May days in the woods

Christine Tansey's picture

The warmth returned to the sun on Monday as I made another visit to Roslin Glen for my Track a Tree monitoring. It is really exciting to see the progress of spring in the woods being reflected in my own visits, as well as your records being sent in. Do visit our results page to take a look and remember to submit your observations on the site and see them pop up on our maps!


Here in Edinburgh we are just reaching the bluebell and garlic scented carpet stage, where sunlight is starting to become dappled as the oaks, sycamores and beech come into leaf. The sound of the woods has changed as well. While bird calling dominates the canopy, at my short-legged human level huge queen bumblebees are flying like small aeroplanes and now hoverflies are starting to hum. Shifty looking blackbirds and darting wrens also rustle the old leaf litter while skittering among the tree trunks. Suddenly the woods seem to have become a busier place.


As many of you involved with Track a Tree will know, the project is an essential part of the research I am undertaking as part of my PhD, based at the University of Edinburgh. But Track a Tree is not just that, it is something I love doing! Throughout the whole process of setting up the project and keeping it going, I have enjoyed being able to visit a woodland myself, and I’ve seen more on my regular walks than I’d ever stopped to notice before.

As well as monitoring my trees and flowering plants, Track a Tree gives me the opportunity to observe many other spring changes. I’ve lain on my stomach on a mossy bank to get a good view of dog violets, while flying ants have landed on my camera and got muddy knees while looking for moschatel. I have watched hornbeam catkins expand and alder buds peel open, pink elm flowers turn to papery winged fruits and shiny soft beech leaves get their first holes from herbivorous insects. Last week I spotted a blackbird nest on one visit, and returned to find it predated on the next, the eggshell in pieces a few metres away.


It is not always easy to balance the needs of Track a Tree with the demands of analysing and writing up my other research, but my visits to the woods help keep me going! Inevitably some things have ended up being a bit delayed and I’ve not managed to blog as much as I’d like. However Ally and I will continue to support the rest of the spring 2015 season, so do stay in touch, especially via Twitter or Facebook.

For many of you recording, the season will be over half way through now, so I wanted to say a thank-you for all your observations so far. Please continue to submit them when you can, so we can start to get a picture of what has gone on in the woods across the UK.

Many thanks again and have fun during your May days in the woods!