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Monthly Diary

August 2021

posted 2 Sept 2021, 03:44 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 2 Sept 2021, 04:01 ]


Well, there is certainly an Autumnal feel to the Green - the blackberries are ripening and the hawthorn berries are starting to turn. Another indicator that summer is coming to an end is the appearance of the delicate harebell, which flowers from July through to September. It is an important source of nectar for insects during the Autumn and it only grows on the dry side of the Green. There is a lot of folklore surrounding these plants, including that fairies live amongst the flowers and will cast a spell on anyone walking through them - so walk past them at your peril!


A bird that can often be heard and seen on the Green is the rather lovely nuthatch. They usually frequent the mature trees on the Maple Hayes boundary and in spring will often nest in holes in those trees. Admittedly, I didn’t take this photo on the Green, but rather yesterday at RSPB Middleton Lakes (well worth a visit!). But I thought it worthwhile to share this photo and I am sure you will agree, they are gorgeous birds and one to look out for on the Green.


Now, I know this is not going to appeal to everyone, but I noticed a number of insects sitting on the mud near the pipe. Whilst they look like male honey bees, a closer inspection and a search in my guidebook revealed them to be the dronefly (Eristalis tenax). They lay their eggs in mud/damp/rotting material and this is what I think they are doing in the photo!

Just to remind you that we are having a work party this Sunday (5th September), from 9.30 - 11.30. We will meet by the pipe and will be working mainly on the wet side of the Green removing the stands of willow herb. So please wear suitable footwear and personally I would wear trousers, as the horseflies are still around! Gloves are advised. The willow herb can be pulled by hand, but I will bring scythes along as well.

July 2021

posted 31 Jul 2021, 01:00 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 31 Jul 2021, 01:12 ]


How about this for a stunning find? This is not a butterfly, but actually a moth that flies in the daytime. It is a six-spot burnet, so called because it has six bright red spots on each of its wings! The red spots, whilst looking really smart, actually indicate to predators that the moth is poisonous, as they can release hydrogen cyanide if they are attacked. I am not sure if the cyanide kills the predators, but you can see why they would leave the burnet moth well alone!


There are so many butterflies about at the moment and they can easily be seen along the boundary edge of the Green (especially on the bramble and thistle) as well as on the damper side of the Green. They are very active at the moment, which means taking photos of them is quite a challenge! However a red admiral (LHS) and a gorgeous chocolate brown ringlet butterfly (RHS) cooperatively sat still for more than 10 seconds whilst having their photo taken!


If you look across to the wet side of the Green, you should see some swathes of creamy white flowers, which belong to the the meadowsweet plant. These frothy flowers have a sweet flavour (seemingly you can make a cordial with them) and the plant has been used for centuries by herbalists, including for treatment of digestive conditions. Quite a useful plant to have about!

June 2021

posted 30 Jun 2021, 09:11 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 30 Jun 2021, 09:20 ]


Whilst the orchids are putting on a good display, there are a lot of other, less showy plants that are also looking lovely at the moment. Not least is the humble dog rose, which twines it way up through some of the trees and bushes and has an exceedingly delicate pinkish flower. Well, I say dog rose, but after looking in my trusty Collins Flower Guide, I realise that there are a number of "dog roses", which require a careful examination in order to distinguish between them! Apart from been loved by insects for their nectar, dog roses also produce the wonderful bright red hips in the Autumn, which are enjoyed by the birds and anybody who is intent on making rose hip syrup!


Just to show that the Green supports a whole range of invertebrate life, I managed to find this small (about 0.5cm long) caterpillar-like thing, on some of the dock. Initially I thought it was ladybird larvae, but a closer examination, and a bit of research lead me to the conclusion that it is the larvae of the green dock beetle. The adult beetles can be seen on the dock leaves and as the name sugests, are a rather smart metallic green colour.


