Sunday, 31 January 2016

Jelly Ear and a Sticky End

It was very wet and windy when I went to the wood this morning but it takes more than rain and mud to keep these youngsters away. In fact soon after this photo was taken they were heading for the water. Lots to see and lots to do. It all seemed very exciting. Forest Schools seem to be gaining in popularity, mixing fun and education with teaching respect for wildlife and the environment. And there's no substitute for just getting out and doing it. This is the Badgers Forest School which  featured in an earlier post. If you are interested click here.

  There is no shortage of crows in Badock's Wood and they are often seen feeding in and around the river. Here these are picking food from the river bed and amongst other creatures  these could be water shrimp or mayfly larvae. The latter can spend about a year developing in the water. They will hatch into adult mayflies which fly into the air, then live for only one day in order to mate and produce the next generation of larvae. They don't even have a need to eat. There are several species of mayfly but a piece of video from Russia demonstrates the short life of the adult fly. click here.
If you'd like to know more about this interesting creature and how it fits into the food chain it's worth reading this article. The article is American but is relevant and concise, Mayflies.  Members of FOBW (Friends of Badock's Wood) will be monitoring the numbers of fly larvae in the river during 2016 as an indication of the presence or absence of pollution.
The ash tree that fell over the river before Christmas is now an accepted feature and seems to fit into the landscape very well. See left.
One of the bonuses of wet weather is the greenery. It's one of the first things you miss when you go to drier countries and although we sometimes moan about our weather for being so wet and unreliable, there certainly are disadvantages to having long, dry, hot spells. The mild winter has allowed plants to continue growing and particularly some of the mosses at the moment are a very vibrant green.
The other day I was pleased to see a moorhen in the Trym where it enters the wood; it was well protected by the brambles and shrubbery. It's not impossible that it could nest there but I think it's more likely that it came upstream from the wildlife park.
 This is the short lane between Doncaster Road and Badock's Wood. There is plenty of litter. In fact there were two full bin bags that have been left for a long time under the brambles.
On Saturday morning (23rd January), eight of us spent a couple of hours picking up the litter and Geoff persuaded us to separate the aluminium cans for recycling. We squashed each one and he was able to recycle a fairly full binbag of cans. He also quizzed us on how many hours of television we could watch with the energy saved from each can (?) and how many standard aluminium cans make a ton. If you are interested to know the answers to these questions and learn other fascinating facts you might like to look at this website - click here. 
The February litter pick will be on Saturday 27th and will involve some time picking litter from Trymside and then moving into Badock's Wood to spend time clearing an area here. More details later. On Saturday we picked up all the litter shown in the photos, and also walked along the stream to clear part of that as well.
Where on earth does it all come from ??

 You can see some of the bags here but you can't see the large advertising hoarding and the wall mirror that we also found. Thank you Jerry from the Parks Dept for arranging collection of the bags so promptly.
I think you can tell from the smiles that we were very pleased with our morning's work and several walkers thanked us during the morning.
If you'd like to join us next time, email to, look at the FOBW. website or watch for posters around the wood.

The photo on the right was taken on Sun 24th.
 You'd be forgiven for thinking the bird is a sparrow. In fact in the past it was called a hedge sparrow but it's not related at all to the sparrows, it's a Dunnock and the similarity to a sparrow is superficial. This bird has a finer beak, more suitable for eating insects and small seeds whereas the beak of a sparrow is thicker, more for breaking seed and eating scraps. If you listen to a flock of sparrows you can tell that they're only chatting and gossiping. The Dunnock has a very sweet song - listen here.

There are plenty of Horse Chestnut buds about in the wood. I can't resist touching them but it can be a bit messy because they are very sticky. Give it a try. This apparently helps keep its scales wrapped firmly around the sensitive growing tip protecting it from frost and perhaps insects. The bud will develop remarkably quickly when winter gives way to warmer weather. You can read more about horse chestnut trees here.

You can see this jelly ear beside the path that leads from Lake Road up to the Ceramics at the North Entrance. Someone said that it was rather unattractive but I think it looks different with the light behind it like this. It's a hardy fungus and can be seen all year round even with normal winter temperatures. Apparently it's edible but not necessarily enjoyable. Perhaps the name itself is a little off-putting.

Now, slugs can be fairly described as unattractive but they are very functional; important in the breakdown of vegetable matter. I don't know what species of slug these are but when/if I have more time I would like to look further into it.  There are about 20,000 slugs in the average UK garden and they are an important food source for some birds and hedgehogs. Thrushes can seem quite vicious as they swipe a slug from side to side on the ground to scrape off the unpleasant slime. Here is an interesting site, with plenty more information. - slugs. 

 Several walkers have mentioned that they sometimes hear the Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the woods but have never seen it. Well, I suppose part of the answer is that you need to stand still for a while and look high in the trees where it feeds and drums. I saw one today in Stoke Park with its bright red feathers on its rear. There may be only a few in the wood but their nest sites are clearly seen. I should say that although the Green Woodpecker can sometimes be heard and seen seen high in the trees, it more often feeds on the ground, often feeding on ants in fields and gardens. It doesn't drum either.
In contrast there are many squirrels in the wood. I see and hear them all the time as I walk around. They make all sorts of strange sounds, sometimes making sounds that could be confused with a bird such as a magpie. But I cannot find their sleeping quarters, a dray (or drey). There must be plenty of them around in the trees and perhaps they will be more obvious when there are young to nurse but at present I cannot find one.
These two woodpecker holes are in trees beside the Trym. They are easiest to see when walking away from the Triangle; on the right of the river. Hopefully they will be in use soon. Look high in the trees and I'm sure you will find them.

  • To see The Friends of Badock's Wood website click here.  
  • You are welcome to join the FOBW Work Party to cut back invasive Wilsons Honeysuckle on Saturday February 6th at 10am. For information see posters around the wood or send an email to . Instruction and equipment will be provided. 
  •  You can click on the photos to enlarge them.
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mike townsend

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