Last Sunday, 17thFebruary, we had our second outdoor meeting of the year, an amble through Little Linford Wood to look for (very) early signs of Spring.
Little Linford Wood is a site very familiar to most members of MKNHS. Birders and botanists know if as a good site for woodland rarities and it has been the focus for the North Bucks Dormouse Group since a population was introduced there in 2000. Our Phil Sarre has been BBOWT’s volunteer manager for the wood for many years, leading work parties to carry out coppicing and other tasks throughout the year. We were fortunate that Phil was able to show us around on this warm and sunny February day although sadly Mary was not feeling up to joining him, having overdone the gardening!
Phil began by describing the wood’s changing fortunes down the years. Although ancient woodland, there are very few ancient trees present as much of the wood was clear felled in 1984. Fortunately, BBOWT were able to buy it up and re-planted the wood in the 1990s. For the most part, we avoided the main rides (which were quite busy with the glorious weather) and instead went into the woodland blocks, where Phil showed us some very impressive old ash stools. About fifteen feet up in one mature ash was a splendid epiphytic Fern Gymnocarpium spp.(See Photo).. Underfoot were thousands of Bluebells spiking through the leaf litter and a few Primroses had begun to flower.
There was plenty of birdsong to listen to and Harry Appleyard did his best to separate Marsh Tit song from the impersonations made by Great Tits! It took a while, but eventually we got to hear and see a marsh tit, flitting between oaks down the main ride. Other birds heard included Fieldfares overhead, Song Thrush, Blue Tit, Robin, Goldcrest, Tree-creeper and Nuthatch. Excitingly, there had been a rare sighting of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker the previous Friday and several of us were listening out for drumming woodpeckers all morning. Surprisingly, the entire walk was woodpecker-free.
We also saw a new pond which has recently been excavated as part of the new regional Great Crested Newt conservation scheme. The established pond near the heart of the wood looked good but there was no frogspawn apparent just yet. The final leg of the walk along the nature trail caused excitement when a Woodcock was flushed and shot through the cover, triggering songbirds to call out in alarm. We saw more Marsh Tits along this route and Phil showed us an area that had been coppiced recently with abundant Primroses. At the far end of the nature trail, Martin had a look for the early rosettes of Herb-Paris. None to be seen, but lots of the attractive heart shaped leaves of Wood Sorrel were found.
A final treat, spotted by Harry back at the car park, was a beautiful Peacock butterfly which settled on the ground allowing close viewing. For most of us, this was the first butterfly we had seen this year and was a fitting end to what had been a delightful spring walk. Many thanks to Phil and Mary for including it in the diary.
Text by Martin Kincaid
Marsh Tit Photo by Harry Appleyard
Epiphytic Fern by Julian Lambley