Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Butterflies in black and white - or is it brown and orange

Now flying at Filnore Woods:

Our most spectacular butterfly now flying is the Marbled White.  They like to sunbathe and are relatively approachable.  They apparently show a preference for purple flowers to get their nectar.   

If the marbled white is easy to approach and photograph, the Ringlet is almost impossible.  They are very dark brown, almost black, with tiny white circles on their wings and a white edge. You don't notice them until they fly.  Then they flap listlessly between the grass stems and you think they will stop any minute but they don't.

Photo: butterfly conservation

A faster flyer is the Meadow Brown.  I managed to zoom in on this one  eventually but I kept losing him because he blended into the background so well.

All the above three butterflies are in the 'brown' butterfly section and their caterpillars feed on various grasses.  

The Comma butterfly lays its eggs on nettles.  It has a very ragged outline but is a very fast flyer so you may just see a flash of orange as it zips past.

Photo: BBC

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Invertebrates in the afternoon

Photo: Alan Watts

Tony Smith of The Bristol Naturalists' Society kindly gave up his Saturday afternoon last week to come and open our eyes to some of the miniature wonders at Filnore Woods.

Such things as cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on ragwort flowers.

Or a spider wrapping a bee in silk, ready for the larder.

Photo: Alan Watts

We were soon getting our invertebrate eyes in and finding our own tiny animals.  Some were very small so a hand lens was needed to see them but we also saw numerous butterflies, lacewings, true bugs and moths.

 At least one of the party has yet to be converted to entomology but our youngest attender was very keen and soon off on his own zoo quest.
 Photo: Alan Watts

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Ash keys

We tend to think of berries and seeds being things of the autumn but already in May the ash tree's 'keys', the winged fruits with the seeds inside, were well developed and just waiting to ripen. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Meadow buttercup

We have two types of buttercup at Filnore.  I haven't provided a photo of the common creeping buttercup, which is a familiar weed in your garden and maybe in the lawn, with its creeping stems and threefold leaves.  It grows much shorter than the tall meadow buttercup below, which stands tall above the grass.

And look at the divided leaves of the meadow buttercup.  This shows it is the more refined relative of its creeping cousin.

Snobbery among the grass blades.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Pignut, Cow Parsley and Hogweed

 Smaller than its cousin the cow parsley, Pignut is only as tall as the grass.  I've cropped the photo so that you can just make out the finely divided filigree leaves near the bottom of the right hand picture.

Cow Parsley is much taller and the leaves are more ferny

Their big relation, the hogweed, is not in flower yet and the leaves are huge.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Blushing Bracket

While clearing some dead willow stems on the path through the old tree nursery at Filnore, we found some crusty old brackets of Daedaleopsis confragosa.    They are usually found on dead willow.  The upper side is orange with concentric rings of yellow.

Underneath, the flesh will bruise to a blood-red colour when the bracket is fresh, giving it the name of 'The blushing Bracket, but these were too old to blush.

The pores are slightly elongated so that the pattern is a bit like another fungus called 'The Maze- gill'.  So this species is sometimes called 'The False Maze-gill'.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Lamb's tongues

 Ribwort plantain named for the pronouned veins on the leaves, is also known as lamb's tongue. 

 They last a good time, with a ring of flowers moving slowly up the conical flowerhead.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Teacher, blues singer and friend

The great tit has a variety of calls but the most easily recognised is the teechah teechah teechah song.  This has earnt him the name 'teacher bird'.

The Blue Tit's song is less easy to describe.  
The alarm call is a rather grumpy chatter like a machine gun.

The 'song', such as it is, is described by Tim Lee of the 'Friends of Aston's Eyot' as 
Blue Tee Tee Tee Tit Tit Tit.

Try Tim's helpful mnemonics for birdsong via this link:

There is also a  'blue-blue' call    'blue-blue      blue-blue'

The smaller, Coal Tit's song is a bit like the Great Tit's but more wistful, like 'fitchew fitchew fitchew'.  It's rather more shy and retiring and can often be found in a conifer tree.

