Colours in the Carpet

I’ve listened to the wildwood, that song from the old times that still grows in wolf-filled corners of eastern Poland. Black woodpeckers drum there, and red squirrels dodge pine martens in trees that stretch towards the stars.

Dawn reduced 160417

Białowieża Forest is older than any human empire. It is the European Yellowstone: a wildlife metropolis that forms a benchmark of what the wilderness used to be. Nature is not a fixed condition – it is not so very long since huge areas of the continent were under ice – but in the current epoch, the natural climax vegetation of much of lowland Europe is forest.

In Britain, we have a type of Białowieża that exists in a thousand fragments. We call them ‘semi-natural ancient woodland’ which, technically, refers to any wood that appears on 17th century maps. They are not wilderness, and many have been coppiced for timber over the centuries, but they are nevertheless relatively natural and support an immense range of living things. For all intents and purposes, they are irreplaceable. You cannot knock down an old native wood and replace it with a few saplings; it will take hundreds of years to regain the same biodiversity. If it ever does.

Surrey’s wildlife-rich grasslands and heathlands are celebrated, but it is also Britain’s most wooded county – and much of it is ancient. The carpets give its age away.

English bluebells

Bluebell wood 25 Apr 20

…which can be white or pink

White on blue 25 Apr 20

Yellow pimpernel

Yellow pimpernel 25 Apr 20

Red campion

Red campion 25 Apr 20

And then, there is the music. Whatever is happening in the human world, the woods continue a conversation all their own.

23 thoughts on “Colours in the Carpet

    1. I went out at 5am to record that. It was very pretty but neither I nor my dog were very awake for the rest of the day! We used to often do 10km or so before breakfast but we seem to have slipped into afternoon walks these days.

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      1. You were probably right to record this in the very early morning. It seems to be choir time here too at first light. Later, I think the birds have a nap until evening – at least they’re too busy to sing, whatever else they’re doing.

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    1. Hi Tony, I’ve worked on a couple of scientific expeditions in eastern Europe but for Poland, it was a case of hearing about Bialowieza and deciding that I had to visit it. I have many times now, and it is a very special forest. It’s not hard to get there from the UK (well, in non-lockdown times) and every season is different. I think autumn is my favourite though.

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  1. Most of the times I enjoy being woken up by birds, which is quite usual at this time of year. The problem is that some of them start so early. There is a robin that start singing at 6:00, you can set up your clock when you hear it. Some finches are following. Then chickadees, but that early is just a lovey-dovey call, very pleasant, actually. And then northern flickers punching on anything metal 😀

    Was that a pheasant at the end?

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    1. Flicker as a dawn chorus – I had that experience while staying in a cabin in Jasper, and the noise it made! Incredible. It is good that you can hear so many species in Vancouver though.

      The bird at the end was a Eurasian jay, which will never win any musical awards but gives atmosphere to the woods 🙂

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  2. Adele, lovely post! The Bluebells are rampant in our garden right now. They do tend to take over, but are most wonderful while they last! I think I would prefer the music of the forest to most produced by man!

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    1. Hi Robin, it’s a full orchestra in the woods at this time of year!

      I suspect that yours may be Spanish bluebells, which look similar but are a different (and widely planted) species.

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  3. Enjoyed all this, the bird song, the white bluebells, I’m sure I’ve seen them. Going to google the Bialowieza forest today.

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