Fruits of the Forest Walk 2019

On a very pleasant sunny afternoon around 30 people gathered for a walk to look for the different fruits and nuts present in Bourne Wood.

people looking at woodland fruit
Around 30 people gathered for a walk to look for the different fruits and nuts present in Bourne Wood.

Bourne Wood has a great diversity of trees and shrubs and we were hoping to see a range of fruits and nuts or seeds on the walk.

Despite it not being one of the better years (at least in Bourne Wood) for the crop of fruits and nuts, we did manage to see a good range of different types.

Blackberries, hips (dog and field rose), haws (common hawthorn) and sloes (blackthorn) were generally widespread. The fruits of these common shrubs are very familiar to many people. Sloes are used to make sloe gin and sloe jelly but, according to Richard, eaten raw they have the disconcerting effect of drying out ones mouth!

sloe berries
Sloes are used to make sloe gin and sloe jelly but, according to Richard, eaten raw they have the disconcerting effect of drying out ones mouth!

Other berries we encountered included dogwood, the familiar elderberry and black bryony – the only British member of the yam family! We found honeysuckle but unfortunately no fruits were in evidence. The leaves of this species are the food plant for the caterpillar of the rather rare white admiral butterfly that is on the wing in the Wood in July.

ripe black bryony
The berries of the woody climber, black bryony. Beware the berries are poisonous!

Although we found a few acorns from English oak, hazel nuts and beech mast proved elusive. Clearly despite there being a large beech tree near the car park this was not a year of plenty (a mast year) and no masts were found. The lack of hazel nuts is probably down to the severe depredations of hazelnuts by grey squirrels, small rodents and jays.

Finally Richard was able to locate a wild service tree with its rather unappetising-looking brown berries. The leaf of this species forms the logo of the Friends of Bourne Wood and its fascinating ecology and cultural uses are set out here: http://www.friendsofbournewoods.org.uk/wild-service-tree/

Photographs Steve Goddard

 

Nature Notes from Bourne Wood – August 2019

We had planned to drive to another local patch but it was such a beautiful morning we decided to do our bit for the environment and have a potter around the woods almost on our doorstep, thereby reducing our contribution to air pollutants. We were not disappointed with our decision, the sun was warm and there was no significant wind so butterflies were on the wing. Perhaps the most numerous were the ringlets- which I think is a pretty name for one of our less colourful varieties. It conjures up images of Jane Austin going to a ball in a demure yet stunning gown with her hair tied up in curls. At first sight our ringlets seem plain but, like most things, look more closely and admire the delicate white trim which edges the wing. On the underside we noted the prominent “eye spots”. The pattern of these is distinctive with a “missing” ring where number 4 should be so we have a line of three with a gap followed by another two. They are all like this- I really do not know why but it adds to life’s mysteries. We spotted several other species including commas, skippers and admirals. The orange of the commas was particularly vibrant glowing in the summer sun, yet another glory to enjoy.

We heard several families of tits moving through the canopy as the young keep in contact with the adults. There was also a family of nuthatches chatting to each other as they searched for their lunch, the fledglings seeming to have a similar though less strong call as the parents. We stopped to look at the wayside wildflowers but were distracted by the forceful presence of a large dragonfly. It appeared to be really big and powerful as it patrolled its patch and yet it virtually disappeared on landing, almost melting into the background with superb camouflage. I am not an expert but I wonder if it was a Brown Hawker as it was indeed brown! Like all dragonflies it has six legs but does not walk!

Satisfied again with sampling some of the remarkable wildlife in our local woods we set off to return home- somewhat to the disappointment of my dog who seemed to say that there were even more exciting things to find further along the path where she had spotted some of her friends!

Bug Hunt July 2019

Around 40 adults and children joined entomologist Dr Keith Porter for this popular event run by the Friends of Bourne Wood.

The weather was mostly warm but cloudy but nonetheless a wide range of insects and spiders were found by the group using various collecting equipment including nets.

people on bug hunt
Some of the 40 adults and children who joined entomologist Dr Keith Porter for this popular event run by the Friends of Bourne Wood.

One of the more exciting observations was that of a purple emperor butterfly flying around the top of an oak tree, although not everyone in the group spotted it! This large colourful butterfly appears to have only colonised Bourne Wood in the last few years and the caterpillars feed on goat willow or sallow. Other butterflies seen included large numbers of ringlet butterflies plus large skipper, gatekeeper, comma, meadow brown, silver-washed fritillary and a few people had a brief glimpse of a white admiral.

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As its name suggests, the Large Skipper is bigger than the similar-looking Small Skipper! It can be seen in summer, resting on the long grass of grasslands, woodlands, verges and sand dunes.

Of other insects, numerous common soldier beetles were in evidence – these orangy-red beetles feed on nectar, pollen and aphids and were particularly numerous on the flowers of hogweed. A range of different species of true bugs were also found, including the woundwort shield bug, the larvae of which feed on hedge woundwort and white dead nettle. The colourful 7-spot and 24 spot ladybird were also discovered.

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The common red soldier beetle is also known as the ‘bloodsucker’ for its striking red appearance, but it is harmless. It is a beneficial garden insect as the adults eat aphids, and the larvae eat other pests.

A number of different species of spiders were collected but Keith explained that he wasn’t an expert and that there are numerous species in Britain (around 650 species) and identification is a very specialist job!

Some very long-legged spider-like creatures with a rounded compact bodies were collected in the nets. Although resembling spiders they were in fact harvestmen – a group distantly related to spiders that feed on insects but unlike spiders, do not spin webs.

Thanks are due to Keith for an interesting and informative afternoon.

Photographs Pauline Knox, Richard Jefferson, and Sarah Roberts

Nature Notes from Bourne Wood – July 2019

The weather forecasters predicted rain so we set off promptly, wondering what treasures the woods would reveal. The first was a fresh Speckled Wood butterfly, basking on a bramble leaf in the hazy sunshine. We thought that it was likely to be a second brood as the earlier specimens are now looking past their best. Another Speckled Wood passed by so our insect rose to meet it, dancing together in the glade. It may have been a female leading to a courting ritual but it was more likely to be a male as there appeared to be a battle of supremacy their flight paths twisting around each other like a Celtic pattern. More erratic than the red arrows but with masterful aerodynamic skills there were no apparent collisions! We are lucky to be able to enjoy the beauty of these butterflies. Other areas report a decline of their numbers but they still appear to be plentiful locally.

Continue reading Nature Notes from Bourne Wood – July 2019

Community Litter Pick 2019

We had quite a large crowd for our litter pick – around six McDonalds employees, and 16 members of the Friends of Bourne Woods or members of the public, plus children and dogs!  The weather was much improved from earlier in the week with plenty of sunshine.  March is a really good month to do a deep clean in the wood as the undergrowth has died back leaving litter which was previously hidden, suddenly visible.

Continue reading Community Litter Pick 2019