Breathing in ancient woodland

, 18 November 2020
Breathing in ancient woodland
Ebernoe Common © Nigel Symington

As I lie in my favourite haunt at Ebernoe Common, I take a deep breath. A morning of bird surveys can be stressful. Especially when there are what seem to be thousands of Linnets and Whitethroats singing out of every Bramble thicket requiring space on my field map. But the fragranced, humid air is cool and refreshing and feels as though it rises directly from my nostrils to my brain banishing the fog that had settled earlier.

It's still early in the morning and the sun is yet to reach the apex of its journey but the light and the heat are beginning to stir life in the glade. Beams that are focussed by the Oak and Wild Service leaves highlight the rising vapour from the morning dew and an insect’s wings glint as it searches for nectar. The Redstart’s cheerful song continues and the throng is augmented by the local Nuthatches, Blackcaps and Goldcrests.

It’s warming up now and the cool yellow of early morning turns to golden green. A papery Wood White floats slowly past; on a day like today, he becomes the ultimate romantic, forgoing food in search of love. The Oak leaves of the lowest overhanging branch are yet to take their dark and waxy tone of late summer and a corn-coloured Carrion Beetle Dendroxena quadrimaculata clambers along a twig searching for caterpillars.

As the sun enters my eye line I begin to feel better so I roll over on to my elbow to warm my back. Beyond the buttress of an Oak behemoth are the yellow rockets of Greater Butterfly Orchid ready for lift off. The neon green new growth of Wood Spurge contrasts with the earthy brown humus behind. A slight movement catches my eye and the architect of my headrest, a clay monolith covered in grass, crawls over my thumb and up my arm. The Yellow Meadow Ant is diminutive and the large nests indicative of a landscape left undisturbed for decades.

I follow its journey back to the nest where it manages to find one of the nest entrances beneath some loose dirt. Feeling slightly guilty I press my hands in to the ground to stand up and feel the cool damp soil on my fingertips. I consider the many thousands of microscopic mycelium that cast and underground net by fungi yet to show themselves, but it threatens to overwhelm my recently rested brain so I free my hands from their embrace and wander in to the darkness of the Holly.

Ancient Woodland Appeal

We have an amazing opportunity to extend our nature reserve at Ebernoe Common, but we need to act now.

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