Monthly Diary 2013

Monthly Diary 2013

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December 2013

pipe green in winter

A short post this month just to wish everyone a happy New Year! With the mildish weather we are having at the moment, why not go for a stroll on the Green and walk off those Christmas excesses?

Overall it has been a good year for the wildlife on the Green but personally there have been a couple of highlights. Firstly, the butterflies have been spectacular this year and I especially remember one summer afternoon when the Green was alive with butterflies. It was a stunning sight and most certainly makes up for the low numbers of these insects recorded in 2012.

The other highlight for me was seeing all the different waxcap mushrooms that appeared on the Green in the Autumn. I have never really taken much notice of these small mushrooms, but this year I began reading about them and became entranced by the fascinating world of waxcaps! One of the most enjoyable aspects of doing this diary, is that I discover new things about nature that I never knew before. I wonder what it will be for 2014?

November 2013

stream clearing

I am afraid that this is a rather belated update on what has been happening on the Green in November! The middle of the month saw some intrepid members attempting to clear some of the watercress from Leomansley Brook. The watercress grows in profusion over the summer months and this year was no exception! We always have a couple of work parties in the Autumn to clear the watercress and hopefully maintain a reasonable waterflow in the brook.

Kingfisher

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

There has been some exciting bird news: in early November Bob Russon heard, but was unable to see (despite a valiant attempt), a long eared owl in Leomansley woods! This is the first sighting (hearing?) of a long eared owl in Leomansley woods and is very good news indeed. It is most likely a visitor (maybe from Maple Hayes?) or a migrant passing through. Another lovely bird that you may be fortunate to see, is the kingfisher. One has been seen on Leomansley ponds as well as along the brook on the Green. So keep a look out for a flash of blue, if you are walking in this area!

beech trees

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

There has been a good display of Autumn colour especially from the beech trees on the Green, whose yellow and then brown leaves look beautiful in the autumn sun. For those of you who like a bit of chemistry, the autumn leaf colour is due to a number of different pigments in the leaf, which persist after the chlorophyll (which gives the leaf its green colour) has died. Yellow colours come from carotene pigments, red colours from anthocyanin pigments and the brown colour from tannins.

October 2013

parasol mushroom

For anyone who has visited the Green in October, you will probably have noticed the abundance of parasol mushrooms growing near to the Maple Hayes side of the Green. These large edible mushrooms started appearing as early as August and they are still continuing to appear. Some even managed to escape being trodden on by the cattle. although not all!

crimson waxcap

Another mushroom variety that is putting on a wonderful display is the Waxcap family. These little gems can be found nestling amongst the grass and moss on the drier parts of the Green, especially where the grass is quite short. They come in a multitude of colours from bright red, through to green, yellow and white and range in size from about 1-7cm. Some start off orangey yellow but turn black as they get older. I have become somewhat fascinated by these little mushrooms and have taken a number of photos, some of which can be found on the Pipe Green Trust facebook page. Apart from being beautiful, waxcaps are a very important indicator species of nutrient poor and undisturbed meadow land, like Pipe Green. For anyone wanting more information Natural England has written a more detailed report

rainbow

The Green is now looking very Autumnal, with hawthorn berries and other fruits in abundance in the hedgerows. The cattle have now been taken off and have done an excellant job in keeping the grass short. A large flock of redwings and fieldfares have been spotted on the alders by the stream as well as a couple of snipe in the reeds - a sure sign that Autumn is with us. On a blustery afternoon last week, whilst dog walking on the Green, I captured this photo of a rainbow appearing over Lichfield - and no, I did not get wet!

September 2013

Harebell

One plant that carries on flowering into September is the harebell (Campanula rotundifolia). It is totally unrelated to the bluebell, although rather confusingly, in Scotland it is often referred to as the Scottish bluebell! It is instead, a bell flower - a family of plants greatly loved by gardeners. It grows well on the drier parts of the green and the delicate blue flowers are in important source of nectar for insects in the Autumn.

Stream

In early September, we had a successful work party and managed to clear some of the watercress out of the stream. However, it was hard work and we have decided to wait until the watercress starts dying back, before attempting to clear some more! Will just have to wait until it starts getting a bit colder. The cattle are still on the Green and will probably be there until the end of October. With the warm weather, there is still plenty of food for them and they are doing an excellant job in keeping the grass short.

skyline

On the bird front, it is quite quiet at the moment. The summer visitors have gone and the winter visitors are yet to arrive. Whilst redwings are in the area, I have yet to see one on the Green. No doubt when the weather starts to get cooler, they will be visible feeding on the hawthorn berries in the hedges. Just to finish with an atmospheric view of the cathedral silhouetted against an Autumn skyline.

