This page is dedicated to Rod Higginson.

It represents an appreciation of all the valuable work he did in helping to form the Bramingham Wood Volunteers and subsequently acting as the work party organiser, along with many other essential roles.
One notable activity he did was to act as a witness to the affects of each season on the wood, and to record these experiences with a feeling indicating a deep commitment to the wood and its wildlife.
These records he named "Rod's Rambles" and samples are reproduced below. Those headed Spring and Summer - 2012 are the last he wrote.
In addition, there is what I (the Website Manager) think is a most evocative description of his Summer 2008 witnessing. This is offered as a further example of the real and genuine sentiment that the wood can arouse, and the wood is kept to offer that experience to all.
Rodimage

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 photograph.

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 wood.

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 perhaps"?

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.

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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 wood.

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?

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