Tuesday, October 08, 2019

23 Aug - 30 Sept 2019

23 August 2019.         Quite hot so most of the invertebrates sitting it out in the shade.  I did a little grass cutting of the Conservation Lawn. Some of the hogweeds now have their characteristic heads of brown striped seeds.  The western dandelion does not look happy: its leaves are flat on the ground and look as though they have wilted.  Perhaps something is attacking the root.

24 August  2019         Gathering heat, so I made an early visit to Emthree.  Splendid two-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata, shining black with red spots, resting on an oak leaf.  A female scorpion fly struggled over the Conservation Meadow grass.  Everything else silent and still in the sunshine.  A black slug with yellowish orange undercarriage slid determinedly across Amazon Square.

25 August 2019           I fancied some unripe hogweed seeds were swollen and remaining green.  Possibly gall midges: more likely my imagination.  Very hot max 27.5° in the shade.

26 August 2019          Even hotter: 29.7° max in the shade.  Terrific glare from the open areas of Emthree.  Younger leaves on the large ragwort wilting in the heat.  I found a knapweed seedling to the east of Amazon Square and a tiny cotoneaster on the edge of Medlar Wood. 

                                    Ginger brown carder bees are constant visitors to a knapweed flower in The Waste.  I have concluded that one of the rose species also in The Waste is another small-flowered sweetbriar Rosa micrantha though there are no scent-bearing hairs on the solitary hip (there are on the petiole and on the under surface of the leaves).  The prickles are quite small and the whole plant not very vigorous, so it is possibly a hybrid.

27 August 2019.        Very hot again.  Yesterday was 28.7° at the maximum.  A red admiral butterfly came and sat briefly on my shoulder.  I found an oak leaf covered in spangle galls, Neuroterus quercusbaccarum, in the lane and searched the oak cordon to see if Emthree had any.  There were none (or ‘was none’?) but I did find a currant gall on the underside of a leaf blade.  This appears to be a different form of N. quercusbaccarum.  When I looked for it the following day it had disappeared – fallen to the ground I thought.  I have put little stones that I find here and there on my walk to mark small plants I might overlook when cutting.

                                    I reflected on the mowers, strimmers and chain saws that I hear almost constantly when I am in Emthree.  If we had no tools, especially power tools, our houses would soon be in a forest of tall trees, our artificial landscape would disappear and the Wild Wood would return.

28 August 2019.         I have marked a seedling cotoneaster and a tiny seedling shoot of some other plant with stones from the lane.  The second seedling shoot looks unusual.  It has a straight black stem with no visible cotyledons and small dark green leaves.  I wondered if it might be a heather.  We shall see.

                                   There are three pieces of birch root about as thick as my forearm that, for some reason, have arched above the soil in the Second Meadow.  The best one is just in front of my seat.  A polished mahogany colour with whitish segment-like bands.  It could be part of a huge subterranean worm.  They are worth looking after as kind of natural Zen landscape elements in the area.  They also create small microclimates by providing shelter with, perhaps, slightly warmer, wetter and safer environments in their shelter for small plants and animals.

29 August 2019.         Pleasantly warm with some intermittent showers in the last 24 hours.  The carder bee makes visits the solitary knapweed flower with watch-setting accuracy. I wonder that there is any pollen or nectar left.

                                    I have now located five surfacing birch roots in the Second Meadow apparently haphazardly distributed and pointing in various directions.

30 August 2019.         A cool and rather quiet day. There are several blackberry juice stains on the rocks of Cynthia’s Ridge.  These are where birds have voided or excreted material still full of the purple juice.  The western dandelion has leaf miners in some of the central veins, which may be the cause of the rather sad overall appearance of the plant.  There are several species of Diptera that could be the culprits.

                                    I found another exposed birch root in the Second Meadow to the east of this dandelion, putting the number of surfaced roots in this area up to six.

31 August 2019.         The last day of meteorological summer and pleasantly warm and sunny.  Flies are returning the blackberry-stained stones on Cynthia’s Ridge. The leaf mines in the leaves of the western dandelion are longer and more obvious.  More leaves, green, brown and yellow have fallen onto the Second Meadow giving it a fin-de-saison feel.

