Sunday, 31 January 2016

Big Garden Birdwatch

We took part this morning spending an hour observing what came and went in our (small) garden.   We cheated just a bit, with my wife filling all our feeders to overflowing with peanuts, grain, niger seed and fat balls.

The RSPB website for submission of results predicts the commonly seen birds.   Sadly none of the 13 species we had took us into the pages to record sightings not on those common garden birds. Our list was:

House sparrow (10)               Dunnock                       Goldfinch (2)                  Robin
Blackbird                               Wood pigeon (2)           Blue tit (2)                      Jackdaw
Collared dove                         Starling                         Greenfinch

Actually I might have left off a couple of these in our submission.   The Greenfinch was the first we have seen for quite some time; we used to see lots but some years ago a virus seemed to decimate their numbers, and they do not seem to have recovered.

The species count used to be more varied but over the years lots of trees have gone, nothing dramatic but ones and twos chopped down here and there each year, and we can now see woodland half a mile away, whereas 20 years ago we could only see the roofs of nearby houses.   The reasons are plentiful, take your pick from inter alia:  they interfere with light /  they interfere with TV reception / they might be dangerous.  In reality we don't like trees, this in a village which parades its low carbon credentials enthusiastically!

We usually have at least one Coal tit in the garden every day, but not today.   Nor did we see the Great spotted woodpecker which has made a couple of appearances in the last month, causing excitement on each occasion/.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

At last, a bright cold day.

A walk to the meadow down by the Swere and into the BBOWT reserve nearby.  A more traditional day, with few flowers to be seen - the further from the village the fewer flowering weeds, which we counted at the new year.    Even the hazel catkins were just forming.    Instead clouds of fieldfare, a coal tit, a couple of buzzards.   A small flock of lapwings flew over.

Ask keys
Woolly Thistle

Coal Tit
Traveller's Joy


In the Cutting, again nothing in flower, but a delightful showing of Western Polypody, and several mosses which I have yet to try to identify.   There are 3 Polypody ferns in Britain, which look rather similar and they hybridise, but the hybrids are sterile.   As this had lots of spores it is not a hybrid even though some of the characteristics of the fern were tending towards Common Polypody.


Monday, 4 January 2016

New Year's Day Plant Hunt

We took part in  BSBI's New Year's Day Plant Hunt, the aim being to count plants in full flower, with the records going to BSBI for comparison and analysis.   After an excellent dinner on New Year's Eve with our neighbours, a long ramble - 3 hours suggested by BSBI -seemed a bit ambitious, and the threat of rain meant that we could conveniently limit our wander around the village to a modest 90 minutes, taking us past the allotments, over a pasture and arable field and back along the Chipping Norton road to the heart of the village.   Our total was 25 species , though I lost my list and reported only 22 to BSBI.

Petty Spurge Creeping Comfrey
Groundsel Green Alkanet
Annual Meadow Grass Lesser Celandine
Cock's-foot Nipplewort
Smooth Sow-thistle Daisy
Wall Lettuce Dove's-foot Cranesbill
Snowdrop Field pansy
Primrose Creeping Buttercup
Pink Campion Field Madder
White Dead-nettle Hogweed
Red Dead-nettle Orpine
Shepherd's-purse Dandelion
Wavy Bitter-cress

Red Campion

White Dead-nettle


Creeping Comfrey
There was nothing remarkable but they represented a crossover of late flowering autumn plants and early flowering spring plants.  Most would be described as weeds.

We also found a couple of fungi - Yellow Field cap and probably Spring Brittlestem,  Psathyrella spadiceogrisea.   The doubt is over the number of Psathyrella species in the UK and the microscopic work needed to be confident of a species ID which I did not do.

Yellow Field Cap (Bolbitius tutubans)
Probably Spring Brittlestem (Psathyrella spadiceogrisea)

Spores 12 x 7 microns

Spores 8 x 5 microns
Recent heavy rain meant that there were lots of muddy paths.   We found some nice fox and badger prints on a run by the roadside.   I think the sett is around 200 yards from where we found the print.

A gentle start to the new year.