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Monday, 28 September 2015

Wings and the Web

 I enjoyed the tree-walk at the Celebration Day last Sunday. I thought that elm trees had been wiped out by Dutch elm disease but we were told that there is elm present in the woods.  There are no mature trees but the old roots have survived and send up suckers to form new saplings. There is a cycle of the old roots sending up suckers, after several years these succumb to the disease and die but then new suckers come up. We were told that the disease appears to be getting less virulent and hopefully eventually will be weakened enough for the suckers to survive and produce new healthy mature trees.
 The seed on the left is the elm, it has a wing encircling it. This photo is from the internet, the others are from Badock's Wood. The one on
the right is sycamore which children love to throw in the air as helicopters when they are brown and dry. It's interesting that the sycamore seeds are sparse in Badock's this year but the ash keys (below left) are very abundant as you can see. Last year the situation was reversed and apparently no one knows why this happens. Lime keys on the right. When you see these do not park under the tree because the tree drips a very sticky sap that will make a mess of your car.
The variously shaped wings are devices for catching the wind and they spread the seeds as far as possible from the parent tree to give the maximum chance of a new tree growing to maturity.

  Last Sunday, 20th September, I was watching this squirrel searching for and eating acorns under the large oak trees at the Triangle. It was having quite a feast but it suddenly disappeared up the tree. Quite sensibly because when I looked to see what had happened there was a large fox standing close to where the squirrel had been.

 Its eyes were fixed on me but by the time I'd pointed the camera it was well on its way and The lower photo was the result; just a bushy tail and a rear end. It was a good looking animal and almost certainly a dog fox because of its size.

There are all sorts of creatures in the wood. We found this caterpillar on a trunk during the tree walk last week. It is from the lime hawk moth which flies in may & June. It feeds on lime but also on other deciduous trees too. I'm embarrassed to say that it reminded me of a unicorn but I later discovered that the horn is on the rear end. The caterpillar is green at first but becomes brownish like this as they prepare to pupate for the winter.  It was about 6 or 7 cms long. I shall be looking out for hawk moths next year.

Spiders often get a bad press so I've put this one in because he seemed quite a handsome fellow. Its body is about 2 cms long. He was busy building his web to catch unsuspecting flies and moths. I am told that he is a common garden spider. If you enlarge the photo by clicking on it you will see that the legs are very spiny, presumably to assist in gripping its trapped prey or in climbing over the web. Most spiders have 3 sets of spinnerets to produce the web and these produce different types of silk.  Some sticky and some fluffy to capture prey and also a single thread silk for the spider to hang from.

I saw a heron at the pond a few weeks ago and I wondered if it had found a sizable fish for its meal. I thought that perhaps someone had put in a carp that had outgrown the owner's pond. However, I was surprised to find a small shoal of fish in the pond this afternoon. You can see that there are about a dozen and they are about 7 cms long. They soon vanished into the murky water, probably thinking I was a predator so I would think that a heron would have difficulty to catch any more than one fish at each visit. I don't know what type they are.

 The Willow Bank Bench (left), another of Andy O'Neill's sculptures, was officially opened by the Lord Mayor in March 2015. It shows Hidden Green Treasures within the wood and has a magnificent owl with spread wings across the top of the back. It is worth a visit to see the other animals and wildlife that have been sculpted into the sides of the bench and under the arm rests. Of course the bench has weathered since March and its wood is now much darker.

The bench is conveniently placed between the Triangle and the Lakewood Road entrance where the Willow Bank sheltered housing is situated. It gives a good view along the path and the stream. You can just make it out in the centre of this photo.
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You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Thursday 8th October 7.00 – 8.30 p.m. Owl Prowl. Meet at Northern Gateway, Doncaster Rd.
For more information see: Friends of Badock's Wood Website

 Comments can be sent to:

mike townsend

Saturday, 19 September 2015

A Bronze Age Burial Mound and a Surprise Visitor

 17th Sept. Badock's Wood was looking really good this morning. The sun was rising over the trees and there was heavy dew on the grass. This is the view from the pond.... and we cleaned the pond this afternoon ready for Sunday. Oh, don't forget the Celebration on Sunday 2-5pm.
 The copper beeches look beautiful when the sun comes through their leaves.
You can double click photos to enlarge them.

 This wren was there too. It was searching through the bushes for insects, spiders and grubs. It started to sing, a beautiful high pitch trilling song, answered by another not far away. In winter they often sleep in communes because keeping warm increases chances of surviving a harsh winter. Sixty three have been recorded in a single nestbox. There are many in Badock's Wood and you will often hear the surprisingly loud song or a tic-tic warning call.
This mound, near the northern side of the meadow is a Scheduled Ancient Monument known as the Southmead Round Barrow or Tumulus. It dates from the Bronze Age and is appx 3500 years old.  It was opened in 1873 and again in 1923. Fragments of human skull and other bones were found but no evidence of a coffin or burial chamber. The sculpture was erected in 2003 to mark the location and has an especially composed poem inscribed on it.
Flint flakes and 2 flint scrapers, together with animal bones were also found inside the mound.
For more information open this link: Tumulus.
The heavy rain showers that we have had over the last week seem to have flushed away the blue-green algae but caution is still needed for children and dogs. Unfortunately the heavy rains also sometimes brings overflow of some drains and the water coming from the Lakewood Road end of the stream was greyish and has left a grey sediment on the stream bed. Hopefully that will also flush away soon. It cannot be good for the wildlife in and around the stream.
I should say a big "Thank you"  to BART for what they do in helping to keep Bristol's waterways, including the River Trym, in good and healthy condition. They are the Bristol Avon Rivers Trust. Amongst other activities they are training FOBW members to look after the Badock's Wood part of the Trym. see : BART.

The Bat walk last night was a great success. A group of about 25 adults and children, many with detectors walked boldly through the meadow and woods after dark. At times the detectors were clicking busily as the bats were feeding on a variety of insects. They were mainly pipistrelles but we also detected an occasional noctule flying higher over the trees. Many thanks to Matt Hobbs who is a professional ecologist and his colleague for giving their time and for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. I'm sure it has encouraged us to find out more about the bats of Badock's Wood and to monitor the various species present in the woods. If you would like to know more click on this link: Bat Conservation Trust.
The photo was taken during the walk and looks over the playing field.

Saturday 19th Sept. A cool misty autumn morning, the sun was shining through the mist. This photo was taken in the meadow, heavy dew on the grass but many dog walkers and joggers enjoying the woods and taking their exercise.

The photo on the left was taken along the short track that leads from Doncaster Road into the woods. Also, it was good to see that even on a misty morning the carved bench is still being used...  by a resident crow.

I was surprised and excited to see a spotted flycatcher at the Doncaster Road end of the wood on Wednesday afternoon(16th).  Unfortunately I was too excited and not quick enough to get a photo. It gave me a marvellous view and flew off to catch a large fly or moth before landing on a nearby bare tree. They are summer migrants and this one has probably stopped off on its long journey back to Africa. I felt privileged to see it. Bon voyage!!
 I've put in a photo of a spotted flycatcher that I took in Shropshire in May this year. It shows the markings around the head but this is probably a young bird and doesn't have the darker chest markings yet. Beautiful just the same.

Upcoming events:
Sunday 20th September 2 - 5pm: Badock's Wood Green Hidden Treasures Celebration.
Thursday 8th October 7 - 8.30pm: Owl Prowl. Learn about and listen for the owls of Badock's Wood.
Sunday 13th December 2 - 3.30pm  Tree Dressing. Celebrating our trees and Badock's Wood.
See the Friends Of Badock's Wood (FOBW) leaflet or website for more details:  FOBW events. 

The woods are glorious on sunny autumn days and it's wonderful to see the trees gradually changing colour to those browns, yellows and golds, especially when there are berries of red and orange spread amongst them.....  and then the birds and squirrels feeding....

 Comments can be sent to:

mike townsend

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

There's a lot of 'Good' in Badock's Wood. Of course it depends on your perspective.  We were pleased to see this sparrowhawk in July. It had a clear view right down the path from the bench at the Lakewood Road entrance to the Triangle. However, not 'good' for any sparrows, bluetits or other small birds. In fact the pair of birds nested and raised at least two young this year and these would have been fed mainly on the small birds of the wood. You might have heard the hawks' high pitched cry as they fly over or between the trees hunting for their food.
Why is this squirrel hanging on by its tail and hind feet to eat berries? Is it just showing off? Surely there are enough berries for it to be able to sit on a branch somewhere and sit comfortably. Mind you, it was a very pleasant morning, just right for hanging around the meadow in the sun.
Grey squirrels have been here since the 18th century and although perhaps we now enjoy seeing them, they have ousted our native Red squirrels from most of the mainland. It would be unfair to blame them for displacing our reds but it is a warning about the introduction of new species, whether it be mammals, birds or plants. In fact, only last year the law was revoked which made it an offence not to inform the authorities if you saw a grey squirrel. The squirrel would then have been 'disposed' of.   See: Grey Squirrel -the law

This one has more sense. He's found a nut (or is it an acorn?) and is going to take it somewhere quiet to eat in peace and comfort. He was down by the Trym and had no intention of sharing his nut with me ! I wonder how many grey squirrels are in the wood? The last few days I could hear or see them almost continually. I watched one bury something interesting near the hedge in the playing field. I didn't find out what it was but I'm sure the squirrel will return to look for it when food is more scarce.... and it will be during the winter.

 I've always liked Snowberries (see left). They conjure up images of winter and snow. But I was amazed to learn that they are on a  'Bad' list for removal from the woods. It was introduced to the country in the 19th century and  it spreads to eliminate other species from an area. The berries are poisonous but because white berries are not attractive to eat and because they rapidly cause vomiting there are few cases of serious poisoning reported. I shall look at snowberry differently in future.
Another species on the 'Bad' list is Holm Oak. It doesn't have a typical 'oak' shaped leaf but it does have acorns and when I find it I will put in a photo so that we can all identify it.

Also on the list are Cotoneaster and Wilson's Honeysuckle, both of which I have yet to research.
I expect we all know about Himalayan Balsam. I spent an hour or so with a colleague from FOBW recently removing several plants from the stream near the Doncaster Road end. It was necessary to put a bag over the seed head because it 'explodes' and sends the seed up to 22 feet. I could hear them firing off inside the bag. A pretty flower but again it reproduces vigorously and stops other plants growing.  Ideally we would have removed the flowers before it seeded but that's a thought for next year.

There are still some butterflies around. It was sunny first thing this morning (13th Sept) and there were several Speckled Woods about. This one was enjoying the brief period of sun and took full advantage. It must have known it wasn't going to last long. and within half an hour it was cloudy and dismal again. Butterflies need warmth to fly and are deterred by wind.

 I want to put this photo in  because I felt a bit sorry for the robin this morning. I don't know why he (or she) is so bedraggled. It might have just had a bath or had a rough summer. Perhaps it's had a late brood and is still recovering from the stress of feeding its young. Many birds are moulting and gradually changing to their winter plumage so that might be the answer. Some birds are very nervous during their moult and tend to hide but this one didn't seem nervous at all. It seemed to enjoy the attention until an inquisitive dog came along and the bird decided to seek shelter. I saw a robin in a similar condition yesterday in a different part of the meadow.

And the Ugly. Well, this is the pond as it was this morning. Unfortunately litter attracts litter. I'm not sure that this needs any comment but hopefully we'll be able to do something about it before the weekend.
The Friends of Badock's Wood have worked wonders in the wood and continue to work to preserve its beauty and its wildlife for the pleasure of everyone. However, there is always more to do.

 see Friends of Badock's Wood - events
  • Friday 18th September 7.00 – 9.00 p.m. Bat Walk. Meet in the Greenway Centre.
  • Sunday 20th September 2.00 – 5.00 p.m. Badock’s Wood Green Hidden Treasures Celebration. Northern Gateway, Doncaster Rd.
  • Thursday 8th October 7.00 – 8.30 p.m. Owl Prowl. Meet at Northern Gateway, Doncaster Rd.
Till next time......