1 September 2019.     Have cut the south western quartile of The Waste to ground level using a bread knife.  The soil surface, to which recent showers do not seem to have penetrated, is pale grey and bumpy where there have been worm casts and other small disturbances.  There are dead grass stems and blades of pallid fawn colour and some bright green leaves of bugle and self-heal getting ready for next spring.  Tomorrow, or soon, I will give the area a further trim.

2 September 2019.      Sunny after a cooler night than usual.  I cut the south west quartile of The Waste as close to the ground as I could with trimming shears.  This area now looks much like the original Square Metre when I started this project on 15 September 2003.  I put a small piece of pure white gypsum rock by the self-heal in front of my viewing seat.  A lesser hornet hoverfly, Volucella inanis, nectared briefly on the last umbel of hogweed flower and nearby I found a rust fungus on an undeveloped flowering shoot of marsh bird’s-foot trefoil.  The larvae of the hoverfly develop in wasps’ and hornets’ nests and neither of these two insects has been very common this year, so it is good to see V. inanis, which breeds in wasps' nests, is still about.

3 September 2019.     This morning I found a forest bug, Pentatoma rufipes, nestling in the leaves of the hornbeam cordon.  The tiny plant in the Dust Bowl now it has developed further looks like a vetch seedling.  A male hoverfly Myathropa florea (sometimes known as the false dronefly or the dead head hoverfly) kept coming and going to the umbel of hogweed flowers.  This made me wonder why it made these trips as, unlike bees, it has no hive or nest to supply with pollen and nectar.  Perhaps it was going to search for a mate.

                                    The new meadow cut in The Waste looks like my first action in setting up the Square Metre Project on 15th September 2003.

4 September 2019.      Rain his morning but it has scarcely wetted the soil in Emthree.  I visited quite late in the afternoon when the shadows were lengthening across the bumpy ground of the New Quartile.  It made me think of the beautiful last line of Virgil’s first eclogue: maioresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae (and longer shadows fall from the mountain heights).

                                    There are some mosses growing on the worm casts in the New Quartile – maybe I should have a shot at naming them.

                                    I have accidentally scraped a patch of the very thin bark from one of my exposed birch roots and was surprised to see that the cambium layer beneath is a clear olive green.

5 September 2019.     Cool and sunny with a northerly wind.  The rust fungus, Puccinia hieracii, on the eastern dandelion is now having a debilitating effect on the plant.  Some small hoverflies and a muscid explored the last hogweed umbel, but there were few other insects about.  A blackcap was chipping away in the medlar from which another fruit had fallen to land beside Second Meadow pond.

                                    The cambium exposed yesterday on one of the surfaced birch roots had changed from olive green to a very similar brown to the exterior bark.  It had gone from being very noticeable to almost unnoticeable.


                                    A speckled wood butterfly settled on an oak leaf which had a whitewashed appearance where it had been infected by oak mildew, Erysiphe alphitoides. While watching a Rhingia rostrata (scarce snout-faced hoverfly) hide under a hazel leaf I noticed a very tortuous leaf mine probably of the least nut-tree pigmy, Stigmella microtheriella, once thought to be the smallest British moth.

6 September 2019.     Cool and mostly cloudy. The leaf mines in the western dandelion are spreading and terminally damaging some of the older leaves. There also seem to be a few speckles of the rust fungus that has infected the eastern dandelion.

7 September 2019.     Cool and cloudy again.  At 1pm it started to rain.  I found three small blister mines on the lower leaves of the cordon oak.  I think they are mines of the sawfly Profenusa pygmaea.

8 September 2019.     Sunny but still rather cool.  A red admiral did a brief fly round.  This butterfly has done well this year and our cloven gum box, Escallonia bifida, regularly has several visiting the flowers.  They are continually chased by hornets that never seem to catch them.

