Monday, 20 October 2008

What the Dickens - A tale of two woods!

A twin safari at the weekend to report on today.

First up was a short visit to Witch Wood in Lytham. 'Witch' probably refers to the Wych Elms, not old dears with tall black hats - I could be wrong, but there were several Wych Elms in the wood and fortunately looking to be free of the dreaded Dutch Elm Disease that is rife a few miles away in Blackpool. Of all the Elm species Wych Elm seems to be the most naturally resistant to the disease.

The wood itself is perhaps a little over managed with very little shrub layer...we'll come to a much more natural woodland later on. However dead wood is left in situ and turning over a large log revealed a rather fat Common Frog.

Dead wood encourages fungi but this unknown species was growing at the base of a living but perhaps unhealthy tree.

Very few flowers are still open now but we did come across this Red Campion and a pink version of Bramble.

The second site was a few miles to the north west, a Semi-natural ancient woodland. This means there has been continuous tree cover here since at least 1600AD although it has at times been modified by man. At this site species such as Scots Pine, Beech and Horse Chestnut have been planted and in areas felling has taken place as parts of the site were an early industrial cotton mill in the late 1700s. The remains of mill workers' cottages can be seen as piles of stones and there are a few old broken ovens from the kitchens lying around.

You shouldn't be able to see far into (Semi-)natural woodland as a thick shrub layer will obscure the view within a few yards. This low down vegetation is important for lots of different species of breeding birds in the summer and creates a still, moist micro climate suitable for mosses and ferns to thrive. These were missing in Witch Wood as it was much more open.

The fern is Mother-in-law's Tongue. I'm not a Bryophyte expert so I have no idea what species the moss is.

Again at this woodland there is plenty of dead wood, both standing and fallen. Birch Polypore fungus is a common sight anywhere where there are Silver Birch trees, being found on standing trees and fallen trunks or boughs.

Below is a Hazel bush with a picture of the only Hazelnut we could see on it. The Grey Squirrels will be hungry this year. We did see one at both sites but alas they were too quick for the photographer...shame they weren't Red Squirrels. I did read this week that some Reds may be resistant to the Squirrel Pox Virus carried by the Greys; hopefully there may be a resurgence in their numbers - hope so....damn Yankees!

This Hazel bush shows the obvious multi stemmed form that indicates it was probably coppiced at some time in the past.

There are few flowers showing again at this site but some of the typical woodland plants are still in evidence. This one is Wood Sorrel and will have large white flowers in the spring

This rather small one goes by the enormous name of....wait for it.... Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage.

There is plenty of Ivy in the woods and it is in flower at the moment and attracting large numbers of Drone Flies, a species of hoverfly. Sorry about the blurredness...doh me and that macro.....

I will leave you with a few arty autumnal shots. Not quite New England or the Appalachians in the fall, but Lancashire in early autumn just as the leaves are starting to turn.

All say "Ahhhh, ain't that pretty.

Well folks as this epic comes to an end we have to ask "Where to next?" Oh yes.... next week is an adventure with an early start....and possibly a better photographer.

In the meantime let us know what you have seen in your outback.

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