July and August can be difficult times to watch and appreciate woodland birds. With nesting coming to an end, there is little in the way of birds’ song, and the beginning of summer moult means that many birds prefer to hide away in dense foliage, not because of vanity but rather because they are at their most vulnerable to predation - their feathers are in poor condition during the moult, and their energy levels are lowered by the process. In spite of this, there is still plenty of interest to hear and see, but perhaps it takes a bit more time and effort than at other times of the year. Read more...
The myrtle family includes plants such as the bay rum tree, guava, all spice, eucalyptus and myrtle. All are woody, with evergreen leaves and produce essential oils. The Eucalypts are particularly associated with Australasia, with Eucalyptus regnans being the tallest flowering plant in the world (see featured image). However, one particular genus that has come to prominence in recent years is Leptospermum, largely due to interest in L. scoparium - the Manuka or tea tree. This grows uncultivated throughout New Zealand and south eastern Australia. The common name of tea tree comes from the practice of early Australian settlers who infused the leaves in boiling water to make a herbal tea.
The honey produced from the nectar of these trees is much in demand and is being investigated for its anti-bacterial properties. Manuka honey (as it is generally referred to after the Maori name for the tea tree) Read more...
We have now entered those glorious few weeks in the foragers’ yearbook when the proliferation of brambles across the country is at last yielding its fruits. For the bulk of the seasons, however, Rubus fruticosus can be viewed as little more than an annoyance, an invasive native with barbed, snaking canes that spread across pathways and woodland floors to form impenetrable thickets, snare up by passers-by and crowd out surrounding biodiversity (See ‘Native dominants or botanical ‘thugs’ in woodlands). Or so it might seem. You will have probably noticed the tracks left by moth caterpillars munching on bramble leaves. Any blackberry-picker will also be well aware of the close association brambles seem to have with stinging nettles. Both attract a wide variety of insect life during their flowering months. Deer and small mammals such as dormice, not to mention numerous bird species, are also the beneficiaries in terms of food and shelter of the bramble’s vigorous growth .
Some years back, the blog talked about a 5000 year old ‘mummy’ - called Otzi. Otzi was a Neolithic man, and was found frozen, high in the mountains between Austria and Italy. Careful examination of his body, clothing and possessions gives us some insights into his daily life and diet. Otzi and, we presume, his contemporaries made good use of the plants and natural materials around them. Thus,
- His bow was made from Yew
- Ash provided his dagger handle
- Woven grass and bast for his cloak (bast is made from the fibres of the linden tree)
- goats hide for his leggings and jerkin,
- bear skin for his cap
- deer skin for shoes
- arrows from a wayfaring tree and dogwood
Here at woodlands.co.uk, we’re not just interested in how our woodlands are protected and cared for. We also like to know how trees are being used for things like packaging - it occurred to us as yet another order from Amazon arrived with ample brown paper and plenty of space in the box, that the demand on trees from a company the size of Amazon would be very high indeed. So we went to Amazon to ask some questions and we learned a lot more whilst visiting one of Amazon's 200 giant warehouses. The one we visited on an industrial estate in Peterborough is big enough to cover 8 football pitches with a million square feet of space. Read more...
Declining bee populations in Europe have caused alarm in recent years and the decline has been attributed to a multitude of factors / causes, for example :-
- Climate change
- Pesticides - especially neonicotinoids
- Varroa mites
A brief note to say that the Big Butterfly count is underway as from today (19th July), continuing through until the 11th August. This annual count is important as it allows ecologists to assess the impact of environmental / climate change on wildlife - identifying 'winners and losers' in times of change.
Phenology is about the observation of natural events, recording when things happen, for example, when horse chestnut and ash trees come into leaf, or when the first swifts or bumblebees are seen. These timings vary from year to year. Through the recording of natural events over many years, one can look for trends and see if they are correlated with changes in the weather or other phenomena.
Recent studies by researchers at Rothampstead, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, and the British Trust for Ornithology suggest that a number of different phenologies are changing. They looked at various insect and bird populations in a variety of different habitats (urban gardens, agricultural systems, sand dunes, grassland, woodlands etc). The broad conclusion was there was a “trend towards earlier phenologies for UK bird, moth and butterfly species across habitat types” . For example, aphids (which breed rapidly and can adapt to changing temperature quite quickly) now take flight some 30 days earlier in the year than fifty years ago. Such phenological changes have ‘knock on’ effects. For example, the earlier arrival of aphids can affect potato crops. Aphids spread plant viruses and young potato plants are more susceptible to viral disease than older, more mature plants. Read more...