Saturday, 11 May 2013

Bowdown Woods

In the past week the weather has changed from hot sun to wind and cloud with Atlantic low pressure systems dominating. This was the weather pattern that became stuck last year giving record rainfall. I joined a local natural history group walk on the fringes of Greenham Common (famous as the site of the American atom bomb planes). Bowdown Woods has an area that was used for housing the American air force personnel and is now an interesting nature reserve. With cool conditions and strong winds the opportunities for photographs were not as good as earlier in the week. Looking at my statistics this is the 100th posting on this web site. Does not seem all that long since my first post in October 2009.

The area is known to be good for seeing snakes (grass snakes; adders) and lizards, but with it being so cool the chances of seeing them in the open was slight. However the wildlife groups that manage the reserve had placed small sheets of corrugated iron and plastic in places where the snakes could hide and warm up in the mornings. So we lifted a number of these to reveal what was underneath; mainly there were ant nests but a couple had slow-worms. Slow-worms (Anguis fragilis) are limbless lizards (reptiles) rather than true snakes. .

slowworm

A lovely Spring flower that is a good contrast to the blue of bluebells is the Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea).

stitchwort

There was an oak tree festooned with a lichen (Evernia prunastri) known as oak moss, and now considered a gastronomic delicacy.

oak moss

The same oak tree was covered in flowers, these are not often easy to see.

oak flower

Close by was a tree in tight bud, not sure what, I'd guess a Sorbus.

flower bud

We saw a couple of spots with tiny Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina) flowers. Also known as five-faced bishop and town-hall clock as it has a flower pointing in all four directions as well as upwards.

moschatel

Pignut (Conopodium majus) is a fairly uncommon plant of ancient woods. The 'nut' is its tuber underground much loved by pigs. The flowers were still in bud.

pignut

The botanical theme continued with Three-veined Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia). A small flower which has leaves with three distinct veins (or 'nerves') which you can just about see.

three-veined Sandwort

Earlier in the week I went out looking specifically looking for Early Purple Orchids (Orchis mascula) and I found some just a few miles from home. There were about five flower spikes in Bowdown woods and they were a little further on than my local ones.

Early Purple Orchids,Orchis mascula

In the damp margins of little brooks running down the hillside were some Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium). The rarer Alternate-leaved form is believed to be on the reserve but we did not see it.

Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage

Bluebells were much in evidence, but as my previous post was full of them (and in sunshine) I'll limit myself to one more.

bluebells

In these more open areas the bluebells will soon be replaced by another plant:

bracken

This strange looking thing is a bracken shoot already to unfurl itself and cover the bluebells.
I only saw one Cuckoo flower, and very strangely I did not notice until I looked at the photographs when I got home that it had a female Orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) sitting on top of it. The females do not have the conspicuous orange wing tips of the males. Pleasingly all the front head part of the butterfly was in focus showing a good clump of hairs and antennae. The Cuckoo flower is one of the main feed plants for the Orange Tip caterpillars.

Cuckoo flower,orange tip butterfly,Anthocharis cardamines

Finally another nice bright flower along the marshy parts of the reserve - a Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) or Kingcup.

Marsh marigold

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