Monday, 31 October 2016

Clearing paths

Me, Alan and Peter shifting some of the brambles cut to widen the path leading to Vilner Farm.
Photo: Brett Harrison

More work on the steps by the footbridge:  Peter, Jim and Andy cutting back encroaching vegetation.

Before and after.
                                                   Roger in the jungle

 A tousled Eric with Alan, scything up near post six.

Warm work whether now in October or back in July.
Photos: Derek Hore

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Foreigners: Maples and Planes

Walking along the tunnel through the old council tree nursery, I set myself a little puzzle identifying the fallen leaves.  Many of the trees in this part of Filnore Woods are not native but were planted here to wait (in vain as it turned out) for a home in one of our streets or parks.

Here we have Norway Maple on the left and London Plane on the right.

Norway Maple                                               London Plane

 They're quite hard to tell apart.  The London Plane leaves are usually larger and have  lobes which are more triangular, pointing forward, and they feel thicker and more leathery.  The lobes on Norway Maple leaves are more rectangular, tapering at the end.  And the arrangement of the teeth along the edges of the leaves is different.

Just to confuse us, a bit further up the slope there are leaves of the Silver Maple, more finely divided and noticeably paler on the back than the front.

Go and have a look for yourself.

Oh and here's another common but non-native maple, which you will find planted in our streets.  The Cappadocian Maple.has much simpler leaves with just five points. and no side-whiskers.  It goes a bright yellow in autumn.

 I found these leaves under the tree at the entrance to Stafford Crescent.  That's a Cappadocian Maple below with a Purple Norway Maple behind it.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Autumn Music

A commonly heard sound at this time of year, often mistaken for a bird, is the call of a squirrel.  It's a sort of Donald Duck barking.  I'm not sure if it is squirrels talking to each other or maybe a warning that a predator is about, but it does sound a bit cross.  Have a listen to this youtube video.

Squirrel barking and squeaking  by Paula Chambers

This is the grey squirrel.  Although they can be very entertaining to watch some people hate them.  This may be because they damage trees  (particularly sycamore and beech), eat birds eggs, plunder bird tables, or eat through electric cables.  

Unfortunately their introduction from North America coincided with the decline of the British red squirrel, now confined to only a few sites in Britain.  The grey squirrels are more robust and adaptable and can, for example, feast on acorns and hazel nuts before they are ripe.  They make better use of the available food supplies and so the reds are ousted.

They also carry a disease, the parapox virus which doesn't kill them but which can kill red squirrels.  The two species cannot exist together.  

In the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Brownsea Island, Cornwall, Northern England and Scotland there are programmes to help the red squirrel survive.  This of course involves managing (i.e. killing) grey squirrels.  Fair enough.  But in the Filnore Woods area we have no reds.

Some people justify their dislike of the greys by saying they are 'American',  They're not Donald Trump, you know!  Most Americans are just as nice as us!

Well I rather like grey squirrels in spite of their faults.  If only there was a reliable predator to keep their numbers in check.  

Red squirrels were also persecuted as pests when they were plentiful, before those greys arrived.  

We just don't like successful plants (weeds) or successful animals (pests), do we.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


Spotted this week at Filnore Woods.  These Hogweed plants can go on flowering right into winter.   Although they are very attractive to look at, their perfume is .  .  .  errrm .  .  .  unusual.  Like something from a farmyard.

Even when the flowers have died, the seedheads command attention, like sculptures, as seen below against a dark backdrop of hawthorn. .

So many seeds per plant.  This is why we have so much of the stuff.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Field Maple

What is that tree covered in brown butterflies, I thought.  

A closer look revealed the fruits of Field Maple (Acer campestre) our only native maple.  The fruits, rather like sycamore 'helicopters', have a seed at one end and a wing to help spread the seed over a wider area.

These winged fruits or keys are properly known as 'samaras'.  As they are carried in pairs until they are ripe, they do look a bit like brown butterflies, or perhaps moths.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016


The black berries of Dogwood  (Cornus sanguinea) have ripened but are not for us humans to eat.  The scientific name   'sanguinea' means 'blood-red', the colour of the stems  in winter, which helps you to identify it.

When the leaves are still on the bushes, the prominent veins also help identification.  The parallel veins head out towards the edge of the leaf but then curve inwards and never reach the edge.

For the foolproof test for any of the Dogwood (Cornus) species, see my posting for 2 September 2013.

Dogwood never really grows into a tree but it is a very vigorous shrub as you can see all over Filnore Woods.  See how it has come back after coppicing, near the pylon.