Ramblings from Finemere Wood

Skylarks by Luke Massey/2020VISION

With volunteer work parties cancelled for the time being, Charlotte Karmali, volunteer warden at Finemere Wood, tells of life during the lockdown.

As the country went into lockdown, so too did my brain. It is only now, almost 8 weeks later, that I feel able to string a few words together.

The world is a very strange place right now, with life as we know it turned upon its head. Finemere Wood is a sanctuary to me, and being unable to visit and to spend time with my Finemere family of volunteers has been a challenge.

And so I have had to find a new rhythm to life. My daily walks take me across expanses of farmland, a habitat quite different to Finemere Wood, and yet I see many familiar species, which is balm to my soul.

Hawthorn bushes, stunning with their profusion of white and pale-pink flowers; oxeye daisies, sunny and uplifting; and even a speckled wood butterfly, seen by the dozen in Finemere, but I was happy with just one.

Speckled wood

There are other creatures around I have paid little attention to in the past. Spurred on by my two young nieces, who asked me to identify the “goodness knows what flies” that have “hooks” on them, I discovered that the clouds of flies, that hang in the air with their legs dangling down, are in fact St Mark’s flies (Bibio marci).

Also known as the hawthorn fly, this invertebrate spends most of its life as larva in the soil, emerging as an adult around St Mark’s day, 25th April. These conspicuous flies are in flight for one week and, after mating and laying eggs in the soil, they die. They can be seen in large numbers along woodland edges, hedgerows and fields and are important pollinators.

I continue with my quest to recognise birdsong, picking out those songs familiar from Finemere, with greater ease: the fluting warbles of the garden warbler and the blackcap (telling them apart is still proving to be problematic); the persistent “chiffchaffing”of the chiffchaff; and the sweet, ebullient, breathtaking song of the skylark.

When the volunteers will be able to resume normal activities, is an unknown, but I am heartened we are now permitted to drive to our place of exercise. Finemere Wood is within reach once again.

If you would like to join Charlotte and the volunteers at Finemere Wood once volunteering is able to take place again, please contact Charlotte for more information.