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.
July 2020 - Grassland plant identification course
This month I led my first wildlife identification training session since February. The course was for Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and took place at the beautiful Manor Farm in Wiltshire. The grasslands there have a wonderful variety of meadow plants, including betony, black knapweed, lady's bedstraw, field scabious and quaking-grass. The fields were absolutely buzzing with bees, hoverflies, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets and other invertebrates too numerous to mention.
Some of the arable field margins have some rare plant species, including shepherd's needle, night flowering catchfly, and round-leaved fluellen (pictured below).
I had excellent feedback from all of the trainees on the course (see testimonials page).
April 2020 - Spring is here
Despite everything that is going on in the world at the moment, spring has undoubtedly sprung and there is abundant wildlife to enjoy while you are out on your daily exercise ration. I went to Leigh Woods in Bristol the other day and as well as foraging some wild garlic (aka Ramsons), I did a bit of plant identification.
In addition to the usual beautiful flowers of woodlands, such as bluebells and wood anemones , I spotted some other interesting plants.
Firstly, small-leaved-lime aka Linden Tilia cordata - this is an indicator of ancient woodlands. It is unusual as its seed leaves are very different to the leaves on trees, you can see from the pictures below the that leaves are heart-shaped with a pointed tip whereas the seed leaves are very jagged. Lime flowers mature in the summer and make excellent tea!
Young Beech Fagus sylvatica leaves are emerging now - these leaves are lime green with silky hairs. As they mature they become darker green and lose their hairs. Unlike most of our native broadleaved trees beech leaves often persist through winter until the following spring.
I also saw a Cuckoo-pint aka Lords and Ladies Arum maculatum leaf growing through a fallen beech leaf. The common names refer to the plant's likeness to male and female genitalia, the picture on the right shows the spadix (a dark brown-purple spike of florets) so look out for this when it flowers this month or next month.
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).”