Friday, 29 June 2018

Emergency watering



We could really do with some rain. It's been a very prolonged  hot, dry spell, which wouldn't matter too much if we didn't have a newly planted hedge to look after. David Abbott from Sparrowhatch Forestry has been to water the roadside plants twice now. Most of the plants aren't struggling too much because they are in a shady position, but the Wayfaring trees (Viburnam Lantana)  were looking a bit parched and limp before David came along with water and hose. And they were doing so well too. Fingers crossed we get a good downpour soon.




Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Bees in the Wood

Well, a bit of excitement to see the first two beehives  installed in the wood. They belong to Kris who runs a bee products shop in Brighton Open Market, selling bee products such as Royal Jelly, Bee Pollen, Propolis, Beeswax, and Honeygar (whatever that is, but I'll find out) and an extensive range of  honey, most of which I've never heard of.  All the honey is raw, 100% natural, unheated and unprocessed. Now, if successful , there'll be honey from Old Copse to add to his list. I think there'll be enough for the bees to feed on in the wood at the moment;  lots of wild flowers, foxgloves, heather, alder-buckthorn, bramble, thistles and honeysuckle for a start.

 Kris's beehives are placed in different locations in the Sussex area, both semi-urban and rural. They are unlike English beehives, looking more like small boxy filing cabinets. His are painted a sort of ochre colour, but in Poland  where he comes from, they are often painted in  bright stripes or traditional designs. During the two cold spells last February, many bees were lost because English beehives aren't insulated. Kris lost none, because his hives are very well insulated against cold weather, as they have to be in Poland.


We're looking forward to learning a bit about bee keeping, and extracting honey. There are lots of unusual beliefs around bees. One of the most well known is the custom of talking to, or 'telling of the bees'  traditional in England and some other European countries. Bees would be told of important events in their keeper's lives, such as births, marriages, deaths,  departures and returns in the household. If this was neglected a penalty would be paid such as the bees leaving the hive, stopping the production of honey, or dying. Kris told us this wasn't a custom in Poland, but we'll make sure the bees hear all our important news.

The hives have been placed in an open 'scallop' on the top track in the dappled shade.  The entrance to the hive faces away from the track as it's not a good idea to get between the bees and their front door. I risked a quick look near dusk, and saw a group of  bees gathered at one of the entrances, looking as if they were having a last gossip before joining the rest of the swarm inside at bedtime.

It was a real surprise and rather a thrill  to hear, though not see, a nightjar  at dusk recently. We haven't heard one at Old Copse before, but I immediately recognised the sound from my childhood. Wonderful.  We, or rather, the deer stalkers have been trying hard to reduce the grey squirrel population and I think we're starting to see the results of this with increased birdsong in the wood. 

They are very difficult to spot, as they are well-camouflaged  - so here's a picture from Britannica.


Here's what a nightjar sounds like:




Thursday, 21 June 2018

Trailcam


A new, inexpensive trail cam has been set up on the ride for over six weeks, so I thought it was time to see what it had captured and what we could learn about what goes on when we're not there. The quality isn't that great so next time the resolution will be set higher and each shot will be for 10 seconds instead of 5.  Also it might be interesting to place it in a different position and see what turns up.

Fallow

Well they're still around . During May the camera caught them regularly either early in the morning or at night. They rarely made an appearance during the middle of the day. Usually they were browsing within the birch, just at the edge of the ride.


These two were using the ride as a highway at 7.30 am on 11th May.



This white fallow was filmed trotting down the ride at twenty to eight in the evening.

The fallow disappeared around the third week of May - off on their travels into the forest, or maybe just taking another route -  and didn't come back until half way through June. 

Roe

As soon as the fallow had gone the roe deer took advantage of their absence. From 25th May the roe were caught on camera almost every day, but no fallow. The roe seem less concerned about being seen in daylight and were filmed at all times. 


Enjoying the ride at 11.47 am on 7th June.  


Here's another at 8.30 in the evening on the 8th June - a pretty typical shot. 


Mr Fox

The fox is a regular user of the ride, caught on camera at least once a week. His pattern seems to be to head north between 9.30 and 10 pm, and south in the morning between 7.30 and 8.30 am. From that I assume that his lair is probably south of the camera position.


Here he is at 8.38 am 18th June.

Human visitors

Interestingly, we don't seem to have many uninvited human visitors. The camera caught very unflattering shots of us, the deer stalkers and Mark, who appeared in the twilight after a grey squirrel shooting session. We did catch Candice-Marie and Keith, complete with cagoules, who paused and looked a bit sheepish when they spotted the camera, and quickly headed back in the direction they had come from. It seems a little unfair to post film of them.


So here's a video of a jay instead. 


And finally here's a shot of the morning sun - and of course a deer for good measure.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Spring growth and new sightings


Broom had disappeared , but with good deer management it has returned in abundance.


New birch, goat willow, wood sorrel and ferns are sprouting next to the cabin.