Comments can be sent to:

mike townsend

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A little History and a Warning

I saw in a leaflet that Badock's Wood is about 10 hectares. I'm afraid this didn't mean much at all to me. A hectare could have been the size of a tennis court or a football pitch. I'd no idea. I now know that 10 hectares is 0.1 square kilometer which sounds very little but is equal to 25 acres which does sound more respectable. So you can choose either 10 hectares or 25 acres ( about 15 football pitches !!).

A bit of History

Sir Stanley Badock gave half of the woods to the City nearly 80 years ago in 1937. He gave it on condition that the City gave the other half, which they did. There were two other interesting conditions to the gift. The council was to maintain an un-climbable iron fence along the western boundary of the land. Also, no structures could be erected except to protect the lands. It was a marvellous and generous gift to us, so a big "Thank you" to Stanley. Let's remember the man as well as the name and look after our woods.
There's a  lot more to know about him and the history of the woods so I'll put in a link:  FOBW history .
... And there's plenty more if you search on Google.

 There are still a few butterflies around on warm, still days but the there are far fewer than there were in August. The numbers were reduced greatly when the meadows were prematurely cut by the council. There were still flowers in the meadows for the butterflies and insects and these were removed. This reduced the numbers of butterflies and other insects and then this reduces the food for birds and bats. One bad decision can have a chain reaction which affects many species... and also bad for those of us who enjoy watching these beautiful creatures. Fortunately I took a few photos of the butterflies in the meadow during the summer and I can put some here for you.

These two are skippers.  There are several types and some are mottled but these are 'small skippers'. Delicately perched and their large complex eyes make them look nervous. They have many relatively simple 'light receptors' grouped into two eyes, one either side of the head to give a fairly comprehensive field of vision.  If you're interested in their anatomy see: butterfly anatomy.
 This butterfly is well know and of course is a comma. There were several of these in the meadow and around the blackberry flowers but I didn't see many peacock or red admiral butterflies this year.
 I've put in the next two photos to show one of the differences between the meadow brown butterfly(left) and the gatekeeper butterfly (below). To the novice, and that includes me, they look similar when flying about but if you get chance to see them stationary you'll see that the meadow brown has one white spot in the dark ring and the gatekeeper has two.
Before this summer I had not knowingly seen a gatekeeper. I could already recognise a peacock, comma, red admiral and small tortoiseshell but there are so many more and it adds to the pleasure if you can put a name to the different ones..

I've put in the photo on the left because I found it hard to believe that this butterfly with folded wings is a common blue, but it is (see my last post). If you get chance to see one, they are quite small (app 3cm wingspan) then be patient and see if you can spot it land and fold its wings. It's worth the wait. I took this photo on the same day as the open-wing one but this is possibly a different specimen.

I've included the  open wing version here for comparison.

 Blue-Green Algae.
 It seems that there is Blue-Green Algae in the stream where it has pooled. Someone has put up a sign to warn dog-walkers because it poses a health risk to animals and humans. The algae can be found in almost all waterways under normal conditions but it is when it reproduces to such a dramatic level that it can become dangerous.
You can see the water colour  in the lower photo although here the colour is slightly enhanced by reflection from the foliage. The advice is to keep dogs and children out of the water until it is clear. Fortunately we had some rain overnight which will dilute the effect a little but even so caution is needed.

Here is a link to a pdf text about the algae.
Environment Agency - Blue green algae.

 An early morning view of the meadow yesterday, 11th Sept. Perhaps you can see the signs that the trees are beginning to change to their autumn colours.
Don't forget Badock's Wood Green Hidden Treasures Celebration on Sunday 20th Sept and the Bat walk on Friday 18th Sept.

 Comments can be sent to:

mike townsend

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Who is watching ??

