Diario del proyecto Meanwood Valley bioblitz

Archivos de diario de marzo 2023

01 de marzo de 2023

Species Of The Week Number23: Great Spotted Woodpecker

There are three species of Woodpecker breeding in the UK. The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker has become quite rare and is mainly confined to the South of England. A single Green Woodpecker was hanging about eating ants on Sugarwell Hill for a short period about a year ago. The Greater Spotted Woodpecker is however quite common across Meanwood.

The reason the GSW is Species of the Week this week is because they have started drumming to herald the spring and the new breeding season. As well as hearing them it is also a good time to spot them now, before the leaves appear on the trees.

GSWs also frequent bird feeders throughout the year. The ones that have visited my garden feeders appear to prefer sunflower seeds to peanuts. When not partaking of this vegetarian diet they will also break into a Blue Tit nest and gobble up its young. Nice.

In terms of nesting, Woodpecker's tend to use the same tree, although not always the same hole, for a few years. This was the case in one of the Poplar trees running alongside Meanwood Beck for 2 or 3 years until a storm took part of the tree down and my local Woodies disappeared last breeding season.

If you want more top woodpecker content there are around 240 species in the world to choose from, including the Middle Spotted Woodpecker (really!) and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the USA. The last known sighting of the Ivory Woodpecker was in 1944 and it was generally assumed to be extinct. Until one turned up to say hello to a rather excited birdwatcher in Louisiana last year.

Publicado el marzo 1, 2023 11:00 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 4 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de marzo de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 24: Cherry-Plum Tree

Despite the snow, Spring has stared its battle with Winter for seasonal superiority. One of the first to come out fighting for Spring is the blossom of the Cherry-Plum Tree like the gorgeous Meanwood in our species list that has started blooming over the last few days. It is particularly striking because the white flowers come out before its green leaves.

Cherry-plum blossom is cool in Meanwood but is massive in Japan. A symbol of the impermanence of life, it is celebrated during the annual Hanami festival when people go and look at wonderful forests of blooming trees. They take it so seriously that the Japan Meteorological Corporation even announces the official predicted date for blooming to begin. Which, if you are interested, is March 16th this year. So Meanwood has beaten Japan to it in that respect.

The fruit appears later in the year. It is edible and can be used to make jams, jellies, and other preserves. It is also particularly popular in Georgian cuisine (thats of the European country, not in the time of King George). The Georgians use it to produce tkemali sauce, kharcho soup and chakapuli stew. Sounds yum.

The wood of the cherry plum is hard and durable, making it useful for woodworking projects. It is also used as firewood in some regions.

Cherry plum flowers can also come to the rescue for people "in fear of losing control of their behaviour" -and tbh who hasn't been there at some point? I know I have. Dr Edward Bach used the flowers to create a remedy for this affliction, and they are still used in Bach Flower Remedies today.

Outside of the Meanwood project patch, nip over to my Insta page @ClunyM to see a flock of 20,000 starlings near Ripon. An awesome sight and sound.

Publicado el marzo 8, 2023 03:10 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de marzo de 2023

Species of the Week Number 25: Western Honey Bee

Last week we featured a Cherry Plum Tree - because it was the first tree in Meanwood to blossom. Since then not only have two of its branches crashed down under the weight of snow but, when things warmed up, the white flowers became a massive magnet for honey bees. In the warmer days this week it has been covered in hundreds of bees that have just woken up from their winter hibernation.

Bee society is not an equal one. All of the bees harvesting on the tree pollen are female 'worker bees'. We know this because the only thing male bees or drones are good for is reproduction - and as there is no reproduction in the winter all the males were chased out the hive to perish in the cold weather. The queen bee will just makes some more each year as required - she only needs 24 days notice.

The female bees on the other hand do all the work (sound familiar?). Her 'to do' list goes like this: clean out own cell; feed brood; receive nectar; clean hive; guard duty; forage. His 'to do' list on the other hand goes: sex; sex; sex. The male drones don't even bother defending the hive and can't sting. Pathetic.

