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Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Joy & Beauty which is Badock's Wood


Badock's  Wood is full of interesting sights at the moment. Particularly there is a lot of white blossom. This Rowan, also called Mountain Ash, is by the meadow and in a few months these beautiful white flowers will have developed into brilliant red berries. Of course that depends on a variety of insects being attracted to the flowers by colour and scent to pollinate them. It's fascinating to think that when a single grain of pollen lands on the female part of the flower the grain grows a long tube to reach the egg. Only then can the genetic material pass from the pollen to the egg and the egg can then start to develop into a new plant. Nature is anything but simple but it is the necessity of certain plants to attract insects that gives us the beauty of colour and scent. Of course other plants such as grasses and trees with catkins will use the wind to spread their pollen.

You can see that this vetch, again in the meadow, is attracting insects that hope that the colour means there will be a feed of nectar for them.
To see a simple video of the fertilisation process click here and to read a more detailed explanation   click here.

As well as the vetch there is an amazing show of buttercups, clover and many others including colourful dandelion flowers and clocks. You might think that for the meadow to have an abundance of wild flowers it needs to be fed with nutrients but in fact it's quite the opposite. It needs to be kept nutrient poor so that the grass doesn't flourish and crowd out the flowers. When the meadow is cut, at the appropriate time for butterflies and bugs, the grass is removed so that it doesn't compost and feed the soil.

There still aren't a lot of butterflies yet but hopefully when it becomes warmer we will see more. You can see Speckled Wood butterflies such as this one as you walk along by the stream. The males and females are very similar although the male is slightly smaller. The female lays her eggs on  various types of grasses, which are a source of food for the caterpillars. The speckled wood can survive the winter as a chrysalis or as a half grown larva. For more about the Speckled Wood click here.
 These are two of the organisms that we look for in the stream as a measure of the water quality. In fact I took these photos while I was with Ruth Revell who was monitoring the quality of the River Frome at Snuff Mills. We recorded several other species as as well which shows that the water quality is good. The top one is a Mayfly larva and the fluffy mass on its back are  its gills. These gills will be busy waving in the flowing water extracting oxygen in the same way that our lungs do.
The lower photo shows a caddis fly larva in the case it has made for itself from material it has found on the stream bed. It has bound the material together with silk that it has produced. It's gills are within the tube and it sucks water in from the posterior end of the tube, over the gills and out through the front end. It drags its home around with it by using its front legs.
We have seen a few adult mayflies in the wood but have not yet found any mayfly or caddis larvae during our monitoring in Badock's Wood. This is an indication that the pollution levels in the stream are having an adverse effect on the wildlife. To see adult forms see mayfly and caddis fly.
I use the term 'larva' for immature forms of various creatures but in some cases this might not be scientifically correct. Some immature forms are more correctly called 'nymphs' and if you would like to know the difference between larvae and nymphs then you can see an explanation here.

 These are the developing seeds of an Elm Tree which is beside the path up to the Sports Field from the Triangle. There are almost no mature Elm trees in the UK because of two Dutch Elm Disease epidemics, one in the 1920's and the other in the 70's. Beetles spread the fungus that causes the disease. When it has killed most of the Elm in an area the beetles can't feed, they die out and the elm can start to regrow but eventually there will be again enough food for the beetles to return and feed and the cycle starts again. It is likely that our Elm tree will survive for a few years but then beetles will come back, spread the fungus and the tree will die.
Trees of all types are regularly falling in the wood but it's sobering to think that in the storms
of 2014 Killerton gardens lost 500 trees and Stourhead lost 400. Also in the storm of 1987 the UK lost an estimated 15 million trees.
One of the great joys that Badock's Wood offers is to be able to escape the noise of traffic, the busyness of the streets and to be surrounded by the peace and calm and the beauty of nature.
It is worth working hard to preserve !

This long tailed tit was in the meadows last week. I must admit that I thought it had conjunctivitis until I looked at photos on the web and saw that they all had pink around their eyes. You might not see the birds but you will almost certainly hear a group of them twittering away excitedly in the trees. You can listen to them and see a piece of video on the RSPB website here.
 I have seen Tree Creepers and Great Spotted woodpecker over the last few days and Ruth Revell was very fortunate to see a pair of Dippers in the stream near the Wildlife Park during our litter pick last week.

