When we planned a cycle ride along the Forest Way we were hoping for some nice early spring sunshine, find some basking snakes and various small creatures starting to come alive as the temperature starts to rise.
However, only a small group of us ventured out on what was really rather a cold Sunday afternoon to cycle along the old railway line and see what we could find. The new migrants are increasingly audible, and Tom pointed out some Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) on the way.
Our goal was the pond on the way to Hartfield, which is often a great spot for a wide variety of species. Even the birds were a bit thin on the ground, though we did hear a Stock Dove (Columba oenas) and a Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).
With such meagre pickings in the animal kingdom we focussed on the plants and fungi (and lichens) instead. Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis) was now coming into flower. You can distinguish it from Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) by the fact that you can see its green sepals between the petals.
There was also some Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) with its creamy spur, largely hidden in the picture, and an emergent Square-stalked St Johns Wort (Hypericum tetrapterum), with its translucent dots on its leaves, and black dots along their edge (and the square stalk, of course). Large amounts of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) were also beginning to emerge.
There were a few interesting epiphytes on the trees by the pond, including the liverwort Metzgeria violacea, which has gemmae on its leaf tips, and then we finished off by looking at the brickwork under the bridge. There we found the fern Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), the common wall and roof moss Grimmia pulvinata, and the common lichen Ochrolechia parella.
Still, the highlight of the afternoon was in a field on the way back where there were dozens of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) with some Redwings (Turdus iliacus), all feeding in anticipation of heading off to Scandinavia and beyond for the summer. By the time we meet next month it should certainly have got warmer…
Afterword (5 May 2015): Some small fungi that we collected on the day were subsequently determined, and are described in the article The importance of looking.