At the guided walk yesterday the presence of the sunshine and the first Pasque flowers confirmed that spring has finally arrived. The cowslips are slowly developing what looks like it could be an impressive display this year and the Early Purple Orchids are appearing in significant numbers. The call of a Willow Warbler, a Mistle Thrush filling the air with its song and both Blue and Great Tits spotted with nesting material all show that everything is heading in the right direction. In the afternoon the appearance of Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies added to the encouraging signs and despite a slight step backwards with extensive cloud cover the warmer temperatures today and forecast for the rest of the week means we can expect rapid developments across the reserve.
At last a few days without snow and some colour has appeared on the limestone grassland. The first patch of violets have quickly come in to flower. Also the early orchids have started to bravely put out some leaves, I hope they do not regret it with the forecast showing potential of some snow next weekend! The cowslips are even trying to catch up, this time last year they were in full bloom across the reserve now it is still hunt the emerging plants.
The work of the N.E. team and volunteers has certainly cleared out the old windmill car park scrub area and opened up the views from the centre of the reserve into compartment 4 (south east quarter).
One interesting side effect is this weeping Silver Birch stump. Last week an icicle was present down the side and this weekend it is just streaming sap.
With the sheep having done an excellent job over the winter months removing some of the longer and tougher grasses, therefore allowing the wild flowers to have less competition, it is now our turn. There is a Natural England led working party meeting on the reserve in the main car park 08:45- 9:00am on Monday 19th February. Please do join us for as little or as long as you can that morning to help clear some of the scrub so we can maintain the open limestone grassland and its rare wildflower population.
Plans to join with Langdyke Countryside Trust have moved ahead so please keep a look out for news of an exciting introductory event on 14th April.
This year’s AGM will be held at Barnack Village Hall on Wednesday 29th November from 7:30pm. As well as the usual business meeting and displays of information there will be an illustrated talk on the Langdyke Trust by Richard Astle. This is an important meeting for the future of the Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes so please do attend and help establish what we do in 2018.
I look forward to seeing you there.
With the sheep now present on the reserve it is the time of year when we can lend them a hand with their vital task of managing the sward by removing more established scrub.
In the coming month there are three opportunities for you to help keep the reserve in good condition for the rarer flora which the reserve supports and provides such a wonderful spring and summer show of colour and interest.
On Sunday 24th September 10:00 to 14:00 and over the same time period on Wednesday 27th September the summer warden will be facilitating working parties on the reserve to clear some of the smaller scrub starting to take over in many areas of the reserve. This will be a gentle and easy opportunity to cut back the many small hawthorn and turkey oak plants which have emerged over the past 12-24 months. Please feel free to join us for as long as you can on either or both days.
For those wanting to participate in more major scrub clearance then the Peterborough Conservation Volunteers will be on site on Sunday 10th September. Everyone is welcome to join them and lend a hand in clearing one of the more overgrown areas.
For more details or to let us know you will be coming then please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barnack Hills and Holes National Nature Reserve is not only a local beauty-spot, it is both nationally and internationally important for its wealth of rare wild flowers. Natural England manages the Reserve for the benefit of its flora.
It is that time of year again when plans to introduce livestock onto the reserve are being made. Whilst I understand many of you, especially dog walkers (including me), find it frustrating, it is an essential part of the management of the reserve to control the sward and maintain the rich diversity of flora and fauna that we all enjoy. Without this grazing the rare orchids and pasque flowers that are highlights of many visits to the reserve will be significantly reduced, if not lost completely, from the site and therefore the local area.
The original plan to use ponies this year to try to improve the effectiveness of the grazing has had to be abandoned due to concerns about loose dogs on the site. This is an annual issue with irresponsible dog owners allowing pets to chase and “worry” the sheep every year. Even if sheep escape uninjured, they may miscarry their lambs as a result. Dogs must be on short leads in the vicinity of livestock. Sheep worrying is a crime and we would encourage anyone seeing such behaviour to immediately report it to the police by calling 101 and also to Natural England by calling 07979873504 or e-mailing email@example.com.
We do thank all those responsible dog owners who always have their dogs on short leads where livestock is present and also keep their dogs under strict control on all parts of the reserve (whilst all attempts are made at keeping the sheep in one area and the signage up to date please be aware that sheep cannot read). We do want to continue to allow free access to all parts of the reserve even when livestock are present and would encourage everyone to help us maintain this critically important reserve management tool (there really is no other practical option).
Thanks to the sharp eyes of the seven people who attended the annual glow worm walk this year we not only found 13 female glow worms (plus three on the roadside on the way home) but also a male. The latter find proving that being able to glow in the dark does work to attract a mate!
If you were unable to tear yourselves away from the tennis (or the pub) last Friday evening then there are still a few more weeks when a walk on the reserve on a warm evening after dark should be rewarded with one or more sightings of a small green LED like lights.
In daylight warm sunny days should be rewarded with numerous Marbled Whites. Apparently the first Chalkhill Blues of the season and the second flight of Brown Argus butterflies have also been sighted. Gatekeeper butterflies were relatively numerous on the latest transect walk at the end of last week along with high numbers of Meadow Browns, Ringlets and a few Skippers. Whilst the orchid season is coming to an end there are many more flowers in bloom so a trip to the reserve at anytime in July always has something to discover.
Note also the signs that ponies are going to be used for the first time this year to graze and help manage the reserve. This activity is essential to help maintain and potentially improve the biodiversity. Their heavier trampling of the vegetation and greater stress resistance to the presence of people and particularly dogs (although please do ensure you keep them on leads in the area where the ponies are loose) should help ensure the autumn management aims are successfully achieved.
Whilst the Man Orchids and Fragrant Orchids are now starting to fade the Pyramidal Orchids are coming into bloom and a couple of Bee Orchids have been reported so the display of Orchids continues and is supplemented by more and more other flowers coming into full bloom.
The warm weather has also brought out more butterflies with largish numbers of Meadow Browns, some Ringlets and Skippers seen on the recent transect along with the first Marbled Whites. Numbers still seem lower than previous years but at least they are now in double figures!! The transect was walked accompanied by a seemingly rather late but persistent calling cuckoo.
The walk was not quite the spectacle of close up encounters with Swallowtails on the Norfolk Broads earlier in the week but you do not have to travel far to get close to nature. A “well earned” cup of coffee in the garden was rewarded on Tuesday by a Red Kite descending into the neighbour’s garden, ten feet from where I sat, to grab a frog based snack from the lawn.
Hopefully you will get the chance during the month to visit the reserve and get close to nature be it reptilian (common lizards are out and about), avian (yellow hammers and skylarks are singing above the reserve supplementing the cuckoo) or enjoying the flora that at least stays still once you locate it.
This year we will, weather permitting, be hosting the Glow Worm walk around the reserve on Friday 7th July. We are planning to meet at the main car park on Wittering Road at 9:15pm so we have a little time to acclimatise to the failing light before darkness descends. Please do wear sensible shoes as we will be walking across some rough terrain in the dark. A torch will also be useful at times to ensure safe navigation.
Please do let us know if you want to attend this event so we can plan for the numbers likely to be present and more importantly for you as the event is very weather dependent we can let you know if we decide to re-arrange probably to the following Friday.
I look forward to meeting many of you again for this annual event