Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bluebells and beech leaves

Beech woodland covers a large part of the Chiltern hills, producing dense shade when the trees are in leaf. This means many of the woodland spring flowers have to bloom early, before the leaves appear, making the most of the sunlight that's temporarily available. One of the most widely anticipated of these is the bluebell, which puts on a stunning show in late April to May. Mother nature has to time this spectacle to perfection each year, covering the woodland floor in blue flowers just before the beech leaves appear and block out the sunlight.

Bluebells cover the woodland floor and the first beech leaves shine bright
green through the bare woods
During a walk through the Sculpture Trail this morning we witnessed this fine balancing act for ourselves. The bluebells were starting to bloom and within a couple of weeks will be a thick blue carpet on the woodland floor. At the same time the first of the beech leaves had started to appear like lime green spotlights in the gloomy bare woods.
The first beech leaves appear lime green on the smaller trees and lower branches

Blue buds are starting to appear across the floor of the woods

The blooms will appear and fade, just as the beech leaves
open and take over.
The wood anemones are another of the spring blooms making the most of the sunshine, shining like little stars in the dappled sunlight.
Wood anemone
We found some wild spurge growing and the ferns are starting to uncurl out of the leaf litter like strange spiky monsters. There were also huge numbers of foxgloves, which should put on a wonderful show later in the summer.
Wild spurge

Wild spurge
Ferns uncurling

There are lots of foxgloves this year
When we got to the bottom of the trail we reached a boundary with one of the local Getty estates , which was the initial release site for the Red Kites when they were re-introduced to the Chilterns 25 years ago. A herd of deer were grazing in the valley below us.

We found fir cones that had been chewed by the squirrels, as well a sweetcorn cob that they must have stolen from one of the local fields last summer.

Fir cones chewed by the squirrels

They've been enjoying the sweetcorn too
We walked back up the trail, through some tall conifer trees that were alive with all sorts of twittering and chirping. The trees were very tall though and it was hard to spot the birds. We did see a couple of nuthatches and a pair of coal tits and there were plenty of red kites overhead.

The trail through the trees

One of the nuthatches peeping around the tree trunk

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