We have reached the equinox. A year ago it was a mini heat-wave: this year winter seems here to stay. A trip out to Holystone today to begin a survey of the Junipers was cancelled as the snow piled in from the east, settling and accumulating on higher ground. So as not to waste the journey a brief visit was made instead to one of Northumberland Wildlife Trusts smaller reserves, Goose’s Nest Bluebell Bank. As the name would suggest this will become a swathe of blue by mid to late May but today it was white.
The bank forms a steep side of the valley of the Ray Burn, its north and east facing slopes help delay the bluebell blooming even longer than other local sites. The scattering of trees, mostly birch and rowan, make this a very open woodland with bracken providing a surrogate summer canopy which helps the bluebells do well. There is no public access to this site, instead visitors are encouraged to admire the bluebells from the nearby road but a site check today was a useful use of the aborted journey. It seems that rabbit numbers have dropped significantly allowing some new trees to reach a good size. There was actually little sign of life on the site, just a few pheasant tracks. A calling curlew and some new lambs in the adjacent field was a reminder of the slowly arriving spring.
The trees on the site are festooned with lichens, the small clumps of Evernia prunastri were today encrusted with snow and ice. Below the trees most plant life was buried under the snow but some small spore capsules of moss were bravely defying the cold, their seeming delicacy proving to be a false perception as they stood upright and alone through the icy layer.