Saturday, 30 April 2016

Jack by the Hedge and Lady's Smock

Currently, in the skate park field adjacent to Filnore Woods, there is a flush of Lady's Smock, along with the buttercups and dandelions.  

It is also known as Cuckoo Flower, because it flowers at the time the cuckoo arrives, 
and the less well-known name of Milkmaids.

We usually get some near post 5 in the woods but I haven't noticed them yet this year

Lady's Smock is one of the foodplants for the caterpillars of the orange tip butterfly.

The other favourite foodplant for these caterpillars is Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-Hedge.

This plant gets its name by the way the individual flower stems stand stiffly vertical alongside roadside hedges.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016


On the ground in the coppice coupe there are loads of hazel nut shells.  Either this means we have been feeding the squirrels or, perhaps, we are going to get a lot of new hazel bushes.  Probably the former, unfortunately.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Beanpole sale

Laying out the produce for our beanpole sale today.

From beansticks

to medium plant stakes

 down to really small stakes

Sustainable coppice produce.
All profits to the management of Filnore Woods
New VOLUNTEERS always welcome.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Dawn Chorus Walk

This Sunday, 24th April, 5.00 am at Filnore Woods.  Meet at field gate on far side of Thornbury Leisure Centre car park.

Learn to recognise these birds without seeing them!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stakes and chips - beanpole sale

A lot of stake sharpening happened the weekend before last, which produced a lot of woodchips.

Straightness of sticks is the most important followed by length.

We had five axes on the go on five chopping blocks.

Then the longer poles and shorter stakes were sorted for size, bundled up   .  .  .

.  .  .  .  and loaded on the truck to take down to the White House - our shed.

The bean pole sale is on Saturday 23rd April on the far side of the Leisure Centre car park, from 10.00 am till they're all sold, or noon at the latest.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Ash Bark Beetle

This piece of dead ash wood looks as if it has been used as a dart board.

But no.  These are the holes where adult Ash Bark Beetles (Leperisinus varius) have emerged, probably last summer.

When the bark is removed you can see the typical pattern of galleries tunnelled by the beetle grubs as they fed on the nutritious substances just under the bark.

The female beetle lays eggs in a horizontal line and the larvae tunnel either upwards or downwards, avoiding each other.  

Monday, 18 April 2016


While I was up at the coppice coupe enjoying the rural peace of Filnore Woods, my ears were assailed by a very industrial -sounding noise.  It was a sort of metal clanging.

As I was next to the pylon, which gives its name to the pylon field, I glanced up as the noise came again.  Then I saw somebody small, and black and white flying off into the woods.

Photo: Mali, Littlehampton

It was a greater spotted woodpecker.  At this time of year they do their 'drumming'  to establish their territories.  It's a sort of machine gun noise or a drum roll, usually on a tree.  The bigger and more hollow the tree is the better, because it makes a bigger and better sound and intimidates rivals.  This is competitive drumming.

Photo: paulmitch

Well this particular pecker at Filnore has discovered that the pylon makes the best sound ever.  I've heard him several times since, r-r-r-r-rapping out his metallic signal to all in the neighbourhood.  It really carries.

Fortunately woodpeckers have thick skulls and strong neck muscles so they don't get headaches when pecking at up to 20 blows per second.

They like feeding on insects especially in dead and dying trees, so we mustn't cut down all our dead wood.  In winter they feed on conifer seeds, so perhaps we need to plant a few more conifers.

Come to our Dawn Chorus Walk 5.00 am on Sunday 24th April at Filnore Woods.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Bird Cherry

The Bird Cherry tree is one of the earlier trees to leaf up in spring and it also produces attractive sprays of white flowers.

It is more common in the north of England and in Scotland but we have a few in Filnore Woods and they are blooming NOW.

Once the flowers have gone it is harder to recognise the tree.  The bark may have little orange spots (lenticels) and the leaves are errrm .  .  .  . leaf-shaped and a dull textured green, with tiny little teeth round the edge.  However, if you pick a leaf or two and examine the stalk where it joins the leaf, you will find two little pimples.  These glands can be found near the junction of leaf and stalk on all cherries - a useful clue for identification.

It doesn't like the deep shade of woods and grows best on the woodland edge or out in the open, where the flowers are a welcome sight.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Bramble leaf miner

As the last of the hazel catkins fade, I noticed another little natural wonder:  the pattern left by the caterpillar of a micromoth called Stigmella aurella or the Bramble Leaf Miner.

Here it is a bit closer.

This example of natural graffiti is caused by the tiny caterpillar hatching and eating its way between the upper and lower layers of the leaf, scoffing all the good stuff in between.

As it eats its way along its self-made burrow, it gets fatter and so the burrow does too.  You can just about see the hairline beginning of the tunnel on the top left of the bramble leaf.

Eventually it is big enough to pupate and, shortly after, it emerges as a tiny moth, as shown in this photo from the Islay Natural History Trust website.  Thank you Islay.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

April flowers

Instead of April showers today's sunny afternoon gave a display of April flowers.  Most wild flowers are smaller and less dramatic than cultivated varieties but beautiful in their profusion or when you get down close to them.

Ground ivy on the hedge bank near the entrance

Not to be confused with red dead nettle, which is pink rather than blue.

And here are some white dead nettles growing amongst stinging nettles.  Deadnettles are not related to stingers;  they just look similar, which gives them protection.

If these were rare, people would rave about them.  The dandelion flush is late this year; it usually comes in March

Celandines are still shining

This little clump was under some blackthorn

Nearby on the steps, the sun had brought out some violets

And of course the bluebells, which have increased enormously at Filnore Woods in the last few years

What's that interesting blue flower on the ash trees roots, I wondered.

Oh dear.  
I picked several of these fragrant blooms today and carried them home to a rubbish bin.

 Primroses are begining to go over but there are still some nice clumps in the Valley Wood

And between posts 9 and 10,   I found these tiny barren strawberries.  

They are not the plants that produce juicy fruits; just little nutlets.  You can tell because the sepals show in the gaps between the petals

And when they are not in flower, the leaves are different.  Like the fruity wild strawberries, the leaves are composed of three leaflets.  The last tooth on the end of the central leaflet of a true wild strawberry leaf is longer than the teeth to either side,  but on the barren strawberry its so small you can hardly see it.

And although they are not so spectacular, we must celebrate the profusion of Dog's Mercury.

It's an indicator that Filnore is an ancient woodland site.