For the most part the designated West Wood Local Wildlife Site is continuous, but it also takes in two isolated ponds in the Park Fields farmland. The one to the south is in open field and conveniently situated for fairly frequent visits on our way back at the end of the day. The more northerly one is close by but requires just that bit more of an effort to tempt us to put it off to the next time. This is July; our last visit was in April. Not surprisingly, we found lots of things that we hadn’t seen there before. Of great interest were two people - one a NT volunteer, the other a local small mammal enthusiast - checking traps set in the hope of finding water shrew. Instead, they captured five common shrews – two of them with little white ears and very cute.
Some things are just puzzling. A comb of an accessible stretch of the Derwent riverside that comes within the LWS boundary produced some unusual plant discoveries. One was clearly wild celery, except its distinctive smell was not at all celery-like and it was growing on a river bank far from its favoured seaside habitat. Another was very familiar with its silver shaded leaves yet its name difficult to recall. We ceased trying when it dawned that it’s a frequent sight in many a suburban garden. We’re still puzzling over the celery though. Of course, many a garden plant finds its way into a river and its tributaries, but wild celery is quite unlike its domestic descendant in superficial appearance. And, of course, many an umbellifer looks remarkably like others of its family.
Last week two buzzards were making a lot of noise when we twice passed close to a known nest site thought abandoned. Are they back? Possibly, though there was no sign this week and, with so much leaf on the trees, the nest couldn’t be checked - or seen even.
In order to find some species on the list designating West Wood as a Local Wildlife Site, we have changed our strategy and for a few weeks are seeking specific plants where they have been previously recorded and/or in their most likely habitat. Some we can expect to locate without too much difficulty as the season progresses; some we are not so confident about. That may prove unfounded with a more targeted approach, but includes wood brome and lesser skullcap.
|Narrow Buckler Fern|
We have had some success with targeting though - finding climbing corydalis carpeting the woodland floor close to the upper farm track. Don’t know how it escaped our attention in the past. Wood millet is just about everywhere it should be, and dainty heath bedstraw has come into flower by tracksides and in woodland clearings. Narrow buckler fern has been found by a cascade in upper Leap Mill Burn – and possibly in other places. It’s a difficult plant to identify – not least because the books are a little unclear about some of its attributes.
We have just had another unsuccessful search for lesser skullcap, wood (or hairy) brome and wood barley, and there’s still devil’s bit scabious to wait for. Otherwise the boxes on our plant list are pretty well ticked.
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne