Rod's Ramblings - Spring 2012
Up until a couple of weeks ago "mild and dry" looked like it
was going to be a good description of this winter, then the cold and snow hit
for a short while: "mild and dry with the occasional cold snap" may end up
being the best description.
It was mild enough in the middle of January for a very large
bumble bee to be flying around my garden along with a small cloud of midges.
Originally I thought that their presence must be down to the mild conditions
but a little research revealed that they could well have been a swarm of winter
gnats (trichocera annulata), a small, 6mm, non biting fly which apparently is
around all year. Well you live and learn!
You can tell it's been dry by the water levels or lack of
water levels in the ponds. The top pond was completely dry until early January
when a small puddle collected. It was only after the recent snow melted that it
has started to look like a pond again, but it is very shallow with only around
half its normal surface area. Valentine pond didn't dry up completely but
currently is only about half full when normally at this time of the year it is
overflowing. If we don't get a lot more rain in the next month the frogs and
toads could struggle to find sufficient water to breed in this year.
Despite the mild winter the snowdrops in the wood don't seem
to have flowered any earlier than last year - some of the single ones are not
fully open. If you search around you will find that some of those we
transplanted a couple of years ago have established into small flowering
clumps. There have been several reports of foxes in and around the wood and I
was lucky enough to see a very smart looking male watching me from one of the
coppice areas. However, it ran off as soon as it saw me move to take a
The muntjac have definitely bred in the wood. A family, mum,
dad and baby, have been spotted. Unfortunately they were being chased but not
caught by a dog. If you walk your dog in the wood you need to be aware of the
wildlife living there and be careful that neither come to any harm.
There have been some good bird reports since my last
Ramblings. Tawny owls were heard calling noisily morning and evening in mid
January, the time of the year when they are possibly beginning to establish a
breeding territory; may be we will see some young this year? Somebody living
near the wood was enjoying a good view of a sparrow hawk sitting on their
garden fence when two magpies arrived and perched either side of it. Initially
they just sat there ignoring each other but eventually the magpies chased it
away. Song and mistle thrushes have been reported, along with jays and a party
of ten or more magpies. As they haven't been reported for sometime I was
pleased to see a pair of bullfinches around Valentine pond after the snow.
During a work party in January we heard great spotted
woodpeckers drumming and nuthatches calling while a treecreeper was working its
way up an oak searching the bark for food. Overhead a crow was mobbing a
buzzard, which was slowly drifting northwards. None of these are particularly
unusual birds for this area but it's pleasing to know that they are in and
around our wood.
Rod's Ramblings - Summer 2012
As the weather has at last warmed up I decided that the best
place to "sit and ramble" would be outside in the warm sunshine. I think I made
a prediction last time that the winter would be "mild and dry with the
occasional cold snap" well the dry bit was certainly correct. The top pond was
dry and Valentine pond almost by the end of February. Some heavy rain on 4th
March deposited sufficient water for the frogs to rush to the ponds over night.
I could hardly believe it but the ponds were full of frogs and spawn the next
day. However during the remainder of March we had virtually no rain and the top
pond dried out again spelling the end for this years tadpoles. Valentine pond
retained some water but I have not been able to spot any tadpoles so it appears
the local frogs and toads have lost this year's generation but the adults are
still around and will be back next spring to do their thing.
The strange weather pattern prolonged the bluebell flowering
period. They were beginning to show well by early April but due to the cold wet
weather were not fully out until the end of the month and the warm start to May
ensured they continued to look good for a further couple of weeks. This warm
spell after all the rain has brought on the cow parsley, which is now in full
flower and giving off its slightly sweet perfume at the southern end of the
Walking through the area behind the old people's home, where
the metre high cow parsley and nettles are crowding the narrow paths, you get
the feeling you are in a different wood compared to how open it was when
covered with low growing snowdrops only a couple of months ago. At the other
end of the wood, in last years coppice area, you may have noticed a profusion
of yellow archangel flowers spikes amongst the bluebells, a good example of how
the increase in ground level light from the coppicing has encouraged the spread
of wild flowers.
Spring migrants have arrived. The first chiff chaff was heard
in early April and blackcaps are singing in the middle of the wood. The green
woodpeckers' laughing calls have been heard in the wood and they have been
spotted feeding on the grassy areas outside the wood whilst several jays and
great spotted woodpeckers have also been reported. If you listen carefully you
may hear the quiet, musical whistle of a nuthatch high in the canopy and if you
search carefully you may spot this small bluish grey and chestnut bird
searching the trees bark for insects.
