Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Bewitching Trees

Silver Birches are amongst my favourite trees. No only are they aesthetically pleasing but they are also extremely productive for the naturalist. They support a large number of insects and invertebrates, up to 334 species, which in turn provide feeding for many species of birds. As well as insectivores such as the tits seed eaters like Siskins and Redpolls are often found feeding on birches.

At this time of year, with the leaves off it is often possible to find the tight bunches of small sticks in the fabric of the trees. At first they look like birds nest but closer inspection shows that they are just compact masses of small twigs. They are dense bunches of short shoots and in summer will grow small leaves. These growths are caused by the fungus Taphrina Betulina. They are commonly known as Witches' Brooms because if all the extra shoots grow in the same direction they can take the shape of a traditional broomsticks.

A couple of day ago I pointed out Marine Cottage on Chapel Lane and just round the corner are another pair of cottages that follow that theme. Sea View Cottages date back to 1768, and it's possible that the view then was different. Today you would be hard pushed to see the sea, even from the roof.

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