November 2017 …..
Friday evening talk about small mammals, focusing on dormice, and next morning we made an early trip to Northup Copse to check for signs of them in special traps. I had no idea they led such arboreal lives. I’d pictured them scampering about in the undergrowth, but no, they live up in the tree canopy, only settling lower down for hibernation. They come down to feed on some spring plants, and then feast on hazelnuts in the autumn. And as they don’t store nuts like other small mammals, they need to fill right up before sleep! We didn’t get to see a dormouse, but in the traps, and released, were three lively wood mice and a calmer bank vole. A good time was had by all, children included, and we learned a lot. Dormice have been seen, are being monitored, and are definitely snoozing in the Copse!
Photos above: Wood Mouse, Bank Vole, examining the traps, Fungi
Photo below: Butcher’s Broom
Then on Sunday we walked in the Mens with SWT. The afternoon sun filtered through the huge beech and oak trees and the ground beneath was host to a fungi spectacular! Some were enormous, spreading across tree trunks like a wave, others so tiny only our experts spotted them! Fungi are a precious part of the eco-system and can provide vital underground networks of support for many good-sized trees. Fascinating things! And later we passed a clump of butcher’s broom. It looks like its namesake from a distance, but approach with care! Butchers used to clean their blocks with it, we’re told. Very sharp ‘leaves’ are actually stems with flowers on. The Mens is full of surprises, and very beautiful on a fine autumn day.
Later I heard a R4 programme about overwintering butterflies, Red Admirals and Peacocks. Some Red Admirals can travel 20 odd miles during a day – and even emigrate across the channel! And the caterpillars may move about between nettle patches before they pupate. Peacocks are more sedentary, but they both tuck themselves away to hibernate, occasionally emerging in warmer spells. This is where my friend Ivy comes in. Ivy provides wonderful late sustenance for butterflies, bees and many other insects. So please leave it where/when you can. It doesn’t harm mature trees and some actually benefit from an ivy cloak to warm them!
Talking of leaving things, I’m sad that the council sent round that huge machine to decimate so many of our verges! Why? So late in the year?? I’ll be reseeding ours and will carry on doing so – So there!! Much better news is that a new barn owl has been seen locally and we’re hearing others quite often. We’ll keep watch and wait for next year. Good numbers of ducklings on the pond too, though I’ve not seen Rev Duck recently. She’s much missed, but most ducks only live 3 or 4 years, so she did well, didn’t she!
And lastly – Early Yuletide Greetings to you all – and see you next year!