Happy New Year to all of our followers and supporters! I can't quite believe that it is now 2023, but I am hoping that it will a productive one for the Green! Despite the milder weather at the end of the month, we most certainly had some very frosty days earlier on in December, which provided you were well wrapped up, were quite beautiful. I just love the way the frost clings to these leaves and the way they glisten and light up in the sun.
There was also some impressive ice crystals growing on some of the vegetation in the brook. This is due to hoar frost, where water vapour in the air freezes onto existing ice crystals. The shapes they form are quite stunning!
Winter is also a good time to keep an eye open for the birds that live and feed on the Green, especially as there aren't any leaves on many of the trees, and so it is easier to see them! Here is a lovely blue tit all puffed up and enjoying the winter sun. You may also be lucky to see some of the winter thrushes, like redwing, which visit the Green, as well as Beacon park. Alternatively, you can always venture a bit further afield to the SWT site at Croxall Lakes, where I saw over 100 redwing the other day (plus loads of other birds as well!)
The fungi on the Green are still looking good and with all the mild and damp weather, they are having a bumper year. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions (so bear with me), the Green is home to a very special family of fungi, known as waxcaps, which form an important habitat known as a waxcap grassland, which we try to protect. Here is a group of meadow waxcaps, at various stages of development. They start off with a domed cap which then spreads out and rolls upwards to expose the gills.
On the subject of fungi, I also came across some jelly ear fungi, so called as they are supposed to resemble human ears! They grow on dead and rotting wood and highlight the importance of having some wood scattered around on the Green. Not only will the wood provide a home for fungi, but also for many invertebrates as well.
I love the way the water droplets that have collected on this dead oak leaf. To me, this image epitomises Autumn, but on a more scientific note, demonstrates that the leaf is still very waxy (otherwise the droplets wouldn't form) and secondly, the droplets themselves are acting as lenses. If you look carefully, you can see that the leaf is magnified where the drop has formed. How cool is that?
I mentioned in the September post, that a little egret was visiting the Green and a few weeks ago I finally managed to get a photo of it! A stunning bird, which is a much more common visitor to the Midlands than it used to be. You can clearly see it's black legs and bill, which distinguish it from the much rarer cattle egret and the larger great white egret. Hopefully it will stay around on the Green for a bit longer.
October is usually fungi month, but this year things seem to be a bit quieter on the Green. There are some parasols appearing and a few waxcaps, but not in the numbers that we usually see. I was, however, pleased to see these lovely yellow club fungi peeping through the grass. Have a look at our fungi page on our website and see what else you can find on the Green.
We have had a few cooler, dewy mornings this month, which is great for spotting spider webs. I love the way the dew drops hang on the webs and make them glisten in the sun. They are amazing structures and it is quite astounding on dewy mornings to see how many spider webs there actually are on the Green, especially amongst the rushes and taller vegetation! No wonder the birds like to visit the Green.
I always associate September with the flowering of the beautiful devil's bit scabious, which grows on the damper side of the Green. I love the structure and colour of the flowers, which can vary from a lighter purple to a much deeper hue. The nectar-rich flowers are also very popular amongst the insects, and here you can see a hover fly having a good feed on a flowerhead, in the Autumn sunshine.
Some exciting news, is that some of the waxcap fungi are starting to appear. It is a bit earlier for them to appear than usual, but I think the wet weather, coupled with the warmish days have stimulated their growth. These are parrot waxcaps ... but more about these amazing fungi, next month!
Surprisingly, the dragonflies are still about and one species that can often be seen along the brook (especially by the pipe), is a common darter. This is a smallish red dragonfly, that as the the name suggests, darts around the place. They are very frustrating to try to photograph as they hardly ever stay still! Fortunately I managed to get a photo of one that had settled on the ground for a few seconds.
Also, some other exciting news, is that a pair of little egrets have been seen on the Green. Typically, the day I didn't have my camera, I saw them and when I did take my camera, they were no where to be seen! A kingfisher has also been spotted by the pipe, so do keep your eyes open for that flash of blue!.
The cattle have coped remarkably well in the hot weather and are very good at finding the shade under the trees when it is hot. Have you noticed that they tend to put their heads together when they huddle up? One reason for this is that it helps to protect them from the flies that often sit on their faces — a flick of your neighbour's ears can help dislodge them! I do rather like this back-end view!