                                   The Second Meadow Pond was 2/3rds empty.  There are very few insects evident except various larger Calyptrates that forage about on the ground as well as occasionally visiting flowers or resting on foliage.

9 September 2019.     There is still a single, unopened flower on the American willow-herb at the end of Cynthia’s Ridge.  Today a black ant was exploring the higher stems and I think it must have found some aphids, probably the green willowherb aphid, Macrosiphum tinctum.  There were a ringed, purple and red spots caused by a microfungus on some leaves like the Great Red Spot on Jupiter.  

                                    A flower has appeared on the self-heal plant near the place my feet go when I am sitting on my seat and I marvelled at the colour and biodiversity of a distorted fallen oak leaf on Conservation Lawn, colours caused by maybe half a dozen species of microfungi growing on it.
                                    A little gathering of black hole (Melanostoma) hoverflies appeared suddenly on the last hogweed flowers, flowers that have lasted much longer than those on neighbouring plants in Emthree.  They do not, however seem to be setting seed.

10 September 2019.   Comma butterfly gliding and basking around the Green Sanctuary.  A second hip on the older small-flowered sweet-briar, Rosa micrantha, is turning red as it hangs suspended in the gloom of Medlar Wood.  I photographed the microfungus on the American willowherb.  Quite difficult as it is so low down.  Had my annual health check in the village surgery and came through with flying colours.

11 September 2019.   Cold, grey and windy with the occasional rain shower.  A medlar has fallen, or rolled into, the eastern dandelion.  It should provide a sort of fruity compost over time.  No insects today but the woodchip in the south west corner has been disturbed, so something must have walked through the area. 

                                   Two pigeons were coo-ing nearby.  The louder was, I think, the male.  He was replied to by a softer, gentler warble from the female who is sitting on a nest with two chicks in our Persian ironwood bush.  Very late for a bird’s nest, but pigeons are strange creatures.

12 September 2019.  A little warmer and cloudy.  A most beautiful leaf of a pure yellow has landed in the centre of the eastern dandelion.  I am not sure what tree it has come from but suspect it is an atypically-shaped birch leaf.  There has been a few slight showers and it is probably that this has revived the western dandelion from its rather sad flatness.

13 September 2019.    Getting warmer – a bit of an Indian summer.  Creeping buttercup, generally described as a pernicious weed, makes quite attractive patches of ground cover here and there in the Second Meadow.  The fret-sawed leaves lie very flat on the ground where they grow in poor soil and produce the occasional flower, though there are (is) none at the moment.

                                   One or more birds have been splashing about in Second Meadow Pond leaving tell tale feathers behind.  Today three quarters of the water was gone and one of the sandstone pebbles from the bottom had been removed and lay on the nearby grass.

                                   The sheared south west quartile of The Waste has started to sprout grass shoots although conditions are very dry.  A cut down knapweed has however produced a bold tuft of grey green leaves.  Insects remain very scarce.  Today only a few calyptrate flies were about.

14 September 2019.    A lazy warmth has arrived.  A Colletes bee and some small fry visited the late hogweed flowers.  The  ragwort was drooping in the heat.  Yesterday’s bright yellow leaf in the eastern dandelion has turned autumn brown and rolled itself up.

15 September 2019.   The heat continues to build in strength.  Many of the smaller plants and seedlings are wilting and will die if we have many more days of this heat.  Grass seedlings seem to cope with the heat better than most plants as do bugle and self-heal.

                                    Insects are very scarce again but a speckled wood butterfly appeared, I suspect from a roosting place, deep in the longer vegetation of The Waste.  It fluttered about for half a minute or so, rested on an oak leaf in the sunshine and made off down the garden.  I wondered what purpose it had in mind.

16 September 2019.   Warm and overcast.  Several blister mines have appeared on a leaf of the smaller birch. These later expanded and joined up as one large blotch.  They looked most like the sawfly Fenusa pumila which I previously recorded in July 2008. 

                                    A number of seedlings have crisped up to a point of no return in yesterday’s heat.  I noticed one, possibly a scarlet pimpernel, in the centre of the Dust Bowl, that looked dead whereas a similar one close to an overground birch root had survived, perhaps due to the root’s creation of a microclimate with slightly more moisture in the soil.

