WILDEN MARSH: February in Hoo Wood and Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve – PART 3.
SUNDAY 27th FEBRUARY: It’s been a quiet week in Hoo Wood and on the marsh. I haven’t seen anything unusual. Yesterday on the marsh there were the usual tits, wrens, blackbirds, crows, magpies, a few heron landing the canal side of the Stour, and the ever-present mallards, but nothing to get over-excited about; it was raining heavily most of the time, too. Didn’t see the muntjac in the swamp; come to think of it, I didn’t see any muntjac tracks either – it’s probably moved to another area for a while.
There was a decent spread of fresh young jelly ear fungus on a small oak tree alongside the north pond yesterday. This was close to the large dead oak tree that’s a frequent perch for many of the local birds. Today, though, this same jelly ear fungus had shriveled to almost nothing.
Hoo Wood is carpeted in bluebell and Himalayan balsam shoots. The bluebell shoots are taller than the Himalayan balsam, which won’t be the case for long. There will be plenty of time for the bluebells to flower before the balsam takes over the wood. Last year I saw the first bluebell flower on 17th April, 6th April in 2009, 4th April in 2008 and 10th April in 2007. The first daffodils flowered today and 19th April last year.
Comfrey plants are popping-up at various places in the wood, and great care should be taken not to confuse them with foxgloves. Foxgloves look very similar to comfrey prior to flowering. There are a many foxglove plants in Hoo Wood. The way to tell them apart is: the edges of the foxglove leaf are finely toothed, whilst the edges of a comfrey leaf are smooth. The reason it is important to be able to tell the difference between the two plants is that comfrey is edible and can be used in salads, and all parts of the foxglove plant are poisonous.