Whilst walking along the hedgerow the other day and admiring all the blackberries and ripening rose hips, I came across this little chap. Initially I thought it was a shield bug, but after a closer examination and a look through a couple of guide books when I got home, I came to the conclusion that it is a box bug! Whilst bugs might not be your thing, it is a really interesting find; box bugs used to only be found on Box Hill in Surrey (hence the name) but have been spreading across the country. There are only a few records of this bug in Staffordshire, so I am actually pretty chuffed that one of them is on Pipe Green!
The hazelnuts (or cob nuts) are developing nicely, but are still far from ripe. Hazelnuts are an important food for a number of species, including mice and you can in fact identify which type of mouse has been eating them from the teeth marks on the shell. This photo made me laugh as the hazelnut has a face on it, surrounded by a long hair -it reminds me of a cartoon character, but I can't work out which one!
Goodness, what a dry month July has been, which has certainly affected the wildlife on the Green. The meadow area has become very dry indeed, but we are lucky that the wetter side still supports flowering plants which are providing important nectar sources for many invertebrates. One of these is water mint which is a special favourite with the butterflies and here you can see a green veined white feeding on this nectar-rich plant. Water mint also gives off a lovely refreshing minty smell when you stand or brush against it!
There is now a haze of purple visible on the wet side of the Green, which is due to the marsh thistle flowering. This thistle, as the name suggests, likes to grow in damp soil and so does really well on this side of the Green. The insects love to feed off the flowers and the bumble bees in particular seem to make a bee(!) line for it. Here we have a lovely white-tailed bumble bee having a good forage in the marsh thistle flowerhead and getting covered in pollen in the process.
I also noticed that some of the blackberries are starting to ripen, which is much earlier than usual, but nevertheless is a welcome sight. Plus they taste pretty yummy too!
Just to remind you, we are having another work party on Sunday 7th August at 9:30 - 11:00. We will be removing willow herb, in order to stop it dominating parts of the the Green. Meet near the football field gate and make sure you have gloves and protective clothing. All welcome!
A June post, would not be the same without a mention of orchids! What a fantastic display they have put on this year and it is encouraging to see that their numbers are increasing. I am really pleased that the fencing we have put up seems to be working and is protecting the area from both grazing cattle and damage from human footfall.
Apart from the orchids, there are some other plant species putting on a delightful, yet more subtle display. One of these is meadow vetchling, which, I think you will agree, has a beautiful yellow flower and grows quite prolifically in certain places on the Green. It belongs to the pea family and is an important nectar source for a number of invertebrates.
Something that is a bit different, is this weird looking insect. It is a scorpion fly and is usually found on the bramble and nettle on the edge of the Green. Despite its name, it does not sting, but is so called as the male has a scorpion shaped tail (this is a female). They belong to an order of insects, known as the Mecoptera, which have been around for 250 million years (when the dinosaurs were about) and most likely are the ancestors of butterflies and flies. Fascinating stuff!
I think you will agree that the Green is looking beautiful at the moment, with swathes of pignut, buttercup, red clover and speedwell dominating the sward. In addition there are lots of insects buzzing around, birds singing and of course the lovely orchids are starting to flower! What more could you ask for?
As mentioned, the orchids are starting to put on a good display and seem to be spreading (or is it my imagination?). Fascinatingly orchids rely on specific fungi in the soil (mycorrhizal fungi) to provide them with nutrients for growth and if these fungi aren't there, then they won't grow. So please just leave the orchids where they are and give everyone the opportunity to admire them!
Another welcome sight with the warmer weather, is the appearance of more butterfly species and I was delighted to see this lovely female common blue butterfly feeding on some grasses. The males are much bluer, but the females have some brown on the upper wing and in some cases can be nearly all brown. Unfortunately these butterflies are not as common as the name suggests, but they are found in many parts of the UK, which is good news.
I do love this time of year, when everything seems to burst into life. One plant that is flowering in abundance on the Green at the moment is the cuckoo flower, or ladies smock. It is clearly visible in the wetter parts of the Green with a white/light purple flower and we have a lot of it! That is great news if you are an orange tip butterfly as they lay their eggs on it and the caterpillars feed on it. Whatever you do though - don't pick this flower as it is sacred to fairies and will bring bad luck to you, especially if you bring it indoors!!
