Springtime in the woodland
Spring is a glorious time of the year. The shackles of cold, biting winter mornings feel as though they are lifting and driving home in darkness becomes a thing of the past.
The woods here at Nymans awaken from their dormant slumber and we see the first catkins, blossom, leaf buds and wildflower shoots emerging - the very essence of spring.
Springtime wild flowers
The woods become awash with colour casting hues of white, blue, purple and yellow. First come primroses, wood anemones, wild daffodils and lesser celandine, then violets and early purple orchids, then later still, swathes of bluebells. Wild flowers race to bloom before the trees come into leaf, attracting sleepy insects which in turn attract a multitude of busy birds full of song.
This patchwork of species spreads across the woodland in a wave of uplifing colour, as sunlight filters through canopy and hits the woodland floor. As we walk through the woodland we step carefully around fresh shoots for fear of crushing them.
Bluebells are an indicator species for ancient woodlands and provide a great source of nectar to a host of insect species including butterflies, bees and hoverflies. In the woodland bluebells have been springing up daily, beginning to form a gorgeous blue carpet that undulates across the woodland floor, so much so that we have to careful not to inadvertently crush them underfoot.
- An interesting fact about bluebells is that bees can steal the nectar from the plant by biting a hole in the flower at its base to reach the nectar without actually pollinating the flower.
- Bluebell plants are poisonous if ingested as they contain glycosides.
- Folklore about the bluebell says if you hear the bluebell ring this means an imminent death.
- English bluebells are being threatened by the Spanish bluebell, although thankfully not in Sussex. The two species are hybridising which is seeing a decline in our native English species. A good way to tell the two species apart is that English bluebells have white or cream pollen and the Spanish ones have pollen that is either green or blue.
The birds are fantastic at this time of year, they chirp with gusto and vigour perched on high branches trying to attract a mate. As the weather gets warmer birds start their nesting to make the most of the food supplies. Some species will even manage to have two broods if the first nest fledges early enough.
The drumming of the woodpecker...
Keep your eyes peeled and ears tuned in for our more common and rare birds. You may spot: great tits, blue tits, robins and blackbirds. Also look out for nuthatches, tree creepers, jays, wrens, chiff chaffs, black caps and chaffinches. Listen too for the drumming of the greater spotted woodpecker and the keening of buzzards that have been spotted regularly, circling effortlessly above the woods.