Friday, 8 January 2016

Lambs' Tails and Lichens

A south-easterly wind greeted us this morning. In the summer this often gives very warm weather; today parked cars were white with frost. However the sky was blue and bright sunshine tempted me out.

Kentle Wood is very convenient so I made that my destination, donned wellies and sloshed my way along the rides, looking for signs of spring. The land is not low-lying but is rather flat; this, together with a high fraction of clay in the soil means that drainage is quite poor.

Hazel catkins tossed in the blustery wind, their appearance justifying their old country name of lambs' tails. Once again I had difficulty in finding any female flowers. If all the pollen is dispersed prior to the development of the females there may be a poor nut crop for 2016.

Partly formed hazel catkins were growing alongside fully open ones.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 8 January, 2016

I was intrigued to note that, alongside the fully-open catkins were small, still-developing ones. Will these act as a back-up, opening later in spring if the first ones fail, or are they the catkins for 2017, already in place?

Some green hazel foliage still clung to twigs.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 8 January. 2016

Quite a lot of foliage remained on the hazels and, in places, there were even new leaves beginning to unfurl.

Here and there a half-formed nut still clung to a twig. Hazel nuts have always been important in this region and, according to John Morton (1671-1726) in his 'Natural History of Northamptonshire', Rockingham Fair was known...'by ye vulgar (as) Nutcrack Fair from ye vast quantity of nuts brought in from ye circumjacent woods.'  People rarely seem to collect them now although blackberries are still gathered.

Bramble flowers were in bud here and there.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 8 January, 2016

There were flower buds on brambles too, but these, I suspect, are hangers-on from the autumn, with this confusing winter leaving them half-developed. Perhaps they may yet flower.

Ash bark with a pink growth of lichens

The trunk of an ash tree was flushed with an odd buff colour. It was not the brighter orange of an alga (see blog for 18 December) and a closer look showed that a lichen was responsible.

The species appeared to be Physcia aipolia.
Kentle Wood, daventry. 8 January, 2015

I took a small sample home and under the microscope the species was found to be Physcia aipolia, with the jam tart-like ascocarps having a buff-coloured disc and a pale margin. Hardly an exciting discovery as this is a commonplace lichen.

The walk was taken for exercise rather than wildlife recording, which is just as well as little else was noted.

Blaniulus guttulatus was common under logs.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 8 January, 2016

I turned over a couple of logs but, other than a few common woodlice I found only Spotted Snake Millipedes, Blaniulus guttulatus. This a widespread species even in gardens, where it can become a minor pest, nibbling or even burrowing into potatoes.

Turning and heading for home I found the wind in my face and, not for the first time this winter, was glad to get in my car.

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