Please see the photo gallery above for some of our September/October highlights.
In order of display:
Speckled Wood butterflies
7-spot Ladybird on grass head
Canary-shouldered Thorn (photography by Jonathan Wallace)
Male Common Darter
Brown-spot Pinion (photography by Jonathan Wallace)
Hawthorn leaves changing colour
Storm damaged trees
Storm Ali lived up to the amber warning predictions from the Met Office last month with strong winds battering the wood and the surrounding area leading to a lot of damage. Trees and large branches were down everywhere leading to temporary road blockages and a lot of clear up work over the following days.
In the wood itself, we experienced the most damage we've had in our time here – but it could have been much worse. The neighbouring wood tends to give us some protection from the prevailing winds and acts as a buffer zone to a degree. However, the paths were still littered with debris from a few fallen trees and many branches making it somewhat of an obstacle course to walk around when it was finally safe to do so. Our first job to do the following day was to tidy up and remove these immediate hazards.
Besides the paths, another area to receive a battering was a stretch of recently widened ride edge. Whilst no trees were blown over here (which is often referred to as wind-throw), a number were subject to wind-snap - whereby the tops of the trees do literally ‘snap off’. In particular, we were sorry to see a couple of mature oaks, a lovely birch and a large willow damaged in this way.
Wind-throw and wind-snap is a classic problem which most woodland managers will have experienced at some point. Trees which have always been on the edge of a stand tend to be more wind-firm and able to cope with strong gusts better than trees within the stand. Our ongoing woodland management work to widen the rides has involved removing some of these edge trees, resulting in trees previously protected now being more vulnerable to the weather. The swirling gusts we experienced hit these newly exposed trees hard resulting in the stems snapping at weak points.
It must be said though, that wind damage is part and parcel of any woodland and whilst it creates work it also creates new opportunities. Given this, we already have ideas in place for long-term improvements!
Late Season Butterflies and Dragonflies
September always sees a peak in numbers of two of our most loved woodland insects. Speckled wood butterflies and common darter dragonflies thrive in the late summer sunshine as it makes way for autumn. Both have been out and about along the rides in record numbers last month and they have been a joy to watch.
We reported back in July that speckled woods were having a bumper year and this has continued to be the case. We counted a whopping 116 of them on a recent butterfly transect count in mid September – compared with a previous high of 40 individuals at the same time last year. This is an increase of almost three times – impressive to say the least. However, as a cautionary note, it is reported that numbers tend to rise after a wet summer but fall following a drought year. As it has been incredibly dry this summer, it does point towards there being fewer speckled woods around next year – we shall wait and see.
In the short period that we've been counting dragonflies, numbers of common darters have varied from year to year. 2018 has been a good year with a peak count of 82 individuals which were out flying on the same day as all of the speckled woods reported above. In 2017, counts were disappointingly low with a high of only 21 so it's great to see that numbers have picked up this year.
In the wood, the common darters tend to gather at ‘hotspots’ along the rides. They love to bask in the sunshine where they group together at a handful of locations which are hotter and sunnier than elsewhere. They are not fussed too much about were they soak up the rays - some perch on grasses, others on logs whilst the stone track also serves as a favourite resting site when warmed by the sun.
Woodruff Wood,Longhirst, Morpeth, Northumberland
'Passionate about wildlife & firewood'
T: 07525 841361 (9am - 6pm)
Please feel free to contact us today for further information!
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European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
'Increasing Productivity of Woodruff Wood Woodfuel (Firewood)'
Woodruff Wood is grateful to have received funding for equipment and infrastructure to support us in the production of firewood