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Monday, 1 August 2016

Midsummer in Badock's Wood

 Midsummer is a relatively quiet time in Badock's Wood and particularly during those few days when the weather is uncharacteristically hot.
The birds are much quieter and less visible after the busy periods of nest building and rearing of chicks. They all seem to be taking a much deserved rest.
Of course it might just be that they are busy earlier in the morning when it's cooler and before most of us have ventured out.

It was almost too hot walking through the meadows when I went to the wood a couple of weeks ago. Although there was little water it was refreshingly cool to be in the shade of the trees by the river. The stepping stones are tempting for most children and this little girl did very well until she reached this point and then needed to be rescued by her mum.






We were fortunate to have good weather for the Midsummer Wildflower Walk too and here you can see the leader, Tony Smith telling the group about Crow Garlic. It is quite plentiful in the meadows and is a different plant from the wild garlic which is much more abundant and generally found on the banks and amongst the trees of the wood. With Crow Garlic the 'flower head' is in fact a bunch of bulbils and each bulbil can fall to the ground and grow into a new plant. Often you will see the bulbils sprouting while still in the 'flower head'.


Above you can see the group checking for the garlic smell and if you see one in the meadow (see photo left) it is worth running your hands over it so that you can smell it for yourself. For a better explanation of this plant click here.
On the right is Tony West, FOBW Chairman, showing and talking about a Wild Mallow flower.




During the walk, Roger Moses found a bird pellet. Most people know about owl pellets but do not know that many birds regurgitate the indigestible parts of their food in pellet form. With owls it would be primarily bones and feathers from small mammals and birds. Roger thought that this pellet was most likely from a crow because it contains the shells of small snails but also possibly beetle cases. He is hoping to be able to show owl pellets at an FOBW meeting and perhaps take one apart to see what the owl has been eating. Watch the FOBW website or notices for more information.
There are several websites with information about bird pellets and although this one is American it has relevant information  about what crows eat and their pellets - see here.
Roger is a member of the Hawk and Owl Trust, a charity which is going to install  two owl boxes in Badock's Wood in the near future. They are very important contributors to hawk & owl conservation - Hawk & Owl Trust Website. 

  There have been surprisingly few butterflies in the meadow this year. For some species this might be because of the cold , wet start to the summer but for others it might be due to the long journey of migration and the dangers en route. For instance, many of the Red Admirals seen here have made the journey from North Africa and Continental Europe. Weather conditions en route can make a large difference to the numbers arriving but we might continue to see them until about October.This butterfly seen by the stream has its wings closed but for more photos see the following website: Red Admiral.



The second half of July proved to very hot, including a mini heat wave. However, August is beginning with a damp period but this is a good time to start looking out for fungi. These two bracket fungi were seen over the last week or so. One at the base of a dead tree near the Westbury Wildlife Centre and the other on a dead fallen trunk on the opposite side of the stream from the bamboo at the Triangle.
They are large and quite dramatic but they are an important mechanism for breaking down dead trees and also a major source of food for insects and invertebrates.
Although leaving fallen branches and dead trees in the wood might seem like neglect they are an important habitat for all sorts of wildlife. You can often see crows or other birds pecking at the soft rotting wood to hunt for and to prise out all sorts of tasty morsels.
The value of dead wood.


When I was walking by the Triangle the other day I thought it was beginning to rain. In fact it was the sound of many beech nuts falling through the leaves on the trees and then to the ground. The floor was covered with them to the extent that it made a very pleasant crunching sound as I walked over them. It might be that squirrels were feeding in the trees and this was causing the fall but the nuts are ripe and a slight breeze would cause it.


 NOTE:
  • There will a Tree Walk in Badock's Wood on Sunday August 7th at 2pm. It will be led by Richard Bland of the Bristol Naturalists' Society and we will meet at the Doncaster Road entrance. It will be an Introduction to the trees in the wood and Richard is a very interesting speaker. 
  • You can click on photos to enlarge them
  • If you would like to be informed of future posts put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.
  •  If you wish to know more about the Friends of Badock's Wood you can visit the website at FOBW.


Have a Good Summer !!

mike













Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Badock's Wood - A Place Worth Saving



My overall impression as I've walked through Badock's Wood over the last week or so is of the abundance of greenery. The Trees are in full leaf and the banks and hedges have filled out with the mixture of sun and rain that we've had. I've also noticed the contrast between those areas where light gets through to the ground and those areas where tree cover cuts out the light almost completely. Undergrowth is so important for wildlife.




 Here are two areas that demonstrate this. The top photo on the right is close to where the path from Lake Road meets the path along the Trym. This is a small area where there is no tree cover and a good mixture of plants has flourished. The brambles, nettles and many other plants offer good refuge for small mammals and birds.
The lower photo is taken just a short way further along that path towards the Triangle and you can see that there is a bare, muddy area under the trees where little light reaches.
Because of this effect it is important that tree cover is managed and that some saplings are removed before they add to the tree cover. However, this must be overseen by those with expertise in Woods Management and it has been temporarily halted until the recent spate of tree vandalism has been stopped.




 Over half a century ago I used to go with friends to look for 'Letter Boxes' on Dartmoor. This was a good way of getting to know the more isolated parts of the moor while facing the challenge of finding the boxes using a map and compass. I'm sure that the challenge encouraged many young people to get out on to the moor who otherwise would not have done so. If you don't know what 'Letter Boxes' are you can read about them here.
Of course a lot changes in 50 years and now there is the activity of Geocaching. This is the same activity but you find the cache by using GPS rather than map and compass.
On the face of it this sounds much easier and almost cheating but I'm sure there is more to it and that that judgement is almost certainly unfair. I met these two young men in the woods recently and they explained that they had just discovered a cache. On the right is a photo of what they found; a little book to leave a record of their visit. They leave it in place for the next person to find. I have been careful that these photos do not identify the location.  You can learn more about Geocaching here.
Although I would generally encourage the activity, it is not permitted on most Nature Reserve sites for fear of damage, and it is not clear whether any organisation has got permission from Bristol City Council to place this cache in the wood. This will be checked. So, although I would support the activity and encourage young people to take it up, I would say that we need to protect these areas for wildlife and the caches need to be placed elsewhere.

I saw this Ringlet Butterfly in the meadow last week. Although it looks fairly dowdy, it is in fact very attractive with its velvety wings and white margins.
The reason I saw it on a cool day was that its colour causes it to warm up more quickly than lighter coloured butterflies and so it can fly in cooler weather. The same is probably true of the meadow Brown Butterflies but to read more about the Ringlet read here.



When I took this photo at the Bugs & Butterflies walk in May I thought the bug was a type of Grasshopper but I was wrong. In fact it is the nymph of a Dark Bush Cricket (thanks to the iSpot website). Crickets differ from Grasshoppers in having much longer antennae but also they stridulate ( a new word to me), that is 'sing' by rubbing their wings together whereas Grasshoppers rub their hind legs against their wings. I'm not sure that you would notice this unless you were watching very carefully !!
The adult doesn't have such attractive markings but is probably much noisier.
To find other differences between crickets and grasshoppers look here  or to investigate the iSpot website click here.






Look out for the Six-Spot Burnet in the meadow as you walk through. As children we used to call any red and black moth a 'blood sucker' but of course this is far from the truth. The caterpillars often feed on Bird's Foot Trefoil but it looks as though this moth is investigating Yellow Rattle. I am surprised at the size of its antennae  but these give it a long reach for touch and smell. The red and black colouration is a warning to a predator that it should be avoided, perhaps because of a bitter taste, such as with ladybirds. This colour warning method is called aposematism.   Learn more about the Six-Spot Burnet here.






On a more serious note, there is a lot of vandalism at the moment. This is worse than usual and it has been reported that a small group of youths has been seen on recent evenings with tools including an axe. If you actually see vandalism taking place or hear of anybody who is involved in this sort of activity please call the police on 101. This vandalism is doing great damage to the wood and it can take many years for damaged trees to be replaced. We must try to stop it. This photo is from a previous episode in March.




There are discussions taking place at the moment
about access to the woods for wheelchair users. The Doncaster Road entrance is larger than the other entrances and is designed for wheel chair access.  A concern is that if the entrance is larger than at present it will allow access by motorbikes which were the cause of so much damage in the past. Of course a solution must be found that satisfies all responsible users and so discussions continue. Matters such as these are discussed at the Neighbourhood Partnership meetings and you can find out more from this website: Neighbourhood Partnership as well as from attending FOBW General meetings.

Last year The Friends of Badock's Wood helped in the making of a video by the pupils of Badock's Wood Primary School. Our part was to help encourage the careful disposal of litter and the overall purpose of the video is to help promote the responsible use and care of the woods. The video features the children and is called 'Into the Woods'. If you would like to see it click here.
It is important to instil this philosophy in children because you can see from the photo on the right, taken last week, that all the fly-tipped rubbish that we removed from the woods a few months ago has been replaced by 'fresh' rubbish.
 


Fortunately the fly tipping and tree damage does not detract from the beauty of Badock's Wood.
However, if it were to continue or not be controlled then eventually it would have a devastating effect not only on our enjoyment but perhaps more seriously on the Wood's ability to sustain the wildlife population that it supports at the moment.

 The flowers on the left are Trailing Bellflower, which is a type of Campanula and can be seen particularly along the stream. These are beside the stream between Lakewood Road entrance and the Triangle but do look for them in other places.

Reminder:
There are three events taking place in Badock's Wood during July:

  • July 3rd: Midsummer Wildflower Walk led by Tony Smith of Bristol Naturalists Society.
  • July 19th: Badock's Wood History Walk led by Alan Aburrow.
  • July 23rd: Moth trapping and Identification led by Ray Barnett of the Bristol Moth group
See FOBW website for more details of these events.

 Notes:

  • You can enlarge photos by clicking on them
  • You can contact me for suggestions or comment on badockswood@virginmedia.com
  • The Friends of Badock's Wood Website is  http://www.fobw.org.uk/
  • You can also find information about Badock's Wood at this sites : Bristol.gov.uk.
  • If you would like to receive notification of future posts to this blog please put your email address in the box at the top right of this page. 
  • Any opinions expressed in this blog are my own and not necessarily those of The Friends of Badock's Wood. 

mike townsend





Saturday, 18 June 2016

Rain and Dino Dini

 Last week I was saying how dry the stream was. Well, yesterday afternoon, Thursday June 16th I was caught in a downpour. I was wearing shorts and trainers but fortunately also had an umbrella and I didn't get too wet. In fact Badock's Wood is a marvellous place to be in the rain. It's very peaceful and relaxing. The level of the river rises and falls quickly because the water derives largely from road run-off  and also because of the previously mentioned swallet.
The dog in the photo was continually going to the water, which was rushing by, but sensibly decided that it wasn't the day for a dip.


Although you can't see it in the photo, the rushing water is almost black, presumably washing through dirt from the road but also perhaps from drain overflow. Sometimes domestic plumbing is not connected correctly, a danger of DIY, and grey water is drained into the rain water system.  The river did have a 'grey-water' smell about it. Fortunately when I returned to the same spot 45 minutes later the water was much cleaner and the smell had largely dissipated.
This might be one of the reasons that several species of riverfly larvae are missing from our monthly surveys.

As I was walking back, up towards Lakewood Road I was surprised and relieved to see that this Grey Wagtail hadn't been put off its food by the grey water. It was plucking items from the water's edge. Perhaps it was compelled by the need to feed young. Fortunately they are very adept at darting up and catching insects in flight. This behaviour is frequently seen along the stream and is a delight to watch  see here.







The rain will add life to the pond as well, unaffected by pollution from roads but prone to drought. There's enough water to support some plant life and there are some Flowering Rush which look very pretty at the moment. This photo was taken during this week. They seem quite sturdy but the heavy rain will have damaged the irises.











There are also damselflies around the pond which you might see mating at this time of year. This is  a photo of one taken by Liz Snook on the day of the Bugs & Butterfly walk in May. Damselflies have a complicated and seemingly bizarre method of mating during which the male holds the female by the neck and the male then also curls around making a heart shape.














By the time I took this photo the pair had probably already mated and the female is seen laying eggs on the pond vegetation while the male keeps a firm hold. You can read more about this amazing dance here . You can also watch an interesting video of the damselfly lifecycle here and/or of course see see it actually happening yourself at the pond.


