Monday, 28 May 2018

Visit to Fleam Dyke. 20th May 2018.

Five members turned up for this, our second visit to this area of Cambridgeshire in two years. Jim Fish was our leader on this occasion. The weather was warm and sunny, with a light SE breeze; perfect for this kind of walking.

Beginning at the entrance to Fulbourne Nature reserve, we took to the trail through a small woodland, leading out onto open meadows, full of Red Clover and Buttercups, as well as a sprinkling of other chalkland flowers and plants.  The flowery meadows soon gave way a somewhat wetter meadow, where sporadic orchids could be seen – eventually being identified as Southern Marsh Orchid, before leading to a wetter, slightly harsher environment, where we had to look more closely for orchids amongst the varied plant life; though once again mainly comprising Southern Marsh Orchid and one or two spikes of Spotted Orchid. It was felt by everyone that generally, orchids were flowering later than last year probably due to the long, harsh winter; even so we were here a week earlier than last year, so that could also be a contributary factor. But the general lack of butterflies such a Common Blue, was also an indication of last year’s cold spring, as was the birdlife, which was much less in evidence than previously, with no Cuckoo; no Swifts and no Swallows (although the latter two species did make a brief showing later in the day). Before we reached the dyke proper, Tim found two Common Buzzards soaring over fields on thermals high into a pristine blue sky.

And then on to Fleam Dyke, with just a lone Azure Damselfly and a singleton Cockchafer Beetle (only the second I’d ever seen) which posed nicely on Aspen for a second or two before falling to the ground where it was lost to view. Most of the group missed this.
Once on the dyke, it was quite apparent that there had been substantial clearance of undergrowth over the winter months, and really it had needed it badly, to promote the growth of more wild flowers and thereby foodplants for Green Hairstreak Butterfly in particular, and our target species for the day. 
Already Brimstone Butterflies were well in evidence, and through the rest of the morning into the afternoon several species were observed, though none in profusion, and these were: - Holly Blue Butterfly (2); Common Blue Butterfly (2); Brimstone (over 40 individuals); Large White; Small White; Green-veined White (1); Green Hairstreak (probably at least 10 individuals allowing for possible duplication); Small Heath (2) and Orange Tip.  A Burnet Companion Moth, and a Green Carpet Moth (for me arguably even more attractive than the stunning Green Hairstreaks) were the only moth species identified.
Bird species were not very well represented, which was quite surprising, but could be said to reflect the lack of spring migrants generally thus far; but nevertheless, included several Common Whitethroats; a Willow Warbler; Chiffchaff; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Goldfinches; Linnet; Blackbird; Bullfinch and Yellowhammer (heard only); Jackdaw; Carrion Crow; Rook; 2 Swallows and 2 Swift. But no Corn Bunting this year.
Flower species included Twayblade; Southern Marsh Orchid; Spotted Orchid; Musk (or Nodding) Thistle; Chalk Milwort; Salad Burnet; Common Rock Rose; Cowslip; as Ox Eye Daisy and a few isolated stands of attractive Columbine.

After a welcome lunch stop at the ancient Mutlow Hill site - a Bronze-Age round barrow - we observed more Green Hairstreaks on the way back - some literally flying round our feet - but being almost constantly on the wing, were extremely difficult to photograph well. I was the only one to get a fleeting glimpse of what was likely to have been a female Black-tailed Skimmer following us along the trail, but it soon disappeared so I couldn’t be certain I’d identified it correctly.
It was an interesting day out, the highlight arguably being the unexpectedly good numbers of Green Hairstreaks, some seen reasonably well; and with excellent weather with no rainfall or strong winds, we were all glad we came.
David Sampson

Friday, 26 January 2018

During the winter of 2016-2017 a section at the western end of Wall Wood next to Woodside Green was commercially coppiced. Wall Wood is a ‘purlieu wood’ meaning that it is not part of the Forest but is subject to most or all of Forest Law. A visit was paid in January 2018 to assess the level of regeneration. The results are shown in the photographs below. There is a before and after. 

The wood has been deer fenced to try and prevent browsing damage. The notice tells people what Natural England and the Forestry Commission are trying to do in terms of regeneration of the ancient woodland. As you see not everyone agrees!

The great majority of trees coppiced were very old hornbeams. It is questionable whether they will regenerate.

Badger tunnels have been installed and are in good use-hopefully not by Muntjac as well.

Where some regeneration has taken place it has been browsed back as it is obvious that deer are not being totally excluded.

I believe the trees were cut with a ‘timber harvester’. The brash has either been piled into heaps or is just lying about. A year later there is little sign of seed germination or growth of vegetation on the Forest floor.

Monk Wood adjacent was coppiced in the same way a few years ago and seems to have recovered well. Let's hope Wall Wood does the same!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

BSNHS Visit to Therfield Heath, Sunday 12th of July 2016.

BSNHS Visit to Therfield Heath, Sunday 12th of July 2016. The target species were butterflies and members were pleased to see both Dark Green Fritillary and Chalkhill Blues. The weather was warm, in the high 20s degrees C with a strong, warm breeze blowing which made photography difficult. As before, members were treated to good views of Red Kite flying over the chalk escarpment.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

New tern raft launched.

On Tuesday 12thMay a new Tern raft arrived at Hatfield Forest Lake having been driven down from Huddersfield.

The raft is unloaded and bolted together. It is made of fibreglass with built in polystyrene floats and sides which do not allow access by Mink, ducks and geese.

It is then manhandled into the water.

A mixture of the shingle and gravel is loaded onto the raft. ‘Shelter tunnels’ for the chicks will be added later when it is on site.

Finally a solution is found to getting one of the helpers back onto dry land!
The raft will be moored near to the existing raft to allow the Terns to acclimatise before the old raft, which is falling to pieces is removed.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Visit to Battles Wood, Saturday 11th of April 2015.

In the region of 15 members visited this wood to have a look at and enjoy the spring flowers. We also made a species list of everything we found and recorded over 100 different types of plant, bird, mammal, mosses etc. It was a wonderfully sunny afternoon after a wet morning but with a chilly, blustery wind.

Please note that this is a private wood and we were given permission to visit by the owner Mr Toby Lyons who accompanied us. There is no public access or rights of way.
There was a fine show of Primroses in many parts of the wood.
We recorded both False Oxlips and proper Oxlips.

In some parts of the wood there were large areas of Ramsons or Wild Garlic.
In other areas there had been a wonderful display of Wild Daffodils which unfortunately were just about over.

On the other hand it is obvious that there is going to be a good display of Bluebells shortly but at present most of them are in bud. Similarly we found good numbers of Goldilocks-the woodland Buttercup which was also still in bud.

Birds in evidence included Buzzard, Nuthatch and Mistle Thrush. One Blackbirds nest was found with three eggs.
Everyone had a great afternoon of natural history and we were pleased to be able to continue a tradition for this Society which has been visiting the wood at least since the 1940s. Thanks to Mr Lyons for allowing the visit.