It is good to hear reports of tree creepers in different parts
of the wood. This charming little bird, well worth looking out for, is slightly
smaller than a sparrow with a brown back white front and down curved beak, also
searches tree bark for insects. It does this very methodically, starting near
the base of a tree and gradually working its way up to the top before flying on
to the base of a nearby tree and starting again.
A pair of mallard ducks have been seen on Valentine pond on a
couple of occasions, it's such a small patch of water and surrounded by trees
that you wonder how they ever manage to discover it. "A bird's eye view
Despite the variable weather every warm sunny day brings out
the butterflies: brimstones, speckled woods, orange tips, holly blues, large
and small whites have all been seen in and around the wood. Although they may
appear gentle creatures they can be very aggressive to each other in the mating
season, which in a butterfly's short life is all the time. I watched a couple
of orange tips in dispute over a female, as they chased each other, spiralling
up and down for some time. Eventually one gave up and fluttered away, leaving
the other to his spoils.
Rod's Ramblings - Summer 2008
When I decided to write these Ramblings and knowing that my
memory is not always that good, I bought a note book and now jot down what 1
see when I wander in and around the wood. Looking through these jottings, some
of which are almost unreadable as they were scribbled down in the wood, often
when not wearing my glasses, I realised just how active nature is in
springtime. In the three months since the last newsletter there are jots on 29
birds, 22 plants/flowers, 7 animals (if you count frogs as animals), 6
butterflies and 1 fungus.
The heavy rains made the wood very wet, the ponds have been
full to overflowing, occasional ponds have formed in any small depression and
the paths have become very muddy at times. Despite the mud it is always worth
putting on the boots and having a wander to see what's around. The primroses
were the best I remember. They seemed to be so obvious and prominent this year
and certainly had a great number of flowers, maybe because there are now some
large mature plants, or perhaps it was just a good primrose year.
The bluebells were magnificent. The first odd flower appeared
in early March but it wasn't until early April that you could see a slight blue
haze at the south end of the wood. This haze spread slowly up through the wood
becoming a blue mist by mid April and by the end of the month a magnificent
blue carpet. If you look carefully you can find a fair number of the white
variety and if you know where to look you may even see the odd pink one.
Stitchwort, yellow archangel and wood anemone have also
bloomed well but there does not seem to be a lot of pink campion around. I
suspect that a lot of the flower stems are being eaten by the muntjac deer.
The frogs seemed to be late arriving, there being only a few
in the top pond by early April, and it looked like it was going to be a bad
frog-year. However they were only waiting for the right conditions. One morning
after a rainy night there were over a hundred with a lot of spawn in the top
pond and a good number in Valentine pond. By mid April there were large areas,
black with tadpoles in the top pond but they haven't had an easy time. After
heavy rain at the end of April the pond overflowed, reducing their number by
washing some down the bank; the odd one even reached a puddle that formed on
the edge of the meadow. During May the pond began to dry out threatening the
survival of the rest but recent heavy rain has refilled the pond to
overflowing, probably ensuring their survival.
Chiffchaffs, the first migrant birds, were late to arrive this
year, with the first not being heard until 29th March. Blackcaps had arrived by
end of April. Large numbers of both were heard singing so we can expect that
they will breed successfully. The first swift was seen over the wood on 2nd
May. Talking of birds over the wood, a buzzard has been seen on a couple of
occasions and a red kite was also seen to pass over. Both these birds are now
frequently seen in the area; I wonder if they will ever become resident in the
Three woodpecker nest-holes have been found, two in oak trees
being used by the great spotted variety and one in an ash tree by the larger
green variety. The green woodpecker was observed looking out of the hole while
two baby squirrels were popping in and out of holes further down the trunk.
The highlight of birdlife in Bramingham must be the tawny
owl. One was spotted at the beginning of May, sitting on an oak branch in the
early morning sunshine, being mobbed by two jays and several long tailed tits
(a perfect picture but you never have a long lens camera at the right time do
you?). Owls sitting in the open at this time of the year always suggest the
presence of young and a careful search over the next couple of mornings finally
located two well-grown but still very downy babies. This is very pleasing as it
is the first proof for several years that the owls still breed in the wood. We
need to keep our eyes and ears open over the next couple of months for evidence
that the sparrowhawk has bred again this year.
For some reason a large number of Dryad's Saddle (polyporus
squamosus) fungi have appeared on ash stumps and fallen ash stems around the
wood. It is a yellow ochre-coloured bracket fungus with dark brown scales and
can be quite large, reaching more than 300mm across. It isn't a new fungus for
the wood and I don't know why there should be so many but it was pointed out to
me that a Dryad is a wood nymph - so maybe there is something going on in the
wood, at night, that we don't know about?