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Bluebell Walk – Little Harwood, April 18th

Some 30 of us gathered at Pigeonhouse Wood, Little Harwood to see what was about and in particular to view the Bluebells, which were showing nicely in the southern section in particular. We were able to check that they were indeed the genuine British variety by studying the flowers and leaves. The treescape was alive with birds, with Nuthatch especially vociferous and a Chiffchaff singing its metronomic ditty. Stock doves, hooting like owls, were in evidence with at least one pair nesting (in the Kestrel box!) and another seemingly taking over a crevice in a large Oak tree.

Moth Incurvaria masculella (Ben Sale)

Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, along with a pair of raucous parakeets, were in evidence and we found last year’s Red Kite nest, which did not seem occupied at present. Alongside them were various expected species such as Blue Tits, Great Tit, Blackbirds, Wrens and Robins, but we wondered about how these birds might manage to feed any young as it was very evident that insect numbers were greatly supressed with only a handful spotted all morning. One of these turned out to be a day-flying moth, Incurvaria masculella. A few logs rolled over revealed both Pill bug (Armadillidium vulgare) and Common centipede (Lithobius forficatus).

The woodland floor had a depth of dead leaves from the unusual double shedding from the hot summer of 22 and the subsequent more normal autumn fall. It would seem few of the leaves have been ‘absorbed’ into the soils over winter, possibly due to the first layer being of already-desiccated material not of interest to the community of burying worms and insects. If the layer remains, one wonders what will happen to those that will drop this year.

Wolfs Milk Slime (Jason Hollinger)

One or two eagle-eyed members picked up some interesting fungi as we walked. One of these looked like they might be early stages of King Alfred Cakes (small ball-shaped ones but all pink, not black) but subsequent research found this to be Wolf’s Milk Slime Mould, which none of us had heard of. Another found not far away would appear to have been Red Raspberry slime mould (Tubifera ferruginosa). And alongside the path, the whole top half of a Fox’s skull was found – we wondered where the rest of skeleton had gone to!

Fox skull (Brian Clews)

Another notable feature was how few leaves had appeared as yet on the trees and bushes. This in turn will greatly reduce caterpillar and larval foodstuffs for birds so their breeding in turn might be a bit delayed this year. However, several pairs of Jackdaws were making themselves known with their raucous calls.

As we emerged into the wildflower meadow adjacent, we were welcomed by a swathe of banana-yellow Cowslips and a serenading Skylark to bring our fascinating walk to a close. Thank you David and Margaret Harrold for hosting us yet again.

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