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Saturday, 23 April 2016

Spring - A time to Get Out and enjoy Badock's Wood

The very mixed weather continues with it being very cold today (FridayApril 22nd) and this afternoon it has started to rain but we have had some glorious days. Last Friday I had a very pleasant walk through the wood and stopped at the Triangle to gaze up at the tree tops. It was a very still evening and I noticed something quite high up gradually floating down. I had to be patient but it gently floated straight down in the still air and landed on my outstretched hand. Somehow I felt very fortunate. It was a feather, probably from a pigeon.

 This is the feather I caught and you can see why it is so light and floated in the air. Feathers have 3 main functions; flight, insulation and display. Feathers have many barbs which hold its shape, cause wind resistance and this allows flight. If you pick up a feather and tease the flat part apart then you will feel that it tries to hold together. This is the work of the barbs.The downy part traps air for insulation and buoyancy for water birds.  The colour of feathers, including non-visible UV light helps in display and to attract a mate. There are several websites explaining the structure of feathers but they are all very detailed. This short video is quite interesting, particularly the second part: video here. If you would like more information then see here.

  Here is a male Greenfinch which has beautifully coloured feather for display. The female is rather more subdued. This one was singing and posing on Thursday. Not entirely for my benefit I suspect. It's ironic that there has been a decline in population because of a disease, Trichomonosis,which prevents it feeding properly. It is a protozoan which affects the back of the bird's throat and gullet. Ironic because the normal song of the Greenfinch is often described as having a wheeze: listen here.

Trichomonosis can also affect other species of birds and if you would like to know more see here.
 The Water Sampling event on Sunday 17th April was a great success. About 3 dozen people dropped in to see what organisms were swimming around in the water. We found mayfly larvae as well as fresh water shrimp, leeches and hog lice. Although there would be greater variety if the water was less polluted, there are clearly enough here to help support the grey wagtails and to be an added extra to the diet of crows and other birds. Here you can see Harriet Alvis from Bristol Avon Rivers Trust explaining the different creatures.

 Of course the youngsters, even those with no boots, didn't need much encouragement to get into the water to have a go with the net for themselves. Some of them clearly have a career ahead of them in water conservation.
We were pleased to also see an adult Mayfly. They spend a very short time as a flying adult, sometimes just one day and then the rest of the year as immature forms under water.... trying to keep out of the way of the grey wagtails !!

This is the adult mayfly on Harriet's hand.
To see a video of the Mayfly life cycle watch this.
The Mayfly in this photo might well be the first of the two adult stages.
To find out more about BART and its work in waterway conservation see here. 
The Friends of Badock's Wood monitor the stream monthly for water creatures as an indicator of pollution and soon we expect to start monitoring Nitrate and Phosphate levels.

Spring is a good time to see birds in Badock's Wood. The birds are calling to mark territory, there is less foliage and the birds more visible than they will be in a few weeks time and they are also very busy building nests and then hunting for food for chicks. However some of them are still very elusive. This Green Woodpecker was right at the top of one of the tall trees at the Triangle. It was calling with that laugh that suggests it knows we are having trouble finding it. Listen here. You can also hear various other birds in the recording including a chiffchaff. The woodpecker in the photo is probably a female because it doesn't have any red in its black moustache.
It is very helpful to be able to recognise some birds from their call because then you know what particular birds are around and you know what to look for. This is a great help. The FOBW have organised a Bird Walk on Sunday May 1st starting at 10am and meeting at the main Doncaster Road entrance. I believe the emphasis will be on bird song and it should be interesting.
 As the warmer weather arrives we will see more butterflies. They are cold blooded and need warm temperatures to be able to fly. Optimum lower temperature is 82°F (about 28°C). They can fly in cooler weather but might need to 'shiver' their wings or bask in the sun. This Comma butterfly was flying around and enjoying the aroma of garlic but stopped to bask every so often. We did also see Orange Tip and Brimstone butterflies. On cooler days you are unlikely to see many. If you have some questions on Butterflies you might like to look here.
This is the path that goes from the Totem Pole at the Lake Road entrance up to the Mosaic. There are often birds in the brush at the bottom of this lane. The brambles create a good refuge for them. As well as blackcaps, dunnocks and other small birds, there were a pair of Mallards here in the stream last week. The male is beautifully coloured in the sun. It's a pity to think that a mattress -like article was dumped very close to this site and has been here for at least a couple of months. I'm pleased to say that it has been moved to where the council will remove it next week.
I took the photo on the right last week. It's a part of the wood that isn't easily seen from the path someone has cut through the fence and dumped the rubbish from a path through Clover Ground. Unfortunately it gets washed and blown down the bank into the stream.
The goods news is that we have a great group of FOBW volunteers who regularly give up their time to clear the wood so that we can all enjoy the beauty and also to make the wood a safer place for wildlife. Unfortunately it is almost certain that more rubbish will be dumped but the only answer is for volunteers to keep removing it.... over and over again.

This is the rubbish we collected this morning (Saturday 23rd). Three tyres were collected from the stream near the Triangle and a television from the site in the previous photo.
I think the council will collect on Monday so it won't be an eyesore for long. As well as the volunteers who came today there are others who regularly turn out but weren't able to make it this morning.
A big 'Thank you' to all of them and certainly the 2016 Green Volunteer Award for the work done by all the members of the FOBW was well deserved.

Queen Anne's Lace
There are many plants in the wood whose name I don't know. But they all add something to the overall picture and are just a pleasure to look at.
The mallard is the one I saw in the stream.

