The past few days have seen the arrival of the first Bewick's swans of the season. They migrate here all the way from Siberia and come to enjoy the comfort of our relatively-warm winters!
This beautiful photo was captured by David Kjaer and is part of our RSPB Images photo library.
I’m a fan of a good tree. Any tree that draws attention will do, but a few nice ones are forest beech - smooth barked and massive, common oak - the classic ancient tree (a saying goes ‘they take 300 years to grow, 300 years to live and 300 years to die’) and scots pine - towering over UK woodland and evoking a vibe of primeval forest.
But my favourite is the humble birch (in particular silver-birch, or Betula pendula if you want to be posh). Compared to a 900 year old oak, these guys live fast and die young, normally lasting only 40-60 years. But they are the colonists, the brave pioneers on the bare soil of disturbed land, setting up shop in the wake of human destruction.
If you go to the New Forest or somewhere else with peat-bog or heathland you are likely to see these as the only trees. Their majestic white-silver trunks sprouting from the ground like an inverted lighting bolt, their ornate hanging leaves catching in the breeze (hence the Latin in the name ‘pendula’).
Their wind dispersed seed can make saplings a nuisance in habitats where people don’t want trees (like our own heath at the Lodge!), but they are an important part of some of our wilder habitats in the UK.
In Scotland they are sometimes called ‘moving forests’ because their tiny seeds germinate away from the prevailing wind and their fast growth means they can spread across open landscapes.
Birds that benefit from birch woodland include, pied flycatcher, wood warbler, redstart and black grouse, not to mention Scotland’s only breeding redwings.
So next time you see a big old oak or yew remember that while its sitting in one spot with its roots all comfy, generations of birch trees are transforming the countryside!
Does anyone have a favourite individual tree? I’d love to hear about it, even if you’re not sure what it is!
Maybe I watched too many cartoons as a kid but when I saw this I immediately imagined the fungus snapping off and the squirrel running in the air - Wile E Coyote style - before plummeting to an explosive landing. Anyone else?
What I really wanted to focus on was the fungi itself! These vital members of our forest ecosystems can sometimes be edible, but indiscriminate harvesting might be damaging their future prospects.
Keep an eye out for them in your local habitats and just enjoy them where they are; working hard to clean up after the dead trees and share nutrients with the living ones.
Andrew Parkinson took this picture, and it's definitely improved an otherwise dreary day. Have a perusal at RSPB-Images.com, we're always updating this library so if you've had a look before you might still be surprised.