The bird and wildlife friendly informal hedge, planted 6 months ago on the verge along the roadside boundary is doing surprisingly well. Everything is thriving except for the blackthorn. Outgrowing everything are the field maple and hazel. We had our doubts about the success of  this hedge given how shady the situation is in late Spring and Summer, and how inpenetrable the sandstone and clay soil is in places, but now we can see the encouraging  results of last winter's labour we'll continue to augment the hedge during the next planting season. Although the ground is drying out on top after the recent prolonged dry spell, it's still damp underneath, so we hope we won't need to bring in the watering  truck just yet.

Wild Privet (Ligustrum Vulgare) 

Yew


Viburnum lantana (wayfaring tree) is blooming already

The weather has been perfect for bringing on the young broadleaf trees, planted 17 months ago in the thinned Scots Pine plantation.

The Hornbeams are doing well

The first chestnut appears

The first oak to grow out the top of its tube.

Recent Sightings:

Sarah was sitting a few feet from the cabin, enjoying her coffee overlooking the pond, when she spotted what she thought might be a dead mallard duck. It was extremely well camouflaged, but on closer inspection proved to be not dead, but sitting on a clutch of eggs. It returned her stare quite calmly.  Lately we've seen a large number of duck egg shells in the wood  clearly taken from nests and eaten by mammals, foxes I expect. I wonder how on earth any ducklings survive. Ducks sit for 28 days and then have to lead the ducklings to water which in this case is a journey of about 20 feet. I don't hold out much hope for the survival of this brood, but it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised
.
Sitting on her feathered nest

Fine dark grey toad by a woodstack

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Spring work party at Old Copse


As usual we had quite a long list for the Spring work party of  Old Copse deerstalkers. We stayed overnight to be there for their arrival. It was a treat to wake up to a wood full of early morning birdsong and sunlight through the trees.



The day's work list included:

Putting up a temporary deer fencing enclosure around the new tree nursery raised beds.

The Scots Pine are perfect for wrapping and  attaching  the fencing



Banging in sturdy stakes along the roadside verge to help deter motorists who like to pull in to throw out their litter.

Sturdy stakes - now with added reflectors

Protecting a row of young hedging plants that were nibbled by deer with a chicken wire fence and an inner line of tape. Apparently deer are reluctant to jump over what appears to be a double fence. We shall have to wait and see if this is the case. It doesn't look very attractive now but once the plants grow up it'll be hidden.




Next winter's firewood logged and stacked.



It was a glorious  sunny day to be working in the wood, and a good day's work was done. Many thanks to Mark and his crew. They are doing a great job managing the fallow deer population . This can be seen  in the explosion of new plant growth  this Spring. It is only 3 weeks into the closed season  which lasts until August 1st, so there is still plenty of time for the deer to do their damage, but  there is so much growing  it's difficult to see how they can eat the lot. We've started to see the occasional deer in the wood again, mostly young ones, but not,so far, the large groups of them that we used to see.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Hammock life

At long last we have invested in two hammocks. The aim is to encourage us to spend more time just enjoying the wood - rather than always finding new tasks to do.

Trying one out:


The most perfect view looking up from the hammock:



Monday, 7 May 2018

UK Bluebells

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 Somewhere deep in my subconscious I had assumed that bluebells were  - well - English so I was quite startled to see from a friend's Instagram photos that they are doing well and are a common sight across the Channel in Brittany. A quick Google  made it clear that although 50% of the world's hyacinthoides non scripta grow in Britain, they have a range that extends from the UK across western France, Netherlands and Belgium and down the Atlantic coast to northwestern Spain. They are all over the UK, apart from the far north - Hebrides and Orkney.  With that Atlantic distribution it's clear they don't like their winters too cold, and prefer the milder Gulf Stream climate. This year's cold spring has apparently delayed bluebell flowering, although looking back at this blog, in Old Copse they are probably only a few days later than last year.


Bluebells mean a lot to us because they are a clear indicator of how the work we are doing to thin the plantation and clear the bracken makes a difference to the ground flora.  We can track the changes by watching how the bluebells march across the newly created spaces from year to year, advancing through the wood from the ride towards the pond. Front runners appear in single figures, and are joined by new ones each Spring until there is a clump, and pretty soon the clumps join up to form a carpet  that conquers all the empty brown space .  This year, the first few bluebells managed to reach  beyond the Pond side of the cabin. Hurrah! -  and the deer don't eat them -  Double Hurrah!

 The most abundant bluebell displays can be seen in the northerly 15 acres (OC2)  of the birch wood . The southern 15 acres (OC1)  is less diverse ,  increasingly so the further south one walks, where there are no bluebells at all in the birch wood, or any deciduous trees apart from birch, except along the roadside edge. We don't know why this is so. In the northern 15 acres  there are a fair number of  other deciduous trees such as beech, oak, rowan, hazel crab apple, cherry, and hawthorn. There is only 1 large Scots pine  present as this part of the plantation was destroyed in the 1987 storm, and birch quickly colonised the space. The absence of pine means there is no thick layer of  pine needles to suffocate ground flora, and light levels have attained a good balance, resulting in  very little bracken and hardly any bramble, except for around the edges. So  the bluebells are thriving. This is what we are aiming for in the rest of Old Copse.





Herbie, full of the joys of a bluebell Spring, and the scent of fallow deer.

 Brimstone butterfly feeding on a bluebell