Welcome to Prestwood Nature

We will soon be back doing our walks again!

Starting in October we hope to be able to hold two of the walks we normally do at this time of year,  and one we had to put off due to Corvid 19.

All will be held with proper social distancing according to procedures in force at the time.

All will require prior registration and more details will be given closer to the time.

Prestwood Nature Blog

The blog is still active and can be viewed by clicking here.   We need more entries, so if you would like to share your natural environment around us please send them to webmaster@prestwoodnature.org.

AGM 2020

We plan to hold our AGM as usual on the first Tuesday in November.

However,  it will not be possible to hold this in the Village Hall due to Corvid 19 restrictions so we plan to hold it virtually!

We will be using one of the video conferencing platforms and more details will be given closer to the time.

Bumblebees to look out for in September

by John Catton

Summer has come to an end and the colony has completed its lifecycle. The departure of the drones and next year’s queens signals its collapse. The queen and remaining workers die and the nest becomes a jumble of old pupal cocoons, droppings and other detritus which is recycled by wax moths and mites. It will not be used again.

In our changing (milder) climate it’s becoming more common for queens from those species with shorter life cycles (Garden, Early and Common Carder) to skip hibernation and start a second generation within the same summer. So, it is the queens from these later colonies which enter hibernation.

Here in the south of the country, some Buff-tailed bees take it a stage further, totally forsaking hibernation with queens founding third generation colonies which survive throughout the winter. So, it is not unusual to see bumblebees flying well into September and October.

Once she has sufficient fat reserves to see her through the winter, the queen will seek out a hibernation site. She will excavate a small chamber some 5-15cm deep on a north facing slope where she can withstand temperatures as low as -19°C. The north facing site has the advantages that the ground, unlike south facing locations, will not be warmed, the signal for her emergence, until spring has well and truly arrived and tend to be well drained, so limiting the possibility of flooding.

Plants to look out for in September

By Karen van Oostrum

An autumn bounty  

With temperatures and daylengths both now reducing, we can look forward to witnessing the myriad ways that plants disperse their seeds. Every year is different – just 2 years ago our local beechtrees produced an abundance of their hard, bristly fruits, such that every step taken in the woods was accompanied by a resounding ‘crunch’. Yet last year I struggled to find any. You hear of ‘good years’ and ‘bad years’ for certain fruits and seeds, and it is always exciting to see which plants will produce prolifically each year. Environmental factors such as the timing of frosts, the availability of water, the average temperature each month etc will all impact upon how well a plant does with its reproductive output.

Fruit and seed production is a costly affair in terms of the energy and resources required of the plant. There is anadaptive advantage for species that can co-ordinate their output and deliver bumper years’. In relation to our woodland trees such as beech and oak, these events are known as ‘mast years. This phenomenon is thought to benefit these species, because if more food is produced than its predators (‘frugivores’) can consume, then at least some will survive and go on to grow into new plants. It is most probably achieved as a result of certain genes present in the individuals of these species detecting specific environmental cues and then triggering (or not) fruit and seed production.

Once a plant has gone to the effort of producing a crop of seeds, it also needs to ensure their dispersal. Seed dispersal is important, as it reduces competition for resources such as light, space, water and minerals. Within the plant kingdom there are many different examples of dispersal mechanisms – detailed on the following pages. I provide several examples of species that display each method of dispersal, to help you with your plant hunting.

Rosehips and hawthorn berries are already conspicuous in our hedgerows this year, and I have a feeling that it will be a much better year for sloes than last year. So take some time to see what is developing, and to think about what measures each species takes to ensure the dispersal of its fruits.

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The Hampdens, The Kingshills, North Dean and Speen

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Prestwood Nature The Local Environment Group for the Prestwood Area