Anyone who suffers from hayfever, will be well aware that the grasses are flowering at the moment and producing rather a lot of pollen. We have a total of 16 different types of grass growing on the Green and one of my favourites has to be Crested Dog's Tail. It is one of the easier grasses to identify, having a distinct spiked appearance. In the photo the small dark spidery bits that you can see hanging down, are in fact the anthers of the flower and yes, releasing lots of pollen!

May 2021

posted 1 Jun 2021, 02:27 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 1 Jun 2021, 02:32 ]


With the warmer and wetter weather arriving towards the end of the month, the grass and buttercups and everything else has suddenly put on a huge growth spurt! The hawthorn blossom is out, the birds are singing and the cold days of winter seem a long time ago. One of the plants putting on a good display is the white pignut, whose delicate flower looks lovely amongst the buttercups.


And now for something a bit more dramatic….! I was watching a kestrel hovering over the Green, when it suddenly dived into the rushes and came out holding on to a vole! I managed (just) to get a photo as it flew away and you can see the vole hanging down in the kestrel’s claws. It is most likely a field vole as they are the most common type of vole and if you look closely, it also has a short tail (characteristic of a field vole). It is great to see the kestrels successfully hunting and hopefully they have a nest nearby.


The good news is that the orchids are just starting to flower! There seem to be quite a few growing, so hopefully we will have a good show over the next few weeks. We will be putting up the cattle-proof fencing in the next week or so and the cattle will be turned out shortly after that.

April 2021

posted 2 May 2021, 02:10 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 2 May 2021, 02:13 ]


It is always exciting to find something new on the Green, and this happened to me a few days ago, when I came across this rather small plant with its delicate greenish flowers. It is known as Moschatel or Townhall Clock and whilst I had read about it, I had never seen any. It is called Townhall Clock as the flower head has a cluster of five flowers: four of which face outwards at 90 degrees to each other (like the clock faces of a town hall clock) and then there is another flower which faces upwards! How weird is that?! It likes to grow in shady conditions, so can be found on the damper edges of the Green.


The adder tongue fern is also starting to appear, which is great news! This small green fern is very difficult to see amongst the grass, but it is a very important plant for the Green as it is quite rare and is indicative of ancient meadowland. It is called an adder tongue fern as the spike (which contains the spores) is supposed to look like a snake’s tongue - you might need a bit of imagination on that one!


On some of the sunny days that we have been having, some butterflies can be seen flitting about. So far I have seen peacock, small tortoiseshell, brimstone and the lovely orange tip. The orange tip feeds and lays its eggs on the lady’s smock, that grows on the wet side of the Green and which is now starting to flower. So there should be a lot more orange tips flying about in May and so do keep an eye out for them.

March 2021

posted 31 Mar 2021, 08:39 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 31 Mar 2021, 08:49 ]


What a glorious end to March and Spring is definitely on the way! The birds are singing loudly and I even heard my first chiffchaff this week! (Chiffchaffs are summer visitors and are one of the first warblers to return to the UK.) Apart from the birds, the leaves of the hawthorn have suddenly started to emerge and are giving the edges of the Green a lovely fresh greenish haze. I was lucky enough to see a bright ladybird amongst the newly emerging hawthorn shoots!


Whilst the yellow lesser celandine has been flowering for most of March, in the last week, the gorgeous wood anemone (or wind flower) has started to produce its delicate white flowers. This has to be one of my favourite plants, so look out for more pictures of these over the coming weeks, as there will be many more!


Something that you don’t often see, is a toad on the path by the back gate! Having narrowly avoided standing on it, I then noticed on the other side of the path, two more toads. These were in a more rather amorous position, but they were also a bit more camera shy and headed off into the undergrowth! Great to know they are about and do be careful not to stand on them if you are walking near the back gate!

February 2021

posted 1 Mar 2021, 02:17 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 1 Mar 2021, 02:38 ]


After a freezing cold start to February, the end of the month was a lot more pleasant, with a definite feel spring in the air! The birds are singing, the crocuses are flowering and the bluebells are pushing their way through in Leomansley Woods; I am sure everyone is feeling a lot better for it. The trees are also doing their bit and the alder are putting on a lovely display of catkins, which take on a golden hue in the sun!


