Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Royal homage

A big change in the weather with the temperature about 14C for most of the day, a bit on the blowy side and with cloudy skies and the sun failing to poke through. A walk along the hedgerows and fell did not produce a single butterfly so I thought I'd spend some time in the woods. Royal Fern is the UK's largest and is a very attractive, stately fern that prefers damp, boggy conditions.  It is deciduous, growing up to two metres tall when soil conditions are good but the deeply divided fronds are frost sensitive, not appearing until late April and May. It is very rare in the north-east, in fact so rare that there is only one site in County Durham where it still grows wild and its here at Waldridge where two plants are hanging on. So I went to pay my homage. The fronds were just beginning to unfurl.

Royal Fern not much at the moment but a good one all the same.
A slow walk through the South Burn wood birches was rather quiet,  several Blackcaps etc were singing but nothing new, though yesterday's Garden Warbler was just as elusive and a Lesser Redpoll flew over. A few more flowers gave themselves up here Common Vetch and Red Campion.  Apart from swarms of St. Mark's Flies and a few bumblebees, the only thing flying were a few hoverflies, all Drone Flys except for one Helophilus pendulus which was my first of the year.

Red Campion
I continued through and crossed Waldridge Lane with some self sown Oilseed Rape on the roadside, into the other part of the wood, usually called Felledge Wood for obvious reasons. Though it is the same wood, bisected by the lane, it is very different, being much wetter and consists mainly of Alder on boggy steep sided banks.

Greater Tussock-sedge in Felledge Wood
 Different flowers in here were Large Bittercress, Wood Speedwell, Greater Tussock-sedge (Carex paniculata) and Wood Horsetail.

Large Bittercress

I ventured out and had a look on Wanister Bog. With the cattle on during the winter churning up the soil, the wettest part looked white from a distance due to the masses of Hare's-tail and Common Cotton-grass and Bog-bean. I don't think I've even seen so much here before.

Masses of Cotton-grasses and Bogbean  at Wanister
There is a very good showing of Marsh Violet too and I added Common Sedge (Carex niger) to today's flower list. And a single windswept Common Heath moth
Marsh Violet
Went back into the woods and came out at the south end and continued along the stream to East Scroggs. At least two Cuckoos were calling here and one was being chased by Meadow Pipits and landed on the wires some distance away where it was still being mobbed by them.

Cuckoo and Meadow Pipits on wires in the distance
 Checking one of the ponds, a Common Snipe that I surprised flew off or it surprised me to tell the truth. The ponds here are thick with Bog Pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius) and they look very good for Dragonflies which I haven't really checked them for in the past. Jack Snipes in the winter yes, but not Dragonflies in the summer. So I've added it to the things to do later, as my Dragonfly list for Waldridge is not that good. A small tree in the hedgerow looked good for Black Poplar but the lack of a balsam scent and hairless young leaves showed it to be a hybrid Populus x euramericana. It's a female tree, so not the usual hybrid as that is a male clone. I believe there was (still is?) a true native tree in this same area many years ago.

Back over Daisy Hill, but the grassy area here was as disappointing as usual though a Lapwing was sitting on eggs here and certainly made it obvious it didn't want me anywhere near.

My lists for the year now stand at

Birds - 95
Mammals- 7
Moths - 35
Butterflies -9
Hoverflies - 3
Dragonflies - 1
Flowers - 124

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