Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The first day of winter

December the first; the first day of winter, meteorologically speaking. But the high winds and driving rain of the last three or four days have abated; today is mild, dry and calm. I decided to walk - and where else but Kentle Wood?

I clambered over the stile at the entrance just in time to see a muntjac deer race by, hotly pursued by a dog. 'Oh do come back Hugo!' wailed the owner. Her cries were ignored.

Now I am not a grouch and am happy to see dogs in, what is in effect, a nature reserve. But when the owner has allowed a dog off the lead without being able to exercise any control, I get a little cross. Needless to say, the deer easily outran the dog.

Lichens: overwhelmingly Xanthoria
Kentle Wood. 1 December 2015

Looking at the bark of several trees I was struck, as I have been many times before, at how lichens appear to favour one species rather than another. A Field Maple, Acer campestre, was heavily encrusted with yellow lichens...

...yet only a few metres away the trunk of an ash was comparatively bare. I have little doubt that some varieties of bark are richer in nutrients than others.

Rose hips are now mostly past their best.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 1 December, 2015

Also largely bare were those trees which, a few weeks before, had been laden with fruit. Now a few shrivelled and discolored hips remained on rose briars. 

Nearby hung a few apples, their wrinkles showing a distressing lack of acquaintance with L'Oreal products. 

These apples were untouched but where they had fallen to the ground the birds had quickly set to work. The occasional fly also showed an interest.

Is it worth sampling? A fly inspects a bird-pecked apple core
in Kentle Wood, Daventry. 1 December, 2015

Inevitably the ground had a carpet of fallen leaves, with oak and cherry being prominent - but no beech; their leaves were still firmly in place on the branches. Closely examined, it could be seen that each dead leaf bore a potted history in the form of nibbled areas, galls or other scars. By the spring earthworms will drag the leaves into the soil and help increase the humus content and this evidence will disappear.

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