Duncan’s annual visit to Holystone happened today. The visit is to take a student group around the Holystone Burn nature reserve area and it is a great opportunity to get an idea of the progress of spring. Despite a warm March and predictions of a very early season it seems that the cold, dull and damp weather of April has actually set things back again. Last year the oak buds had burst but a frost had browned them off again. This year the buds, for the most part, were still firmly closed. Last year there were big changes at the Yardhope Oaks resulting from snow damage, this year’s almost snow free winter has caused no problems. The wood ants were out and about as usual but were somewhat less active than in previous years. Last year’s account can be found here.
In the neighbouring Holystone North Wood the early spring flowers were out; dog violet, primrose and wood sorrel. This upland site isn’t particularly rich in woodland plants but is a great piece of oak-birch woodland. An area was fenced off to protect it from deer about 12 years ago to see if it made a difference to the regeneration of trees. The experiment seems to have worked with patches of birch and rowan clustering around areas where there is a break in the canopy of oaks; outside the fence there are few young trees. Regeneration of the oaks hasn’t happened but this is only to be expected, the faster colonisers have arrived first. Amongst the birch and rowan were also a few tiny holly, all valuable additions to the structure of the woodland into the future.
Many of the woodland birds were busy, pairs of great tit, robin and wren were to be seen and a cuckoo was calling nearby. In the adjacent conifers was a pair of tiny goldcrests making a lot of high-pitched noise.