 Because of the problems of the pond drying during drought there is thought being given to converting it to a bog area. This will bring a change to the species that inhabit this small area and whereas some species might flourish better in a bog than in a pond, others might decline or disappear. There will be some research and discussion before a decision is taken but if you want to keep up with events watch the Friends of Badock's Wood website; particularly notes from the general Meetings. Even better , come to the meetings and have your say.- FOBW minutes.



These jays were climbing over the  fallen chestnut tree which has the carved spider on it and seemed to be collecting nesting material. During the winter they will have fed largely on stored acorns but at this time of year will also be taking eggs and young chicks from nests in order to feed their own families.
They are members of the crow family but much less numerous and harder to see than their cousins the crows, jackdaws and magpies. You might however hear its screaming call - listen here.




There are plenty of magpies in the wood; this one was in the meadow. In some areas of the UK they are considered a pest and there are legal methods of control. During the summer they feed on beetles and other invertebrates as well as fruit but they will takes eggs and chicks at this time of year. However, reports suggest that they do not seem to affect the populations of songbirds. Last week I saw one pecking at something in the meadow. When it left I went to see and there was a 20 pence piece trodden into the grass. This runs contrary to evidence that magpies do not take shiny objects for their nests-see study.





 The meadow plants have grown remarkably over the last few weeks. The variety of grasses and flowering plants are an important habitat for many types of insects which will in turn be a food source for the birds. Hopefully we will get some more hot days to allow butterflies to fly and flourish.







It is imperative that the meadows are not damaged. Naturally dogs will run through it and perhaps the damage is minimal but I have seen adults wading through the meadow which clearly damages the plants and last week a family spread a blanket, lay their bicycles down and flattened a significant area for a picnic. This is almost certainly because of a misunderstanding of the purpose of the meadow. I am not sure what protection Badock's Wood gets from being a Local Nature Reserve but perhaps education and better signage are part of the answer. 
You might be interested to hear this song written about a visit to Badock's Wood in 2004. It's not clear when the video was filmed but at least prior to 2007:  Drakes' Echo. Thank you to Dino Dini.  I don't remember hearing of Dino Dini previously but if you would like to know more about him see here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There are three events taking place in Badock's Wood during July:
  • July 3rd: Midsummer Wildflower Walk led by Tony Smith of Bristol Naturalists Society.
  • July 19th: Badock's Wood History Walk led by Alan Aburrow.
  • July 23rd: Moth trapping and Identification led by Ray Barnett of the Bristol Moth group
See FOBW website for more details of these events.

 Notes:
  • You can enlarge photos by clicking on them
  • You can contact me for suggestions or comment on badockswood@virginmedia.com
  • The Friends of Badock's Wood Website is  http://www.fobw.org.uk/
  • You can also find information about Badock's Wood at this sites : Bristol.gov.uk.
  • If you would like to receive notification of future posts to this blog please put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.

mike townsend


























Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Pond and other things

 We've had some glorious weather recently but the stream does dry up completely in places whenever we have a dry spell. This photo was taken on 9th June. The rock here is mainly limestone and there is a swallet which is a defect in the stream bed which allows the water to sink underground. It seems to have appeared sometime prior to 2013...  see here. Wikipedia says " A swallet, also known as a sinkhole, sink, shakehole, swallow hole or doline, is a natural depression or hole in the surface topography caused by the removal of soil or bedrock, often both, by water flowing beneath."

 We had rain overnight and this morning, 11th June, so I returned to the wood to get a photo of the stream  replete with water but I was surprised to see that the stream was still dry.
However, I heard a strange noise, a rapid scraping sound that took me a few minutes to locate. It wasn't a strange bird but a squirrel trying to extract some treat from a coconut shell. The sound reminded me of a washboard in a skiffle group... For those not familiar with this style of music  see here.
I'm sure it just needed the drumming of a woodpecker to have the makings of a band !!

Of course, the
 Of course, the dry weather affects the pond as well. There is no external source of water for the pond and so it suffers dramatically in dry weather. It relies entirely on rainwater. It doesn't look very pretty at all at the moment. Brownish red algae on the surface and a couple of empty drinks containers. There are nettles and brambles around the gate which can make entry a bit awkward too.



But it is worth the effort because there is a lot to see around the pond and water is vital to all sorts of wildlife. These Purple Flag Irises are in full bloom at the moment and will be attracting insects.

