Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Too soon to call?

Well I must say it is certainly very spring like, though officially spring does not start for another twenty two or so days.
At the weekend I was out with the Woodland Trust Volunteers at Brede High Wood. Surprisingly the adder (Vipera berus) that Dave Monk saw last month was back in its usual spot.
One of the volunteers found a toad (Bufo bufo). The photograph here shows it looking rather serene and not the least bit perturbed by all the attention.

Dave and I disturbed a ground beetle, possibly (Pterostichus niger).Spotting the red on this beetle’s legs is key to a positive ID, so what would be the worst background possible? The red bits on my work gloves. Doh!

Dave also saw this amazing tree stump. Though visually striking its suitability as a habitat for fungi and deadwood invertebrates is possibly its most salient feature.

On the subject of fungi, Katie Walker sent me these photos of (Sarcoscypha austriaca), Scarlet Elf Cup fungus that she saw in Darwel Wood. This fungus, though widely distributed, is relatively uncommon. So a very nice find.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Signs of life in a snowy Rother woodland

An article by Heather Martin

Rodney coppiced an area of our wood last winter that had a long established badger track crossing it. To enable the animals to continue using their path to get from their sett out into the field on the northern boundary, we installed 'badger gates' in the dead hedging and temporary deer fencing. Footprints in the snow definitely confirm that these features are well used.

Good foot-prints show a large, broadly kidney-shaped pad with the five digital pads all lying in front in a shallow arc. The badger's front foot is a little larger than its back foot and has longer claws.

The Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus) has chestnut-brown fur and a tail about half as long as its body. It is omnivorous and active day and night throughout the year. Some Bank Voles in our wood are voice activated - we only have to call, "Voles, grub's up!" and they come running to feed on peanuts placed on a brick at the corner of our shelter.
A cluster of 7-spot Ladybirds (Cocinella septempunctata) on the south facing side of a stake in a plastic mesh tree shelter. This is "exactly" the same spot that a group of this species spent last winter.
New plants of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) are emerging in more sheltered places in the wood. They favour shade and are dioecious - the male and female flowers produced on different plants, usually growing in separate patches.
Evidence that one Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) has sadly failed to make it through the winter.

All pictures by Heather Martin 12/02/2012

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Caldbec Hill Revisited

What a difference a day or two makes.

On my return to Caldbec Hill the snow had arrived.

I now surveyed a distinctly two-tone landscape.

This little tree stands like a forlorn sentinel as if watching the gathering assault of winter in the west.
Now I have heard from various sources that the snow acts like a blanket and insulates the ground from the very low temperatures of the air, due to a clear night sky. So I sought to verify this for myself by measuring the temperatures above and below the snow in my garden.
The graph below shows my results, and indeed the snow has kept the ground temperature constant, and above freezing, all through the night. Even though the minimum air temperature fell to -6°C

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Caldbec Hill

This is Kingsmead on Caldbec Hill in Battle. Reputedly it is here that King Harold made his camp before the Battle of Hastings.Rother District Council manage the site and there is public access.
It is easy to see why King Harold chose this spot, at 107 metres above sea level, the views are fantastic.
There is a wildflower meadow here too. It is currently being restored from pervious agricultural use.
This is the view looking toward Netherfield Hill. I have cycled up that hill and its steeper than it looks.
It was far too cold for any invertebrates to be out, but the birds were singing with gusto. Listen to a Robin singing at the RSPB Website

Finally, the moon in the eastern sky during daylight, a little celestial treat to complete a rather nice, if somewhat chilly day.