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Yellow rattle in Donkey Field

June 2020 Conservation Update

Ornithology Update

Male kestrel on Hector's House

In May the woods were alive with the songs of nesting birds and fledglings. Woodpeckers and tree creepers were seen entering their nests, as well as black caps goldfinches and nut hatches. A kestrel perched on the Discovery Centre roof and then was seen later with a vole in its talons.

A pied flycatcher laid six eggs inside one our nest boxes (pictured below) and all six fledglings hatched.  By June the woods were very dry.  When the warm weather finally broke it was much needed, however it was to the detriment of the pied flycatchers.  It was too wet and cold for flies to be around in enough numbers to feed the brood.  Sadly all the fledglings died.

Phil checked our other nest boxes and reports that of 17 nest boxes: 3 were empty; 1 had rodents; 1 had wasps; 4 had blue tits – 2  successfully fledged; 8 had great tits – 7 successfully fledged.  Phil reports that the heron nests were not counted properly due to lockdown and he just noted 4 in trees close to the path.

Collier's Pond

There are plans to fence off Collier’s pond, though still allowing limited access. The weed carpeting part of the pond is not Crassula but another invader: red stemmed parrots feather (Myriophyllum brasiliensis).  

Closely related to Myriophyllum aquaticum, which is on the Schedule 9 list of invasive species, M. brasiliensi is still available for sale as a pond plant.  Don’t buy it because it can escape from your garden!  Efforts will be made to keep the red stemmed parrot’s feather under control. 

There was great tadpole activity on the edge of the weed when the photograph was taken. 

Cow Lane

Purple foxgloves
Pale and purple toadflax
Spear thistle

In 2018 the cherry laurel hedge was removed from the Cow Lane entrance to the Woods and replaced with hazel whips.  This year the whips are growing well but not tall enough yet to overshadow other plants. There were lots of flowers including: foxgloves; purple and pale toad flax; spear and creeping thistle. 

Red spotted ladybird
Harlequin ladybird larvae

Jane Beresford reported that on her walk with Bill Smyllie, the nettles were visited by peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies. When  I went a few days later there were no butterflies but plenty of orange spotted harlequin ladybirds with some still in the larvae state. I only saw  one red spotted ladybird.

Ecology Group

Sanicle in my garden

The Ecology Group wanted to check if sanicle, a native woodland plant, was still present. In the 1999 survey it was recorded in two places. Occasional sightings have been reported since then but not recently. No plants were seen in Wood 3; in Wood 1, however, a single plant was found by the path. The flower was just going over. For the first time sanicle appeared in my garden this year.

The fenced area between the path and the Bird Sanctuary is now fully recolonised by plants.  It was originally fenced off in 2017 because much of the the ground had become bare due to footfall. We have been busy recording the species found in the area – more on this later.  Perhaps it is time to revisit managing the area?  Is it time to remove the fence? The adjacent fenced area was only enclosed last year and this will remain protected for the foreseeable future.

Yellow rattle in Donkey Field

Sue Jackson, who records the Donkey Field flora and fauna, was pleased to find yellow rattle now in flower. The seeds were spread last autumn in a bid to help establish a meadow at this location. Yellow rattle is parasitic on grass roots and by weakening the dominant rye grass it is hoped that other meadow plants will flourish, though this could be a slow process. An alternative would be to remove the turf and start again.

 – Marilyn Small, FEW Chair.