 These are three different types of Geranium flowers or Cranesbill in the meadow as well as one of my wife's favourite, the Ragged Robin. Superficially the Cranesbills look similar to each other but on closer inspection they do have differences. Look particularly at the petals but also the leaves.

Last time I mentioned that some dog owners aren't careful about leaving dog poo or where they leave their dog poo bags. Well, this bluetit is setting a good example by removing a chick poo bag from its nest and depositing it somewhere appropriate. Well away from its home so that it doesn't advertise that the box is occupied.
I call this No 3 Wren Rise which is on the left of the path from the Triangle up to the Sports Field.
During a walk last week I saw both great and blue tits using 6 of our boxes. These were boxes 2, 5, 11, 14, 20 and the unnumbered box at the triangle. I'd be interested to know if you see birds using any of the other boxes that are spread throughout the wood.
It's amazing how the chick produces the droppings already hygienically sealed for disposal. How long has it taken for Nature to progress from 'nothing' to this degree of complexity?

A while ago I featured a poem  called 'In Badock's Wood' by local poet Mark Hamilton . I'm pleased to say that a book of his poems is being published on June 6th.  The book is called 'In Badock's Wood and Other Poems' and will be available from Amazon and also perhaps from some local bookshops. Mark told me that it contains 16 poems about Badock's Wood and 16 poems about related subjects. If you would like to see more details on the Amazon website see here.

  • You can enlarge photos by clicking on them.
  • There is a guided Bugs & Butterflies walk on Sunday 29th May at 2pm. This will be led by Tony Smith of Bristol Naturalists and Tony West of FOBW. Meet at the main Doncaster Road entrance.
  • There is the General Meeting of the Friends of Badock's Wood at the Greenway Community Centre, Doncaster Road on Tuesday June 7th at 7.30pm. Public involvement is vital to the well-being and conservation of the wood so please turn up to find out what is happening and also to give your opinion.
  • There is a Midsummer Wildflower Walk on Sunday July 3rd at 2pm led by Tony Smith. Meet at  Doncaster Road main entrance.
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  • If you would to comment on anything in this blog then you can email me at:

mike townsend 




Saturday, 14 May 2016

An Orange Tip

Just a week or so ago we were saying how empty the river was but after a couple of days of rain it refilled and brought the whole wood to life again. It often amazes me how the rain enriches the colour scheme of the wood.... and there is almost frantic bird activity between the showers to collect enough food for themselves and their young before the next downpour.

 This Great Tit caught a fly of some sort last week and has  brought it back to this hole. It went into the hole with the fly and came out without it so I'm assuming it has a nest there. It's right beside the River Trym and almost at ground level which is unusual. Usually they nest between 1m and 5m and in fact I've seen Great Tits using at least two of our nest boxes in the last few weeks, which are about 3 metres above ground. Look out for the nest boxes and you might be lucky enough to see either great tits or 
blue tits using them. To learn more or to hear the call of the great tit click here.
Butterflies need warm weather to fly and so there are very few about during the cooler weather we've been having. Even on sunny days they won't fly if there is a cool breeze. Fortunately we have had some warmer days and there have been quite a few Orange Tip butterflies about on those days. However, it has taken me quite a while to get a photograph of one because they don't settle very often or for long. They are beautiful though and well worth the effort. I thought I saw several white butterflies during my search for an Orange Tip but I later discovered that this was a mistake.

I didn't appreciate that there is marked sexual dimorphism in butterflies as there is in some other animal groups such as birds and mammals. In fact some of the smaller white butterflies that I had seen were in fact female Orange Tip butterflies and it is the male ones with the orange tips to their upper wings. Once I had discovered this I began another search for a female. On a warm day this did not take so long. You can see that it has a black margin similar to the male but with no orange. It can be differentiated from the white butterflies because of its greenish underwing. To learn more about the Orange Tip, what it feeds on and where it lays its eggs click here.  keep a watch for them and then we can look out for the green caterpillars soon.
This is the path that  leads from the Triangle along the right hand side of the Trym. It's very muddy during the winter and there are some steep and worn steps part way along. It is hoped that these will be replaced this year to make this area more accessible.

