Posted by: Ross Gardner | November 13, 2013


In some respects it was sad to see a sizeable oak humbled by the wind.  It was huge, but given that it had been growing on poor, heathland soil, many decades of growth had been invested into its stature.  And humbled it was in no uncertain terms.  It seemed to have split three ways, the crown almost appearing to open up like a crocus.

But fallen trees bring new opportunities.  Growing in its lea has been another, rather more than a sapling, perhaps 6 or 7 years old and very possibly the progeny of the wind-ravaged tree.  With space and light, is this the replacement in waiting?  This will obviously take time, but there will be others to fill the gap meanwhile.  Silver Birch are always quick to make use an opportunity on heathland soils and there are the Broom and Gorse on hand to thicken ground cover for the Robin and Wren that whistled and whirred and the Chiffchaff and Blackcap that will make a spring return.

Wind-split oak.  Ross Gardner 2013

Wind-split oak. Ross Gardner 2013

There are opportunities too, for the naturalist curious as to the goings on among the crown of an oak.  A chance to peer into the treetops.  Even in the middle of November the signs of summer plenty remains.  The leaves, just edging from green into the browns and oranges of autumn, bore scars of leaf-miners, leaving their various blotches and trails as evidence of tiny caterpillars feeding within.  Many such moth caterpillars make use of the generous oak, including what seems likely to be that of Stigmella basiguttella, pictured below.  Not just moths, but the signs of minute wasp were to be found in the shape of their galls produce around the eggs laid into the tissue of the tree.  I had seen the small discs of silk button and spangle galls in the summer, but the little spheres of what appeared to be Pea Galls (produce by Cynips divisa) are less easy to locate.

A set back for one is an opportunity for another, such is the way of nature.

Stigmella basiguttella leaf-mine.  Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

Stigmella basiguttella leaf-mine. Copyright 2013 Ross Gardner

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