Tuesday, 19 May 2015


29th April 2015

Dog’s mercury, though abundant in our woodlands and one of the earliest plants to flower, can go largely unnoticed. Its flowers are small, green and have no petals. As a herald of spring, it doesn’t make much of an impression, but it’s soon joined by other, more impressive, flowers carpeting the woodland floor – golden saxifrage, wood anemone, wood sorrel and ramsons. Elsewhere primrose, lesser celandine, coltsfoot, and dandelion make a fine show.

Dog's Mercury
Wood Anemone


The oddly delicate moschatel has its five flowers set at right-angles to each other – like clock faces with an extra one on top. Previously recorded along the riverside path and in the woods at the northern end of Ladyhaugh, it has this spring appeared in a swathe near the Lily Pond. It’s small and beautiful but, being almost entirely green, is easily over-looked.


It’s April, and the animal world is preparing for the new season. Frogs have long since spawned, and tadpoles have started to emerge from their gelatinous mess; numerous toads tangle in the ponds, seeking mates; peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies have started their wanderings; and common carder bumblebees glide the woodland fringes; chiffchaffs seem to be everywhere.


For many of the Gibside Conservation Volunteers, all this is a sign to pack in for the summer and leave the wildlife to itself. Some, though, opt for the near endless task of grass-cutting, or work at small maintenance jobs. We bloggers make our annual survey of Gibside’s wildlife. Mostly, this is no more than wandering the estate identifying and making a note of whatever is there, which is later transferred to the National Trust’s data bank. Presumably good use is made of all this information. But, anyway, we do it because we like to.
A curious robin

Another regular summer job for some of us is to maintain and monitor the grass snake project patches (See the Gibside Blog 2 July 2014: Not many snakes). Heaps have been topped up or rebuilt, and corrugated sheets put in place. This year there’s an innovation: numbers painted on the underside so they can be readily identified without referring to the site map. That is, identified by the observers, not the snakes. It’s a bit early for grass snakes, but a few field voles and some ants have moved in already. 

A Field Vole peeps out from a hole

A Blogger - hard at work!!

Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne