Walk report: 04 April 2109 Anderwood

Larch flowers

The first walk of the spring and summer season turned out to be the coldest wettest day for weeks. The weather did not deter 16 hardy members who met at Anderwood for a woodland walk. Spring is definitely in the air and many trees are budding much earlier than usual. We found Oak catkins which seem to be much earlier than usual, male and female Larch flowers, the females ready to become this year’s cones, and Birches already coming into leaf, everything looking very fresh in the rain.

The recent wind had brought down a lot of branches with lichens on them, including Parmelia caperata, Evernia prunastri, and Usnea subfloridiana, a long trailing lichen rather reminiscent of Spanish Moss. The unpolluted air of the New Forest makes it a very valuable habitat for many species of lichen, a fascinating organism which is a combination of a fungus and algae. The fungus part provides the structure while the algae contains chlorophyll and photosyntheses producing food for the lichen. The rain suited the mosses as well. Among the species identified were Leucobrium glaucum, Polytrichum commune, Thuiudium tamariscinium, Sphagnum sp and Dicranum majus.
 We took our biscuit break (chocolate Hobnobs) in the shelter of the Eagle Oak, one of the ancient trees of the New Forest. It may be around 400 years old, possibly older, and has a circumference of 5.4metres. It is noteworthy as being the place where the last White-tailed Eagle was shot by a Forest keeper in around 1810. (This week I read that White-tailed Eagles are to be reintroduced on the Isle of Wight, so we may see them again in the Forest before too long.)

The Eagle Oak and neighbouring Yew trees
Common Dog-violets were flowering on the ride edges, and Male and Hard Ferns were seen by the ditches. A large flock of Chaffinches flew up from the ground, probably feeding on the last of the Beech nuts. Among the birds heard were Song Thrush, Wren and Great Spotted Woodpecker. AM

Photographs © Richard Coomber