A short visit was made a few weeks ago to search for lesser skullcap, devil’s bit scabious and hairy brome. Two out of three wasn’t bad for half a day’s work - though admittedly we had some help. From time to time we come across a fellow naturalist wandering through the Gibside grounds – binoculars and notebook at the ready. The few words we have in passing often give a clue to his considerable knowledge and understanding of our local wildlife, and to his thoroughness of approach. He’s also good at spotting things that we have just walked by and failed to see. On this occasion, it was hairy brome – a grass that stands five feet tall – and the tiny green pin-cushion of an emerging devil’s bit scabious flower. He was pretty much convinced that we wouldn’t find lesser skullcap in West Wood.
|Devil's Bit Scabious|
Of course, we haven’t given up on finding lesser skullcap; it could still appear over the coming few weeks – but not today. And, though convinced earlier in the year that we had found the remnants of wood barley from the previous season, our search of the panhandle woods was also unsuccessful.
|Small White Butterfly|
|Speckled Wood Butterfly|
There were some worthwhile finds though. Immature robins and meadow pipits provide evidence of the presence of breeding birds, and purple loosestrife on a woodland trackside a lovely surprise.
Measured by the timing of school holidays, this is the height of summer. Indeed, there is still much colour and new growth on tracksides, field edges and stream banks, and ferns – mainly bracken, male fern and common buckler – densely cover the woodland floor. But there are many signs of change: yellowing leaves of the remains of wood anemone, a solitary flower on an extensive patch of yellow pimpernel, and short-lived heads of burdock turning to seed marking a season’s passing.
|Hover Fly Approaching Common Hemp Nettle Flower|
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne