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Rest in peace number 54

RIP number 54

This is the third year I’ve attended Paul Darby’s excellent Identifying Trees in Winter course at Ravensroost Wood and thankfully this time the weather was more kind to us. A male buzzard was clearly enjoying the sunshine, wheeling up into the clear blue to put on a spirited if early mating display. Gazing through yellow catkins we did our best to see if buds on twigs were opposite or alternate, whether the texture of bark was smooth or fissured, whilst the keener amongst us scrawled down notes or made quick sketches as an aide-mémoire. All this accompanied by a proper woodland soundtrack of nuthatch, coal tit, song thrush, spotted woodpecker and a tawny owl still up from a night terrorising voles. There were one or two trees I couldn’t identify, Wych Elm and Goat Willow, but overall I was pleased I had remembered far more than I had forgotten.

Afterwards I went searching for the eggs of the declining Brown Hairstreak butterfly Thecla betulae. The white, pin-sized, sea urchin-shaped eggs are quite conspicuous against the dark bark of blackthorn and are usually laid singly right in the nook where a side branch leaves the main stem. It can be hard work though as they can be found anywhere from almost ground level to three feet or even higher. Luckily I found a few in a nice sunny spot which I marked by tying a bit of twine around the stem. Unfortunately these overwintering eggs can be vulnerable to hedge-trimming since they are laid on the youngest growth. These looked safe enough though, subject to surviving predators so I’ll pop back in early May to see if I can find any caterpillars.

How sad then the brutal contrast of the picture above. Finally work has started on the waste ground behind where I live. In the past week or so virtually all the trees have been cut down. The site now a Somme-like tragedy of stumps and amputated limbs. A few minutes is all it took for the metal teeth of a chainsaw to end this Cherry’s life. Its final epitath, a blood-like number graffitied onto it from a spray can.

Rest in peace number 54.

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