One of the notable plants on today’s wild wandering… Photo: Paul Kirtley
Wild Wanderings is a series of photoblogs of elements of nature which, having caught my eye while out and about, I want to share with you, the reader. These observations are typically related to tree and plant identification, animal tracks and sign and other aspects of natural history which pertain to bushcraft and survival skills.
These blogs do not usually contain much written explanation other than concise photo captions. This is intentional, as writing long descriptions, including background facts or a large amount of context, whether it be historical or contemporary, slows down the sharing of these images with you.
The aim is to publish Wild Wanderings photoblogs quickly without their production getting in the way of being timely – particularly important when the blogs contain seasonal aspects.
The following photographs were taken while out on a day walk in County Durham, in the North East of England on 30 April 2016.
Spring Is Finally Springing
Ground elder, Aegopodium podagraria, is probably at its fresh, tasty best at this stage of growth. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Fresh leaves of raspberry, Rubus idaeus, ready for a herbal tea. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The seed heads of last year’s Rosebay Willow-herb, a.k.a. Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium, can be used in fire-lighting. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Jack-by-the-hedge, Alliaria petiolata, about to flower but tasty eating right now. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A sycamore bud bursting colourfully. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The remains of cleavers or goose grass from last year, suspended on a barbed wire fence. This makes good tinder bundles when dry as well as historically having been used to stuff mattresses and pillows. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Elder, Sambucus nigra, is only just coming into leaf here. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The very young leaves of Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, made a tasty, fresh and somewhat fruity snack. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Gorse in full bloom, resplendent in the Spring sunshine. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A rosehip persisting on a wild rose. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Some agressive looking stems on this rose… Photo: Paul Kirtley
A bank of wild garlic, Allium ursinum. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Wild garlic, Allium ursinum, leaves and flower bud. The flower buds are packed with flavour but don’t make your eyes water! Photo: Paul Kirtley
I saw many primroses on this walk, all of them beautiful but I particularly liked those which were growing out of the stream bank. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Water mint, Mentha aquatica, leaves forming from rhizomes clearly visible in the water. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A lush mat of opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, Chrysoplenium oppositifolium, on the edge of a stream. This is a tasty, fresh and juicy salad plant. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The golden flowers of opposite-leaved golden saxifrage. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The inforescence of Moschatel, Adoxa moschatellina
A foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, developing strongly on the side of the stream, as well as more opposite-leaved golden saxifrage. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A fresh new shoot of cleaves, Galium aparine. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Chickweed, Stellaria media, makes for a fresh, tasty salad ingredient. It also has some saponin content, which makes it a useful source of natural soap. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The blossom of cherry plum, Prunus cerasifera. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Here be the leaves of pignut, Conopodium majus. Always a great find. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Once I got my eye in properly, I could see hundreds of pignut plants in this area. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Rabbits are coming through the fence here and you can see the hop spots clearly too. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Man Tracking Action
The last photo in the section above indicates how you can learn to interpret the tracks and signs left behind by animals.
Today I was walking in an area very few people go to. While wandering to see what trees and plants I could see as well as observe their stage of development, I spotted some sign of someone having walked through the grass then along one of the trails used by deer and sheep in the area.
At first there was some flattened grass, which also shone in the spring sunshine. Then I found a partial print. I followed the spoor and found more prints in a muddy area, which I continued to follow along more grass and other vegetation. This led to an area of meandering stream, which the person crossed several times. My overall impression was that this was a tall, relatively sprightly male. Below are a selection of photos from this little bit of trailing fun…
Flattened vegetation indicates the passing of a person. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A boot tread and crushed vegetation visible here. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Clear footprints in the soft damp mud, heading in the direction of a shallow patch of the stream. A classic track trap. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Wet mud transferred onto a rock used a stepping across a stream. Photo: Paul Kirtley
There are multiple clues to someone having passed through this area relatively recently, including crushed vegetation and mud transfer. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Mud transferred from the sole of a boot to the moss on this exposed root. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Mud transferred from a boot onto an exposed root by the side of the stream. Photo: Paul Kirtley
There is dried mud transfer from a boot on the rock in the centre of this photo. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Roe Deer Tracks And Sign
I followed the man’s trail for a little longer until he hit a boundary and looped back in the general direction from which he came.
I continued on my wandering and came to a tree under which I spotted multiple bird droppings. This is always a good sign of a perch or a roost. As I stepped back to look up, a buzzard flapped through the vegetation of the upper branches.
Nearby was an area of lush grass and low gorse bushes. I could see some light disturbance in the grass – something “up” with the natural uniformity of the colour/shade.
As I grew closer I could see there was some regularity to the disturbance. I followed this with my eyes and then noticed a flattened area of grass the size and shape of a roe deer, Capreolus capreolus…
The impression of a roe deer left in the grass. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Here you can see the individual footsteps of a deer in the grass, with its direction of travel clearly indicated by the grass being pushed forwards and down. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The trail up to another deer lay can be seen here as colour change and disturbance in the grass. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Where a deer has layed down – to rest and probably chew cud – the grass has been flattened. Photo: Paul Kirtley
A roe deer has laid here in the shadow of this gorse bush. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Here you can see a roe deer hair in the grass on which it has rested. Photo: Paul Kirtley
The first hair extracted from the deer lay was long and the reddish summer colouration of roe deer was visible. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Wiggly deer hairs in the grass, where it was sitting. Photo: Paul Kirtley
One of the more wiry, wiggly hairs from a roe deer. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Wet dropping in the grass. Photo: Paul Kirtley
Today’s walk was immersive and engaging, enhanced by the brilliant Spring sunshine. I did have a few rain and hail showers but it did not detract one bit from the walk. In fact, the April showers added to the enjoyment. I can’t capture birdsong with photographs but if I could it would be a technicolour show. There were a multitude of songbirds singing their hearts out from the safety of the hawthorns and willows that lined the little valley which was home to the stream and many of the plants I saw today. It’s a great time of year to be out….
If you are interested, the photos were taken with a Nikon D800 and a number of lenses including the very good Nikkor 50mm f1.8 AF-S but mainly the excellent Nikkor 60mm f2.8 AF-S Micro.
Related Material On Paul Kirtley’s Blog
If you’d like to learn more about the species mentioned in the above photoblog, then the following material here on my website will help deepen your knowledge and understanding…
How To Tell The Difference Between Chickweed and Yellow Pimpernell
Primrose, Primula vulgaris: Wild food?
Conopodium majus: Pignuts and How to Forage for them
Rosebay Willowherb: Taking The Pith
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Paul Kirtley is an award-winning professional bushcraft instructor. He is passionate about nature and wilderness travel. In addition to writing this blog Paul owns and runs Frontier Bushcraft
, a wilderness bushcraft school, offering bushcraft courses and wilderness expeditions.