Monday, 14 August 2017

Mowing the viewpoint

On Sunday six of us wielded our scythes and rakes and pitchforks to mow the grassy area up by the viewpoint.


And what a view.





Thursday, 10 August 2017

Bank crisis solved

At the stream crossing near the 'White House', I noticed a lot of flood debris and a channel to the right, where surplus water had drained away.


Our stream has been more or less killed by activities at Merry Heaven Farm upstream from Filnore Woods, where they have built a huge dam.  But every now and then, when we have a downpour, water comes charging down the channel again, too fast for the pipe under the path.  Debris blocks the pipe and we get flooding and erosion.

This was what it was like in December 2013 before the dam at Merry Heaven Farm.


Last week the bank had collapsed into the stream bed.  
We shored it up with large rocks and wait to see what happens in the next rainstorm.

Peter's stonework


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Field Scabious


Scabious flowers vary from mauvey blue (above) to pink, as in the following three photos by Simon Harding 



with a burnet moth above



and a small tortoiseshell butterfly below.


The buds are also attractive,


as are the seed heads,


like pomanders



Thursday, 3 August 2017

More insects visiting flowers

Scabious is a great favourite of pollinating insects like this bumble bee.

Interestingly this little moth or butterfly, - possibly a meadow brown, - did not move even when I touched the flower.  My guess is that it had been killed or paralysed by a crab spider hiding in the flower. See my post of 8th July. 


Hogweed is also popular with insects, especially these soldier beetles (Rhagonycha fulva).  They feed on aphids and the larvae feed on slugs and snails so they would be welcome in my garden. 


As you may notice, the beetles spend a lot of their adult lives mating. 




Monday, 31 July 2017

Rosebay willow herb

Along the path in the old tree nursery at Filnore Woods you will find white hogweed, yellow ragwort and pink rosebay.


The pink spires of rosebay willow herb will give way to fluffy seeds in a few weeks. 


We also have quite a lot of the related Great Willow Herb


Both species, although beautiful, are rather invasive.


Friday, 28 July 2017

Field Bindweed


Field bindweed at Filnore Woods

The Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) is currently decorating the grassland at Filnore with it's almond-scented flowers, white with five pink patches.  It attracts many insects.

 Hedge bindweed.  

It's relative the Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) has much bigger trumpet-shaped flowers which are usually white. The leaves are bigger too and more heart-shaped than the arroe-head leaves of field bindweed.

The flowers of hedge bindweed have no scent but are visited by the convolvulus hawk moth which sucks out the nectar with its extra long tongue. 

Photo: Keith Baldie of Butterfly Conservation

The Convolvulus Hawkmoth (Agrius convolvuli) is spectacular with its black and pink striped body.  It only flies at night but you may see it parked on a wall or tree trunk during the day.

They can't take our cold damp winters so the ones we see are migrants from Africa, flying low over the sea.  Although they lay eggs and the caterpillars hatch, they die off with the frosts in November.  Maybe global warming will change this.








Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Rowan berries ripening

Rowan, also known as mountain ash because the leaves are similar to ash tree leaves, although not related, is already ripening its berries 


And some are fully ripe, ready for birds to scoff.


The Woodland Trust 'British Trees' web pages give the following information about rowan's value to wildlife

'The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the larger Welsh wave and autumn green carpet. Caterpillars of the apple fruit moth feed on the berries.
Flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees and other pollinating insects, while the berries are a rich source of autumn food for birds, especially the blackbird, mistle thrush, redstart, redwing, song thrush, fieldfare and waxwing.'
~you can check the Woodland Trust's excellent tree pages at the following link.




Sunday, 23 July 2017

Hazel nuts


Tasty hazel nuts are there for the picking but you have to get them before the squirrels do.



Friday, 21 July 2017

Filnore flowers late July

Filnore flowers today

Hogweed



Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)


Perforate St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)





Rosebay Willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium)

Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius)

Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)


Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)



Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa)


 Yarrow (Achilea millefolium)
growing in a large patch




Thursday, 20 July 2017

Wild arum berries

The dramatic green sheaths of the wild arum soon wither away in spring 


but the pollinated spike has been quietly growing into fat green berries, which are now turning orange and luminous red as they ripen.




Don't try eating them, but show your young relations how to recognise these slightly poisonous berries.





Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Mowing

Long grass is good for many creatures but unless it is mown regularly it turns into scrub and then woodland.  We want to retain areas of grassland for wildflowers, butterflies and other invertebrates.  This is why we have to cut the grass.


We use scythes because the steep slopes make it too dangerous for mowing machines.


Cutting the grass is only the first stage.  Then it has to be raked up and removed to allow flowering plants to re-grow.


 It's no bowling green but we cut out not only the long grass but also the dead thatch of previous years.


It's thirsty work. 


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Big butterfly count

Marbled White butterfly on Knapweed at Filnore Woods

Here's how to help conserve our butterflies.  Take part in the Big Buttefly Count, which runs from 14th July - 6th August. Follow this link to see why it's important.

Big Butterfly Count video


You just have to sit somewhere for 15 minutes and count how many butterflies you see.  Find out more on the Butterfly Conservation website, including a very clear identification chart for the 20 commonest butterflies and moths.

Big Butterfly count homepage 


Meadow Brown butterfly at Filnore Woods



Thursday, 13 July 2017

Sawfly larvae

Strictly speaking caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and moths.  They have three pairs of true legs at the front and up to five pairs of stumpy pro-legs along their body.

The characters below have SIX pairs of pro-legs.  they are the larvae of a sawfly, so-called because the female has a saw-like organ at the end of her body to cut a slit in a leaf and lay her eggs inside. 


When alarmed, the larvae stick out their tails to scare the predator off.  You can see in the photo on the left above that one of them is a bit slower to react but in the right hand photo it has joined in the alarmed position adopted by its siblings - a good photo-opportunity.

Another clue to suggest it's a sawfly larva:  the black dots along the back and sides.  These photos are of the rose sawfly (Arge pagana)




These fine photos supplied by Alan Watts.

A similar sawfly larva (Nematus pavidus) gobbles pussy willow leaves.

You may also be familiar with the larvae of the gooseberry sawfly (Nematus ribesii), which is pale green with black spots rather than yellow.  They feed in gangs and can quickly defoliate your gooseberry bushes.


The solomon's seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima) larvae will defoliate a solomon's seal plant even faster.  They are white with black spots but you don't usually notice them until they have devoured the plant and moved on.

Sawflies are nearly all specific to one particular plant species.



Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Tree planting

 In early April Jim and Derek planted three trees up near the viewpoint.  They were an oak, a hornbeam and a birch.  April is rather late to plant trees but as they were in pots there was a good chance of survival as long as we kept watering them.

Derek had rather a hard time as he encountered rock just below the surface. 
  

Here's Jim planting the oak, donated by Robin and Stephanie Cole-Morgan


It looked a bit better with a few leaves on in May. 


Not much change since then but  .  .  .  .  .


.  .  .  .  . new buds at the top presage a second flush of growth in July



The hornbeam from Dave Rowley was a more substantial treelet. 



Looking a bit thirsty in May but Jim kepts watering it assiduously.  Newly planted trees need watering in their first year.


Still hanging in there in late June.


The birch,which Jim had received from the Woodland Trust, was rather smaller!


Can you see that thin brown line up the middle of the above picture?

Birches are tasty to rabbits so in late May it was given a tree shelter for protection.  The leaves were  just poking out of the top.




And now it is growing well.

Birches will put up with anything except shade and drought.