Sunday 30 September 2012

September in Little Linford Wood

September nearly passed me by. On the antepenultimate day of the month, I realised that I only had the weekend left to visit the site before it was October. So that was the schedule for Saturday morning sorted.

Following a week of intermittent heavy rain and strong winds, I was expecting to be greeted by a soggy scene of mud and flattened vegetation, but on a bright, though breezy, morning nothing could be further from the truth.

During the intervening weeks since my last visit, the picnic area and woodland rides have been mown to allow better access. Happily, the paths had not turned to sticky goo, but they were covered in a scattering of broken branches and twigs that did hint at the force of the week's winds.

The car park pond still had very little water in it, so perhaps the rain had bypassed Little Linford Wood altogether. I found a female Migrant Hawker dragonfly roosting on a tree in the glade immediately to the south of where this photo was taken. But she was the only ode we saw at this point.

Whilst Buzzards called overhead and Jays raided the many Oak trees for their acorns, the buffeting breeze made it difficult to find insect life. However, in the occasional calm and warm spot, we spotted several species of butterfly, Red Admiral, Comma, Speckled Wood and Large White. We disturbed a few Common Darter dragonflies, who flew up from their perches on the path, where they were making the most of the heating qualities of clumps of dried grass.

The most obvious feature of the wood this month was the quantity of berries on display. Whilst all the Elderberries had either been consumed by the wildlife or fallen to the ground, other bushes and shrubs were teeming with fruit.

Dogwood, Cornus sanguinea
Hawthorn, Crategus monogyna
Dog rose, Rosa canina
Guelder-rose, Viburnum opulus
Bramble, Rubus fruticosus
Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa
We did find a large Spindle tree, but as it was so tall, its pink fruit with their eye-wateringly colour-clashing orange seeds were out of reach of my camera phone.

Through the hedges that line the perimeter of the wood were twined another prolific fruiter, Black Bryony.

Black Bryony, Tamus communis
My copy of Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland, by Blamey, Fitter and Fitter, informs me that it can be distinguished from the similarly-named but totally unrelated White Bryony, by the fact that it twines clockwise. And the leaves are completely different, Black having broad heart-shaped ones and White having palmately-lobed ones, but that's not so juicy a fact, eh?

On our amble around the wood, we did find one stretch of gloriously sheltered, sun-drenched hedgerow and it was full of insect life. We first noticed many more Common Darters, then Red Admiral and Comma butterflies competing for nectar, before spotting another Migrant Hawker and an abundance of small flies. However, the most striking feature of this warm oasis was a constant stream of Hornets, flying back and forth along the hedge, intent upon their waspish preying of smaller insects. Their time is now short, for soon only the young mated queens will be left, looking to find a safe place to hibernate before Winter arrives. But it was amazing, if a little nerve-wracking, to stand and watch for a while as if on a central reservation, while the motorway of yellowness zoomed passed in each direction, every vehicle concentrating on going from A to bee.


biobabbler said...

=) What a delightful recount of your adventure. I like when external, mostly artificial things (like calendars) jolt us into venturing forth.

Living on a different continent from you, I wonder which among all those BEAUTIFUL berries are safely edible by people? I assume the Rubus are, the Prunus, and guess that the Rosa would be SUPER tart & full of vitamin C (like rose hips here), just based on the genus names....

Imperfect and Tense said...

Bramble is the only safe berry mentioned here, though the Dog Rose 'hips' make a delicious Vitamin C packed syrup. The Blackthorn 'sloes' are used to make sloe gin. I wouldn't recommend any of the others for human consumption. And the Elder berries that we didn't see can be made into jam or wine. I do try to be good and not pick brambles in nature reserves!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I vaguely recall a post of your latest seasonal ode sighting. Was it November 27 last year (ha, had to look it up)? It's time to be thinking around the corner for these sightings. Because you asked me this past year, my latest ode sighting I've noted is December 10. Let's see how we compare this year.

Imperfect and Tense said...

2011 had a mild Autumn, which led to the above statistic. In fact, the same dragon was photographed in the same place by someone else on December 5. So far, 2012 has been unpredictable, unseasonal and downright contrary. But with nature, as with the weather, you just never know, so I'll accept your challenge!