Monday, 23 May 2016

Greater Spotted Woodpeckers

About this time last year I posted a video up of woodpeckers feeding their young in a hole in a tall ash tree near the reservoir.

I've been hoping to find another nest this year but despite hearing the adults call to the young and the young birds responding and standing for ages beneath the tree where the sounds came from I've not caught sight of them. Until this afternoon.

To make it easy, the young bird (or possibly birds) kept sticking its head out of the hole in anticipation of being fed. It has a bright red head and I suspect won't be staying in the hole for much longer. 

The pictures aren't great because the hole was quite high up and difficult to see between the branches and leaves, but you get the idea. I'll see if I can get some better ones tomorrow.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Knife carving and carving spoons

For the Queen's birthday celebration event on Rowley Fields on the 12th June I will scrub up as best I can, wear something practical but clean and give a practical demonstration of simple wood carving. I'll try to show, using just three hand tools - an axe, a knife and a spoon knife - how to turn a piece of wood into something else. Like, a spoon, an owl head, a dala horse, a whistle, a fox log, a mushroom or a mouse.

I'll also be offering all my modest carvings for sale with all proceeds going to Butterfly Conservation. For those who would like to get some hands on experience there will be the chance to pay a little more and enter a draw for a free spoon carving lesson with me. 

Each spoon on display will be unique: it's size and shape dictated by the type of wood, its characteristics and how I felt at the time I carved it. In many of the spoons I've retained some of the character of the original piece of wood with knots, blemishes, cracks, a bit of bark, a twist in the grain, all kept. With 80 of these spoons for sale, there should be something for everyone. All are hand carved, sealed with olive oil and may even come with a story about the type of wood, how I came by it, how it turned out the way it did and when it was created.
Other items are just things I've enjoyed making. 

Come along and don't forget to bring some money. Everything must go so don't expect craft fair prices. A couple of pounds will secure a unique spoon and a few pennies a whistle.



Monday, 9 May 2016

Time to start looking for butterflies up the Welcombe

If the sun keeps shining this weekend it will be a good time to go out onto the Welcombe Hills and look for butterflies. Over the last few days I've seen the magnificent Peacock, the yellow Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and the beautiful Orange Tip.

I've also been out today looking for Orange Tip butterfly eggs. Here a pic taken this afternoon. As you can see the egg is minute. In close-up you can see that it's a beautiful conical shaped object with fluted sides. With luck this egg will become a caterpillar, then it will pupate, drop into the ground below and with even more luck, emerge next spring as another Orange Tip butterfly for the cycle to start all over again. 

Orange Tip egg Welcombe Hills May 2016

Close-up Orange Tip egg Welcombe Hills May 2016

Orange Tips are busy butterflies and seldom seem to stay still. They are searching for mates and for their favoured plant to lay eggs on,  the Lady's Smock. Look out for the Orange Tips flitting along the edges of fields and hedges just a foot or so above the ground. The male has the orange tips and the female black tips to the wings. Both have the distinctive green mottled pattern on the underside of the wings. If you find Lady's Smock (clue: it prefers damp places so the bottom of the slope from the reservoir towards the hotel is good), gently examine the flower heads and you may be able to see the orange coloured egg. Only one egg is laid per plant and if more than one is laid by different females, only one caterpillar will survive to pupate. That's because they eat competitors - though this may be for moisture rather than simple competition.

The Tortoiseshell and the Peacock like to bathe in the sun. Often they will find a patch of bare ground where presumably they benefit from the warmth of the ground below and from the sun above.

The Brimstone is a truly beautiful butterfly and a distinctive yellow (brimstone being the ancient name for sulphur which is yellow of course). It also has a distinctive shape rather more exotic than most of our native butterflies.

The Common Blue will be emerging around this time. Last night sitting on the benches at the top of Rowley Fields I'm sure I glimpsed one but it flew off behind me into the wood and I lost sight of it.

Brimstone butterfly (MA 2015) 

Peacock (MA 2015)

Orange Tip (MA 2015)

Small Tortoiseshell (MA 2015)