Monday, 19 December 2011

Signs of Life in December

Winter has finally arrived but although it now looks rather bare and stark in our wood, there is still plenty to see. In fact some things are easier to see!

The larvae of the micro moth Emmetia marginea mine bramble leaves creating funnel shaped blotches.
The gall midge Lasioptera rubi is responsible for the lumpy rough-looking gall on the bramble stem. Inside are several chambers lined with fungal mycelium on which the larvae feed during the winter.
This abnormally swollen hazel bud is caused by the gall mite Phytoptus avellanae.
The only leaf-miner recorded on holly in Britain is Phytomyza ilicis, the legless larvae feeding between the upper and lower leaf surfaces. The adult is a small black fly belonging to the family Agromyzidae.
Along the length of a fallen, rotting hornbeam trunk are orange, rubbery patches of the fungus Phlebia radiata or Wrinkled Crust.
Nearby in the leaf litter I spotted a scattered troop of Mycena rosea (I checked a piece under my microscope at home).
And finally a pair of Flea Beetles, Longitarsus sp. in a close encounter on a ragwort plant. Their distinctive hind femurs are able to propel the insects in a huge 'flea' like jump.

Article by Heather Martin; December 2011

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Insect life on Hazel in November

It has been unusually mild this month. There are still leaves on some of the hazel trees in our wood and at the beginning of this week I photographed some of the insect life taking advantage of the foliage. The larva of the Nut Leaf Blister Moth (Phyllonorycter coryli) forms a silvery patch on the upperside of the leaf. There are often several on the same leaf...
The larva of the micro moth (Phyllonorycter nicellii) forms a long mine between the veins of a hazel leaf.
In the folded leaf edges are pupae of the micro moth (Parornix devoniella).
Many insects like the 7-spot Ladybird and the Orange Ladybird seem to prefer to rest on the undersides of leaves. The latter used to be considered an indicator of ancient woodland until the late 1980's but has since become much more widespread. It feeds on mildews.
A Hazel Leaf-roller Weevil (Apoderus coryli).
The Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) is common anywhere near trees and shrubs. This is a male because the female is wingless.

Article by Heather Martin; November 2011. All photographs by Heather Martin

Friday, 18 November 2011

New Volunteer Group

A new conservation volunteer group, the Brede High Wood,
Woodland Trust
have started a new work programme in Brede High Wood.
They are being led by Mike Jackson and Martyn Parslow.
Martyn has supported many Sussex Butterfly Conservation events and attended BC Rother Guardians work parties previously. So as a thank you to Martyn I am giving this new group a mention on our blog and I wish them well in their endeavours.
The group started by clearing a ditch and opening up the canopy along an old parish boundary.
The group here includes, Dave Monk, Barbra, Martyn, Sue, Dave Bonsall (Woodland Trust) and Mike Jackson.

River Rother

As we are “Rother Guardians”, I thought it about time to have a look at the river from which we take our name.
Okay, its not as wide as the Severn, as nostalgic as the Mersey or as historical as the Thames, but hey, its ours, and in its modest, understated way, rather charming.

Actually, in the reign of Alfred the Great the Rother was very important militarily. In 892 CE two hundred and fifty Viking warships sailed up the Rother and attacked the unfinished burh ( fort) at Eorpeburnan (possibly Castle Toll near Newenden). The Vikings then went on to occupy Appledore. Its hard to believe that these peaceful and picturesque towns in Sussex and Kent were once the frontier towns in a bloody war as the nation struggled for survival.

The Rother remained strategically important right up to the late Middle-Ages. Here then is the medieval ‘castle’ at Bodiam in the trees.
Right, back to the nature, first of all here is a lovely veteran oak tree growing in the Bodiam Castle car park.
As I walked along the river bank in the late afternoon there was not a lot of wildlife to see, but I did spot this mushroom with its bright chrome-yellow cap. I would guess that it is Bolbitius vitellinus
I was also pleased to see some cultivated farm land and it does look good to see these farms along the Rother valley.
However this brings me to a more serious topic. How will the world feed itself in the future? How will those of us passionate about conservation meet the challenge of an increasing world population demanding more food, and putting more pressure upon our natural resources?

And, of course, the price of food is directly linked to the cost of fossil fuels, both in growing, and transportation.

