The weather forecast really wasn’t very good, and I had expectations of no-one else turning up, but happily there was no rain, even if it was a bit overcast and chilly. So, five of us managed to have a very short walk through the farm looking out for birds, spring plants and some invertebrates.
Heading up the track from the shop to Minepits Wood we stopped to look at the mass of birds on one of the trees near the path over to Emerson. There must have been about 30 Linnets (Carduelis cannabina), which were making quite a bit of noise, and kept us occupied for a good while. It also gave us the chance to look at the spring shrubs and bushes, comparing the leaves of Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Elder (Sambucus nigra), and then spotting a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) gently flapping over the wood.
In the wood itself some new plants have emerged, including Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) and White Dead-nettle (Lamium album), as well as Pendulous Sedge (Carex pendula) and Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri). It was a good occasion to remember that Wood-rushes have flat, often hairy leaves, in contrast to those of Rushes, which have a circular cross section.
Some Sulphur Tuft fungi (Hypholoma fasciculare var. fasciculare) were also busy at work rotting some of the fallen trees:
Steve very usefully helped us with identifying bird calls, which now included the Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), a Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) loudly calling away amid the Ash trees, and a Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) somewhere in the wood. A Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) could also be heard in the near distance.
Patches of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are beginning to come out, though it will be a little while before they reach their full magnificence.
Keen to find some other animals, we started to examine the dead wood, carefully removing some bark. One old tree stump really turned up trumps. Andy first noticed the beetle Pterostichus madidus, and then we started to find lots of other creatures, including the Green Long-horn moth (Adela reaumurella) which is vividly gold. This one was a female; the antennae (‘horns’) of the male are almost three times the length of its body.
Other animals in the dead wood were assorted undetermined centipedes, as well as the Striped Centipede (Lithobius variegatus), the Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata), which I initially took for a pill woodlouse, and some tiny snails: the Rounded Snail (Discus rotundatus), and the Garlic Snail (Oxychilus alliarius), which we did indeed sniff, and confirmed that it smells strongly of garlic.
Gently heading back down the hill a Swallow (Hirundo rustica) swooped down, and we suddenly halted to watch a very large Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) nosing around the edge of the path, which is the sixth mammal for which we have so far found evidence on the farm. At some point we need to get looking for mice, voles and shrews, as well as stoats, weasels and hedgehogs. They’re certainly there.
So, it wasn’t an especially spring-like walk, since there were no butterflies and bees, but at least it didn’t rain.
This has now brought our species total in the TQ4335 kilometre square to 244 since 1 January this year. As the table below illustrates, there is a bit of a bias in our recording, with some groups not being very well represented at all yet (or, indeed, at all). Do let us know if you can help out with any of the groups, and we look forward to seeing you on our next walk.
|Group||Number of species|
|Fungi other than Lichens||17|
|Insects: Bees and Ants||4|