Winter lockdown nature notes: week 2

15 January 2021 | 0 comments

Jan 8th. A walk further afield today: the vale of Pewsey. Following my post yesterday, I was still puzzled about the bird of prey we spotted, so when we got chatting to a couple on today’s walk, who were clearly knowledgeable birders, I whipped out my phone picture (sorry about the quality) They were certain it was a peregrine falcon. And given that that had been my best guess, but I had not dared to presume I would see such a super bird, I now discover that there is a pair nesting in a church spire in Bath, complete with webcam!

Meanwhile, back to the vale of Pewsey, the ‘ribbing’ pattern on the steep slopes stood out even more starkly than usual in the frosty conditions. These strange lines in the earth are called ‘terracettes ’ and are formed when earth particles get saturated (and lifted a tiny bit) then as they dry out again they slide fractionally downhill. It’s  more pronounced when there is a lot of freeze-thaw activity (I saw lots of bigger terracettes in Iceland)

Jan 9th. A day spent chopping wood in the garden, so lets talk about wood, in particular beech. This because I have a colossal beech tree in my garden, and it’s hard to grow much underneath it. You’ll notice, in a beech woodland, the undergrowth is sparse, and the hairy dried beech nut casings crunch underfoot. In Celtic mythology, the beech is the queen of the forest, the oak is king. The Anglo Saxon word for beech was ‘bok’, the root of our word ‘book’, linked to the ancient practise of writing on slices of beech.

Jan 10th. Continuing the wood theme, up on the Bath skyline walk there’s a super mix of trees, and identification is always a bit of a challenge in winter. I like this twig id sheet from the woodland trust (in fact I can happily lose an hour on this website) aimed at children, but I challenge you all to get out and id each of the trees on this sheet!  Twigs

Jan 11th. I noted these hedges lining the canal towpath as I walked into Bath today. I saw the trust volunteers ‘laying’ these, and was fascinated with how the trees can be chopped and bent fiercely, yet by leaving the small amount of bark connected and intact, there’s enough left  to keep growing. However, they can only bend s far and survive: the sap must be able to rise, so the tree has to stay slightly rising from the horizontal.

Jan 12th. It’s a grey, damp Monday, a short trip down to the canal yielded some tiny remaining bright spot of colour: hawthorn berries, called haws. They are full of antioxidants and can apparently be used to make jams and jellies, edible but very tart.

Jan 13th The sides of the shady almost tunnel like lane winding up towards Solsbury hill (of Peter Gabrial’s famous song) are covered in these wonderful harts tongue ferns (so called, some say because they look like the tongue of a deer). I love looking at the spores under the leaves, so perfect. It’s the only native fern which doesn’t have divided leaves.

Jan 14th. Confession time. Rain stopped play.


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