Thursday, 31 January 2013

First Field Trip of the Year

On Saturday (26th Jan 2013) I met up with Martyn Parslow, Dave Monk, Heather Martin and Rod Taylor at Brede High Wood. After a year’s work and training at other sites Heather and Rod now have their dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) licence and this season they are monitoring the dormouse population in Brede High Wood.

Dave, Martyn and Rod inspect a nestbox; JB
Dave, Martin and I came along to assist. Our job was to help locate the nest-boxes and to clean them after inspection by Heather and /or Rod.
Gorse in bloom; JB
Fortunately the weather was very pleasant for January, as evidenced by this gorse (Ulex europaeus) in bloom, though it got noticeably colder as the sun started to set.

Martyn and Rod, precision cleaning; HM
Cleaning the nest-boxes requires some precision work.
Woodpecker evidence? ; HM
Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) were flying all about the wood as we worked, and we wondered if this was more evidence of their activity?

Dave and Jim nestbox cleaning; HM

Here Dave and I work as the “brushing out” and “drainage slot clearing” team.

Woodmouse DIY?; HM
 Here was an interesting observation. At the back of the dormouse nestbox (the entrance is at the back of the box and not at the front like a bird nestbox) and adjacent to the entrance, on the tree to which the nestbox is attached, quite a bit of chewing had been done.This particular nestbox showed no signs of dormouse occupation, so who had done the chewing and why?

Of the fifty-one nest boxes we inspected only two had clear evidence of dormouse occupation. A dormouse nest has a particular structure, compared to a wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) say, and those in the know can easily tell them apart.
Dormouse nest; JB
Dormouse nest; HM

King Alfred's Cakes; JB
 Among some other interesting observations in the winter woodland were these fungi known as King Alfred’s Cakes (Daldinia concentrica)

Brittle Cinder; JB
And this fungus which may be Brittle Cinder (Kretzschmaria deusta) growing on an upright dead tree trunk.

Green shoots; HM
However the most hopeful sign was the first sign of emerging spring plants breaking through the soil and leaf litter. A welcome reminder that Spring is on the way.

For more information about dormice, their conservation and ecology, click the link below;

The Dormouse Site

All photographs by Heather Martin (HM) and Jim Barrett (JB).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

January - Contrasts

An article by Heather Martin

 2013 began with weather forecasters excitedly totting up figures then declaring 2012 to have been the wettest in England since records began. It certainly felt like it! During the first week in January the access track to our wood was too waterlogged to drive across, the ground squelched with every footstep and the leaflitter on the woodland floor was sodden and slippery.
Temperatures however were exceptionally mild - regularly into double figures and looking around it was difficult to to believe the calendar date because hazel (Corylus avellana) catkins dangled in sheltered spots.

 Elder (Sambucus nigra) buds had burst into green and alongside the path by the stream, Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) shoots were forcing their way through layers of rotting leaves.
Sambucus nigra
Allium ursinum
Mercurialis perennis
A Red Campion (Silene dioica) flower was in full bloom up against our log store wall.

Was this really Winter?
By the start of the third week of the month temperatures had plummeted and the ground frozen solid. Ice crystals decorated the living and the dead, accumulating to transform even decaying grass stems into objects of frosted beauty.

As we drove into the wood on the 18th January to fetch logs for our fire at home, snowflakes gently drifted down around us coating everything.
Proper Winter!

All picutres by Heather Martin 20/01/2013

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A New Bird

I saw a song bird in my garden today that I had not seen (or noticed) previously.
 Okay, not a good picture, presented more as evidence that I'm not a sad fantasist.

This is a Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus). What drew my attention to it was the fact that it was “putting manners” on the Blackbirds (Turdus merula). Not many of the garden birds can do that. In fact the Waxwings got together in a little group of two of three like a gang. Time for an ASBO perhaps.

For more wild bird sightings; below are some links to the Sussex Ornithological Society's website. 

SOS Sightings Page