may regret it when the frosts come.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Tree ID 3> Ash twigs and keys

Ash buds are black.  Young twigs are straight and smooth.

More mature trees grow more slowly and the buds are closer together

Typically the buds along the twig are nearly opposite but slightly offset.

And of course the presence of ash keys hanging on female trees is another clue to identification.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Winter tree ident 2: Oak buds

Oak twigs can be recognised by looking at the terminal bud, that is the bud at the end of a shoot.  Instead of one bud there is always a cluster. 

It's a pretty good rule for identifying oaks.  They all have multiple terminal buds and nothing much else does.

Except cherries, but then you can see it's a cherry from the horizontal stripes on the trunk.

Cherry twig

Friday, 8 January 2016

Tree ID 1: Catkins on hazel and alder

You are probably familiar with hazel catkins.  They seem to be a bit early this year.

You can usually tell a hazel bush because it has a lot of stems all springing from ground level.  It's a shrub rather than a tree.

But spring also brings out long catkins on alder trees.  See below.

How to tell the difference?

Alders not only carry catkins, the male flowers, but also frequently still have last year's seed-bearing conelets.  They look a bit like very small pine cones hanging in bunches.

These catkins and conelets are on a Grey Alder (Alnus incana) in the Tesco car park, blooming in the sun last Tuesday.

We also have several Italian Alders (Alnus cordata) around Thornbury.  They have much bigger conelets.

But in Filnore Woods we have the native Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa), which grows tall and straight and thrives in wet ground and alongside streams and rivers.  The picture below is a common alder near post 20 and the white tool shed.

You can often detect from a distance the location of a stream, by recognising the distinctive shape of common alder trees growing all along the banks.


Monday, 4 January 2016

Winter gnats (Trichocera sp)

A sunny day after rain and our stream is flowing again from Merry Heaven Farm, through Filnore Woods towards Vilner Lane.

If you look hard you may be able to make out a cloud of Winter Gnats hovering in the sunlight above the stream.  I couldn't get them to stay still and smile, AND the camera was pointing into the sun.  That's why they showed up so nicely.  Here is a crop of the above photo, showing little beige dots, which are the gnats.

And another shot below.  They are like tiny crane flies.  The males do this aerial dance to attract females.  The eggs are laid in decaying wood and fungi, where the tiny larvae feed.  

They are called winter gnats because they are more common in winter, but they can be found all the year round.

Winter gnats are attracted to light but they do not bite.  Enjoy the dance display if you see them.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Flowers at Christmas

A stroll through Filnore Woods last week revealed more plants in flower than you might expect at this time of year

Cocksfoot grass


White deadnettle



Primrose - just starting up

Ragwort - just closing down

Dandelion - not very self-confident





and the first spiky leaves of bluebells in front of a polypody fern.
(wood avens leaves to the right)