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More on birds from Woodcock Wood : The Long-tailed Tit - a very sociable bird  

More on birds from Woodcock Wood : The Long-tailed Tit – a very sociable bird  

by Chris Saunders ~ 10 July, 2020 ~ 2 comments

The Long-tailed Tit is a relatively common bird. In 2020 they made it into the top ten of the RSPB's annual garden bird watch, though they are more a bird of woodlands than gardens.    Outside of the breeding season they spend their time in small family groups of about 10 birds. Female young tend to move away to join other groups. The groups are territorial and maintain extensive territories, often 20 to 30 acres or more.   The groups form tight winter roosts – sometimes in tight rows along a branch, or in small huddles, with the more dominant birds in the centre. These huddles help to maintain their body temperatures, and are critical for such small birds during cold spells.

The recent mild winters have contributed significantly to their winter survival rate and probably account for why they are now high on the garden watch bird count.   Over the last three years we have occasionally seen them in Woodcock Wood. They are unmistakable - small and round with long tails moving energetically from tree to tree in search of insects and larvae, which form the main part of their diet throughout the year. They aren't easy to photograph because they seem to be constantly on the move, searching one tree and off to the next. Read more...

Meeting the 'queen bee' of British Bumblebees

Meeting the ‘queen bee’ of British Bumblebees

by Angus ~ 9 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Gill Perkins is one of those people you can't help liking - there's a smile in her voice when she speaks and we found her to be generous with her time and knowledge.  She arrived early for our woodland meeting and had come equipped - a small plastic tube with a plunger (costing about £5) allows her to catch bumblebees as they graze on flowers and she can trap them for long enough to tell us that "this one's a queen of the buff-tailed type and you can see she's very freshly minted as her wings are so undamaged ... a lovely specimen ...".    She releases the bee and it seems quite unphased as it quickly goes back to collecting nectar. Gill loves to get out into the woods and see the bees first-hand - most of the rest of the time she's in her office with the 40 or so staff employed by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and despite being the Trust's CEO she's often teaching groups about bumblebees and working with various sponsors including a big housebuilder and a big London law firm. Read more...

July’s Fungi Focus: Death Caps, False Death Caps and other amanitas

July’s Fungi Focus: Death Caps, False Death Caps and other amanitas

by Jasper Sharp ~ 1 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

We are just easing into that time of year when the mushroom hunting season looks about set to kick off in earnest. No longer is the more fervent fungi fanatic forced into gazing obsessively into the undergrowth in search of tiny black dots on dried stalks and twigs and left to wonder which of literally thousands of potential candidates they might have found - you’ll have to wait until next year for that post, I’m afraid. No, now is the time when we can prepare to lay aside the camera’s macro lens and focus on the more readily identifiable and photogenic cap-and-stem-and-gills varieties we know as agarics. Read more...

Springtime at Beauchamp Woods

Springtime at Beauchamp Woods

by Alice ~ 29 June, 2020 ~ 3 comments

My parents and I have recently purchased a piece of woodland of about 3 acres, in Devon, called Beauchamp woods. It is a mixture of semi-natural ancient woodland, larch plantation and a clear-felled area. This is the perfect mixture for us. We wanted to give something back to nature by preserving a small piece of habitat for wildlife, whilst enjoying spending time in our woods. We are loving it and find it very rewarding.

I have some knowledge of woodland management and conservation through my education and work and it is great to have the opportunity to put this into practice. My main aim is to maximise biodiversity, I want it to be the best habitat for as many species as possible. Read more...

A thorny problem

A thorny problem

by Lewis ~ 26 June, 2020 ~ 5 comments

When is a thorn a thorn, and not a spine or a prickle?  Generally, these terms are used casually and interchangeably.  Botanically speaking, they are all ‘spinose structures’ that is hard, rigid extensions or modifications of leaves, roots, or stems - all of which have sharp, stiff ends. They all have the same role - to deter animals from eating the plant that bears them. Spinescent is a term that describes plants that bear sharp structures that deter herbivory.  Thorns, spines and prickles are mechanical defences as opposed to chemical defences, such as tannins and phenolics, which create an unpleasant taste.

However, there are differences between these ‘structures’.

Aspen update

Aspen update

by Chris ~ 19 June, 2020 ~ 2 comments

Aspens in the United States have been the subject of a number of research studies.  The quaking aspen (Populus  tremuloides) has been used to 

  • study intra-specific variation in a tree species - previous studies have focused on quick growing (herbaceous plants), looking at differences in growth, leaf shape /size, and flowering.
  • the chemistry of the trees’ defences (tannins) 
  • The response to rising carbon dioxide levels - the aspens have grown faster.

To add confusion, there is also a European aspen, Populus tremula,  which is known as the quaking aspen, like its American counterpart.  The ‘quaking’ or trembling of the leaves is due to the nature of the leaf stalk or petiole, which has a flattened shape and is very flexible near to the base of the leaf.  The leaves are round with blunt teeth distributed somewhat irregularly around the leaf margin. The leaves of the European Aspen are more coarsely toothed than the American Aspen.  Young leaves have a copper tint before becoming green and then in autumn they turn a vibrant yellow before falling.  Both American and European quaking Aspen species can spread by suckers that form underground away from the parent tree.  The plants so formed are clones, that is they are genetically identical to the parents (ramets). Read more...

bumblebee on lavender

Biting bees

by woodlands blogs ~ 12 June, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In Spring, or earlier if winter has been mild, queen bumblebees emerge from ‘hibernation’, from their nests.  They then need to feed, having more or less exhausted their bodily reserves during the cold of winter.  Their food comes in the form of nectar and pollen - both of which can be in short supply in early Spring.

Whilst the bumblebees may need food, flowers also have a ‘need’-  pollinating agents - particularly bumblebees.   The inter-dependence of flowering plants and insects probably evolved many millions of years ago, back in the Cretaceous Period. Read more...

The Giant Hogweed - a losing battle?

The Giant Hogweed – a losing battle?

by woodlands blogs ~ 8 June, 2020 ~ comments welcome

It seems that the UK is losing the battle to eradicate the giant hogweed.  It is an invasive species which has been described as the country’s most dangerous plant. Many efforts have been made to eradicate this plant.  Local authorities can make use the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to enforce control of the weed.  Sadly though Plant Tracker has recorded hundreds of sightings across the four nations of the U.K.

Its scientific name is Heracleum mantegazzianum and it belongs to the same family as the wild parsnip, the Apiaceae. It is sometimes referred to as the giant cow parsnip, the giant cow parsley or the cartwheel flower. Read more...

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