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Monday, 22 February 2016

Late Winter Sun

As I write, Saturday afternoon 20th Feb, it's very windy outside, approximately 50mph and also raining. The weather is very changeable at the moment and we were fortunate this morning because there was little wind and rain. We cleared litter from the stream and its banks from the Lakewood Road entrance as far as and beyond the Chestnut Bench with the spider carving.
We also cleared this area which is looking from near the Westbury Wildlife Park towards the Triangle (when the weather was more clement).
Because of the rain we've had in recent weeks there is a lot of mud on some of the routes and it is a lot easier when there is a frost.
We have had plenty of frosty mornings. It's a pleasure to be out when there is a clear blue sky, frosty, glistening grass and the sun gradually spreading across the tops of the trees and then the meadows.
The birds too seem to appreciate the sun's first warm rays of the morning and on Thursday we were serenaded by a Song Thrush high in one of the trees over the tumulus. It's a beautiful song and can be recognised by the repetition of single phrases three or four times. If you'd like to see and hear the Song Thrush try these two sites. click here first then here.
I was also pleasantly surprised on Thursday to see this little chap near the Lakewood Road entrance to the wood and before the carved bench. It's a male Blackcap. It's easy to see how it got its name. It's not rare but not often seen. During the winter the Blackcap is sometimes seen around gardens but because it's been a mild winter it hasn't been such a frequent visitor. In fact I haven't seen one in the garden this winter at all and we normally do. The female has a reddish-brown cap. This is another bird with a lovely song and worth listening for. The population increases during the summer as birds arrive from Northern Europe and it is one bird where the British population is increasing. It seems that more birds are staying over the winter. Click the link to hear the song and to see some video, Blackcap audio and video.

 We see two types of wagtail in Badock's Wood. This black & white bird on the left is, naturally, the Pied Wagtail. It's a bird commonly seen around open spaces such as car parks and park land. This one is perched on the fence by the ceramics. They mainly feed on insects and so you often see them darting about catching flies and midges.
The other wagtail often seen in the wood is the Grey Wagtail (photo below). Many walkers have seen it feeding on midges and water creatures along the stream. It's usually seen sitting on a stone watching for an insect or searching among the plants at the edge of the stream and this one was near the Triangle.
 The Pied Wagtail is just black & white but the Grey Wagtail often has some yellow on its underparts and this one at the base of the tail.

 The third type of wagtail is the Yellow Wagtail which has more yellow than the Grey. It has yellow on the head and can have olive green upper parts although there are differences between male and female. I've not heard of anyone seeing a Yellow Wagtail in Badock's Wood but there are records on the internet of them being seen in Bristol during 2015. In the grey and Yellow Wagtail the male is much more yellow in the breeding season than the female. This difference in the sexes is called sexual dimorphism and is a great help in telling the sexes apart. Not all birds show a difference; the robin for example shows very little or no detectable difference. In fact if you want to know the sex of some cage birds for breeding, parrots for instance, it is necessary to either use an endoscope or do DNA testing on a feather. Those birds show sexual monomorphism. To see a Yellow Wagtail, look at the RSPB website and from that page there are links to Pied and Grey wagtail: RSPB website.

The very windy, wet weather has carried over to Sunday but there are definite signs that Spring is on
the way. Of course flowering started early and we now have snowdrops and celandines in the wood. There are also many bluebell leaves and the flowers won't be far behind.
 There are now female flowers on the hazel. It's worth walking over to a hazel tree, look for the catkins, to search for the small red female flowers. These have to catch the male pollen from the dusty catkins in order to produce the fruit, hazel nuts. There seem to be fewer female flowers than catkins but it's worth the search. It's easy to confuse the hazel with alder so if you see small cones on the tree it will be an alder. I managed to get this photo from a Hazel tree in the meadow but there are more and better photos in Google images.

I was in Tilgate Park in Sussex last week and saw a grey squirrel stuffing dry, dead leaves into its mouth with both paws. I'd not seen this before and supposed it was carrying it to a drey so I watched carefully. It didn't seem at all timid. Once it could carry no more it dashed to the nearby tree and rushed straight up the trunk and into a 'woodpecker' hole. I waited patiently for a while to get a photo of it leaving but it was presumably busy making its home as comfortable as possible for any young that might be produced during the spring. I was pleased that my daughter and grandchildren were with me to see it.

It's odd to walk down to the Triangle from the Lakewood Road entrance on a cold morning to see a mist rising from the stream. I assume that this happens because the water coming down from the entrance is warmer than the air above it. It can seem quite atmospheric when viewing it into the sun. I took this photo on a chilly morning last week.

 On Saturday 27th there will be a Riverbank Litter Pick event organised by Bristol Avon River Trust and Friends of Badock's Wood. There will also be an activity to emphasise the importance of reducing the pollution in our waterways. Whether you'd like to be involved or only come to see what it's all about then just turn up at the Doncaster Road entrance to Trymside Open Space (opposite the smaller of the Doncaster Road entrances) at 2pm. Instruction and equipment will be available.

The Bristol Natural History Consortium are  giving awards to people and projects that benefit our Green Spaces. I feel that the Friends of Badock's Wood, as a group, deserve congratulations for the work they've done over the last 15 to 20 years in improving and maintaining Badock's Wood as a Local Nature Reserve. I have been involved with the group for less than a year but I can see, and many others have mentioned the good work that the FOBW has done over the years. If you would like to see the BNHC website and possibly nominate FOBW, or any other person or organisation, then have a look  here. .