17 September 2019.    Gentle warmth but Emthree very quiet.  The berries on the black bryony on the iron pole are still green, but those in Brambly Hedge are bright red and ripe.  A drone fly preened itself on an ash leaf now slowly draining of chlorophyll to lime green.  Only wild rose leaves are turning colour properly to bright yellow.

18 September 2019.    Continuing warm sunshine after a colder night.  There are some very delicate grass seedlings in the Dust Bowl with purple bases to their leaves.  They seem to survive the lengthening drought well.  Insects remain scarce: today I saw only a black spider-hunting wasp and a flesh fly.

19 September 2019.   Warmish after a cold night.  I have not seen any crane-flies this autumn and usually they are abundant in Emthree, the garden and nearby fields. On 12 September 2005, for example, I wrote of Emthree “The common crane-fly Tipula paludosa is now abundant everywhere and I often see the females scrambling through the grass on egg-laying excursions.”

                                    A honeybee fossicked about on the last umbel of hogweed flowers and a speckled wood butterfly floated about in Medlar Wood.  Probably the same one I saw on 15 September.  The pond in Second Meadow was nearly empty and the drought continues to strike hard.  Today the St. John’s-wort by Cynthia’s Ridge was starting to shrivel.

20 September 2019.    A dry silence spreads over the ground with feelers of wind from time to time.  A very pretty hoverfly, Metasyrphus corollae, with lemon yellow inverted crescents down its body like some antique military uniform, fed briefly on the last hogweed umbel flowers.  The western dandelion has been half buried in woodchip scuffed from the nearby path.  The small blister mines on the birch leaf have not changed.  Maybe what is inside has stopped feeding and will fall with the leaf.

21 September 2019.    Autumn equinox.  Warm sunshine, but rain forecast.  It seems to be very hot direct sunshine that makes seedlings shrivel and other plants wilt.  Some are better than others at surviving the drought though.  Second Meadow pond was nearly empty and a speckled wood butterfly patrolled up and down along the edge of Medlar Wood.  The sunlight caught two more small-flowered sweet-briar hips that I had not noticed before high up in the medlar tree.

22 September 2019.   There was some small rain during the night, then a sunny break just after 11am.  I was surprised to see how positively some of the plants had responded to the weather change.  The small St. John’s wort, for example, had come back to life after looking on its way out.

23 September 2019.    Cool mix of sun, cloud and showers.  The earth is still very dry but grass is starting to grow again.  On arrival today I was given what sounded like an angry buzzing by a queen hornet as she flew out from somewhere at the rear of the Square Metre.  They are not usually aggressive creatures but this one sounded quite irritated.  A woodpigeon also decided to land at the back of Emthree and took off noisily as soon as it saw me.  Plants continue to respond well to the increasingly damp weather.

24 September 2019.    Heavy rain overnight and in the morning.  The ground now seems properly wetted.

25 September 2019.    Intermittent showers.  Mosses have perked up and other plants are continuing to enjoy the wet.

26 September 2019.    Still showery.  One of the gladdon pods has split to show a line of bright orange seeds.  A yellow fly, Phaonia pallida I think, fell into Second Meadow Pond and swam feebly round without seeming able to get out.  I lifted it from the water with a stick and it flew off apparently none the worse for wear.  More seedlings are now appearing.

27 September 2019.   Quite wild weather with wind, sun and showers.  Lemony-lime ash leaves are popular as sunbathing stations for a range of insects.  These included the noon fly, Mesembrina meridiana, the tapered drone fly, Eristalis pertinax, the scarce snout-faced hoverfly, Rhingia rostrata, Eudasyphora cyanella, red admiral butterflies and various other species.  On hazel leaves there was a gold belted hoverfly, Xylota segnis.

28 September 2019.    A windy, showery autumn day.  Sunlit leaves continued to attract several red admirals and other insects.  The dying yellow ash leaves are covered in brown speckles.