Whilst walking past the alder trees by the football field car park, there was a lot of small birds twittering and flitting about in the trees. A closer inspection revealed that this was a flock of siskins. These are delightful small yellow green finches, with a streaky chest and a distinctive forked tail. They love the alder seed and feed on them… but often from an upside down position! Seemingly this enables them to access more of the seed which other, heavier finches, can’t reach. Makes sense..!


Finally, a very atmospheric misty early morning shot from Wildlife Kate, looking across Leomansley Brook. I love the way the sun is just trying to pierce through the mist. Definitely worth getting up for!

Image to the right courtesy of Wildlife Kate,

January 2021

posted 1 Feb 2021, 02:38 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 14 Feb 2021, 01:30 ]


After most of January being rather wet and miserable, it was lovely to have some snow and a bit of sunshine last week. What a glorious day to go over to the Green and take some  photos! One of my favourite shots is this wintery scene looking back across the Green to the Cathedral. I never bore of this view, and it was lovely to see it with its winter hat on!


Ivy berries surrounded by some snow and ice! Anyone who watched Winterwatch last week, may remember Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin talk about the amazing nutritional value of these berries. Now,  ivy flowers in September and then produces these dark brown berries, which, whilst they are not as obvious to see in the hedgerow as the more colourful hawthorn and rowan berries, they nevertheless pack a punch; they have a high fat content and contain as much energy per gram as a chocolate bar! It is no wonder that they are an important food source for blackbirds and thrushes at this time of year, when food can be scarce.


Whilst standing by the brook, I managed to see a lovely pair of stonechats, hopping in and out of the rushes. Whilst these are commonly seen on the heathland at Cannock Chase, they are a rare visitor to Pipe Green. They may be just visiting for food, or maybe they might decide to breed this year - we will have to wait and see! The male is starting to get his breeding plumage, but the female (shown here) is also looking gorgeous and was much more obliging in having her photo taken! I love the way the sun is lighting up her feathers on her chest

December 2020

posted 31 Dec 2020, 03:02 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 31 Dec 2020, 08:29 ]

I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and many local residents have sought solace in what the Green has to offer; whether it is enjoying the views across to the cathedral, having a paddle in the brook, or trying to identify some of the birds and plants. However, like most, we have still had our problems, including an increase in litter and a degradation of some of the meadowland habitat, due to an increase in footfall.

Hopefully 2021 will bring better times and the Trust wishes all of its supporters a Happy New Year  and we hope that the composite image of "A year on Pipe Green" brings back some enjoyable memories. 

2020 composite

November 2020

posted 3 Dec 2020, 04:11 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 3 Dec 2020, 04:19 ]


It never ceases to amaze me that if you look carefully enough, there is always something new or a bit unusual to see on the Green. This happened to me a few days ago when I spotted this lovely little bird warming itself in the sun. What is it? Well, it is a redpoll, which is a small brownish finch (about the size of a sparrow), that has a red patch on the top of its head (you can just see the red patch in the photo). They are quite rare on the Green, so I was very excited to see and photograph this one! Now, for those of you that know a bit about birds, you will also know that there are two types of redpolls (common and lesser) which look very similar and are quite difficult to tell apart! However, based on its size, I think this is a common redpoll - but I stand to be corrected!!


I love it when the fallen leaves are covered in frost and glisten in the morning sun. However, apart from looking lovely, the frost is also important in helping to break down the leaves. Often the skin on the leaves is too tough for the bacteria and fungi to start the decay process, but the ice crystals of the frost, cause the cells to rupture. This in turn now allows the microbes and fungi to penetrate into the leaf, which in turn softens them, so the earthworms can now bury them and release all the goodness into the soil. Amazing!


Finally, you can’t beat a robin to brighten up your day - he obligingly sat on a branch having his photo taken, before dropping down to the ground in search of some food at the bottom of the hedgerow. I could have stood and watched for hours!

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