The bluebells are looking wonderful in Leomansley Woods at the moment and are definitely worth a visit. Further afield, Jubilee woods at PipeHall farm (Woodland Trust) have got a lovely display and if you really want to see a large area of bluebells, then a trip to Hopwas Woods is recommended!
Something that only the eagle-eyed of you might have seen, is this gorgeous ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria). This is a harmless solitary bee, that has striking black and white plumage. You might be able to see some by the path near the big ash tree at the top of the brook. There are some small holes in the ground and this is where the female Ashy-mining bees have excavated small tunnels in the ground to lay their eggs. These bees are friendly and non-aggressive so if you do see them, then let them be(e)! Unfortunately a number got trampled last year, by people walking (I believe inadvertently) over their burrows.
Well, we have certainly had some amazing weather in March and the wildlife seems to have enjoyed it as much as we have! The birds have been singing and some of the plants have started to flower. An often overlooked plant is the red dead nettle, which, when you look closely has rather beautiful, albeit small, purple flowers. These early flowering plants are vitally important for emerging bees and butterflies and whilst taking this photograph, at least 2 bees and one bee fly visited the plant (unfortunately, they didn't stay still long enough to have their photograph taken!)
Quite a number of butterflies have been on the wing, including this beautiful small tortoiseshell, which obligingly stopped to feed on some lesser celandine. These butterflies overwinter as adults and so are some of the first to be seen flying in the spring. For more about what butterflies can be found on the Green, you can visit our butterfly page on our new website.
Whilst this may not be the best photograph of a blue tit, I just love the way that it is ferreting amongst the yellow catkins of the pussy willow (also known as goat willow). It is likely that the blue tit is feeding on small insects on the catkin, although there is some evidence that they feed on the catkin's nectar.
There is nothing quite like seeing the first snowdrops of the year, to hope that spring is just around the corner. We have a small, but quite pretty clump growing on a bank near to Leomansley house that started to flower in early February. These are a cultivated variety, rather than a “native” species, and I think you will agree that on a closer inspection they are rather beautiful.
Well, the last few weeks of February have certainly been pretty blustery and as a result of Storm Franklin, one of the trees on the edge of the Green, unfortunately came down. It is always sad to see this happen and the tree will also be missed by the the jackdaws, who would often sit in its branches chattering away to each other.
However, one advantage the tree being felled, is that it is possible to appreciate what has been living on it and I just love the mosaic of lichens and mosses that encrust the branches. Lichens are amazing organisms that are made up of a fungus and an algae, that live together symbiotically. I think (although I am no expert) that the greeny/grey leafy looking lichen in the photo is known as monk's hood lichen and has some quite interesting medicinal properties. Mind you, I'm not sure why it is so named, as it doesn't really look like a monk's hood to me!
We have two exciting developments to start off 2022! Firstly, it is the 10th anniversary of our website. Little did I know that when I started the monthly diary, I would still be doing it a 120 posts later!. Secondly, we have now launched our new improved website (see adjacent post for details) for you to look at and to appreciate what flora and fauna we have on the Green. So what a better way to celebrate than with a photo of this lovely song thrush that was basking in the sunshine last week. Just look at that stunning plumage! I don't know if it is male or female, as they both have identical plumage but it is most certainly looking very smart and getting ready for the breeding season!
Another sign that Spring is on its way is the appearance of clusters of hazel catkins, some of which are already starting to mature. I was hoping to get a photo of the female flower, which is a very small red affair, but unfortunately none were out. Looks like I will have to be a bit more patient and wait a couple of weeks.
I just love this silhouette of the buzzard gracefully gliding across the Green in the late afternoon. Buzzards have a very distinctive “mewing” call and can often been seen soaring over the Green and surrounding fields and woodland. A lovely sight!
We would like to welcome you to our updated website, which we hope you will enjoy. The design adjusts to screen size and should work equally well on mobile phones, tablets and laptop/desktop computers. A lot of effort has gone into improving the quality of photographs and page content in the following areas:
We hope you spend some time perusing the site and maybe learning a little bit more about what a special place the Green is how lucky we are to have it for Lichfield residents to enjoy.