Thursday, 24 April 2014

WET WOODLAND -featuring Spindle, Alder Buckthorn and Wayfaring, slowly greening 24th April 2014

waters from the woodland, bunded and pooled
The woodland slopes westwards towards the River Rea, hence the west of the site is wet for most of the year.
Developing new habitats
The emerging waters have been pooled to develop shallow open-water scrapes
gathering waters from woodland springs

Just a reminder of the woodland origin; 25 years ago the site was unwanted allotment land, and previous to this, open farmland.
Alder Buckthorn

The lower west side retains the spring waters to form wet woodland and, at times, impassible boggy paths. These conditions suit plants such as Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) and Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). The wood of Alder Buckthorn is used for making gunpowder - is this still made? Not sure if the berries have the same purgative properties as those of Buckthorn (Rhamnus cartharticus), the specific name referring to this.

Allan's corded paths are most useful, constructed with coppiced hazel from the woodland.

Spindle (Euonymus europaeus), several trees are doing well on the lower, wetter levels

Spindle tree
Many applied and descriptive vernacular names are used such as, prickwood, skewerwood and pincushion shrub, but use of the wood for hand spinning raw wool was not especially favoured in Britain.  (Flora Britannica)
Wayfaring Tree

Flower of Viburnum lantana (Wayfaring Tree)
Wayfaring Trees, Spindle and Alder Buckthorn are often associated as trees of Southern Britain, and thrive there due to optimal climatic conditions; but with onset climatic change these species are likely to thrive further north, and perhaps we will notice them more often in the Midlands over the coming decades.
leaves of wayfaring Tree

Introduced from North America in 1817. A 'happy', thriving plant with some ecological value - Thrushes and Blackbirds will eat the berries during harsh winter conditions


Apple blossom

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


possibly a cat skull; not to scale with magazine image backdrop,  for that would be  a frightening prospect for sure

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Birds of Centenary Woodland

Dan checking boxes at Centenary Woods

The Birmingham University nesting box scheme is being monitored by Dan and Jon for the second year, and while few boxes were occupied last year, probably because of late installation, indications so far suggest greater occupancy, although far from 100% take up.

Dan will provide further details as they arise.

Birds seen in and around Centenary Wood since Winter 2013 -

  • Sparrowhawk
  • Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Wood pigeon
  • Tawny Owl
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Wren
  • Dunnock
  • Song Thrush
  • Redwing
  • Blackbird
  • Blackcap
  • Chiffchaff
  • Goldcrest
  • Great Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Long Tailed Tit
  • Nuthatch
  • Tree Creeper
  • Magpie
  • Jay
  • C Crow
  • Raven (flying over, between CHP and Holders Woods)
  • Chaffinch
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Siskin
  • Bullfinch


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A beautiful morning at Centenary Woodland 16th April 2014

The hedgerow leading to Centenary Woods, laid in 2010 and flourishing with Alder Buckthorn, providing a food plant for the Brimstone Butterfly

Guelder Rose (Viburnam opulus) planted in the woods 2011

Guelder Rose flowers just developing


The old oak (around 250 years old)

A wet flush, of which there are many.

Herb Bennet or Wood Avens

Japanese knotweed (uprooted)

Cow parsley

Wild garlic

The southern edge of the woods bordering Moor Green Allotments

South of the woods

A tree nursery, planted winter 2013-14 with trees from the Woodland Trust
including, Rowan, Elder, Dog Rose and Hazel

One of the veteran Apple trees

A dead Apple tree; many of the Apple trees require pruning

Woodland thinned during December 2013

Dead hedges resulting from the brash arisings from tree felling

Bluebells in the woods, although they are Spanish and will be eradicated as part of the management .
English Bluebells will then be planted


Spencer's Hedge

A seasonal image


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Dunnock and Brimstone 14 April 2014

Brimstone butterfly spotted on 14 April 2014 by Ranger Warden Allan Watkins
Dunnocks too were most active at this location on the 14th and are probably nesting nearby

Chiffchaff are busy staking their territory with distinctive calls at the edge of Centenary Wood, often making excursion to the hinterland as they forage for early grubs and other morsels. This image depicts a light phase generally found in southern breeds and in my experience resident warblers  are not quite as yellow overall. There is variation of course.

