The four seasons

Four seasons of woodland flora & fauna by Tony Brown

Tony Brown gave a fascinating talk making us aware of the inter- relationship between all living organisms. Although there appears to be little to see in the Winter life is still very active from the fungi busy weaving its web of mycelium underground to the hibernating plants and woodland creatures who still need to forage for food. The trees although appear to be lifeless already have the buds present waiting for Spring. The wintering birds and animals are working hard to find food and are still able to find hidden insects, berries, nuts and worms under the leaf litter.

Spring is an explosion of life and with the unfurling of the leaves comes all the caterpillars and various insects that eat the young leaves and lay their eggs. These insects and caterpillars become the mainstay for birds to feed their young so the timing has to be just right. Some creatures such as the squirrel don’t fare so well as food is scarce for them, all the nuts having been exhausted. The plants too are in a rush to flower and provide nectar for the bees, the trees also flower, providing another source of pollen, and of nest sites with plenty of cover for the birds, many who have migrated from afar to join us and breed for the summer, enchanting us with their songs. Not forgetting the amphibians, newts, frogs and toads who make use of water sources to lay there eggs and spawn.

Summer is a quieter time young birds have fledged and some like the adult cuckoo have returned to Africa although the swallows are still about fattening up on all the insects before their marathon journey. The trees are no longer looking so fresh but are showing signs of the creatures that used them for food and laid their eggs, their offspring munching away at the leaves, or like the oak be host to the gall mite. Many of the flowering plants have started to set seed and the grasses are full of pollen and the tadpoles have turned into froglets and left the ponds. Not forgetting the butterflies many of whom will be second generation, and the main sound to be heard is the lazy droning of the bees,

Autumn is the time of mellow fruitfulness when there is an abundance of food, nuts and berries of all different types suiting different species of birds and animals. Towards the end of Autumn trees start to lose their chlorophyll and show their amazing colours. Our visiting birds migrate back to where they came from the youngsters amazingly following later. This is the time for fungi to take to the stage with many different forms of fruiting bodies of all shapes and sizes to be found in the woodland, although this is only a very small part of them, the rest forming huge mats underground helping trees and plants to take up nutrients and forming symbiotic relationships as well as helping to rot down fallen and diseased timber. Gradually all the leaves fall off the trees and the floor of the wood is carpeted with their lovely colours, these in turn will rot down with the help of the fungus and provide nutrients for next year.

As usual Tony gave us a fascinating picture of the seasons in the wood.

PHOTO BY: Sheila Pettett
Gardening Club in Lowestoft

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