Wednesday, 4 May 2016
When it Will be Summer
It’s May, and starting to feel like Summer might be coming. The last few weeks seemed like they were colder than most of the Winter, but today the wood looks suddenly green and the sun is shining. I have for the past few years participated in the ‘Track a Tree’ project, and it is time for me to start recording the development of leaves on the particular tree I document each year. It is an ash and has consistently been one of the last trees to come into leaf over the last three years. Sycamores are in full leaf, as are hawthorns. Blackthorns, which usually flower before they leaf, seem to be doing the two things simultaneously this year. Oaks have come into leaf, though they still have that yellow-brown colour of their early leaves before the chlorophyll masks it with green. But the ash buds are still closed, big and black but unburst. Gazing up into the canopy for any sign of leafage all I can see is what looks like the first flowers which are easily missed and come before the leaves. I also need to record any flowering plants around the tree. Although this wood is always good for bluebells, there have never been any around this tree, but this year there are, as elsewhere in the wood the bluebells seem to be spreading from the swathes of them on the slopes to other areas. A little further along there are wood anemones, but not near enough to the tree to be recorded.
The tree is high up on the ridge at the top of the wood. Following the path along the ridge I look out for a kite’s nest that is visible in the top of one of the trees growing from the bottom of the steep slope, so the path is more or less level with the upper branches of the tree. The nest is there and when I train my binoculars on it I see the kite sitting on it, head turned towards me so that the beak is in profile. I watch for a while then go along the path to a seat surrounded by bluebells. Sitting in it I can see right across the valley and I spend a little time doing just that. The hammering sound of a woodpecker echoes through the trees then stops. A little later I see the bird flash through the trees below me. Is it now Summer? Not quite. When the ash buds open it will be, and that cannot be very long in coming. So I’ll come back to the wood every few days to record the bud burst, the partially and then the fully opened leaves, by which time the canopy of the other trees will have fully developed and I’ll be lucky to get site of the kite’s nest. Then it will be Summer.