There isn’t a lot of news. It has been quite dry the last few days but bitterly cold.
Yesterday we had a clear blue sky so Fizz and I went off to count the sheep. They were in the top field and the wind was whipping across that field. I had to retreat, I was almost crying it was so cold.
It’s been cold, that’s what I am trying to tell you 🙂
So.. Fizz and I went down Badger Alley to look for plant life, it is quite sheltered there.
Primroses would have been nice.
Primroses will be nice but just not yet.
This is just the way that it is this year, it is cold. The Primroses were in flower here and I was photographing them on the third of February last year and the Red Dead-nettle. We are running a little late this year because of the crisp winter days but I probably prefer this to the rain.
No I don’t, I am just not big on winter, whatever it is like 🙂
One reason for going up there was to find Wood Spurge. When I wrote about it the other day I didn’t have pictures of the milky irritant sap and they should be quite easy to get.
I found the Spurge easily enough but I couldn’t get much sap out of it, I maybe need to try this on a warmer day. This will have to do for now.
Oh yes, and we looked at the catkins again.
Just for the record here is a photograph taken yesterday on the farm. This is what a Hazel tree’s man bits look like when it is bitterly cold. (Poor thing)
It is much more sheltered down here and they are beginning to open.
The most interesting thing that we found was signs that the Badgers were getting active.
Badgers don’t hibernate but they usually spend December and January underground, living off their fat, all cuddled up together, warm and cosy.
We saw quite a lot of fresh snuffle holes and evidence of straw gathering and some fresh digging.
So if these babies are active then maybe it is time to go and look for our own Badgers.
This is the main sett. It isn’t the best place to try and film Badgers, it is on public land and it is quite confined. I would prefer to film the Badgers on the farm.
Patch was beaten up and kicked out of this sett last year because he wanted to have a go at making baby Badgers. He was joined by two other Badgers and I am hoping that at least one of those was female and that we will have cubs on the farm.
But I don’t know where they are!
Come on Puppy, let’s go Badger hunting.
Have I mentioned that it is cold on the farm? At least the mud is clean 🙂
The hedges have all been trimmed. It is a job done by machine and it looks pretty brutal but the wounds will heal quickly in the spring.
This hedgerow is a good mix of Hazel, Willow, Holly, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It is not particularly unique but I am concerned for the Elm trees as I survey the wreckage.
It is necessary work to protect the sheep who were getting caught up in the brambles.
Fizz and I searched all around the hedgerow looking for signs of Badger activity. There are three setts on the farm that they used last year, the first two were obviously empty.
The third one is a possibility, can you see what I see.
Why is this broken grass outside of the entrance? Because Badgers collect straw for bedding? It is a possibility.
It’s okay, I am a Big Game Hunter, I’m supposed to see these things.
So we went off and found a nice patch of dried grass, gathered some up and put it outside of the sett.
I am not nuts, I have done this before 🙂
I have left the camera watching the sett. I would be so pleased to find them here. Badger cubs are born in February (they won’t come out of the sett until May) wherever the Badgers are now, that is probably where any cubs will be born. Be here.
Now I suppose that you would like to play ball?
Might as well look for fleas while I’m here.
Fizz would like everyone to know that she hasn’t got fleas.Today’s flower is Elder because there is an association with Badger Setts and Elder, The Badgers like the berries and you will often find it growing around old setts.
OH! I nearly forgot to tell you that the Elm trees were all right, the maniac hedge trimmer didn’t go up that far 🙂
Sambucus nigra, The Elder Tree
Sambucus nigra, the European Elder also known as the Black Elder or Elderberry. This small tree is as well known for it’s purple/black fruit as for it’s froth of white flowers.
It is one of the first trees to come into leaf with new leaves appearing in early March.
The leaves are made up of five and sometimes seven leaflets on a central stem, with opposite pairs and one at the tip of the stem. The leaflets are longer than they are wide and have a toothed edge.
This next picture is of one leaf, comprising and showing the arrangement of five leaflets. That is important to understand because a single leaflet or leaf, that is this shape would not indicate an Elder, each leaf is composed of five leaflets, sometimes seven and rarely nine.
The woody stem of Elder is also quite distinctive.
A fresh stem is usually covered in small pale warts, these are called lenticels. They are sometimes described as breathing pores and allow the tree to exchange gasses.
You will pretty much always see some branches marked with these distinctive lenticels on a live Elder.
Older bark becomes furrowed and the breathing pores are not noticeable then.
The Elder is a short lived tree, not more than about 60 years. It is also quite small and shrub like. I have read that it can attain a height of twenty feet or more but it is usually smaller than that.
Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an Elder tree. I think that this is unlikely, for hanging you really need a tree that is taller than you with sturdy horizontal branches, like an Oak or a Chestnut. It is more likely that this defamation by association is the work of the Christian Church in the battle against Paganism because the Elder once held great spiritual importance.
You wouldn’t have much luck, hanging yourself in one of these.
However the association stuck and the small jelly fungus that grows on the Elder became known as Judas’s Ear and later just Jew’s Ear.
It is now more often referred to as Jelly Ear or Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae.
A flower head may consist of several hundred small flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite. Each flower has five white petals, five stamens tipped with yellow anthers and a style with three stigmas.
The flowers produce nectar and pollen and are much loved by Bumble Bees.
Too much sometimes….. (It is not dead, just too drunk to stand up)
When it is ripe the birds eat it.
The Elder is a valuable wildlife plant. It provides shelter for birds and forage for deer. Many small mammals (including Dormice) eat both the flowers and the fruit. It is a larval food plant for several British moths including the White Spotted Pug, Swallowtail, Dot Moth and Buff Ermine. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects and birds also eat the fruit.
Despite it’s reputation for Elderflower tea and fritters and Elderberry wine all of the green parts and the fruit are mildly poisonous to us. The fruit needs to be cooked before eating.
This tree is a member of the same family as the diminutive, green wildflower, Town Hall Clock (The Adoxaceae)
Species: Sambucus Nigra