So, summer is finally here. The short nights and long days are ideal for late night/early morning bimbles. Even when it rains, which it often does, it doesn’t seem to matter due to the warmth of the season. So let’s crack on and see what we can find in the British woodland this month.
At the beginning of the month the hawthorn trees in the hedgerows are still displaying their mayflower blossoms. Sometimes you may also be lucky enough to find some English bluebells still flowering.
As the month trundles on these are replaced by bramble blooms, dog roses, ramsons and swathes of purple foxgloves.
As any hayfever sufferer will tell you, June is the height of the grass season. Pendulous sedge is a grass relative, mostly found in ancient woodland, but also cultivated by gardeners. It is not hard to tell that it is wind pollinated. As indeed is the ubiquitious dandelion. Summer wouldn’t be summer without blowing the seed head and making a wish. However, the wish will only come true if you can scatter all of the seeds with one puff.
June is when the fallow deer give birth to their fawns; the doe usually leaves the herd to do so. It is common to see a single fallow doe as she feeds close to where her fawn is hidden in the undergrowth. The deer in Credenhill Wood seem to be quite happy for you to stand and watch them, but have a sixth sense when it comes to taking photographs. By the time the shutter is depressed there are just empty trees. Roe deer are usually solitary anyway, they also have their fawns in June and are similarly camera shy.
The birds and the squirrels are also busy caring for their young and the tree canopy is a cacophony of chattering, calling, crimpling and crackling. Most of the trees are fully leafed by now, dappling the sunlight. It is always worth having a poke around amongst the leaves, especially the underside. For instance, on the underside of these lovely English oak leaves, I found these cherry galls. These are caused by a tiny gall wasp, Cynips quercusfolii. The wasps lay their eggs in the trunk of the tree, the galls which form on the underside of the leaves provide protection and nutrition for the developing grubs. The leaves fall to the ground in autumn and the wasp will emerge in the winter.
Other beasties that were spotted and hung around to have their portraits taken were this harlequin ladybird larva and a red necked footman moth, Atolmis rubricollis. The latter feeds on lichen on tree trunks. The name is inspired by the long black coats worn by Victorian footmen – the servants who served meals, answered doors and cleaned silver in wealthy households.
The refreshing rain brings the snails onto the tops of the leaves. This one is a white lipped snail, they often have brown bands on their shells. Many plant stems are also adorned by “cuckoo spit” containing the nymphs of froghoppers, sap sucking insects.
The darker, danker corners of the wood are always home to some sort of fungi. Up on the grazing area which is neither dark nor dank I did come across the rotting remains of a stinkhorn fungi, complete with hungry slugs. I can assure you dear reader, it earns its name.
Whilst up on the grazing area, we shall pause to take in the views (and to get our breath back!).
As we leave the woodland and head back to pastural and arable land, there is one more gem; a wildflower meadow. Wildflower meadows have declined by 97% since the 1930s, taking many species of plants and animals with them. At the end of the summer this meadow will be mown to create winter feed for cattle. It is thought that a variety of wildflowers in the cow feed is beneficial to their health.
I hope that you have enjoyed our early morning stroll in the woods, see you next time.