I'm not a doctor of course but here's a free prescription for anyone who needs a bit of a lift...  and who doesn't from time to time? Come down to the woods for a stroll... As simple as that? Well, I know it's not quite that easy for everyone to get down there but for those of us who can, then do !! It really is a tonic. Now for those who have difficulty with access or mobility then please don't be afraid to ask someone to help.... and I don't need to say anything to those who are able to help.
These two photos were taken on bright days in July, but even on a dull day there is a calm and serenity about the surroundings. The lady in red is just leaving the Triangle and might head upstream along the Trym or turn left and go up to the Meadow or Playing Field. I seem to remember she has a pushchair. What a beautiful view for a young child looking out on all that greenery, and mum chatting away about the stream, the trees and probably the squirrels too..... and then to doze.......
On the right is the path along the Trym. As you wander along you might see some nesting boxes on the trees. There's one on the large tree to the right of the photo. It's worth looking at the trees. Some of the mature ones are magnificent and surely have been there for a very long time.
All the crevices in the bark are great for insects and you'll see birds crawling around the trunks hunting them out. I saw a treecreeper several weeks ago and it was a real treat. Unfortunately it was camera shy. More often I see the nuthatches chipping away at bark looking for insects or at nuts and acorns with their strong chisel beaks. I don't have any good photos of nuthatches from the woods but I do have some I took elsewhere in August so will put one in.
The bird on the left is the nuthatch that I saw in Shropshire recently. In fact there was a family of them and one adult was giving food to another bird. It's easy to think it must have been a young bird receiving the food but the males will also give food to the females in a similar fashion.You can see the bird is pointing down the tree whereas treecreepers are almost invariably creeping up.

The next bird is a treecreeper from the same area and time. If you can enlarge the photo just look at the beak. It's like a surgical instrument for picking tiny objects from small holes and crevices. It wouldn't be any good for cracking nuts or eating seed like a nuthatch, finch or sparrow. To find a treecreeper in the wood look for a small bird that repeatedly flies from high in a tree to low on the trunk and then slowly but busily climbs up the trunk searching the minute crevices in the bark for tasty insects and bugs.

I mentioned nest boxes. This bluetit was nesting in the box that you can see from the bridge in the Triangle. It was early this summer and it was busy going to and fro fetching grubs for its young. No wonder the birds start to look a bit worn and bedraggled as the summer progresses. The boxes are mainly used by bluetits but it depends on the size of the entrance hole. Birds can be very fussy and its 25mm for bluetits but great tits are a bit larger and prefer 28mm, nuthatches 32mm.
Enough of birds for the moment.... though I never tire of them.
Let's pause a moment, perhaps by the stream...and think about this poem by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

 As you walk around have a look for the Green Man, another of Andy O'Neills sculptures. I'm sure you'll find him without me saying where he is. There was a story-telling gathering in the wood during the summer and some of us like to think of him as the 'Story Teller'. But have a look at him and see if you can tell who he is and what he's thinking.... or is he just watching? There's a carved seat close by and it's a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the sounds of the stream and birds while absorbing the marvellous atmosphere.
  Of course, as we walk and watch, we are also being watched closely. Not only by hundreds of small birds and plenty of squirrels but sometimes by slightly larger animals.
This fox was wondering why I was out so early one morning in July. He was by the Lakewood Road gate and after sizing me up for a few moments he decided I wasn't really worth worrying about and slowly went on his way.

Here's a map of the wood, courtesy of Ordnance Survey and I have added a few details. Unfortunately it's a bit pale but if you are able to enlarge it the details will be clearer. To find the wood's position within Bristol go to Google maps and enter postcode: BS10 5HW. Google Earth will show the green outline of the wood more clearly.

I did say I would  put in a bit of the wood's history but I'll save that for next time.

As an afterthought, I have to show you this butterfly. It was in the meadow in August and it's absolutely beautiful. It's a Common Blue but common or not it's a wonderful sight.
Yes, it is real and alive !!

Postscript: Funnily enough I went to the wood to de-stress this evening (3rd Sept) and during my wander I saw a treecreeper. I was amazed after what I'd already written only this afternoon. It's only the second one I've seen in Badock's Wood this year. I'm so pleased that I'm going to put in the photo I took even though it's not one to be proud of....  but it is one of our own Badock birds and that means a lot. Just look at that beak !

Till next time...

Here is some information from the Friends of Badock's Wood (FOBW) leaflet:
Badock's Wood Celebration: Sunday Sept 20th 2-5pm. See: for more details.

Bat Walk: Friday 18th Sept 7.00-9.00pm Meet in The Greenway Centre. A short talk about bats followed by a walk through the wood at dusk and after dark with bat detectors. Sounds exciting !!

 Comments can be sent to:

mike townsend