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.
This week has seen some lovely weather and spring really does look like it is getting its skates on now with a lot of plants starting to show through the dry grass and winter debris on the reserve. The cowslips are now clearly visible and on a walk on Thursday I spotted the first flower bud tentatively showing yellow. Also violets are now in flower across the reserve. I suspect the Pasque flowers are still three or so weeks away depending on the weather but for the botanists among you there is plenty of new plants showing through that I am confident you can identify and they are easier to locate at present before the grass starts to really grow.
Butterflies are also emerging primarily along the road side adjacent to the village. So far I have seen Comma, Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell on the reserve and several Brimstones around the village itself.
The birds are definitely pairing up and bird song is increasing every day. Our next event is likely to focus on this with a guided walk by Tim (Reserve Warden) on 21st April starting at 6am (weather permitting) and a follow up on 12th May at 6 am if there is sufficient interest. Please do let me know at email@example.com if you would like to attend and look out for more details and updates on this website.
This year we are intending to reproduce a set of images from around the reserve based on images originally taken in 1977. So if you see puzzled people walking around the reserve trying to match black and white images, often full of trees and bushes, with pieces of open grassland you know why! The difference the scrub clearance work has made is clearly evident and an encouragement to those able to join us on Monday to continue this vital role.
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