Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Autumn roundup: late mushrooms, beech trees, Great Egret............

Mushroom foray

The West Weald Fungus Recording Group led by Dick Alder paid us a visit on 16th November. We  thought their chances of finding many specimens were fairly low this late in the season. Mushrooms had been early this year, and particularly abundant during late August to early October.  But we were  wrong.  While too late for ceps or purple web caps, the group still managed to find 55 different species, which was a surprise to us, though not to the expert visitors.

Ling and Mark, enjoying their introduction to Autumn fungus in Old Copse.

Growing our own

After planting out the best of the home grown oaks in the wood, there were still 30 or so that were  too small. Some of them were getting a bit pot-bound  so a  raised bed in the wood,  well protected from deer, seemed like a good idea. In deeper soil they'll have room to stretch out and start growing properly in the Spring.

Rare visitor

One of the mushroom group arrived early and was lucky enough to see a visiting Great Egret at this spot

We didn't see him, but here's a library picture of what we missed (credit RSPB)

Autumn photos

Old Copse is beautiful at this time of the year. The beech trees really stand out.

A decaying birch stump. First comes the moss, then the fungus.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Landscape scale changes

We know our 30 acres of wood in detail. Old Copse is just one tiny part of Sussex, and its beauty and interest stems from its connection with the land that sits around it. The deer that pass through, the badger, the birds, aren't bothered about property boundaries. The ducks and geese fly from the pond adjacent to Old Copse, to the neighbouring Hammerpond and back several times a day. It's never clear what sets them off. They just take off in their V formation, wheeling and honking overhead to fly over the ridge to the adjacent pond. The fallow deer move up into the depths of the forest to have their young, then return to hole up in the birch during the day and browse on the neighbouring fields at night.The badger that was caught on the trail camera  a few weeks ago, probably lives in the sett we found half a mile away, and the barn owl seen hunting in an Old Copse glade could have come 3-4 kilometres - so could be roosting in Leonards Lee, Slaugham or Sedgwick Castle - all within range as the owl flies.

The other side of Old Copse, across the hammer pond, is a narrow strip of ancient woodland. Beyond this, until earlier this year, was a golf course that had been there for twenty years - the junior sibling of the 118  year-old neighbouring course. Occasionally we heard golfers, and picked up golf balls that had sailed beyond a tee, into the woodland. During the early morning, and at dusk, fallow deer were often to be seen standing about on the closely manicured greens or galloping down the fairway making their way north to a neighbour's land. .

Having met with the new owners of the estate we knew of their plans for a large vineyard. So we weren't surprised when the former golf course was ploughed and planted  with vines earlier this year.  Now the first phase is complete and there is a sturdy fence enclosing the entire 25 acre planted site, to keep out the deer and rabbits . We mused on what effect this new development  would have  on the local wild life. The new fence means that the larger animals - deer and badgers - can no longer cut across the golf course. In order to reach the wider shelter of the forest or the fields to the north they are all forced to go through Old Copse or the band of woodland on the other side of the pond. Consequently north-south deer traffic has increased - a development of great interest to Mark the deer stalker who has put up a deer seat at the narrowest point where the two routes converge at the stream.

Newly planted vines on the former golf ourse

As the new vineyard lies just outside the SSSI (site of special scientific interest) that surrounds the pond, we also wondered about the effects of the new land management. It could be positive. The golf course was always kept mown short, with manicured greens. We don't know how they intend to manage the land between the vines, but surely we will see greater diversity, more wild flowers and more shelter for small mammals - and therefore better hunting for predators. Will there be run off from fertilisers or greater water use? Natural England, who monitors the site assured us there was nothing of concern. However, if the vineyard isn't going to be run on organic principles, (and perhaps it is, we don't yet know) then perhaps there is some cause for concern.  We'll keep an eye on it as the vines grow on in their first full year, and as the next 20 acres of planting takes place to the south.

The new fence that surrounds the new vineyard

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Badger! part 2

Recently  we decided to walk  through Old Copse looking for  hazel  poles to use for tree planting  stakes. We walked to the boundary of the wood and continued  through a narrow band of woodland  . The wood was clearly ancient woodland,  with a stream running through it, a tributary of  the Ghyll that runs through Old Copse. It looks as if it hasn't been touched for years.  A  jungly tangle of undergrowth, fallen trees, and standing deadwood peppered with woodpecker holes.  And suddenly, there it was,  right in the middle of the woodland,  an extensive badger sett with over a dozen entrances, and  a couple of badger latrines. There was extensive evidence of  recent  scraping and digging, and a network of narrow paths. We seem to have found the home of the badger captured on the trail camera recently and put on the blog earlier this month .

A fine well-constructed entrance.

Beautifully round with a neat track in 

This entrance is obviously well-used

Badger latrine - someone's eaten something that disagreed with them. 

Recent sightings:

A few days ago  as I sat on the cabin deck with a cup of tea, I saw a Sparrowhawk flying east to west towards the Pond . One of the deer stalkers  visiting the wood  recently saw  Little Owls, Tawny Owls -   and  most thrillingly -  a Barn Owl, drifting over the tussocky grass in  a clearing south of the cabin. We're so pleased that a Barn Owl has taken to visiting Old Copse. We know of a Barn Owl who was nesting in a tree a couple of miles away  - perhaps this is the same one.