Woodland Watch – Week 3 – 04/04/2013

A beautiful day for a walk through the woods

A beautiful day for a walk through the woods

I really don’t know where last week disappeared to! I walked through the woods on a beautiful Tuesday last week and then the rest of the week flew by in a whirlwind of work! So, here we are, apologies for the slightly late posting of this entry…Lets go for a walk!

The trees and plants are as confused by the weather as we all are at the moment! Every week the weather could quite easily be doing anything at all, from brilliant sunshine to snow this really has been a spring of extremes! Fortunately, last Tuesday was a beautiful spring day and it was wonderful to see the signs of spring in the sunshine.

Many of the tree buds are still remaining resolutely closed against the cold weather, but a few of the species in the woodland are starting to show signs of emerging leaves. One of the most advanced species in this woodland is the elder (Sambucus nigra), which is by far the furthest along in terms of bud burst.

Emerging elder leaves

Emerging elder leaves

Looking around the woodland floor the nettles are starting to emerge in patches. The common nettle (Urtica dioica) prefers moist fertile soil that has a deep layer of composting detritus therefore the woodland floor with its thick layer of decomposing leaf litter is the perfect habitat for these plants.

Young nettles emerging from the woodland floor

Young nettles emerging from the woodland floor

While nettles are often considered to be a troublesome weed, they actually have a wide range of uses, from tea made from the young leaves to string, rope and fabrics made from the fibrous stem nettles are a wonderfully versatile plant. For more uses for nettles have a look at this website: http://dallia.hubpages.com/hub/interesting-facts-about-stinging-nettles

A couple of weeks ago, we saw a lot of evidence of squirrel activity in the form of hazel nut shells characteristically split in two. Again, there was a wealth of feeding evidence littering the woodland floor, this one tree stump was covered in discarded shells.

Discarded shells on a decomposing tree stump showing characteristic signs of squirrel feeding

Discarded shells on a decomposing tree stump showing characteristic signs of squirrel feeding

However, these shells are not the only indicators of grey squirrel presence. Many of the trees are showing signs of squirrel damage. Grey squirrels gnaw at the stems of trees to get to the sweet sap-filled layers just beneath the bark. If a complete circle of bark and underlying tissue is removed the tree is said to have been ‘ring barked’ which prevents the movement of sugars around the tree and the section above the damaged tissue will die. This typically occurs between late April and the end of July and the damage observed during this walk was clearly caused in previous years. 

Squirrel damaged young tree

Squirrel damaged young tree

Heading a little further down the path, these bright young leaves caught my eye. I am fairly sure they are Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum), however my ground level vegetation identification is not my strong point! As the plants develop it will be clear whether my identification is correct or not!

young Arum maculatum leaves

young Arum maculatum leaves

Walking out the other side of the woodland, some of the larger trees around the perimeter have a lot of holes. Many birds and mammals make and use holes in trees, especially in deadwood or weakened wood. It was impossible to see these holes clearly with the naked eye and my camera wasn’t strong enough to zoom in. I made a mental note to bring binoculars with me on future walks! For now, here’s the best picture I could get with my iphone camera!

Holes in mature trees around the perimeter of the coppice woodland

Holes in mature trees around the perimeter of the coppice woodland

So that’s another week in the woods! Join us again next week for the latest developments. Lets hope this good weather holds and the trees can start to really get into spring! See you again next time for a walk in the woods!

Remember to upload pictures of your own woodland walks to our facebook page – Treecreeper Arborists or email them to office@tree-creeper.com . Happy woodland walks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s