  • Don't forget the Bird Walk on May 1st. Details above.
  • You can click on any photos to enlarge them.
  • If you would like notification of future posts put your email address in the box at top right of the page.
  • If you wish to comment on anything in this blog you can contact me at 
  • For information about the Friends of Badock's Wood see FOBW.
  • To join the Litter group email
  • To join the Work Group and help with conservation work email

mike townsend

Friday, 15 April 2016

Queen Anne's Lace

 It has been quite chilly today (Friday Apr 15th) but we've had some glorious Spring weather over the last week or so. Where the ground was previously just an open area of wet mud there is now a covering of fresh green leaves of Cow Parsley, perhaps more picturesquely called Queen Anne's Lace. The garlic leaves are now populated by a scattering of white flowers and there is an abundance of bluebell leaves and flowers, and this is all lifted by the bright yellow of the celandines.

 A group of the Friend's of Badock's Wood volunteers removed more than 5 large bags of Spanish bluebell leaves last Saturday in order to give the native bluebells an advantage. In addition about 2000 native bulbs were planted in the wood a couple of years ago by FOBW. Most of the bluebells you see in the wood, away from the perimeter, are native flowers.
 It's difficult not to wax lyrical but there are people who can do it much better than I. In fact Mark Hamilton has written a poem especially for Badock's Wood and the sentiments describe a walk in the wood exceptionally well.
The simple pleasure
of a walk
through the wood,
always fresh
and leafmeal good,
under the wavering branches
that hold magpies and crows
and finches,
and quick squirrels like
grey squiggles
scampering up and down,
should be
step by step along
the rain-bright path,

“I live locally on Southmead Road and love taking my dog for a walk in Badock’s Wood.  I also write poetry (have published a couple of collections) – and wrote a poem about the wood…. hope you like it!”– Mark Hamilton

If you would like to read more of Mark's  poems follow this link.

This blackcap was taking advantage of the sun the other afternoon. It was singing beautifully and I'm sure would have attracted any female in the area but I didn't catch sight of one. The females have brown caps rather than black so that he is unlikely to make an embarrassing mistake. The female on the right was copied from Google images. Listen to the song here.

I am sorry to say that the frog spawn I saw a couple of weeks ago seems to have degraded. For a day or so there was jelly but no sign of developing tadpoles and I wonder if these had been eaten by a heron or perhaps by fish that might be in the pond. There were certainly fish in the pond last autumn as seen in a previous post but I have not seen any since then; perhaps also picked off one by one by the heron. I don't have a photo of a heron in the wood but here is one on my neighbours roof.There are a few goldfish ponds in the area to supply a tasty meal.

I didn't see any tadpoles but I did see this fly which turned out to be a Pond Skater. They are well known for their ability to walk on water. It's amazing to think that even clean surface water forms a film that supports these insects. They can detect ripples from fallen insects and rush across the water surface to grab it with its front legs, sink it's mouth parts into the insect and inject with digestive fluids. However, the Pond Skater is also a food source for fish, birds and frogs. "What goes around comes around" .

 It was iSpot that identified the Pond Skater for me and I sent them this photo of what looked to me at first sight like an acorn on an ash tree. A closer look convinced me that it was a gall of some sort, either insect or fungal disease. I was very surprised when the reply told me that it was a normal Ash flower bud. I went back a few days later to check it out and in fact it had opened into a perfectly normal flower. Although I am familiar with Ask keys I hadn't really taken notice of ash flowers before. I shall from now on.

These are buds on the same tree just  a few days later than the previous photo.
If you enjoy trees you might be interested to know that there will be a Tree Walk through the wood on August 7th.  This will be led by Richard Bland of Bristol Naturalists, who is always full of interesting information and I can guarantee that it will be an enjoyable walk. That's still a while off and before that there is a Water Sampling event this Sunday (April 17th), and a Bird Walk on May 1st. More details below.

 The woods are enjoyed by many different section of society and we all have to get along and share the beauty and facilities that Badock's Wood has to offer.
This dog was having great fun repeatedly pulling the stick from the depths and returning it to its owner. She told me that this was 'Bath Time' for the dog.
The water is quite deep just here and in fact too deep for the small bird that was having its bath in a shallower part just a few metres away last week.

This goldcrest was very particular and bathed for more than 5 minutes while we watched. It weighs about 5 gms compared to the dog which  probably weighs about 15000gms and makes much more of a splash.
Feathers need special features to be able to shed water quickly so that the bird can immediately take flight. More on that in a later post.

Garlic flower and Native bluebell
    Buttercup and pollinator
  • You can download the Friends of Badock's Wood program for April to August here.
  • The FOBW work to conserve Badock's Wood for wildlife and for people. If you'd like to help with this task contact the secretary on If you'd like to contact the Work Group or Litter Group directly then contact or
  • River Sampling ( search for water creatures) this Sunday (17th April) 2pm - 3.30. Meet at the Triangle where the two waters meet. This event will be led by Harriet Alvis of Bristol Avon Rivers Trust. To learn more about BART click here.
  • Learn how to identify some of the birds in Badock's Wood. There will be a bird walk on Sunday May 1st, 10-11.30am. Meet at the Northern Gateway, Doncaster Road. Bring binoculars if you have them. This walk will be led by Mary Wood.
  •  You can enlarge photos by clicking on them.
  • If you have any comments about anything in this blog you can contact me on 
  • If you would like notification of future posts put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.

mike townsend