Thursday, 31 January 2013

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

Wednesday 30th January 2013

6o C but it certainly didn’t feel like it in the strong westerly wind. The recent snow had all but cleared. Our planned trip to Craster two weeks ago, to help with some dry stone wall building, had been cancelled because of the snow. Last week a deep covering of snow prevented any conservation work.
Recent snow melt meant streams were in full flow
Today the team was given the task of clearing branches and brash from a large open area near the turning circle on the edge of West Woods. The reason for clearing this area was so that it can be planted with hazel trees. The brash was collected and moved to the edges of the area to form log piles. It was backbreaking work. Many of the branches had lain there for some time and were overgrown with grass and brambles. One advantage of some of the branches having been lying for some time was that many were rotten and as such were an ideal medium for the growth of some wonderful fungi.

Some of the team at work

Some of the fungi

Around lunchtime we received a good soaking from a sudden burst of rain. Fortunately it was fairly short-lived, but an added bonus was a lovely rainbow seen over West Woods. During the course of our day we received several visits from a nosey red kite.
Rainbow over West Woods
Phil Coyne

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Winter Wildlife

Winter brings about a change in some of the wildlife found here at Gibside.  With summer migrants long gone look out for wintering birds like brambling, redwing, fieldfare and if your really lucky waxwings.  Jays are still visible on the Avenue searching for the last of the fallen acorns and another bird to watch out for is the crossbill.  These are usually seen in flocks either feeding on conifer seeds high in the tree tops or flitting from tree to tree with their twittering calls.  Look and listen for them around the Stables, Bothy and Banqueting House areas.


Badgers don't hibernate so are still actively searching for worms and other grubs along with the last of the autumn fruits including here at Gibside lots of yew berries.  In really hard icy conditions or after heavy snowfall food can be hard to find so they may lie up for a day or two waiting for easier conditions.  This month will see the sow (female) badgers beginning to give birth to their new cubs.

Badger cub with two adults

Roe deer are easier to spot in winter when much of the tall vegetation has died down.  These are often encountered in small family groups of  a doe with last years kid(s).   The bucks meanwhile having shed last years antlers are busy growing new ones protected in a covering of velvet.  Occasionally does, usually older ones, may also grow a pair of rudimentary antlers which usually remain covered in hair and are perennial and not shed unlike those of the bucks.


Roebuck with antlers recently shed

Roebuck with growing antlers in 'velvet'

Roe doe with 'antlers'

Thursday, 10 January 2013

A Return to Reality

Wednesday 9th January 2013

A sunny day with a light covering of frost.
A Frosted Leaf

A new year and the first task of 2013 for the conservation group was to strim and rake grass and bracken on the bank above the Lily Pond.

The rakers looked on whilst the 2 volunteers with the strimmers set about cutting back the long grass and bracken. Using petrol driven strimmers (oh for the gentle swish of a scythe), they had soon managed to cut enough for the rest of the team to begin raking. Piles of grass and bracken soon built up and were then transported into the adjacent woods (it may be a new year but some things never change!) to form habitat for grass snakes and other wildlife.
Strimmers reflected in Lily pond

Hard at work strimming
Good teamwork today ensured an early finish. The team have a week to prepare themselves for next week’s visit to the seaside for some construction work.
Common Earthball
Lichen on tree stump (Cladonia sp.)