The white flowers are garlic and in amongst them them are some young Harts Tongue fern fronds.  It's interesting that these ferns grow only in damp conditions because they must have liquid water to reproduce. You can see the brown clumps of spores under the larger frond on the left. The spores will fall into the soil and grow into a very small plant that will produce the equivalent of the pollen and eggs of flowering plants. The 'pollen' needs water to swim to the 'egg' and fertilise it, then the result will grow into an adult fern. Ferns are generally very different from flowering plants and you can read more information about them here.
 We planned to do our monthly Riverfly check in the stream on Tuesday morning but it rained so much that we had to put it off until Thursday. The benefit was that there was a better water flow and the water was clearer. We were primarily looking for different types of mayfly larvae and fresh water shrimps (Gammarus) but we also found these creatures. The top one is a Hog Louse, similar to a wood louse and it feeds on decaying organic matter so creatures such as this are important in cleaning up the stream and removing debris. They are relatively tolerant of pollution and so will be an important indicator of a severe pollution incident. One of the other indicators is the Olive mayfly larva and we found plenty of those but none of the other types which require cleaner water than we have. The River Frome at Snuff Mills have all eight types but at the moment we can only find two. We have some way to go in improving the quality of the water by controlling what enters the stream from road drains and from poorly connected domestic systems. The Bristol Avon Rivers Trust are working hard at this by education and by improving the conditions in Waterways throughout the region. See BART.
We also found these other two creatures in the water but have yet to find out exactly what they are.

Dogs are very much a part of the Badock's scene. Fortunately most owners are vigilant in picking up after their dogs, but not all and it is also surprising how many owners will put the faeces into a plastic bag and then leave it by the path or throw it onto a bank or a tree.
There seem to be very few aggressive dogs but some are over friendly and jump up. In fact one jumped up on me on Thursday which unfortunately was a muddy day and it left its mark. That owner didn't apologise but I know that some do. It is clear that many people stay away from the wood because of the number of dogs, because some jump up with muddy paws, because of the dog faeces or simply because they are nervous of roaming dogs. This of course will be particularly true for children where some dogs will be as tall as them. Dogs as I say are very much a part of the place but this is a plea for them to be under control so that we can all enjoy the Wood for the Nature Reserve that it is.

There are many things to look out for in the Wood at the moment like these Speedwell and the Hawthorn blossom. Hopefully we'll get some more warmth with the sun in the days to come to bring out the butterflies.

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  •  If you would like notification of further posts to this blog put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.
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  • The Friends of Badock's Wood have a General Meeting on Tuesday 7th June at 7.30pm at the Greenway Centre. It's a good opportunity for anyone to have their say or find out what is planned for the wood so do come along to help improve things.
  • The FOBW have organised a Litter Pick for Saturday 21st May. We meet at 10am at the Lakewood Road entrance opposite the Willowbank Home. If you would like to come please send an email to and I will send more information.

  • There will be a Bugs & Butterflies walk on Sunday 29th May so see the FOBW website, leaflet or notice board for details. See FOBW.

Words that are perhaps wrongly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi but nevertheless convey an inspiring message are: "Be the change that you wish to see in the World".

mike townsend

The grub from the stream has now been identified as a crane fly larva

Monday, 2 May 2016

Lords & Ladies

We have had some frosty weather right to the end of April but with that came clear, bright skies bringing the hope that warmer weather can't be far away.

I have always known this plant as 'Parson in the Pulpit' but it goes by many names, including 'Lords and Ladies'. More properly it's called Wild Arum Lily but you might know it by another name. Beware, it is poisonous and contains an irritant. This plant is by the Lakewood Road entrance but there many scattered through the wood, often amongst the garlic. It's interesting because the part that you can see, the spadix,  isn't the flower at all but an elaborate fly trap and the flower is well hidden below. The spadix gives off a rotten odour to attract flies and also can warm the air around it. There are three types of flowers hidden. One type to trap the flies, then there is a female flower waiting to be pollinated, which will then produce berries. Lastly, there are male flowers producing pollen to be taken to other plants when the flies are finally released. The plant cleverly doesn't release the flies until its own female flowers have been pollinated. The berries are initially green but will turn red by the autumn and will be seen as short red spikes close to the ground. They are a good source of food for birds and mammals. You can find a fuller description and some excellent photos here.

 Badock's Wood faces many challenges as an urban nature reserve. We saw last time that litter is a constant problem but although unsightly, by a continual effort it can be kept under control and there's no lasting damage.

