My Nature Journal

NJ #1    20.1.19

I decided on quite a whim that I was going to have a go at starting and keeping a nature journal. There is an inspiring person that I follow on Face book, Natasha Clark https://www.facebook.com/get.the.garden.girl , who spends lots of time in nature, absorbs it, photographs it and then write about it in the most enchanting way. She write how Nature Journaling brought her to her current place. As it looked into what Nature Journalling was I realised it was just what I was looking for to encourage me to spend more quiet time outside to breathe in my surroundings, observe and learn from it.

I chose early Sunday afternoon, 20th January to be the day. I was working with Maggie at our Into the Woods on Sundays family session in Queens Wood beforehand and it was the very place I wanted to start.

As I arrived at the entrance to the woods I listened and then recorded a bird song I didn’t know and realised I was already engaging with the woods differently.

 

Maggie was really supportive of my idea and suggested a spot for me to go do my first journal. I had forgotten the journal I had in mind to use so decided to improvise by speaking into recorder, drawing on the back of our participants list and I was away.

I throughly enjoyed sitting by an Oak tree in the basking sun on a very chilly day. I was drawn to Holly bush growing out of some stumps cut down so I sketched it and decided to find out more about Holly. I also wanted to find out more about Perakeets that I saw and heard above me. Both were researched and information is below.

When I find out about the tweet I heard first thing I will post that too.

The sound recording can be heard when you click on the picture of Holly below.....

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Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

 

Holly is an evergreen shrub with distinct spiked, glossy leaves. Here’s the most useful information I found about it from the Woodlands Trust website;

 

Common name: holly

Scientific name: Ilex aquifolium

Family: Aquifoliaceae

UK provenance: native

Interesting fact: the mistle thrush is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.

What does holly look like?

Overview: mature trees can grow up to 15m and live for 300 years. The bark is smooth and thin with numerous small, brown 'warts', and the stems are dark brown. 

Leaves: dark green, glossy and oval. Younger plants (like the ones in the photo) have spiky leaves, but the leaves of older trees are much more likely to be smooth. Leaves in the upper parts of the tree are also likely to be smooth.

Flowers: holly is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on different trees. Flowers are white with four petals.

Fruits: once pollinated by insects, female flowers develop into scarlet berries, which can remain on the tree throughout winter.

Look out for: it is easily identified by its bright red berries and shiny, leathery leaves that usually have spiny prickles on the edges.

Could be confused with: unlikely to be confused with anything although many cultivated and variegated varieties exist.

Identified in winter by: holly is evergreen so its leaves remain green year round.

Where to find holly

It is native in the UK and across Europe, north Africa and western Asia. It is commonly found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows, especially in oak and beech woodland. Popular as an ornamental shrub, holly is widely planted in parks and gardens, and there are many cultivated forms featuring alternative foliage and berry colours.

Value to wildlife

Holly provides dense cover and good nesting opportunities for birds, while its deep, dry leaf litter may be used by hedgehogs and small mammals for hibernation. 

The flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly, along with those of various moths including the yellow barred brindle, double-striped pug and the holly tortrix. The smooth leaves found at the tops of holly trees are a winter source of food for deer.

The berries are a vital source of food for birds in winter, and are also eaten by small mammals such as wood mice and dormice. 

Mythology and symbolism

Holly branches have long been used to decorate homes in winter. The tree was seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.

How we use holly

Holly wood is the whitest of all woods, and is heavy, hard and fine grained. It can be stained and polished and is used to make furniture or in engraving work. It is commonly used to make walking sticks. Holly wood also makes good firewood and burns with a strong heat.

Holly branches are still used to decorate homes and make wreaths at Christmas. 

Threats

Holly leaf miner may cause damage to foliage and holly leaf blight may cause dieback. 

Those Pesky Perakeets!

There was research on Britain’s booming ring necked parakeet population published in 2014 and it was found that they are pushing out the country’s other wildlife and threatening their numbers. The bird feeds on fruit, berries, nuts and seeds, a similar diet to many other species.

The research, by academics from Imperial College London, the Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum, involved monitoring the feeding habits of garden birds, and found they ate less in the presence of the large, dominant, gregarious parakeets, and stayed away from spots where they saw them. Although they are not aggressive, their noisy, squawky behaviour and large size, makes the smaller birds wary and keen to avoid them.

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