As reported last week the first flower spike of Man Orchid has been spotted so we are now planning this year’s survey. With the support we have received for this event historically we are being ambitious this year and plan to survey the whole reserve (well the parts likely to support Man Orchids).
Your assistance with this task would be greatly appreciated but please note some of the survey will require walking up and down some significant slopes. We will try and match transects with people’s capabilities / wishes and of course we do allow you to deviate round very steep slopes and hawthorn bushes!
If you would like to participate in this event then we will be meeting at 10:00am in the main car park off Wittering Road. Weather and enthusiasm permitting we will cover at least compartments one and two (West end of the reserve) but you are welcome to join us when you can and for as long as you want. The area we can cover will be dependent upon how many volunteers we get so feel free to bring family and friends along. There is no charge for this event as it helps with the science.
There will hopefully be some experts present to answer any questions you have and for you to increase your general knowledge of the reserve and its resident species.
I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible on the day. If you can let me know you will be attending by e-mailing email@example.com that will help with the planning.
A very big thank you to Sarah and family for providing a very informative and educational walk around the reserve this afternoon (Saturday 29th).
A Bank holiday weekend was unlikely to provide glorious sunshine and unfortunately this Saturday was no exception. So there were no Green Hairstreaks on display (in fact no butterflies at all). Just a single Green Carpet Moth representing this area of interest.
The Pasque flowers, Cowslips and Early Purple Orchids delivered as usual and in some magnificent clusters. Supported by the identification of Early Spring Sedge and Rare Spring Sedge in close proximity, which allowed us novices to finally see the difference. Many other plants, just showing their leaves or first flowers, were pointed out to help us identify them later in the year. The walk also showed how, even on a relatively small reserve like this there are different areas supporting very different plant populations and the impact of management of the reserve.
The entomologists were able to catch and show us many insects the majority with names far to complex for me to recall or even attempt to remember. I do recall a very decorative Crane fly and St Mark’s flies of both genders ensuring the existence of the next generation. To help increase my knowledge of bees (a target area for me this year) Ashy Mining bees, Hawthorn mining bee, Common Carder bees and Nomad bees all but in a very visible performance.
The highlight for me was the first Glow Worm of the year spotted by a sharp eyed Mike without the aid of darkness and the characteristic glow which will come later in the year.
A dry day, some very knowledgeable experts, a wonderful group of interested visitors and of course a very special and almost unique reserve provided an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Do keep an eye out for future events both on this reserve and other local sites and do come and join us. The next stars to appear should be the Man Orchids with Pyramidal and Fragrant Orchids close on their heels.
With the Pasque flowers about at their peak and Cowslips still present in very healthy numbers right across the reserve, we are starting to plan the plant monitoring for 2017. The early purple orchids which have appeared in the last few weeks will soon be joined by Pyramidal Orchids, Fragrant Orchids, Bee Orchids, Frog Orchids, Twayblade, Common spotted Orchid, Spring Sedge and Knapweed Broomrape all of which have been recorded and monitored during the past 40 years. To maintain this database help is required, so please if you are interested in participating in any of these surveys do let us have your contact details. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we will let you know how you can help.
I am sorry to let you know that due to lack of interest this event has been cancelled. Please do let us know if there are events you would be interested in attending and keep an eye on the website for future dates.
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.