August 2013

Kestrel

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

Some exciting news - following from my last post about the little grebes nest building on the ponds near Leomansley House, well the eggs have now hatched! So there are now some little little grebes swimming around! Hopefully they will survive, although it is late in the breeding season for parents to be raising young. Regarding some of the other bird news - Bob Russon managed to spot and photograph a juvenile kestrel near to the Green. You can often see kestrels in the winter months feeding on the Green, but they tend to disappear over the summer - presumably nesting and feeding elsewhere. So it is good to know that at least the kestrels are successfully breeding in the vicinity.

Parasol mushroom

A sign that Autumn is on the way, is the emergence of some fairly large parasol mushrooms (I think - not being an expert on these things!). They are quite common and and have a double - edged ring around the stem, which in turn is quite scaly. They are edible, however they can be confused with the not so edible shaggy parasol! So personally I would tend to leave them where they are!

Blackberries

The blackberries are ripening in profusion as are many of the Autumn fruits. So if you feel like helping yourself to nature's larder, then now is the time to do so! A spot of blackberry and apple crumble - now that sounds good!

July 2013

cattle (Mr. White) on Pipe Green

The cattle have settled down well and are doing an excellant job of grazing the Green. This is a vital part of our management strategy as the cattle, by grazing and controlling the grasses, allow the wild flowers to proliferate. This year the leader of the herd is this very friendly white bullock, who enjoys having his head scratched!

holly blue butterfly

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

The butterflies this month have been amazing with literally hundreds flitting across the Green. The other day as I came across an amazing sight of 20 green veined whites drinking from a puddle. However I can not share this image with you as I did not have my camera with me!! Aagh!! However Bob Russon always has his camera with him and managed to get this lovely image of a holly blue butterfly. Seemingly this butterfly is so called because holly is an important food source for the larval form - hence holly blue!

little grebe

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

A little grebe (or dabchick) has been seen on the ponds behind the Green, near Leomansley house. This is a first sighting of this species in the PipeGreen/Leomansley Wood area. It is a delightful bird, quite dumpy with a fluffy rear end and lovely browny/red plumage. In fact Bob Russon has now seen two little grebes on the pond who seemed to be nest building.....! So we maybe getting a resident population of little grebes. Fingers crossed!

June 2013

orchid

Well Summer has definitely arrived on the Green. The cattle were turned out earlier on in the month and have settled in well. There is plenty for them to eat and they have already made a start at grazing the rather long grass. It has been a wonderful year for the flowering plants on the Green. Not only have we had 40 - 50 orchids flowering, but also the clover and birds foot trefoil have been flowering prolifically.

Green woodpecker

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

Ater a slow start, the birds have been breeding well. The reed buntings have already raised one clutch and it looks as though they may be starting again on a second. This photo, again taken by Bob Russon, shows a green woodpecker nest (near to the Green) with its occupant looking out and deciding whether to leave or not! The green woodpeckers are common visitors to the Green and can often be seen foraging for ants and insects on the ground.

Common blue butterfly

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

The butterflies are eventually starting to be seen. This wonderful photo is of the underside of a common blue butterfly. Some of the other butterfly species that are plentiful at the moment on the Green are ringlets and meadow browns as well as some tortoiseshell and small skippers. However we are still waiting for the dragonflies to emerge - maybe we will have some for next month's post.

On a more negative note, there has been an increase in the number of youngsters camping overnight on the Green and lighting fires and leaving their rubbish behind. This usually coincides with the good weather. If you do see anything then please either contact us or report it to the police on the non-emergency number, 101. We are having another work party next Sunday (21st July) to cut some more of the thistle at the Abnalls Lane end of the Green. So if anybody is interested, come along between 9.00 and 11.00. See you there!

May 2013

Pignut

The Green is looking beautiful at the moment with swathes of plants in flower. This year the pignut and buttercups, interspersed with speedwell, are prolific and are putting on a lovely display. Well worth a visit, especially on a sunny day. The pignut is an interesting plant as it is a member of the carrot family and is typically found growing in areas where the grassland has been undisturbed. It has a tuber about the size of a hazelnut, which is supposedly quite tasty, although I have to say I have not put this to the test!

Orange tip butterfly

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

Another fantastic photo from Bob Russon. This time of an orange-tip butterfly feeding on some lady's smock and showing off its beautiful, but less seen, underside of its wing. Normally these butterflies can be identified by distinctive orange tips on the top-side of the wing, which are very visible when flying. I think you will all agree though, that the underside is equally as stunning.

common orchid

Some common spotted orchids are also growing quite well on the Green at the moment. So far I have seen about half a dozen. Let's hope they are able to flower this year and put on a good display for everyone's enjoyment.

April 2013

Flower of wood anemone

Hooray - Spring has finally arrived and the Green is looking beautiful! One of my favourite flowers of all time has to be the wood anenome (or wind flower) and we are lucky to have a small patch flowering at the moment. I know I talked about this flower last year (see the April 2012 entry) and I am trying not to repeat material - but I just could not resist putting up another photo of this beautiful flower.