                                    There was a sort of circus of ant like sepsid flies around Second Meadow Pond and the nearby grass and leaves.  They walked rather than flew, characteristically waving their wings.  Occasionally they approached one another and touched heads but it was more like a kiss than a butt.  No doubt some sort of courtship ritual, very well-choreographed but with no specific outcome that I could see.  It appeared to be an isolated event and by 30th September they had gone..

29 September 2019.    Heavy rain.

30 September 2019.   An almost eerie autumn quietness with warm but clouded sun.  Grounded leaves are increasing now with every variety of colour (except blue).  There was a female crane fly, Tipula paludosa, that had spread herself delicately with extended legs on a hornbeam leaf.  This is the start of the autumn daddy-long-legs season.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Autumn 2018

Quite a few new things this autumn.  In Medlar Wood, now more open than in earlier years, wood avens, Geum urbanum, has flowered well and its hooked fruits make a modest feature, especially when the sun catches them.

Fungi have been rather few, but there was one fine birch boleteLeccinum scabrum, with its subterranean mycelium no doubt growing symbiotically with the roots of the large birch tree in M3.

While carefully scrutinising the oak sapling in the Penumbra I had no difficulty in discovering this larva of a harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) sitting as bold as brass on top of a leaf.

Three weeks later there was only a pupal skin in the same place on this leaf and a distinctively patterned adult wandering round at the top of the shoot, an adult which I suspected was the same individual as the larva and the pupal skin.

The harlequin ladybird is a predatory alien invader and the adults are polymorphic with many different forms and colours.  They hibernate in large gatherings in houses and our neighbour had them flying in through his open door and settling on the walls and ceiling.  Standing outside one could see them homing in like honey bees to the hive.

Another alien invader is the ram's horn gall wasp, Andricus aries.  I found two of these galls on the same oak sapling as the ladybird.  It was first recorded in Britain in 1997, since when I have found it in several places locally and suspect it is widespread in southern Britain and the Midlands.  The gall is distinctive by its long single or double 'horn' whose function I do not know.  It does not seem to provide food for the larva(e) within, nor would it be likely to deter predators unless they saw the gall as something unlikely to contain a nice, juicy grub.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

15th birthday of the project

I have now been studying the Square Metre (aka Emthree and the Green Sanctuary) for 15 years.  It has changed almost beyond recognition from a square of short grass to, effectively, secondary woodland.

The picture above is very similar to the one I took on 25 August this year and highlights how slow change is in projects like this.  Worth noting that nearly all the woody plants - hazel, small flowered sweetbriar, birch, holly, sallow, oak, hawthorn, sycamore and hornbeam - have all survived the dry summer.  The one exception is the ash to the left of the birch trunk which has died (of ash dieback disease I suspect).  

Generally though Emthree is less biodiverse than it was in its early years, especially in terms of the flora.  This is perhaps because it is more shady, though I suspect that many of those early plants were pioneer species that somehow managed to find a small square of open ground.

Today, as usual, there were new things to look at and to ponder like the red campion leaf filled with shot holes made, perhaps, by the caterpillar of a Coleophorid moth.

There was a large muscid fly sunning itself on the birch trunk.  A Phaonia species I think and it made me notice how regular the little ridges are on the birch bark.  All roughly the same length, the same height and similar spacing.  What are they for I wondered.  Presumably some bit of birch DNA determines their position and shape.

I was 65 when I started this study and now I am 80.  Roll on the next 15 years to 95!  (Maybe I ought to do some succession planning).

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Dry summer notes

There has been scarcely any rain since the beginning of May and this has affected the more open parts of M3.  The rush plant on the left of the picture has collapsed but many other plants survive.

Today I noticed that the large birch tree was struggling.  The branches are hanging much lower than usual and the leaves look dry and dull.  In the picture below the sallow(top centre) has the bright green leaves and appears to be doing much better than the birch.  I would have expected the reverse to be the case.

In Medlar Wood, the more open habitat has induced the tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) to flourish with a fine crop of ripe black fruit and an unripe red one.

