About a dozen MKNHS members and others assembled at Linford Wood at 2.15pm on Sunday afternoon 15th April 2018 at Breckland, by the north-west entrance to the wood. The weather was warm but cloudy and rain arrived shortly before the walk finished. There had been a rush of plants coming into flower over the preceding week of warmer weather and the first migrant birds had arrived not many days before.
In 2017, the MKNHS visit to Linford Wood had been on a Tuesday evening more than three weeks later (5th May) so this daytime visit, earlier in the season, provided a very different view of the wood and its flora. Mike LeRoy gave a brief introduction which was set out more fully in three handouts: 1) a map of the whole wood and its compartments; 2) a background note about the history, ecology and management of the wood; and 3) a note of ‘What to look and listen for’.
The group walked together on an anti-clockwise route along the western and southern sides of the wood, past compartments 13 and 7a which have been extensively coppiced and thinned during the past winter. At the south-east corner, we headed back towards the centre of the wood and diverted briefly onto the western woodchip path to find Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia before heading back to Breckland along the main horse-riding path as a shower started.
The main questions the group focused on were:
1. What plant species are flowering?
2. Where do you see Dog-violets or other Violets?
3. What bird species can you hear calling?
4. What woodpecker sounds do you hear?
5. Which Bumblebee species do you see?
6. What Bee-fly species do you see hovering?
7. Which of the ponds can you see?
Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa had been in flower for a couple of weeks and there must have been tens of thousands to see, scattered throughout most of the wood. Although it was the most dominant plant in flower, there were also considerable numbers of Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis nemorosa still in flower alongside the paths. There were also still plenty of clumps of Primrose Primula vulgaris in flower in and among the trees and along the edges of the ditches. The delicate leaves of Pignut
Conopodium majus were seen in a few locations on ditch and path edges. Only a few Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta were beginning to show. Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria were still in flower, but Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea had yet to emerge and no flowering Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon were seen. The first few Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia were just emerging into leaf, but had not quite flowered. The group found a few clumps of Strawberry which turned out to be Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis (identified by Mary Sarre).
With the undergrowth yet to burst into full growth, Dog-violets and other Violets Viola spp. were more evident and found in small numbers through much of the wood. Most of the trees were barely into leaf so there were clear views well into the wood.
Although tree species were not a main focus of what we looked for, Mary Sarre noted at the edge of the wood near Breckland some Norway Maple Acer platanoides which flower with bright yellow-green flowers before they leaf and have been widely planted in Milton Keynes. Mike LeRoy mentioned Ash Fraxinus excelsior trees close to Breckland with their brief display of purplish-brown male flowers.
Aside from the permanent ponds, there were many areas of the wood with water lying on the surface. At one pond on the western side Martin Kincaid found Pond-skaters Gerris spp.
As we walked, we noticed numerous Bumblebees hunting low down within the vegetation rather than searching for nectar. Species seen included: Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius and Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Another insect present in many places was the Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major. Less common was the Hairy-footed Flower-bee Anthophora plumipes. In several places we found 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella septempunctata.
Sue & Andrew Hetherington led the recording of birds, almost entirely by calls and songs. In all they noted 17 species: Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Blackbird, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Jay and Magpie. Other species known to be sometimes present, but not seen or heard on this occasion, are: Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail and Stock Dove.
A week after our visit the Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta are out in profusion. The first Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea have emerged. A few stems of Yellow Archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon have been found, but are not quite in flower. And the first of the Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula are just emerging.
There are species of flower in Linford Wood worth looking for in mid-April and others that don’t tend to emerge until late April into May. The wood is worth visiting at both these times to see how the season is changing.
22nd April 2018