October 2022 – AUTUMN WONDERS
The joys of autumn are now upon us, including a beautiful range of leaf colours, copious berries and nuts, and fabulous fungi. One of the other delights of this season is the sensation of walking through fallen autumn leaves. This year is a Mast year, this is when there are huge quantities of nuts and seeds. In particular acorns have been abundant, as well as many others such as beech nuts aka beech mast, sweet chestnuts and conkers. It has also been a fantastic year for fungi. There are various reasons for both of these but it is partly due to climate change including the extremely mild spring and hot summer we had.
Now is a great time to start learning how to identify native broadleaved trees throughout the autumn-winter, before all of the leaves have dropped. It is actually easier than many people think to identify trees without their leaves. Looking at a range of features is key, particularly the BUDS as well as the twigs, bark, fruits (including keys and catkins), and general structure/shape.
I will be leading a guided walk on winter tree identification at Bristol Downs on 19th November – see the Events page for details.
See the Resources section for Winter tree ID and Winter tree references handouts.
July 2022 - SUMMER FLOWERS IN FULL BLOOM - Indicator grassland plant species
Indicator Species are evidence that an area of grassland has had few or no inputs of lime, fertiliser or herbicide over the past 10+ years. Areas with lower nutrient levels will generally contain more indicator species, which means that the grassland is more species-rich for pollinating insects. A wonderful example of a species-rich grassland is one of the meadows on Clifton Downs in Bristol, which has numerous indicator species including three types of orchid, dropwort, yellow rattle, milkwort, and black knapweed. Horseshoe vetch is present nearby in the Avon Gorge and is the foodplant of the chalkhill blue butterfly. I have added some information sheets to the resources section, which list indicator species of neutral, calcareous and acid grasslands.
April 2022 - SPRING IS HERE - new training courses and walks
Details of courses and walks I'm running this spring-summer are listed on the Events page. This includes a coastal wild flower walk at Portishead and a number of courses at the wonderful Avon Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Folly Farm.
The guided walk at the beautiful Leigh Woods in Bristol on spring flowers at the
end of March was wonderful, with numerous ancient woodland indicator plants such as wood anemone, green hellebore and toothwort all in flower.
In his superb book, Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey
describes toothwort as follows "a ghostly parasite,
entirely lacking in chlorophyll and growing on the
roots of trees, especially hazel, elm, alder and willow.
In April/May the plants sprout tiers of flowers which
resemble dirty mauve-stained molars. The seed
capsules are shiny, ivory and even more tooth-like."
My mother, Margaret Talbot, passed away in August. Mum was
the initial inspiration for my career in nature conservation and
taught me to fully respect and care for the environment. She
continually encouraged me in my career as an ecologist and in
my environmental activism.
There are countless things I miss about Mum, and many of
these involved sharing wonderful experiences of the natural
world, including enjoying the fantastic flora and fauna of the Sussex Downs and the Ashdown Forest. She introduced me to many of the wonders of the natural world, such as the slow worms in our garden compost heap, which sparked my passion for reptiles.
Mum was a talented amateur naturalist and artist and regularly led classes on art and crafts and nature walks with Uckfield U3A and Natural History Society. Here are some of Mum’s beautiful paintings. Also there are a few extracts from her Nature diary (2000 to 2016), which provides an excellent record of wildlife in my Mum and Dad’s garden and some special places in Sussex.
Avon Needs Trees (ANT) is a newly registered charity that aims to buy land throughout the Bristol-Avon catchment area and reforest it. They are supported by The Environment Agency, Woodland Trust, Bristol-Avon Rivers Trust, the local Wildlife Trust and local Friends of the Earth groups.
Avellana Ecology recently carried out a survey of the land and the results were really exciting. There are a number of endangered species that ANT hope to attract back to the land, including nightingales, rare barbastelle and horseshoe bats, and some near-extinct woodland butterflies. The aim is to create a habitat mosaic of scrubland, high forest and wetland.
National Forest Wildlife Award
Brook House, at Swannington in Leicestershire recently won
the National Forest Wildlife Award. Avellana Ecology has
worked closely with the landowners over a number of
years, surveying the site and providing management
advice. The owners asked Avellana Ecology to prepare an
application for the award and we got the following feedback
from the National Forest Company (NFC) “It was a great
application, particularly the extensive records and reports, the use of rare breeds for conservation grazing and the creation and management of a mosaic of habitats (woodland, water and species rich grassland).”