However, we have another challenge which is serious damage to the trees. I'm not sure what, if anything, is going through their minds when the vandals do this but it does leave lasting damage and in fact in the present instance will almost certainly lead to the death of the tree. Last year we had small branches cut off some of the trees and this year even larger branches have been sawn off and left on the ground.

The Council owns the wood and only they can prune or remove plants or give permission for it to be done. Anything else is a crime and liable to a fine. However, the latest damage can only be classed as vandalism and the police are involved. The bark has been stripped from the full circumference of the trunk and the tree is unlikely to survive.

 There are a dozen or so trees in this 'avenue' at the Doncaster Road entrance and most of them have had pieces of bark cut off in the last week or so. Fortunately the damage to these isn't as severe but perhaps the vandal will return.
I don't know what the police or Council can or will do about it but it has to be stopped one way or another.

This robin is blissfully unaware of that damage and is only concerned with finding small creatures in the stream. Perhaps he plans to take them to his mate or possibly for chicks because he has kept them in his beak rather than eating them himself. You can see the rich, green algae that has been in the stream for the last few weeks. It appeared over a very short period and was very pretty, brilliant green. It seems to appear because of excessive nutrients in the water although it's difficult to explain where they might come from but also it's growth will have been encouraged by sunshine and light getting to the stream before leaves returned to the trees.
For some reason the weed has been dying over the last week or so and  has been looking very dirty and
unpleasant. The by-products of the dying weed can be unhealthy for water creatures and this will be unfavourable for the robins and the grey wagtails which rely on the stream for food. Hopefully it will clear quickly and leave this part of the stream looking clean again.

The Friends of Badock's Wood held a successful Bird Walk yesterday (1st May).  The leader, Mary Wood, introduced us to Bird Song and we were treated to the songs of many birds but particularly the wrens, dunnocks and blackcaps were in good voice. We also heard the green woodpecker and the stock dove which is very elusive and spends its time high in the trees. You can see the looks of concentration as we try to pick one song or call out of the several that are singing at one time. Even before we started, a heron flew in and landed by the pond hoping to find a fish for its breakfast and then as we were walking up the path from the Triangle to the Meadow we spotted a pair of Sparrowhawks. One of them was eating a small carcass, presumably a bird of some sort and I'm sure the other was hoping for a share of it. Last year they nested in the wood and raised young so we're are optimistic of further success this year. It was a very enjoyable and instructive morning so 'Thank you', Mary. If you would like to hear some birdsong then log into the RSPB website where you can select a bird species and listen... RSPB birds.

Last time I mentioned the Green Woodpecker, which is seen in the wood. It often feeds on lawns or meadows for ants and other insects. When Siân and I were out with Mary Wood doing a preliminary walk last week we were fortunate to see this Great Spotted Woodpecker down by the stream. At first we heard it tapping at the tree, presumably to prise insects out of the crevices in the bark. Although not clear in this photo, there was no red patch on the back of its neck so this is a female. You sometimes hear the male drumming but that has reduced now because they have paired and he does not have to spend so much time re-enforcing his territory; he can concentrate on food gathering for his family. There are many woodpecker holes in the trees along the stream and it is worth watching these to see if there are any woodpeckers around. Certainly look up if you hear loud tapping, drumming or the green woodpecker's laugh.

There are bunches of fresh green shoots scattered along the paths of the wood and these are often dropped from trees by the squirrels as they bite through the new stems and nibble away at the buds. This squirrel was very high in a tree near the Wildlife Park and had clambered out of the broken Owl Box in one of the trees there.

Spring is a wonderful time for flowers and there are many, including these yellow nettle and the Herb Robert mixed with the Native Bluebells. Do take time to see what is about as you walk through the wood and of course listen for the birdsong.

 The Friends of Badock's Wood have produced a program of events for 2016 and you can view this program by clicking here.  Then click the 'April to August What's On' link.

To help keep the Wood clear of litter we have a Litter Pick planned for Saturday 21st May. We will meet at the Lakewood Road entrance opposite the Willowbank Home at 10am and expect to finish before 12.30. If you would like to help please come along but it would also help the planning if you would email me at . We do provide equipment and gloves but if you have your own please bring them.

  • You can click on photos to enlarge them.
  • If you wish to be notified of subsequent posts then put your email address in the box at the top right of this page. 
  • If you would like to comment on anything in this blog you can contact me at

mike townsend