Friday, 12 May 2017


In winter, sycamore can be recognised by its green buds in pairs.  Wild Service Tree is the only other native tree with green buds and they are positioned alternately along the stem, not in opposite pairs like sycamore.

Sycamore seedlings produce two seed leaves at first, and it's not until the third pair of leaves that they begin to look like proper sycamores. 

You can see why sycamore is such a successful coloniser.  It produces so much viable seed.

These seedlings have germinated under a big mother tree in the hedge at Filnore, but they won't all survive.

The above pictures were taken in March, but in mid-April those seedlings had developed their second pair of leaves.  You can see they only have one point.

Whereas in their second year they develop their true leaves with five points.

We have rather an infestation of sycamore in the new plantation near post 2.  We shall have to pull them out or they will take over, shading out other species.

Ash regeneration is also strong but ash is easier to control and doesn't produce the heavy shade of sycamore.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Broad Buckler Fern

 In areas of Filnore Woods where the soil is slightly more acidic, you can find the triangular fronds of Broad Buckler Fern. 

The fronds are darker green than most ferns and the pinnae (like leaflets) are more spreading and widely spaced.

Looking closely you can see that the fern is tripinnate, i.e. the frond is divided into pinnae, which in turn are divided into pinnules and these in turn are divded into pinnulets.  This distiguishes Broad Buckler Fern from other common ferns.

Another clue is that the edges of the little pinnulets are usually curled back slightly, giving a convex look to the foliage.

Sunday, 7 May 2017


This Norway spruce, the common Christmas tree, is just pushing out its new spring foliage, which is a paler green than last year's needles. 

Although European, it is not strictly native to Britain, but we planted it in March 2015 to encourage the birds that like conifers, such as goldcrests and coal tits.

The tree is holding its own amongst the rosebay, along with two scots pines that we planted at the same time.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Early birds

Last Sunday nine of us assembled at 5.00 am to listen to the dawn chorus. It was dark when we set off on our walk and only Blackbirds and a Songthrush could be heard.  but we soon heard Robins, Wood Pigeons, Wrens, Crows and Herring Gulls.

As sunrise arrived we heard three of the warbler gang: Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs in the woodland and a Whitethroat out in the more open grassy area.

Chiffchaff                                        Whitethroat

A Collared Dove, Dunnocks, a Chaffinch, a Blue Tit and a Greenfinch were also heard and a Kestrel was seen hovering and moving on, hovering again and so on, until eventually it dived down, presumably on to an unlucky vole.

We finished our stroll around 6.15 am and returned virtuously to our respective breakfasts.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hazel stool

The hazels in the hedge have been cut down as low as practicable in order to promote new growth from ground level.  this will be laid into a hedge in a few years' time.

Hazels are multi-stemmed and as they mature the stems are squashed together.  When cut, the cross section shows a fascinatingly contorted pattern


Sunday, 30 April 2017


The black cap is burbling away  in the trees now at Filnore and maybe in your garden.  It's a very tuneful, bubbly song, rather like a blackbird but without the sneeze at the end.

Video: Paul Dinning

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Repetitive but varied song.

Although thrushes have been declining in numbers they can still be heard at Filnore Woods.

We shall be listening out for the distinctive song on our Dawn Chorus Walk.  The thrush has a great variety of phrases and often repeats each one two or three times before trying another one.

Another beautiful video from Paul Dinning

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


This is one of the most frequently heard singers we shall hear on Sunday 30th April on our Dawn Chorus Walk.

The robin's song is varied and musical but rather light and wistful.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017


The leaves of Coltsfoot are supposedly shaped like a young horse's footprint.

  They don't appear until after the flowers have gone, although in the photo below you can see the remains of the seedhead.  These plants are at the top of the path leading up to the viewpoint from the Jubilee Way.

The folowing photos, taken at the same location, show coltsfoot flowers, which are around, without the leaves, in February and March.

They look a bit like dandelions but the stems are covered in scales, not smooth tubes like the dandelion.