  • If you would like more information about FOBW or its activities click here FOBW.
  •  There will be a Work Party to clear invasive plants from part of the wood on March 5th so email Siân at for information if you'd like to be involved.
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 mike townsend

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Tawny Owls & The Parks Forum

On Saturday (30th Jan) Dave & Paul from the South Gloucester Hawk & Owl Trust came to Badock's Wood to look for suitable trees to place two Tawny Owl nesting boxes. There are 3 already in the wood near the Westbury Wildlife Park but these are deteriorating and also too high for monitoring. Even if not used recently by owls the boxes have been used by other Badock's residents; as demonstrated by a photo first shown last autumn. Finding suitable trees was more tricky that I'd expected. Tawny owl chicks, even before they can fly, like to sit out on nearby branches so the parents will look for these. Naturally they will sometimes fall off and there is a risk from dogs but also that walkers might pick them up and 'rescue' them so they must not be too close to paths. However Tawny Owl chicks are very good climbers and if left will make their way up the trunk and back to the branch or box. Here is a Barred Owl (American) demonstrating how it's done:  click here.
If chicks of any species have fallen out of a nest they will have the best chance of survival if left where they are. The parents are likely to be watching from nearby and will usually guide and care for the chick. There are very few chicks that survive after being taken home. If the chick is in danger then it is better to place it in the safety of a nearby bush.
We hope to have our boxes by the summer and ready for next year's nesting season. If you asked most people to imitate an owl call they'd in fact try the call of the Tawny Owl but the other types of owl can be very different. Here is a site which has owl calls. Before you listen to the other owls I suggest you listen to Tawny owl 'Adult Call 2'. Try the others after this but be prepared for it being loud. It's quite an 'ear opener'. You can see why it could make you nervous in a wood at night. Try this - Owl calls. but be prepared !

I know I've put in Tree Creeper before but over the last couple of weeks I've seen a pair several times in different places in the wood. Whether there are several pairs or it's the same pair turning up in different places I don't know but I put in these photos because in the first photo you can see the fine curved beak and in the second you can see it being poked into a crevice seeking out food item. The other thing to notice in the second photo is the very long hind claw. This bird is rarely seen other than climbing upwards. You will notice a zig zag pattern. It climbs up the tree then flies to the base of another and repeats the process, always climbing up. The claws are not designed for climbing down. I saw this bird at the beginning of our Owl Box

 That same afternoon while a group of us were doing the RSPB Big garden Birdwatch in the wood, I was pointing out a Woodpecker hole when we saw a Nuthatch exploring it. We didn't see it go in but it was making a good inspection of the exterior. Birds are great believers in the adage 'Location, location, location'. They can't be too cautious of access for predators, direction of sun and possibility of rain water running in. You might hear a Nuthatch call in the wood so here is a link to show what it sounds like - Nuthatch call. There are photos of a Nuthatch on the same web page and also in an earlier post. It's an impressive bird and one to look out for.

Last time I put in a photo of two slugs. It turns out that they were Arion Hortensis. It sounds quite impressive but they are in fact Common Garden Slugs.  However at the same time I took a photo of several slugs that were under an upturned bit of rubbish in the wood. I sent these off to a site on the Internet called iSpot. It's very useful because you can send in any photos of wildlife and someone who knows will identify the specimen for you. I've used it only 3 times but it's been very helpful. Of course it can be disappointing.

For instance, when I sent in a photo hoping it was a Stockdove and turned out to be a young Woodpigeon. The small group of slugs was thought to include: Tandonia budapestensis (the Budapest slug), Arion circumscriptus, Derocerus invadens ( the chestnut slug), Derocerus reticulatum (the netted slug) and possibly Arion owenii. They also, unasked, identified the snails in the same photo for me: Oxychylus sp., Discus rotundatus and Trochulus striolatus. You might not find this at all interesting but it is worth noting the website and see what you can find there. - see iSpot.  Of course the birds in the wood are very interested in slugs !!

These orange fungi were on a dead tree last week, near the steps up to the meadow. They are Velvet Shank Fungus. I was reminded by a friend of spore prints. I used to make them for my own girls and they are great fun and can be beautiful, each fungus having a different colour and pattern of spores. It's certainly worth doing when you find fungi in plentiful supply. I wouldn't have wanted to pick these fungi nor encourage others to do so but you can practise on ones you find in abundance in the right season. This spore print is from the internet.
How to make a spore print. Also look at examples of spore prints.

 If you are interested in the open spaces of Bristol then you might like to know about the Bristol Parks Forum. It is an umbrella organisation for all the parks and green spaces of Bristol. I will paste a paragraph from their website explaining their raison d'être..........
"Bristol Parks Forum was established by Bristol Parks as an umbrella organisation for community park groups and organisations in the city with an interest in their local parks and green spaces.
The forum is still supported by Bristol City Council but is now run independently and is currently the only ‘community voice’ that is dedicated to all of Bristol’s green spaces.
The forum’s three main roles are:
– to offer an opportunity to share ideas and experience;
– to act as a consultation body for the Bristol Parks service and other agencies;
– to influence decision-making, including the allocation of resources".

There is a lot of information on their website and it gives links to Friends' Groups around the city.
If you are interested to know what is going on in the city with regard to your local Green Space and what is planned, then look at :  Bristol Parks Forum.

  • Unfortunately yesterday's (Feb 6th) work party had to be called off. There was heavy rain and strong winds of about 50mph. There will be another opportunity to help on March 5th so email Siân at for information if you'd like to be involved.
  • The FOBW and BART Litter Pick in Trymside and Badock's Wood takes place on Feb 27th. See posters in the wood or email for more information. If you'd like to know about the work that BART (Bristol Avon River Trust) does click here. 
  • If you'd like to be kept up to date with news and events related to Badock's Wood then you can be put on the FOBW emailing list. Contact the secretary at or look at the FOBW website : Friends of Badock's Wood. 
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  •  You can comment on anything in this blog by writing to

mike townsend