With the Pasque flowers gradually spreading across the reserve for those not willing to make a 6:00am start for the Bird song walk on 21st April there is a more socially timed event being organised by the Peterborough local group of the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust.
This event will start from the main car park at 2pm on Saturday 29th April. The spring walk will obviously be on the lookout for Pasque flowers and many of the other spring flowers that, given the recent warm weather, will be present in considerable numbers across the reserve. Weather permitting sharp eyes will also be looking for Green hairstreak butterflies. There will be a small charge by the Wildlife Trust of £2 for this event.
With a few days of warmer weather everything is suddenly moving forwards. The violets and cowslips have been joined by the first Pasque flowers. These currently take some effort to locate, I found five flowers on a south facing slope enjoying the Thursday afternoon sunshine in compartment 1 (adjacent to the path approaching the northern most gate in the fence between compartments 1 and 4). Within another one or two weeks depending on the temperature any stroll round the centre of the reserve near the large gate between compartments 1 and 2 (south west and north west) will spot these lovely flowers in all their purple and yellow glory. Perfect timing for Easter.
The visit on Thursday also added my first Brimstone butterflies of the season as well as Peacocks, Comma’s and small tortoiseshells. Keep a look out for the first Orange Tips which should be on the scene soon along with Holly Blues.
All these signs of spring mean the birds are also becoming more active and vocal and Tim Sutton has kindly offered to lead an early morning walk meet at the main car park at 6:00am on Friday 21st April to help identify their calls. This will obviously be weather dependent so please do let me know (email@example.com) if you would like to attend and I can keep you informed on the arrangements. Whilst not specifically renown for its bird life this walk should allow us to recognise many of the birds by their calls and therefore equip us to pick out and look for more unusual species. This event will be free for members and a small charge of £2 for non-members or you can join on the day for £5 and enjoy all other FBHH 2017 events for free.
With the warmer weather is is not just butterflies to spot on the reserve. The warmer days provide plenty of opportunities to find bees on the reserve in April.
Below is a table of the bees sited on the reserve in 2016 thanks to the efforts and reporting by Ryan Clark
|Tawny Mining Bee
||Andrena (Andrena) fulva
|Gwynne’s Mining Bee
||Andrena (Euandrena) bicolor
|Grey Mining Bee
||Andrena (Melandrena) cineraria
|Buffish Mining Bee
||Andrena (Melandrena) nigroaenea
|Early Mining Bee
||Andrena (Trachandrena) haemorrhoa
|Hairy Footed Flower Bee
||Anthophora (Anthophora) plumipes
|Red-tailed (Hill) Cuckoo Bee
|Southern (Vestal) Cuckoo Bee
|Common Carder Bee
|White tailed Bumblebee
||Colletes (Colletes) hederae
|White-footed Furrow Bee
||Lasioglossum (Dialictus) leucopus
|Two-coloured Mason Bee
||Osmia (Neosmia) bicolor
The last entry is particularly interesting to look out for as it makes its nest in old snail shells. It then uses very small “sticks” and grass to seal the entrance which it collects and carries to the nest. This can give the appearance of bees “riding broomsticks”.
For more information on these and other bees visit www.bwars.com
Our close neighbours have an event this Thursday 16th March at Castor Village Hall doors open at 7:00pm.
Those who were unable to attend our A.G.M. may be interested in hearing Chris Gardiner talk further about this S.S.S.I. and also Froglife and Nene Coppicing and Crafts will be present on the evening.
The Friends of Castor Hanglands and Ailsworth Heath have recently formed and are keen to put together a working group interested in helping maintain the reserve and learn more about what is present on the reserve and how it can be improved. They already have an interesting programme of events arranged with the Langdyke CountrysideTrust for the spring so if you are interested in more details please visit langdyke.org.uk/events
A brief post to let you know of the first opportunity to meet up in 2017 and help with the maintenance of the reserve.
Tim from Natural England will be leading a working party on the Hills and Holes to undertake a variety of tasks to prepare the reserve for the season.
The group will meet at the main car park at 9:00am and if you are willing and able to join us then you would be very welcome. Work on the reserve will continue throughout the morning and into the afternoon so please feel free to join us whenever you can and for however long you can.
Whilst any required tools will be provided please come with appropriate gloves, footwear and appropriate clothing for the weather. Depending on how long you are able to join us please also ensure you bring relevant refreshments for yourself. (Although I suspect if you want to sneak off to The Millstone at lunch time that will be permitted).
A small group met on Monday 16th for the A.G.M. and a very interesting talk about the history and current management of the Castor Hanglands / Ailsworth Heath reserve by Chris Gardiner. This particularly included information on the flora and fauna that you can expect to see in the different areas of this very diverse site. There was some encouraging news on the return to the site of several species of butterflies in numbers sufficient to make it a realistic possibility of spotting one during a visit.
The business part of the meeting saw the majority of the committee happy to continue in their roles and a new chair Chris Evans elected. A unanimous big thank you to Alyson our outgoing Chair for all the work she has undertaken over the past three years. Our finances are in a healthy position with a slight increase in available funds at the year end. That only leaves us needing a volunteer to pick up the role of membership secretary to keep up to date our records of the 40+ members. Please do contact us if you are able to help with this vital but not too onerous task.
A full programme of events for 2017 is being planned so please keep checking the website and our Facebook page for information on these as the arrangements are confirmed.
A final reminder that the AGM for the “Friends” is being held this Monday 16th January at 7:30pm at Barnack Village Hall. Please come along and after a short business meeting hear about the near by Castor Hanglands reserve from Chris Gardener.
There will be the opportunity to browse through old newsletters, review the survey results for 2016 and examine how the reserve has changed over the last 80 years as recorded in various aerial photographs and images. You may also be interested in finding out how you can help with bringing up to date our fixed point photography records to illustrate the changes in more detail.
There will be the opportunity over light refreshments to discuss the events being planned for 2017 and how you could contribute to the purposes of the organisation as described in recent posts.
Finally it provides you with the ideal opportunity to pay your 2017 membership subscription.
To maintain the quality of the flora and fauna and therefore the status of this very special place as a National Nature Reserve it is essential that the broad community of visitors understand the significance of the “Hills and Holes” in conservation terms.
Therefore the primary aim of the group is to inform and engage visitors and potential visitors with the significant aspects of the reserve. Especially how the reserve needs to be managed to ensure the fantastic diversity and significant populations of rare plants is maintained over the years and hopefully made more robust for future generations to enjoy.
This aim can be achieved by organising and providing good publicity of events (e.g. annual glow worm walk, guided walks etc..). By good use of this website and facebook page and many other mechanisms that are available.
The organising, publicity and communication element of this is a key contribution you could help make to the success of the group, so please do get in touch with your ideas and offers to help or come along to the AGM on 16th January to find out more.
All budgets are continuously under threat and Natural England’s is no exception. The time they can spend on the reserve and the funds they have available for specific projects will continue to decrease at least in the short to medium term. As a government agency they are restricted in what funding they can seek from other sources and organisations . These restrictions do not apply to the Friends.
We therefore have an opportunity to enhance the reserve with sourcing finances for specific projects that support Natural England’s management plan. Raising these funds and applying for grants and funding from other organisations is an extremely useful way you could help the reserve to flourish and improve without getting cold, wet or even your hands dirty (apart from perhaps the odd ink stain).
If you feel able to contribute in this aspect of work for the Friends then please contact us or to find out more come an join us at the AGM on 16th January.
To assist Natural England with the implementation of their Management Plan the “Friends” provide voluntary services assisting with such tasks as scrub clearance and undertaking regular routine checks of the functionality of the gates, fences and other infrastructure throughout the year.
Peterborough Conservation Volunteers make regular visits to the site to assist with scrub clearance and joining these parties can be an ideal opportunity to find out more about our local nature reserves.
If you feel that you would like to contribute to these events and especially if you are able to co-ordinate these activities we would love to hear from you. If you would like to find out more then come and talk to us at the AGM on 16th January