Winter lockdown nature notes: week 4

28 January 2021 | 0 comments

Nature notes week starts on a Friday, and what a great walk it was: winter sunshine on the hills and vales west of Salisbury. Spectacular fungi today, not an area I know too much about yet. The black balls we found are King Alfreds cakes, with some great facts: The name is said to come from the time when King Alfred was hiding from the Danes, he was given shelter by a peasant woman and he had promised to keep an eye on her cakes. As it was, he forgot all about them (probably preoccupied by those pesky Danes) and they subsequently burned. It is said he then scattered them throughout the forest to hide his mistake! They make good fire lighters and they are quite common, look out for them in beech and ash woods.   The others (including the feature picture this week), I cant name yet, I’ll see if anyone has any ideas after last week’s success with the butterbur naming! Eagerly await your comments below.

Saturday 23rd we walked along and around the river Chew, near Keynsham. The mistletoe silhouetted in the bare winter trees caught my eye. It’s a hemi parasite which attaches to a tree via suckers, taking some nutrients from the tree, but also producing some of its own food via photosynthesis. It can be found on a variety of trees in the UK, but rarely oak. Although poisonous to us humans,, mistle thrushes and black caps love the berries and spread the seeds, and the plant prefers light and airy locations rather than dense woodland, just like here by the river.

Sun 24th, a wondrous snow day, but I was indoors all day attending Vaccinator training. These snowdrops from yesterday seem appropriate: snow, hope, spring is around the corner.

Jan 25th Bright sunshine and beautiful rosehips. Think teas and jams and tons of vitamin C. If you fancy gathering and using some of these lovelies, the  Eat weeds website   has some great information.

Jan 26th, once again we walked up to Brown’s folly nature reserve above Bathford. Lots of interesting stuff going on here. The limestone caves beneath the reserve host 13 of the UK’s 17 bat species, including one of the largest (Greater horseshoe), one of the rarest (Bechstein’s Bat) and one of the oldest…’Old Boris’ (no relation) was found back in 2000 having been ringed 24 years previously, bats do live for a long time but I doubt he’s still around. However there are over 20km of caves and tunnels under and around the reserve, so no wonder the bats love it. Of course all the bats are hibernating at the moment, but come spring we will see them again flitting accross out garden, as Bathampton lies right in the path of an important bat corridor.

Jan 27th, it’s catkin time. I’m noticing more and more catkins hanging on the trees every day, ready to shed their pollen in the coming months. Today we walked down the Kennet and Avon canal into Bath where it meets the river Avon, so not surprising that we saw lots on catkins on Italian alder trees. I say this because alder trees thrive in watery places and happy enough in urban setting too. A pioneer hardy species. I love this website  Treeguide for it’s tree information and this whole page about catkins. Alder catkins are particularly lovely having the pendulous male catkins alongside the beautiful little cone shaped female catkins.

Jan 28th. more catkin spotting by the river today, but I think I’ll save up that info for another day, as this week I seem to have written loads already. Have a good nature spotting week!


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