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Monthly Diary

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!

October 2020

posted 2 Nov 2020, 04:02 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 2 Nov 2020, 04:11 ]


Autumn is well and truly on us and this year not only are the trees giving a lovely display of colour, but the oak trees are producing a bumper harvest of acorns. This is most noticeable if you go into Leomansley woods, where the ground, underneath the oak trees, is absolutely carpeted with acorns. Anyone who watched Autumnwatch this week, will know that when this happens, it is known  as a mast year. It occurs every 5 - 10 years, although why and how it happens is still not fully understood. The jays are certainly happy with the extra acorns and are quite active - so keep an eye out for them.


Well Autumn would not be Autumn, without the fungi and this year there are a good number growing on the Green. There are the more obvious parasol and fly agaric mushrooms, but nestling amongst the grass and mosses, are the beautiful waxcap fungi - my favourite! You do have to look for these as they can be quite small, but as everybody knows, size isn't everything!


Finally, I love this view looking towards the Abnall's lane gate entrance...I wonder what lies beyond?!

September 2020

posted 3 Oct 2020, 05:11 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 3 Oct 2020, 05:12 ]


Whilst writing this with Storm Alex doing its worst, it is good to remember that September was a glorious month, with lots of warm sunshine and a hint of cooler weather later on in the month. To me, a classic image of early Autumn is the bright red berries of the hawthorn. The bushes seem to be laden with berries this year, which give then a gorgeous red glow in the sunshine.


If you go through the football field gate, you may notice that there is a sweet smell and quite a lot of insects buzzing around. This is because the ivy is now flowering and is loved by all sorts of invertebrates, including butterflies, hoverflies, wasps and bees. There is in fact a special bee, known as the ivy bee that I have mentioned before, and which I am still trying to get a photograph of - I just need to be patient! Instead you can enjoy this non-ivy bee feeding on the sweet nectar!


There have been a few parasol mushrooms appearing, but not the normal numbers that we normally see, but I suspect the drier weather has delayed their fruiting. Mushrooms fascinate me and there is a lot more to them than meets the eye: in the soil they have a huge network of filaments, called mycelium, which provide all the nutrients for the fungus as well as being incredibly important in decomposing material and improving the condition of the soil. What is really amazing is that this network can extend for enormous distances (even kilometres!)

August 2020

posted 31 Aug 2020, 09:32 by Jane Arnold   [ updated 31 Aug 2020, 09:32 ]


I don't quite know where August went and now the Green is certainly giving us hints that Autumn is just around the corner! Not least is this lovely purple-coloured Devil's bit scabious, which flowers late August/September. We are lucky that there are some quite big clumps growing on the damper side of the Green and it is a very important nectar source for the bees and butterflies at this time of year. I just love their bobbing purple heads!


Now, there are always a lot of red berries around in the early Autumn, of which most are hawthorn and dog rose and are loved by the birds. However, there is another red berry that you might not be so keen to eat and this is the berry of the bittersweet, or woody nightshade. Despite its name, it should not be confused with its more well known cousin, the deadly nightshade, but surprisingly, bittersweet belongs to the same family as the potato! The bright red berries of bittersweet contain a chemical called solanine, which, if ingested, can lead to vomiting and convulsions - so best to leave it well alone!


Finally, just to get you in to an autumnal mood, is this small delicate mushroom, just nestling in the grass....

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