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.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Crows and rooks

The five common corvids (crow family) birds are magpies, jackdaws, jays, crows and rooks.  Crows and rooks are the two that I find hardest to distinguish.

Rooks nest in rookeries with a dozen or more nests close together in neighbouring trees.  They make a continuous noise as they gossip to each other.

Crows are more solitary and when they caw they usually do three in a row rather than wittering on like a rook.  

If you get close you may see that the rook has a whitish face while the grow is unremittingly black.

Also the rooks bill is fairly straight while the crows bill is curved on top.

Their big cousin the raven has a heavier, even more curved bill but is much bigger and calls with a deep 'kronk'.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Ground Ivy

Where we cleared the bracken and brambles to coppice a section of hedge, a flurry of little blue flowers with purplish-red foliage has appeared.  In shady places the leaves stay green.

This is Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea).  It's not related to ivy so it's old-fashioned name of Gill is perhaps better.

It was used to flavour bitter ale before hops were introduced to England in the 16th century.  Gill tea was sold as a cough remedy into the 19th century.  It was made by infusing the slightly minty leaves in boiling water  and adding honey.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Yellow Archangel

Yellow archangel is so called because, like its cousins the red deadnettle and the white deadnettle, which are sometimes called red archangel and white archangel, it flowers on or near 27th April, the day of the Archangel Michael.

I found this clump flowering beside the Jubilee Way, near the lower entrance from Vilner Farm.

Look carefully at the lower lip of the flower and you may see the red streaks like tiny spots of blood - maybe from the sword of the Archangel Michael.

Here's an extra image taken by Simon Harding

Friday, 21 April 2017

Where have all the cows and cuckoos gone?

It's a good year for Cuckoo Flower but Cuckoos have not been heard or seen at Filnore Woods since May 2015.

Cuckoo Flower is also known as Lady's Smock or Milkmaids. 

Not to be confused with Cuckoo Pint, that strange flower of the lily family, which is also known as Lords and Ladies, Wild Arum, Jack in the Pulpit, Parson in the Pulpit, Parson's Pintle, etc.

Cowslips are not usually woodland flowers but we do get some on the woodland edge

All the flowers hang on one side of the stem

More commonly cowslips grow out in the grassland, where the cows used to graze.

We could do with some cows, or better still sheep to maintain our grassland flowers.  But we don't have either a pure water supply or stock-proof fencing.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Oak flowers

As many of our oak trees at Filnore Woods have branches down to the ground, we get the chance to see the flowers, which will give rise to acorns at the end of summer.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Loveliest of trees

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough, 
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

When A. E. Housman wrote those lines he was thinking of the Wild Cherry or Gean (Prunus avium).  The photos above are of the large tree near post 2 at Filnore Woods and the smaller tree which has grown from a sucker of its parent.

But we also have several Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) trees, 
like this one between posts 11 & 20.

Its flowers are quite different and the cherries are small, when they come.

Soon enough though, the petals will fall like confetti and we''ll have to wait another twelve months for this display to come again.