Gentbos, Sun 18/10/2015, 15.58

This is my very first observation trip to the forest I am about to get very much acquainted to, The Gentbos.

Before we start, a little bit of background about the site.

The Gentbos is a small  forest outside of Merelbeke, in the East-Flanders.

The Gentbos covers an area of 22 ha and was bought by the provincial government in 1990. A forest management plan was drawn in 1993 where it was stipulated that the domain was to be managed naturally, i.e. leaving the forest to naturally regenerate, rather than relying on planting. The plan also focused on reducing the proportion of the common beech  which had been planted by the Austrians according to their preferences in tree types, to leave more room for the oak and the common ash, therefore aiming for a greater variety in both species composition and age. In the Genbos, also other habitats than forest, such as grassland, are also given the opportunity to flourish.

The management of the domain is divided between the provincial government of East Flanders and the Merelbeke council in which the first ensures the implementation of earlier large-scale works while the city council is responsible for the daily supervision and management.
The Gentbos, once part of the Bottelare pond and the Scheldt, has only some remnants of open water left today.
The Hollebeek tied the swampy Gentbos to the Scheldt valley and the forest area was much larger back in the day, but nowadays this connection has been broken by the advancing construction.

In the late 1700´s the forest was well used as pasture lands and several houses were also to be found in the area. However, when Empress Maria Theresa planted the beech trees in the region, took care of the reforestation of the area, when the area landed inthe hands of the Austrians.
In the middle of the 1800´s, the Gentbos 
came into the possession of the noble family Stas de Richelle from Liege as a dowry when the two families were united, with the gamekeeper house on Poelstraat dating from that period. Bernard Stas ( 1788 Liège-Ghent 1851)m a journalist and member of the Chamber of People’s Representatives married Marie – Therese The Fuller from a wealthy Ghent family who held a property in Bottelare and  in Merelbeke They got three chidlren of which the oldest one, lived in the house and was the burgemeester of merelbeke for a long time. when he finally died, the house was bought in
1989  by the family De Clercq-Van Renterghem

They planted many of the exotic species, in order to boost their forest which, those days, was a status symbol,  a way to show to their guest their grounds and their wealth. They brought their friends and acquaintances to ride horses there and planted large chestnut tree rows to ride along. They built a castle, known as the kasteel van Bottelaere  in 1875

The history of Gentbos as an area with ponds can still be seen in the muddy conditions of the forest after some rain. The area is not accessible for wheelchairs or strollers, due to the muddiness. Only after extensive periods of drought, the paths are hard.

On my observation trip, the weather conditions were abt 13 degrees, half cloudy, no wind. For measuring these, I use my own eyes and ears as well as the weather app on my Huawei Honor phone (Accuweather.com).

When entering, we heard the roodborst at the parking in a tree without leaves. A flock of birds (?) took off when hearing our voices.  We also heard eendjes, ganzen en een ezel.

The color of the forest seemed dried up green (as I have written it in my notes), in the higher branches, some red leaves visible.

The zomer eik on the meadow is still mostly green, with some yellow leaves here and there. Lots of acorns on the ground.

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Once we´re in the forest, I hear children yelling. There´s a lot of people, the parking is completely full. I also hear the acorns falling down from the trees around me.

The mud is solid, easy to walk on. The varens are becoming yellow, same as the wood sorrels. I see a really nice kelo/snag/no NL word. There’s a lot of moss on the trees, on the vlier, to be exact.  I take a picture of the Americaanse eik, which I have heard is not native (as the name implies) and some berries (?) in the bushes.

The corn field has not yet been harvested.The grasses have become lighter, some yellow strands of grass in the tuft/tupas/bosje. The brandnetels have turned black. I see a vine with lighter yellow on it, do not recognize what it is, but I am wondering why it changes color (later on I notice that it is hop).

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I am wondering why some plants of the same species are making seeds already, while others are later. For example, this koekoeksbloem. Does this have to do with the specific conditions where they live, such as light, moisture, competition?

In my terrain, only a little bit of water which is not streaming. About 90% of the surroundings are still green (I have marked 90% in my notes, but actually it seems more like 70% at least).

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However, I take a lot of pictures of the mushrooms I see. Examples below.

I notice that in the shade, it gets quite chilly. Later on, I l earn and I always prepare myself with extra layer of wool, even if it´s otherwise a warm day. Gloves I wear every time I am in the Gentbos. The muddy forest floor is breathing out cold. Also, the fact that I am constantly stopping, makes me get cold as well.

At the tree where the kids like to climb, it smells like an autumn forest: the ground, the rotting leaves.. elsewhere it just smells fresh.

When I leave, I notice tiny droplets of water on my bike seat, so apparently, it did rain a bit.

Birds

roodborst – european robin – punarinta – Erithacus rubecula

wilde eend – mallard – sinisorsa – Anas platyrhynchos

ganz – geese – hanhi – Anserini

Trees

Americaanse eik – northern red oak -punatammi – Quercus rubra

Plants

Varen – fern – saniainen – Pteridophytina

Witte klaverzuring – wood sorrel – käenkaali/hetunleipä –Oxalis acetosella

Brandnetel – common nettle – nokkonen – Urtica dioica

Dagkoekoeksbloem -red catchfly – puna-ailakki – Silene dioica?

Hop – common hop – humala  – Humulus lupulus

Mossen

haarmos – hair mos – karhunsammal – Polytrichum