Tree creeper

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

Another stunning photo from Bob Russon, this time of a very endearing bird, known as a treecreeper. Whilst this is not a regular visitor to the Green (due to a lack of trees!), it can frequently be seen on the trees beside the track near Leomansley House as well as in Leomansley woods. These little birds are typically seen hopping up tree trunks looking for insects under the tree bark. Interestingly they can not climb down a tree, only up. So when they reach the top of one tree, they then have to fly to the base of the next tree to start another ascent!

Ash tree female flower

Another sign that spring is here, is the ash trees starting to flower. This photo is of a female flower on the ash tree near the top of the stream. Sometimes you can find male flowers on the same tree, although generally on a different branch. We have a number of ash trees in and around the Green and have been asked by Natural England to regularly check the trees for any sign of ash dieback. So far so good, but if anyone does see something then please let me know.

Finally, for anyone interested in local wildlife, another excellent site worth visiting is run by Georgia Locock who regularly reports on all wildlife happenings in the Lichfield area. Well worth supporting.

March 2013

Pipe Green covered by snow

A look at the March entry from last year shows what different weather we have been having. Instead of celandine, wood anemone and lots of birdsong, we have had icy winds and snow! Not suprising that there is still a wintery feel to the Green.

reed bunting

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

However, some good news is that earlier on in March, when the sun was shining, reed buntings were spotted by Bob Russon. The male in particular is quite distinctive with his black head and white collar and can often be seen perched on the bramble bushes and taller reeds on the wetter parts of the Green. Each year a number of pairs successfully breed in and around the Green. They build their nests quite low to the ground in dense undergrowth, so having areas of bramble is very helpful to them.

mole hills

Another visitor that seems to be very active at the moment is moles! A large number of molehills have appeared in some areas of the Green. Seemingly moles can dig up to 20 metres of tunnel per day - so there may not be as many moles as you first think. Having said that, there are reports of a large increase in mole numbers due to the wet summer last year and the abundance of their favourite food - earthworms!

February 2013

heron

Image courtesy of Bob Russon, Lichfield & District Local RSPB Group

A fairly quiet month for the Green, with some very mixed weather. Sometimes it felt as though Spring was around the corner and then the next day it was firmly back in the grips of Winter. On one of the sunnier days, Bob Russon managed to take this fantastic picture of a heron sitting by Leomansley ponds. Looks as though he is about to catch his breakfast!

snowdrop

Another sign that Spring is on the way is this small patch of snowdrops on a bank near Leomansley House. A welcome sight on what feels to be a long and grey winter. Other signs of life include the emergence of the leaves of the cuckoo pint or lords and ladies This belongs to the Arum family but is probably more recognisable in the Autumn with its striking orange berries.

lichen

Just to illustrate that small is beautiful, I took this photograph of what I think (although I am no expert on these matters) a common orange lichen that was growing on a tree branch. When you look at this lichen closely, you can see that it has an amazing structure. Lichens are a symbiotic organism containing both fungal and algal cells, where the fungus provides the structure and the algae the food. The orange colour is due to a pigment known as parietin, which is produced by the fungal cells and protects the algal cells from too much sunlight. What must be your ultimate sunscreen!

January 2013

Star jelly

Some rather strange sightings occurred on the Green at the beginning of January. I have no idea if it was the warm, damp weather we had, but half a dozen opaque jelly-like blobs (for want of a better scientific term) appeared on the Green (see photo). Having no idea what these were, I sent a couple of photos to the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, who informed me the blobs are known as "star jelly" but it is a bit of a mystery what causes them. A search on the internet made me realise that I am not the only one wanting to know what causes star jelly to appear. There are a number of suggestions including the jelly being a remnant from a meteor shower. Other (and more plausible) explanations are that is formed by a slime mould, of which one called nostoc is a possible contender. Alternatively the jelly could be the remains of frog ovaries left by predators. This is a possibility as a number of herons, who are partial to eating frogs, visit the Green on a regular basis. So it looks like star jelly is still a mystery waiting to be solved!

Pipe Green covered by snow

The middle of January saw the Green turning into a winter wonderland with a good 6 inches of snow falling. Many people took this opportunity to have a bracing walk on the Green and enjoy the views of Lichfield in the snow. Even some cross country skiers were enjoying themselves! I did try and identify some of the animal tracks in the snow, but I am afraid I only came up with dog, human (although a wide range of makes of footwear!) and rabbit. So not very successful! The cold temperatures did however bring a few rarer bird species onto the Green. Because the stream was not frozen, species including kingfisher, lapwing and teal (a small duck) made brief visits. The snow has now all gone and when the sun is shining maybe there is a feel of spring in the air? Will have to wait and see.