With the first Pasque Flower of the season seen on the reserve during my visit on Tuesday this week spring is well on its way. For those who saw “Springwatch at Easter” on BBC the reserve provides an opportunity to participate in their survey as all five signs of spring can be seen on the reserve. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your sightings on the reserve of the English Oak coming into leaf, Hawthorn in flower, seven spot ladybirds, Orange tip butterflies and of course the arrival of the first Swallow. See www.naturescalendar.org.uk for more national information.
April’s event will be held on Sunday 19th April from 11:00-12:30 meeting at the main car park off Wittering Road. On the day Chris Gardiner from Natural England will be giving us an onsite “Introduction to the Butterfly Survey”. This will help those who want to contribute to the 2015 site survey programme and help those with an interest in butterflies to develop their knowledge of the site. The event will be free to members and at a small charge of £2:00 for non-members. There will be a limit on the number of spaces so please book your place by e-mailing email@example.com.
A glorious spring day and a fly past by an early Brimstone butterfly welcomed the first event of the year. David and Nick joining with ten members of Peterborough Conservation Volunteers (PCV) to clear some of the small scrub along the boundary between compartments 1 and 4 to the west of the wooded area. The reported regular presence of a local concentration of Green Hairstreak butterflies saved us from a major battle with two large bramble patches and to work around the larger hawthorn bushes present in the area. That still left enough smaller scrub mainly ash, hawthorn, blackthorn and of course turkey oak to clear. The friendly welcome and regular cups of tea provided by PCV made the morning pass very quickly. Late excitement from a brief excursion by the fire into the surrounding dead grasses and a discussion on the identification of violets, prompted by a local patch that was in full bloom, ensured lunch was as interesting as the rest of the day. Many thanks to Anne and John (PCV) for leading the task and keeping everyone safe and the rest of the PCV team for their practical help in maintaining the reserve.
The first event for the Friends of Barnack Hills and Holes in 2015 will be a practical task held on Sunday March 22nd. We will be joining with the Peterborough Conservation Volunteers who will be on site continuing to clear scrub and help keep the reserve in good condition to support the flora and butterflies that we can enjoy throughout the spring and summer. Please feel free to join us for as long or as little time as you can. Please let me know by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org if you are thinking of attending so I can provide any updates . David
Summer is almost over and I have hacked his account again! The days when it is easy to persuade him to take me out for a walk and I could get much further before he complained and wanted to head home are coming to an end. The flowers on the reserve are much less prominent but compensated for by the berries and fruits especially the fun of blackberry picking which I have discovered this autumn. The odd prickle of the nose is well worth it for the juicy fruits in the hedgerows in the fields surrounding the reserve.
The disappearance of the swifts in the middle of summer seems strange to me but with the days cooling and getting shorter I can see why the swallows are moving on. The antics of the groups of finches, which have formed on the reserve, keep me entertained. I enjoy watching them explore the hawthorn bushes but I am still waiting to see my first flock of long tailed tits of the autumn. They are easily heard with their constant “radar pips” as they call to each other to keep contact as they forage across the reserve. I have spent the whole summer trying to get a sniff of the butterflies. Despite the high numbers this has proven elusive not one of them ever settled long enough for me to get my nose on to them but the few remaining sunny days still give me a chance. Hopefully a dry September will allow me to make the most of the reserve before the sheep return. Whilst I am really friendly and want to play they do not enjoy my company and get easily stressed if I go too close so I am kept on my lead and taken on routes that avoid them. Along with the sheep the return of the wintering thrushes to the reserve is the other sure sign that autumn has arrived. So whilst the floral display is coming to an end the reserve still has plenty of interest to keep my eyes, ears and nose occupied.
The traditional bank holiday weather has me thinking about this years fine display of butterflies and flowers on the Hills and Holes. At least my perception is the flowers were more prolific than usual and the butterflies earlier and more numerous. Perhaps the mild winter had made a contribution but was it that unusual? So I have “dug out” from the internet the weather records from Wittering (only a mile or so from the reserve as the crow flies) and discovered that since the accessible records began in July 1996 it had been one of the mildest winters (along with 2007).
Particularly unique and perhaps significant for the over wintering insects there was no single day when the average temperature recorded was below 0 degrees celsius.
Spring has also been one of the warmest, again notable for its absence of any really cold days.
It will be interesting to see if the results of the butterfly and other surveys support my ad hoc observations and if we really have seen the benefits of a mild winter and warm spring last through the summer. For the information of those who took part in a very wet Man Orchid count it could have been worse. The rain fall on the 24th May (10.92mm) was only the fourth heaviest of the year (perhaps made to feel worse by the19.05mm that fell on 22nd May but not as bad as the 23.88mm on 10th August. With the 12.95mm that came down on 20th July these are the only four days so far this year to have reached double figures local to the reserve. Now I have the data please let me know if you have any specific questions on the historic weather.