Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Walk Through the Woods

On a recent day off I took the opportunity to enjoy an early morning walk through some of Gibside's woodland's.  As I walked through the renovated Shrubbery Walk towards the avenue I disturbed a family trio of roe deer feeding on some of the recently planted evergreen shrubs.

Common laurel

Common laurel browsed by roe deer

Yew browsed by roe deer

Along the Avenue and down through the Hollow Walk I came upon another roe deer this one a handsome buck with six-point antlers covered in 'velvet'.  I stood watching him for a little while until he became aware of my presence and quickly made off with bounding leaps and a series of disgruntled dog-like barks.

Roebuck with antlers in 'velvet'

During the summer just gone a 'new' pair of red kites had nested on the estate but unfortunately they failed to raise any chicks due to reasons unknown.  Walking through a belt of conifers close to the nest-site I came upon the skeleton of a kite with wings outstretched and feathers complete and intact.  All feathers of the wings and tail were only partly emerged from the protective sheath which encases them while growing revealing that this had been a fledgling.  Surprisingly the carcass hadn't been found and scavenged by a fox, badger or other opportunist predator and as it obviously hadn't been predated it would appear that it had succumbed shortly after leaving or falling from the nest.

Remains of a red kite

A little further on from where I had found the dead kite I checked an old stone built culvert running under a vista which was in regular use by badgers.  A little fresh soil outside the exit hole showed a little 'spring cleaning' had been carried out and among the debris I found a badger's skull.  The teeth that were present were very well worn suggesting this had been from an old animal and there was also a well developed sagittal crest.  This is a ridge of bone running along the top of the skull which enlarges as the animal matures and it is to this that the powerful jaw muscles are attached.

Badger skull

Following the road up into West Wood I noted one of the roadside ash trees had a large red streak running down one side of the trunk.  This is quite a common occurrence being found on a range of different trees and with colours ranging from yellow, orange and as here red and is simply an alga of the genus Trentepohlia.

Ash tree with red steak caused by algae

As I stood taking a photograph of the 'red' tree a rustling caught my attention among the undergrowth on the opposite side of the road.  Running through the recently planted woodland towards me were not one, nor two but three hares.  These three, a jill (female) and two jacks (males) chased each other around the trees before making off further into the wood.


Close to this spot I also found in a roadside ditch a cluster of feathers where a wood pigeon had met its death.  Killed and eaten by a bird of prey among the plucked feathers were the spilled crop contents revealing the pigeon's last meal of red berries and the tips of buttercup leaves.

Remains of wood pigeon with crop contents

So you see as you walk around Gibside's woods there are always lots of things to see.


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