 There are also these Yellow Flag Irises.




Various insects will be attracted, including this Broad-Bodied Chaser dragonfly. It has been seen around the pond for the last week or so. This is a male and the females are a yellowish brown. The adults can live for up to a few weeks but the larvae live for 1-4 years in the silt at the bottom of the pond. Fortunately they can survive for short periods in mud during fairly dry conditions. The larvae will eat tadpoles and this might explain the lack of results from the frogspawn  I saw in the Spring. To see a larva hunting click here, but as they say on television....  "Some viewers might find this upsetting".
I've also added a photo of the female Broad-Bodied Chaser which was taken by Liz Snook on the day of the 'Bugs & Butterflies' walk on 29th May. The difference in colour is clear and I hope the two got together. The B&B day was a great success and we were treated to several butterflies and a lot of interesting information by Nicola and Tony of Bristol Naturalist Society. The society organises many walks and talks on a wide variety of topics and is well worth joining if you are interested in wildlife around Bristol.
 Here is a link to their gallery but do look around their website to see all the subjects they cover from birds to geology - Bristol Naturalists Society. They also have their own library housed in the Bristol museum.
If you are interested to learn more about dragonflies see here.


 I've put the close up photo of the Chaser's thorax because it clearly shows the principle of the thick, crusty exoskeleton which gives the body support in place of the skeleton. You can see more clearly if you enlarge the photo by clicking on it.
This dragonfly is about 2 inches long.


The insects and seeds around the pond attract birds, as well as being an important source of drinking water for birds around the meadow.
This house sparrow was on the fence around the pond and would be very happy to find some tasty bugs or seeds to feed on.







I mentioned the disappearing frog spawn. I was surprised to see it because I hadn't previously seen any evidence of frogs or toads. However, someone found a frog in the meadow during the B&B day.
Fortunately for the frog the meadow has grown quite high (see photo below) and this gives it good protection from predators such as the heron which visits occasionally. Also there are many insects, small slugs and beetles present which would be a good food source.  This frog is not much more than an inch long and although I'm no expert I would think this must be one of last year's batch. However, I am open to correction on that point.

This is the Welcome Board at the Doncaster Road entrance to the wood.
I'm not sure what sort of message it gives but it could do with a bit of attention. There have been problems with lost keys in the past but I think that has now been sorted.







There is a lot of colour in the meadow at the moment. There is clover, yellow rattle, red campion but not yet many butterflies. This beautiful Common Blue butterfly was enjoying the meadow clover last week but also feeds on Bird's-foot-trefoil. You might see the very similar Holly Blue in your garden which generally feeds on holly and ivy. Another difference is that the Common Blue flies low over the meadow whereas the Holly Blue flies higher around the trees and shrubs.




Below are photos of the meadow in all its glory, enthusiasts enjoying the Bugs & Butterflies Walk and a gorgeous little wren. A 'Jenny Wren' as my cousin likes to call it. 


There is so much to see in Badock's Wood and the only way to appreciate it is to take advantage of any good weather that we get and go down to the woods to enjoy it.... but don't let a light shower put you off  !!
If you do enjoy the wood and are interested in protecting it for the future then send your email address to the Friends of Badock's Wood secretary so that you can be kept informed of news and events. There is no charge to be a member and all the events are free.
The FOBW are fortunate to have a good number of volunteers for Work Parties and Litter Picking, although more are always welcome. However, very few members are actually involved in giving their opinions  and so contributing to decision-making for the future of the wood. It is important to get a wide spectrum of views about the upkeep of the wood and the best way to do this is for you to attend the quarterly meetings of the FOBW and/or to write to the FOBW Secretary with your comments.

NOTES:
  • You can enlarge photos by clicking on them.
  • The email address for the secretary of FOBW is fobwsecretary@yahoo.co.uk
  • Click here  for the FOBW website.
  • If you would like to be notified when there is a new post to this blog put your email address in the box at the top right of this page.
  • You can comment on anything in this blog by writing to me at badockswood@virginmedia.com
  • Mark Hamilton's book of poetry entitled 'In Badock's Wood and other Poems' is now on sale from Amazon. See here.


 If you wondered where all the garlic and horse chestnut flowers went, well they are turning into the fruits on the right. Garlic above.


















mike townsend