Some data;
    Current world population: 6.8 billion (thousand million).
    Projected world population in 2050; 9.5 billion.
    Current world land area dedicated to agriculture: approximately equal to size of South America.
    Area needed by 2050?
    Well, the South America area plus an extra area about the size of Brazil.

(From Scientific American : The Rise of Vertical Farms; November 2009)

Again to paraphrase from this article, “[We] need to leave the [agricultural] land alone and allow it to heal our planet.”

In other words, we need a big rethink on how we grow food.

The Vertical Farm

To finish on a happy note, here is the river again, .Another landscape too.
(Also ref; Alfred the Great; Justin Pollard; Pub John Murray)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Travels in TQ7519

I tend to regard November as a cold, unforgiving month, but in fact November can be a lovely month too.

Here is the view of Barnes Wood from a footpath near Battle.

There are still some wild flowers about this red clover (Trifolium pratense) was still flowering in the fields.

Here is the view towards Whatlington Village.
Years ago I used to walk my dog around these footpaths so I was very grateful to see this;

In the past one had to walk through this; no kidding!

Good old ESCC and the Ramblers for getting the footbridge installed!

Crossing the swamp was always worth it though, beautiful skies, fields and oak trees;

A group of Parasol Mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera)

The snake skin pattern on the stipe (stem) is the key ID feature for this fungus.

Off to Charing Cross
I really like the way you can here the sound in the tracks well before the train comes. Sound travels faster in the metal than the air apparently.

Back to the woodland. It is surprising how much growing still goes on in the Autumn.
A woodland stream
A very nice woodland pond too.

A blackthorn(Prunus spinosa) bush laden with sloes.
More fantastic scenery.

Here is how the Collins Complete Guide to Mushrooms and Toadstools recommends how a photograph of the cap and gills of a fungus can be captured in one photo.

Homeward bound as the sun sets.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Good Old Hastings Volunteers

Owen and Susanne who helped us out with our conservation work last year
have been busy again and have sent me this report.

Ride Improvements in Flatropers Wood

Here are the Hastings Conservation Volunteers in action, widening a
ride in Flatropers Wood on Sunday, 23rd October - much appreciated by
a few curious Red Admirals and a lazy dragonfly.

Our group works every Sunday on various nature reserves in the Rother
area, maintaining habitat by cutting bracken, bramble and rhododendron
and copping trees to encourage regeneration. The group is led by Dr
Owen Johnson, one of Britain's foremost experts on trees and author of
the Collins Tree Guide and other tree books.

We are only a handful of regulars and would love some more people to
join us. The advantages are manifold:
- Bracing keep-fit activities, completely free of charge!
- You will help improve Rother's natural environment, thus encouring
butterflies and other wildlife.
- You can benefit from Owen's boundless knowledge of the natural
world, which encompasses not only trees, but also flowers and grasses,
birds and butterflies.

We meet (almost) every Sunday at 9.30 am at Hastings train station,
where you can get a lift or join us on site for a morning, an
afternoon or a full day. Please contact Owen on 01424 426986 or at for a programme or further details.

(Article by Susanne Whiting; Oct 2011)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Falling Leaves

So that’s another year done. There are still a few butterflies around, I saw a couple of Red Admirals during the week and Heather Martin sent me this picture.

The warm dry weather is also tempting the Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) into flower. With the light on the woodland floor and good growing conditions perhaps these flowers are able to get a head start. Again Heather spotted this one in her wood.
The Botanical Recording season has come to an end too. I have had some fine days out with the Sussex Botanical Recording Society this year and visited places I would never have seen otherwise. So my heartfelt thanks to them for putting up with my asinine questions and corny jokes.

When the plants come to an end the mushrooms start. Here is the familiar Fly Agaric, (Amanita muscaria).

Another one well worth learning is the Death Cap, (Amanita phalloides), with thanks to Martin Allison of the RSPB who showed me this fungus in Fore Wood, Crowhurst.

And while I am on the macabre theme, this one is called Dead Man’s Fingers (Xylaria longipes), also seen in Fore Wood.

On a happier note, here is a Birch Polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) that I saw in Barnes Wood.
Finally, an old friend, the willow tree at the bottom of Barnes Wood in the autumn sunshine.