It was towards the end of a dull morning. Along the upper track through West Wood a few trees seemed to be bubbling with a flock of mixed tits including many long-tailed and, as if to emphasise the changing season, a dull, cool morning turned to rain. It was expected; weather forecasting is disappointingly accurate these days.
Some plants continue to flower – angelica, red campion and reliable herb robert among them – and devil’s bit scabious has come in to its own. The fading remains of the summer’s plants make fine practice for the amateur field botanist’s taxonomy skills. Some of us are best off with a show of flower to provide an initial clue.
It has been an unusual season: a cold, slow start, then a surge of warmth and growth. The task for we wildlife surveyors had been, of course, to record whatever living plant or animal we found, but also, specifically, to track down a list of species designated as conservation performance indicators. That is, to review the state of this Local Wildlife Site to demonstrate that Gibside NT is doing its bit to take care of nature and thereby gain merit.
|Speckled Wood Butterfly|
With summer fading, it was time for a get together with the Estate’s rangers to compare findings. As predicted by our friendly local naturalist (see LWS Blog 3), we never did find lesser skullcap, and can’t be certain that there are tree pipits around. Otherwise all is well. We recorded some two hundred species but, undoubtedly, there is much we overlooked: mosses, lichens, pond life and vast numbers of insects. And autumn’s fungi are just emerging.
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne