This is the second in my Wild Wanderings series of photoblogs. The idea is to share elements of nature which, having caught my eye while out and about and to do this quickly after the fact, with minimal fuss in terms of my having to write lots of explanatory text (which often gets in the way of me publishing an article at all). The observations in these photoblogs 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.
As mentioned above, these blogs do not usually contain much written explanation other than concise photo captions. This is intentional, as writing long descriptions, including background facts, additional information, extensive identification features, descriptions of uses, or a large amount of context, whether it be historical or contemporary, slows down – or even precludes – the sharing of these images with you.
The following photographs were taken while out on a varied 12 mile (19 km) day hike in County Durham, in the North East of England on 8 May 2016.
Signs Of Life Everywhere
If you know where to look there are plenty of signs of wildlife, particularly deer, in these parts. The woods I was walking through in the first part of my hike are largely mixed broadleaf deciduous, containing hazel, wych elm, ash, sycamore, birch, beech, oaks, willows, bird cherry, wild cherry. There is also a smattering of yew trees. On a sunny spring day such as today with the trees only starting to come into leaf, there is plenty of sunshine reaching the forest floor and the spring plants take full advantage of this light. What’s interesting this year, however, is that many of these spring plants all seem to be bunched together. There is often a succession with some plants such as wood anemones and celandines showing quite early, giving way to primroses, violets and stitchwort and wood sorrel, later being caught up by bluebells and followed by red campions. This year, everything seems to be out and flowering at once…
The Trees Are Not Far Behind
All the trees not already doing so, are either coming into leaf or showing signs they are about to imminently. Many trees flower not longer after they come into leaf. They work fast. Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, seen on this walk was about to come into blossom and has probably done so by the time of writing. Fellow member of the Rosaceae, Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia, was also developing flowers. While the Sun will be getting higher for another six weeks or so and getting stronger day by day, the forest floor will soon be getting more shady. You can see why the plants all make a rush for it in the early part of Spring. And for the likes of blackthorn, Prunus spinosa, which blossoms first, it is also coming into leaf.
Life On The Margins
On the edge of the woods, there is lots going on too…
A Badger Latrine
The badger latrine was in relatively open country, rather than in woods. Indeed, this section of walk was through fields mostly. Later I re-entered some mixed birch and oak woods and I could see down to a section of the River Tees we had canoed a few days earlier.
The trail then led me down towards the river and a footbridge over it. Not long after the bridge were some young butterbur, Petasites hybridus, plants.
Back In The Woods
Being in the woods at this time of year is special. They have an energy, like they are about to pop. Or they are popping. Right now.
Where we run courses in the Sussex, we have a healthy population of bluebells and it has been great to be camped out most of April in bluebell woods seeing the plants develop day by day. When I headed north at the end of April, it was as if I’d jumped in a time machine. All the bluebells up here were weeks behind what I’d experienced in the south (which is also running late compared to the previous few years). So, it has been great to witness the bluebells emerging for a second time this Spring…
Crossing the river again, I hiked back up through the woods I’d passed through several hours before, for the first time in this hike retracing my steps. It’s largely a circular route but this section is the beginning/end which takes me back to the start. Going this way, getting a different perspective, I spotted a really good example of the outer bark of honeysuckle, which provides excellent material for birds-nest tinder bundles.
Not long after this, I was back into open fields again, some of which contained sheep, some of which were planted with rapeseed, Brassica napus. These have a very similar four-petalled flower structure to the Honesty, which I saw earlier (and which is included above). Indeed they are both in the cabbage family.
This was another great walk in the north east. Within a week there have been changes, which provide clear, visible signs that spring is progressing with pace (see Wild Wanderings 1 here).
If you are interested, the photos were taken with a Nikon D800 and a couple of lenses including the lovely, old school Nikon NIKKOR 28mm f/2.8 Lens 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…