Monday, April 24th 2017
As with most Mondays it is a time to plan for the week, the various jobs to be done; a new events list for the web page and for folk to pick up in the Field Centre is in preparation.
A local farmer attended the reserve to plough the area we call the Nursery. This area we have put aside for a wild seed mix both for birds and insects. Flowering plants attract nectar and pollen feeding insects.
Any flowering crops, especially legumes or phacelia, will encourage nectar and pollen feeding insects. Many of these insects will then lay eggs in the vicinity and thus increase the numbers of insect larvae available to birds as food. Hoverflies will be attracted to this plot and will lay eggs wherever there is an abundance of aphids for their larvae to feed on. The beauty of this is that it also provides wild flower seed come Autumn for the birds to feed on. There is still the harrowing and then the seed to be sown, so watch this space.
This time of the year the leaves of the trees are either in leaf or the buds are now bursting . This elm is showing fresh leaves:
English elms are hermaphrodites, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within the same flower.
As with a lot of trees, there is folklore attached to the Common Elm: It used to be associated with melancholy and death, perhaps because the trees can drop dead branches without warning. Elm wood was also the preferred choice for coffins.
Sunday, April 23rd 2017
Looking back through photos in preparation for Foxglove 25 highlights some of the changes to the reserve. It was rare to get all the Highlanders in one photo. They were on the moor to help control the vegetation and so lay the grounds for changing the middle moor to a flower meadow, which they did really well.
In the photo above you can see the ancient hedgeline that had just been fenced and replanted. We had un-welcome help!
The lake has changed over the years too. If you look carefully you can see the path that used to wander along the far side.
One of my first worky days was clearing this area of brash. We had a huge fire! Walk up towards the middle moor and see what is is like now.
On entering the reserve last week I saw the Roe Deer eating young shoots of Hawthorn. Some things do not change.
Saturday, April 22nd 2017
After visiting the nest boxes at a new site and finding chicks large enough to be ringed, the start of checking the large boxes at Foxglove and on the training area was brought forward. The bird ringers are well versed in organising maps, books and pencils, rings and ringing pliers, ladders and net. They go about examining each box with skill and care.
Sometimes the adult Tawny Owls have already been ringed and when their history is looked up in IPMR we find that they have nested in the same box for several years. Some are new and receive their ring.
Most birds of prey start to incubate their eggs as soon as the first is laid, so there a spread of ages in a brood of young. This is a survival strategy. If weather conditions and or food is poor then the youngest and smallest do not survive. It is Darwin's survival of the fittest in action. In this nest these young all look well fed.
Detailed notes are recorded, including a date for a return visit if the chicks were not big enough to ring. This is the start of a lot of hard work for the bird ringers over the coming weeks.
Friday, April 21st 2017
Today saw the final of our Easter holiday activities for this year, with a pond dipping event! We discovered animals living in the depths of our ponds including stickleback, well-camouflaged cased caddis fly larvae and predatory damselfly and beetle larvae.
We even had the excitement of watching one of the beetle larvae eating a water hoglouse!
Families leant about water voles at the event and saw plenty of signs of their activity, but today they were only spotted when the Scrapes got a bit quieter…
After having a look at the tadpoles in the classroom; the final activity was making egg box frogs to take home.
Meanwhile Roger and John were continuing to lay the new cable between the lake hide camera and the Field Centre.
Some stretches are trickier than others!
Thanks especially to Lesley and John for helping us today.
Thursday, April 20th 2017
Another Thursday and another busy day where we got loads done with help from our keen Thursday volunteer team! Thank you! The biggest technical job of the day was starting to lay a length of new cable. This will replace the old cable between the lake hide and the Field Centre which has finally succumbed to strimmers/rodent attack/old age/other. Once installed this should then give us, once again, a working live feed from the lake hide camera to the screen in the Field Centre!
Elsewhere we cleared up brash left over from work on a dead hedge earlier in the week, repaired a hole in the seed shed and tidied some areas that had been disturbed up in the woodland. The revamp of the marker posts was continued – needing a steady hand for the coloured stripes!
We had some lovely new trees and flowering plants introduced carefully to their new homes in the Field Centre garden…
…and the hoppers were filled for feeding our feathered friends.
Speaking of birds, it’ll soon be time for our licenced bird ringers to start checking our nest boxes and ringing the chicks, but we still have some nest boxes without sponsors for this season :-(
We can’t of course guarantee that any particular box will be occupied (as wildlife IS wild and so does its own thing!), but it’s exciting to know that your box COULD be used!