Monday 27 January 2014

Week 2: Exploring

Gazing up into the branches of the Scots Pine tree (neighbour to The Oak), I couldn't resist the patterns and colours it created against the blue sky and stippled puffs of white cloud. However, this morning's light was quickly lost to the ever expanding mass of grey clouds. Below is my best effort of the Oak for today. I didn't photograph the individual branch - might get to it on Wednesday if weather permits.

Whilst waiting for the clouds to move through, and the sunshine to re-emerge, I explored the tree line along the upper slope of Dellfield and Preston Hill. I recently completed a 1-Day Winter Tree Identification course at the Field Studies Council (FSC), Amersham. However, my "winter tree ID skills" would be better described as my "winter tree 'I haven't got a clue' skills". Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I found young growth on a previously coppiced Hazel tree, with remnants of last year's leaves and its dangling catkins, buds formed, waiting for the warmth of Spring.

And, Hazel catkins, in a different, more shady location, which are at an earlier stage of growth. In a few weeks time, they will open out, lengthen and loosen and lose their reddish tint.

An Ash tree, with its sooty buds and hanging seed pods. The insert shows the terminal bud (the bud at the tip of the stem/branch) and the feature marked with an arrow is one of the branch's lenticels. These structures enable the tree to exchange gases with the surrounding air.

And finally, a variety of Elm.  The protective scales encasing the flowers are just beginning to break open on some of the flower buds. The arrow points to the leaf bud scale scar. From here to the next leaf bud scale scar (or the tip of the terminal leaf bud of the twig) is a year's growth.

On my way back from Westbrook Hay, out on Snoxall's Moor, there were 156 gulls (predominantly Black-headed, with a handful of Common and 6+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls) gathered on the floods. This has become a regular sight since the heavy rains.

A close-up view of the 4 highlighted birds revealed the 3 species, all adults:
  • A = 1 Common Gull. Note the pale greenish-yellow bill with thin, dark band, and pale grey mantle
  • B = 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Note the yellow legs, dark grey mantle, heavy yellow bill with red spot and the yellow iris.
  • C = 1 Black-headed Gull. Note the red bill and red legs (and no "black-head" in winter/non-breeding plumage, just the bold, dark ear spots).

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