Various things attack the leaves on the oak cordon in the penumbra.  The picture below shows feeding damage from what I think was a coleophorid moth caterpillar.  The larvae of these make cases and creep around like hermit crabs boring holes in patterns.  I looked for the culprit but it must have gone to ground months ago having left its signature on this leaf.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

April reflections

We are having an April heatwave: plants are growing fast, the ground is drying.  A white butterfly, probably a small white, flew round and over M3 before disappearing into the trees.  Two white flowers are out on herb robert and there are several hairy bittercress plants in bloom (below).

The wood dock at the eastern end of Mice&Red (see below) has enlarged very quickly.  It is as good as a Hosta.

There was a visit from a comma butterfly.  It fluttered carefully between various leaves, seemingly testing them to see if they were nettles and suitable for egg laying and the subsequent sustenance of her caterpillars.

The sorrel plants (Rumex acetosa) have flowering stalks surging upwards.  The tops look like red and green hard roe. Several wasp-like nomad bees (Nomada sp.) were present flying low over the ground among the grasses and herbs, searching no doubt for the nests of mining bees in which to deposit their eggs.  They are cuckoo bees, cleptoparasites with larvae that eat the food that was intended for the larvae of the host.

Today's butterfly was a speckled wood that settled on a red campion leaf.  With its head pointed directly towards me and its wings held over its back, it was remarkably hard to see.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A new log seat

With the help of our granddaughter, I stacked a couple of large rounds of wood to make a place where I could sit and contemplate The Square Metre.  The lower log is an old round of sweet chestnut and the upper is from the incense cedar that blew down last year.  It has acquired a bloom of green algae in its top and I vaguely wondered how I might identify this (our native trees do not seem to develop algal blooms like this). Note also the dandelions flowering on Troy Track in front of the logs.  They appear to prefer to grow on trodden ground.

The birch tree in M3 is full of catkins, but you have to look upwards to see them well.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Flies, ferns and trees

Now spring is advancing rapidly there is a large variety of bees and flies sunning themselves on the trunk of the birch tree.  For example, the hoverfly below.

Over the last few days there have been several male sallow catkins (Salix caprea) on the ground in or near M3.  They must have come from the large example some twenty metres to the south which has flowered well this year and I suppose they must have been blown across, though I do not recall seeing this before.  They may be just fallen flowers but there is enough left in them to support and protect the sallow fly larvae (Egle spp.) that live inside them: a good example of a symbiosis where both species benefit and no harm is done.

In Planet Terracotta a leaf of the wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) has appeared as it usually does.  It has now survived in this rather hostile environment for ten years, but shows no sign of flowering or spreading.

In contrast to the wood anemone, the broad buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilatata) continues to enlarge and now has seven fronds. They grow very rapidly once they start, but I wonder why they don't all develop at the same rate.  It has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society and is a very common wild plant in our area.

Another fast developer is the sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).  This year at least six seedlings have appeared, more than at any time before.  As seedlings the species is very attractive but, if left, I fear they would come to dominate the whole of M3.  Considered by most to be an introduction, there are relatively few insects that eat the leaves and, with its fast growth, it can quickly become a dominant or the only species where it flourishes.  As I said when I found a sycamore seed in M3 last autumn, I do not know the source of this species as there are no trees nearby that I know of that are large enough to bear fruit.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bee time

A mild and sunny day and the insects are starting to reappear.  At about midday there were two queens of the tree bumble bee Bombus hypnorum flying about and scrabbling on the ground as though looking for somewhere to nest (though this is normally an aerial nesting species)  It has been expanding rapidly in Britain since its first record in 2002 and is common in our garden.  It is readily identifiable from its brown-haired thorax and white-haired tail.

On a sunny day the trunk of the birch tree in M3 is a magnet for flying insects.  Today I noted many sallow catkin flies (Aegle spp.) and two mining bees: the small sallow (Andrena and Clark's (A. clarkella).  The Aegle spp. (see below) are always common here when the sallows are in flower as the larvae live in the fallen catkins.

