May in the Forest

With each passing day there are new delights as the year progresses now towards summer. May blossom decorates the hedgerows, taking its turn from the blackthorn and damson of last month. The white flowers are tinged with the softest pink and have a heady aroma which passing insects won’t fail to notice.

Early May is the usual time for ‘Dawn chorus walks’, where dedicated people leave their beds ridiculously early (sunrise is at 5.30am at the beginning of the month and 4.50am by the end) to be rewarded with the delicate and varied offerings of our songbirds as the grey woods emerge into the dawn.

Many songbird species are in trouble, lacking feeding grounds free of pesticide sprays and nesting sites undisturbed by agriculture or recreational activities (that’s us with our feet, dogs and mountain bikes). The Forestry Commission aims to cater for the public’s recreational and educational needs mainly at the Callow Hill site, and by doing so in one area of the forest to minimise any damage to more sensitive areas. There has been talk recently of attempting to reintroduce, or attract, the nightjar back into the Wyre Forest. Its strange, churring call used to be heard around the heathlands of the forest at night – it is a nocturnal hunter with a wide, whiskered mouth adapted to catching flying insects. Well-managed heaths are reappearing, but the bird also needs to be free from disturbance to its ground level nesting sites. Like the woodcock, it relies on its superb camouflage to evade predators. Wouldn’t it be fine if we could again listen out for this mysterious bird when it arrives from Africa in May?

Regular Health Walks continue to meet at the Forest Cafe at 10.30am on Tuesdays or Sundays to register before the 11am walk. These walks are led by volunteers and there is no charge. Forest Friends meet at 10am each Thursday for an hour of forest activities for pre-school children and their carers. On the first Thursday of the month this is led by the Discovery Centre team and on 1st May they will be inviting participation by ‘Forest Fairies’! (See www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-6frek4 for the themes for other months). Forest School practitioners from“Step-Up” will run play-based sessions on the other Thursdays. There is a charge of £3 per child (plus £1 for other participating siblings).

Thankyou, by the way, to the person who commented on the appearance of the new pond at the Discovery Centre to my fellow-volunteer, Val. Many are the hours we have spent planting aquatic and marginal plants, removing duckweed and minimising the effects of unwelcome inputs from the water treatment system, so it was good to know that someone had noticed! I’m glad to say that the amphibious forest residents have noticed too.

Linda Iles