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Wildlife Garden blog

2 Posts tagged with the wildlife_garden_volunteers tag
1

The first flowers of the season are now bravely emerging - primrose, coltsfoot, wild daffodil and sweet violet - a welcome sign of spring and a reward for the hours spent raking plane tree leaves! These plants would have been submerged below thick piles of plane tree leaf litter, had we not removed the plane leaves last autumn - one of the tasks described by Nicky in the second part of her year in the life of a Wildlife Garden volunteer:

 

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Wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, on 22nd February

Image © Jonathan Jackson

 

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Sweet violet, Viola odorata, on 22nd February

Image © Jonathan Jackson

 

“As autumn arrives, the Wildlife Garden closes in October to the public to enable vital maintenance work to take place. The sheep are here grazing the meadow, and people are often surprised to see them in central London. With waders on I help to clear the pond of overgrown plants, hoping I won’t fall in.


The Garden is surrounded by plane trees which are non-native and protected but, as the leaves start to fall, the huge job of raking and recycling the leaves begins. The light levels are low now, the air crisp and us happy band of volunteers set to work.

 

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A thick layer of plane tree litter in December!

Image © Derek Adams

 

 

As I rake carefully around the plants and gather up the leaves, the soil is exposed and I notice a little robin is watching me, pleased that an unlucky worm or two is to be had. I see something else move and go in to investigate, and find a frog that probably isn’t too pleased about being disturbed.

 

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A robin, Erithacus rubecula

Image © Phil Hurst

 

“Excuse me but could you tell me if the huge department store is this way?" Startled, I look up at the railings on the street, “Yes just keep walking and it’s on your right, you can’t miss it”. For a moment I had forgotten that I was in the centre of a major city. There is a constant hum of cars and sirens and chatter of people outside the fence around the Garden, yet I hardly notice it as there are too many other things to grab my attention.


The autumnal colours are wonderful, the bright yellow cherry tree leaves and the red and green spindle leaves with cerise coloured berries are magnificent. Is that a fox in the trees who’s been watching me?  In a second he’s gone.

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Autumn colours

Image © Derek Adams

 

As the light starts to fade I look up at the Museum and it takes on a whole new look. I must confess the glass front of the Darwin Centre next to us gives some fantastic views and if I find the time I like to ride up and down in the lift just to take in that of the Wildlife Garden. I’m sure that wasn’t on any list of attractions!

 

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The Wildlife Garden as viewed through the windows of the Darwin Centre in December last year

Image © Sue Snell

 

When it's almost dark in the Garden, it’s time to go; the arrival of the Museum's Ice Rink and its accompanying carousel that light up the other side of the lawn is a sure sign Christmas is approaching. One last look before I head for home, I smile to myself and think what an amazing place.”

 

We look forward to another year working with Nicky.

3

As the woodland habitats in the Wildlife Garden mature, the pageant of autumn colour seems to increase in intensity each year. Museum photographer, Jonathan Jackson (who needs little encouragement to escape the studio and work with living natural history), spent some time in the garden 2 weeks ago shooting many beautiful images, including most of the photos below. And Larissa Cooper, who joined us nearly 3 months ago, adds some of her own and describes her first autumn in the Wildlife Garden:

 

"As the autumnal chill creeps up on us, the many different (mostly native) trees we have in the garden begin to show off their colours before being cast away now their job has been done.


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The colours of the garden vary as the leaves begin to fall. The first tree to drop its leaves was the common lime (Tilia x europea).


It’s a beautiful but busy time for us in the garden. Leaves are broken down on the woodland floor by decomposers such as fungi and detritivores like millipedes and earthworms. However the non-native London plane trees (Plantanus x hispanica) cover the garden with large leathery leaves which are a bit too much for our native flora, such as bluebells, to push through.

 

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Fungi growing from decaying wood sits in front of a fallen plane tree leaf (Photo: L.Cooper)

 

 

3 (Custom).jpgLondon plane tree leaves lie with rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)


Enter the wildlife gardeners, volunteers and occasionally other staff with our rakes and trusty shredder, giving nature a little helping hand to break down the leaves. Looking out for frogs and toads hiding from the cold we gently rake and remove the plane tree leaves. being careful not to damage any seedlings and delicate plants. By December we will have raked and shredded tonnes of leaves, and scattered the shreddings back onto the woodland floor to allow a buildup of decomposed leaves.

 

 

4 (Custom).JPG Not all the leaves are shredded, the poplar (Populus nigra 'Italica') leaves which fall around the greenhouse are mixed with straw from the sheep shed and composted (Photo: L.Cooper)


But raking leaves aside; it gives us a chance to see the beauty of the changing colours around us. The beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees turn amber while the poplar leaves change to a vibrant yellow.

 

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Beech trees behind the meadow show off their varying colours

 

The plants around the pond die back diverting the attention to the golden reeds which complement the colours of the early autumnal evenings.

 

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Common reeds (Phragmites australis) turn a golden brown

 

While the holly holds its colour, with dashes of red from the berries, the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) displays an almost tropical array of fuchsia-coloured berries.

 

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Spindle berries add a touch of pink to the usual reds, yellows and browns of autumn

 

 

It is all such a treat so see on a daily basis!"

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The main pond is surrounded by autumnal colours

 

 

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The bright yellows of the hornbeam are reminiscent of summer glowing on a clear chilly autumnal afternoon

 

Thank you to Larissa and Jonathan for the blog and photos.