The Clark's mining bees have a nesting aggregation on the root plate of a windthrown chestnut just beyond the end of the garden which is probably where this male came from.  Both mining bees are very fond of visiting the catkins of sallow trees and there is a very large example of Salix caprea just coming into flower a few metres south of M3. The picture below is of a male Clark's mining bee: the small sallow bee was too quick for me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Morning snow

The weather has turned bitterly cold with a huge anticyclone (known as the Beast from the East) heading in across mainland Europe from Siberia.

There was an appreciable amount of snow this morning and I ventured out to see what it had done to the Square Metre.  Interestingly, unlike the rest of the garden, it was almost snow free, I think because it lies on the southern side of a hedge and can catch any sunlight that is going.  This gives it an appreciably warmer microclimate that elsewhere in the neighbourhood.  Note that the area beyond the hedge and on its north side has an unbroken snowfield.

It is in weather like this that the self sown holly just to the right of the birch tree comes into its own.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Return of the thrush?

The broken shell below is of a brown-lipped snail, Cepaea nemoralis.  It is resting on the Lyon Stone on the western side of M3 and it looks very much as though it was battered open by a thrush using the stone as an anvil.  In 2004 a thrush was very active in the area using a different piece of stone as an anvil but they do not seem to have been common in recent years.

I have written about the stone elsewhere.  It came from the river Lyon in Glen Lyon, Scotland and was given to me for no obvious reason and without explanation by an acquaintance who had just returned therefrom.  There is all sorts of magic and mystery about these stones and I rather treasure it.  Much about the stones of Glen Lyon here http://philipcoppens.com/glenlyon.html

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Where did it come from?

I found this old sycamore key today lying like some strange deep sea fish on Troy Track on the eastern side of M3.  Winter had shredded the blade of the samara revealing the sinews that hold it all together with the muscular, batswing fingers stretching from the seed casing.  This casing is slightly chewed as though some creature was, unsuccessfully, after the seed.

There is no fruiting sycamore tree near M3 though two or three seedlings have appeared over the years, so I wondered how far it had samaraed through the air before coming to rest.  Despite careful scrutiny I could find no microfungi on it so I have put it in a small plastic box with damp paper to see if anything will incubate.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A first spring development

I look at M3 practically every day now to seen any signs of spring ahead.  There seems to be very little, but in the last week or so these leaves of cuckoopint (Arum maculatum) have emerged by the old yew log in the penumbra area.

The leaves are beautifully fresh and green and, in this example, patterned with purple black spots (hence the specific name maculatum, I suppose).  These spots only occur on some of the plants and I have read that they are caused by a fungus Melanustilospora ari.  

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Ash bark lichens, changing winds

The start of 2018 has been depressingly grey and wet so I was pleased to find something to attract my attention.  The smooth grey bark of the ash tree has quite a few scarcely visible, circular patches of lichen.  I think the species might be Opegrapha atra though this is very close to O. herbarum and some other species.  Getting an accurate determination will need microscope work I think.

On a rather larger level there have been further changes to the area surrounding M3 inasmuch a large whitebeam that has grown some 20 metres west of the project has blown down.  The reason is, I suspect, that many oaks were removed in the autumn from a garden to the north and this has allowed winds from the north to topple the whitebeam.  With the incense cedar to the south this will make a considerable change to the pattern of wind circulation in and around M3, though I doubt whether I shall be able to disentangle the effects of this from changes brought about by increased light levels and other factors.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Hornbeam bark stripping

The picture above was taken looking down  at the one metre tall hornbeam cordon that has been with us for ten years.  I prune it back every autumn and some of summer's cut twigs with their dark green bark can be seen.  There are also some white twigs (particularly the one in the centre of the picture) from which the bark has been recently stripped and any leaf buds gone.

I suspect a vole or mouse as the probable culprit as the work is all too small and delicate for a squirrel or deer.  I hope it doesn't continue to the point where it has a major effect on the hornbeam.

The white trunk in the background on the left is the lower part of the M3 birch I talked about in yesterday's post.