Despite this there is a lot we can learn from bee society. The Quran even has a Sura (chapter) titled "The Bee" which explains how we can learn from the industry and adaptability of honey bees

The bees are all collecting pollen fro the Cherry Plum Tree flowers. They use the little panniers on their hind legs (known as corbicula) which are getting full of the yellow pollen to take back to the hive. The bee then returns to the hive and deposits the pollen into cells in the honeycomb.

By moving from flower to flower the bee is also pollinating the tree.

Habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change are just some of the risks our bees face

I hope you enjoyed this spot of amateur melittology - the study of bees.

Publicado el marzo 15, 2023 04:14 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

22 de marzo de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 26: Frogs!

Do check out some of the ponds along Meanwood Beck this week as the warmer weather means it is currently frog heaven.

Before the frogspawn comes the frog's porn:

In the breeding season (now) male common frogs go crazy for a few days where they display rapid and frenzied breeding behaviour, and their sole purpose is to mate with as many female frogs as possible. Is size important in this interaction? Well, researchers tell us that there are higher rates of mating success in the males which have longer thumbs - which allows them to have a better grip on females. Male frogs also have special swellings on their legs which help them grip - these swellings are called 'nuptial pads'.

I have approached female frogs for comment.

Anyhow the male 'embraces' a female and fertilises her eggs as she lays them and soon the spawn develop into tadpoles and about 16 weeks after laying they become froglets.

Common frogs have smooth skin - not warty like a toad - and there is lots of colour variation.

Whilst frogs have adapted quite well to urban and semi-urban environments like Meanwood, the physical barriers of roads and buildings seem to have prevented frog populations from mixing, creating more inbreeding and lower genetic diversity than in rural populations. This has led to higher developmental abnormalities. But it doesn't really matter as there are loads of frogs or, in technical terms: the common frog is listed as a species of least concern on the Red List of Threatened Species.

Fun Frog Fact 1: In the most northern extremities of their range frog species may be trapped under ice for up to nine months of the year, and survive!

Fun Frog Fact 2: Australian water-holding frog is a desert dweller that can wait up to seven years waiting for it to rain.

Fun Frog Fact 3: Frogs invented opera. In as much as they were the first land animal with vocal chords. OK, maybe they didn't actually invent opera.

Publicado el marzo 22, 2023 10:13 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

29 de marzo de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 27: Wild Garlic

Wild garlic is abundant in the Meanwood Valley at the moment. Its not flowering as yet but now is the very best time for a spot of urban foraging - and you will be able to easily identify it from the garlicky scent. Whilst the leaves are young and fresh it can be used in many recipes, eaten raw or as a replacement for spinach. Don't think about using the bulbs though as wild garlic is a protected species so pinching the bulbs is illegal.

What did the Romans do for us? Well, in her book 'The Yorkshire Forager' Alysia Vasey recounts a tale that Wild Garlic came to Yorkshire with the Romans as they planted it along what is now the A1 to feed the troops and it spread to Yorkshire woodlands.

The latin name for Wild Garlic is Allium ursinum. The ursinum refers to the fact that brown bears are really partial to the plant - 'ursine' means relating to bears. You might have seen plans to renovate the victorian bear pit on Cardigan Road recently? I don't think they are planning to populate it with live bears but, if they did and one escaped, I would certainly be looking for it Meanwood's garlic glades. And what a coup that would be for the Meanwood Valley Bioblitz (ps current total - 296 species)!

Back to the culinary uses, here is a recipe from the Woodland Trust for Wild Garlic pesto: 100g wild garlic leaves, 50g parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for a vegan), 50g toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil + Lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Grind it up in a pestle, or whizz in a processor. I tried it this week and its yum! #MeanwoodPesto

Publicado el marzo 29, 2023 10:23 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario