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 firstname.lastname@example.org that will help with the planning.
As the Pasque flowers loose their bright purple and yellow colours (final picture to remind us of this year’s display) and show off their “fluffy” seed heads an encouraging find was a small population of plants in the middle of Compartment 4 of the reserve. This is close to the area “scraped back to quarry rubble” in the early 2000’s so this hopefully bodes well for increasing the area across the reserve where these flowers are well established. Circa 15 years after the major conservation work this area is starting to really show some interesting potential which shows how patient we have to be with some conservation efforts.
A walk across the reserve last week seemed like an update on’ Wind in the Willows’. A mole seemed to be taking a break from decorating and wandering across the reserve in search of ‘Ratty’. Quite a journey required to find a Water Vole near Barnack but Toad was seen later. Unfortunately out on one of his adventures he had come across an Adder and was not looking too good as the snake shot off into the undergrowth. This to my knowledge is the first reported sighting of an Adder on the reserve for several years.
Despite a few days of warmer weather the butterfly transects still fail to record any encouraging numbers of the early butterflies. A walk on a warmish and sunny Wednesday this week failed to reach double figures for either Orange Tips or Brimstones. A second Dingy Skipper of the season providing at least some encouragement to continue with the transect walks.
As the Pasque flowers finish their display and the Early Purple Orchids start to pass their best, the first Man Orchid flower spike has been found. With an extended warm spell of weather we should be seeing them (if we spend time looking for the green flowers in the green vegetation) in reasonable numbers across compartments 1 and 2 in the next few weeks.
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 email@example.com 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.
The Pasque flowers have timed their appearance this year to perfection and are in full bloom across the centre of the reserve in some impressive banks of colour. Matched by the profusion of cowslips all across the reserve and the first Early Purple Orchids in bloom on a south facing bank just alongside the main path across the reserve the flora is doing its best to attract visitors.
These visitors include many insects and on a disappointing day for butterflies I was able to learn something about the bees and flies present on the reserve with the help of Albert and a lovely lady from Anglia Ruskin Life Sciences department. I now know how to tell the difference between a male and female Ashy mining bee (present along the path through the woodland adjacent to the wall), how to spot their nests in the soil along the path and technical terms such as “curly hairy things” to aid with bee identification. There were certainly plenty of other mining bees, bumblebees and flies around the apple blossom so if insects interest you as much or more than flowers then there are plenty to try and identify.
If you are looking for something a little bigger then Willow Warblers and Blackcaps have returned to the reserve after their winter breaks and Blue Tits can be observed nesting in the wall on the southern boundary. We still await the first Cuckoo call to be heard and Whitethroat to be seen. If you are interested in birds a reminder that we have planned a bird song walk at 6:00am next Friday 21st April please let us know on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend so we know who is coming.
Please do let us know what you see on the reserve this week with an e-mail to email@example.com so we can let others know what is emerging onto the reserve.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
A very big thank you to all the volunteers and Natural England staff who turned out to clear and burn a lot of the scrub in compartment 3 (North East corner). By keeping the scrub cleared in this area we are providing every opportunity for the richer flora present in compartments 1 and 2 to expand and colonise the “hills and holes” in this area.
Whilst it was a fairly grey day with constant drizzle and a few heavy showers (which I managed with perfect timing to miss) the work, fire and companionship kept us warm. The sharp eyed will note a missing beech tree in the area and far fewer hawthorn bushes work started by the Peterborough conservation volunteers and extended by today’s efforts. Some more minor cutting back and taking out of smaller hawthorn growth in the next week will conclude activities in the area for this season.