This is the best time to locate Chiffchaff as they call from prominent positions blah blah - you can find all this in a book.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Where there's Ravens there's witches

Where there's Ravens there's witches, and one Moor Green Witch informed me today that the Ravens had raided a Crow's nest and were seen murdering and carrying away the chicks, no doubt before devouring them.

One of the Crows, whom the Witch calls Dodger, was behaving with peculiarity today following his loss, but knowing something of Crow resilience, I tried to reassure her that the clever Crow is unlikely to fall victim to the Ravens a second time and will undoubtedly raise young before the season is out. This, she knew.

At least six Ravens have been seen above Centenary Woodland over the past few days and for sure the Crow wars will continue for some weeks ahead, for the Ravens are also clever and they've caused a stir.

This article from the internet sheds some light on a shadowy subject, and whilst there may be some sentimentalising, there is clearly an understanding of Raven behaviour based on observation, reading and learning.

The Raven is the most sacred bird of the British Isles. Raven is a bird of magic and mysticism, shapeshifting, creation, birth and death, healing, initiation, protection and prophecy. Raven is great at vocalizations and can even be taught to speak. She can use tools, is not intimidated by others, is fast and wary, and does not make easy prey for other animals.
In the Near East, Raven is considered unclean, due to the fact that she is a scavenger. In Norse tradition, Odin had 2 Ravens as messengers (Thought and Memory). Furthermore, Odin was known to shape-shift as a Raven. In the Pacific Northwest, Raven was the bringer of life and order. She was the bringer of sunlight. Even in British tradition, Raven is seen sometimes as a bird of morning, sunlight and joy. In the tale of Beowulf, Raven helps Beowulf to victory.
Bran the Blessed, whose name means Raven, was sometimes known as the Raven King. He was beheaded in battle, and his head was buried in White Mount, which later became the hill on which the Tower of London was built. His head was placed to face the enemies and protect England from invasion. In fact, both London and Lyons had Raven totems. Furthermore, both cities were dedicated to Lugh who was warned of the approach of the Formorians by Ravens. Another legend claims that King Arthur became a Raven upon his death.
Ravens are often associated with death and the Underworld. The cries of Ravens are heard before death in battle, and Ravens are often said to bring messages from the Underworld. For this reason, they are bird of prophecy and divination. The Raven has the ability to see the past and the future, while living in the present.
In this way, the Raven is a bringer of Initiation, both little “i” and big “I.” Initiation is, after all, a death of one thing and the birth of another. 
Raven is strongly associated with Morrigan (and one of Her particular aspects, Badb). Morrigan appears on the battlefield as Raven (or Scald-Crow), bringing havoc and fear in the enemy. Linked to their presence at or proclamation of Death, they are associated with deep healing (the kind of healing that comes from radical confrontation with the hidden), the type of healing offered by the Morrigan.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Last work session for the season - Woodpecker, Ravens, Primroses and Shaolin discipline

I'm intrigued by the various users and uses people make of Centenary Woodland, sometimes the evidence is left behind, drinks cans, tissues, used condoms and so on, and the site is categorized by the Police as an area in which anti-social behaviour takes place.

I would suggest however that the ASB is declining based on a decreasing number of items found, such as those listed above.

This is partly due to the increasing usage from people carrying out socially acceptable practices, thereby deterring unsociable behaviour; one such practice being the beating of a tree with forearms as part of a Shaolin discipline. The guy carrying out this practice didn't want a photograph and was horrified at the suggestion, but declined in a gentle manner. I'll no doubt see him again and aim to further my understanding. I was satisfied however that no harm was done to any tree by this practice, it was more of a slow gentle pummeling rather than beating.

Woodpecker at Centenary Woodland
Out and About School

Not sure if the above title will stick, but it rather sums up a popular demand for 'Forest School' like activities with the home-schooling network.

Parents and children ventured to Centenary Wood to help with tree planting and wildflower plugging as part of the B&BCWT's NIA project to improve the wooded areas around Cannon Hill (see previous posts for details)
Paul from the Wildlife Trust giving a tree planting demo

The digging was tough but some of the older children managed OK


Young people planting young trees

What a great day at Centenary Woodland

Trees planted included

  1. Hazel
  2. Rowan
  3. Oak
  4. Hawthorn
  5. ?

Wildflowers included
  1. Yellow pimpernel
  2. Primrose
  3. False brome grass
  4. Wood speedwell
  5. Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage

a nice variety of woodland plants grown at Eco Park