I've been volunteering with the Trust for a good 30 years or so and over that time I've taken lots of photos of our reserves. Here's what I'm getting round to...I've got a new book out at the end of October and would like to invite you all to come and buy a copy. The book launch of "Favourite Places Near and Far" will be at the Swan pub in Chaddesley Corbett on the evening of 24th October. Copies will be available to Trust supporters for £12 on the evening.
Thankfully, 12th September turned out to be a fine, sunny day, which was a good job since the Droitwich Spa Local Group had booked a stand at the annual Salt Day event. This has become a major event with a farmers market, craft stalls, bands and other musicians, stands and displays by various charities and even displays by the Roman Re-enactment Group. It is slightly disconcerting to have a phalanx of Roman soldiers bearing down on one!
Our stall and display was well attended and we had the opportunity to introduce the Trust’s work to many visitors who were either unaware of our existence or knew only vaguely about what we do. I must say we got very positive responses and I am hopeful that at least some of those who took away membership leaflets will actually return them completed. We also managed some sales of Christmas cards and FSC identification charts. Interest in the stand was in no small measure due to two young ladies from the Amateur Entomologists Society Bug Club (the junior wing). Evie Privitera brought some of her Giant African Land Snails and Rachel McLeod brought Madagascan Giant Hissing Cockroaches. Both were experts on in their field and, through explaining about their displays, generated great interest in entomology and in other invertebrates. They even managed to persuade over 150 visitors to handle the specimens! Whilst they were entertaining children we had the opportunity to talk to parents and again many showed interest in our work with young people and took away forms for WATCH and the Bug Club which, hopefully, will result in some new members.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Evie and Rachel and their parents for their support for the event.
Trench Wood is looking rather beautiful at the moment! Heading up the main ride and turning to the right you'll spot loads of devil's-bit scabious. This pretty purple flower is attracting late butterflies such as commas and speckled woods.
And I must comment about the great mowing courtesy of our reserves officer James. We've recently had a new mower and it's great! The mower collects the cuttings which saves us the laborious and gigantic task of having to rake and pitchfork it all by hand. And, of course, the piles of cuttings make great habitats for grass snakes, slow-worms and the like.
The weather couldn’t have been better for Volunteer’s Day. After boarding the mini-bus at Smite Farm with a handful of other volunteers we arrived at Longdon Village Hall. After a quick welcome by the Chairman Linda Butler the morning was spent listening to entertaining and varied presentations. These ranged from updates by WWT staff on technology and the progress being made on the reserves to historical talks on the Malvern Hills and an innovative approach to reserve management known as ‘re-wilding’.
A generous buffet lunch was then served before we set off for an afternoon at Hill Court Farm. During a guided walk we learnt of future plans for the farm, its intricate water system and visited a row of ancient trees.
We then trekked across a grassy field to begin the earthworm survey. Dividing into groups we dug shallow square holes in the ground to see if we could find and identify any and after much digging by all teams a grand total of three earthworms were found. Overall an excellent and interesting day out!
Technically I'm a member of staff and not a volunteer so I shouldn't really be writing on the volunteer's blog. But I spent yesterday away from the computer & out on reserve with a volunteer work party. Despite this morning's aches I had a great time and thought I'd share some of the moments....
Although I've volunteered with other conservation groups, this was my first time out with Wildlife Trust volunteers. We've got lots of volunteer groups working on our reserves all over the county - yesterday the midweek 'roving' group were mowing and raking a meadow near Pershore. Mill Meadow is privately owned but managed by the Trust - there is minimal access to the reserve which makes it a haven for wildlife. It's not been ploughed for at least three generations, is sheltered and remains undrained. There is a rich flora in the meadow including spotted orchid, fleabane and devil's-bit scabious as well as moths, insects, slow-worms, frogs and toads - and much much more!
As the meadow is relatively small yesterday's work was done largely by hand. John mowed - we raked. Hardwork! We pitchforked the mown grass into three or four piles around the site. This gradually composts down and makes a fabulous habitat for slow-worms, grass snakes, frogs and toads. John was great at spotting wildlife that was wandering around in front of mower - we lost count of how many frogs and toads of all sizes we moved out of the way! From my point of view seeing so many toads was brilliant - I've got a registered toad crossing quite close to the meadow and it was great to see that so many made it after seeing so many squashed as they travelled to their breeding pond/s earlier this year.
One of the volunteers suggested that they start to make a log of break-time and lunchtime conversations as they're so varied. Yesterday we chatted about the school that wanted to slaughter a sheep - which led to an interesting discussion about animal husbandry - as well as the culinary delights of noodles and pasta. It's not all hardwork!
I'm not going to tell a fib. If you're thinking of volunteering on one of our reserves, expect to ache a little after the first day's hardwork. I used muscles yesterday that I'd forgotten I had - and I'm aching a little today to remind me. I may write a press release or update our website today to spread the word about we we do - but yesterday I was involved in the 'real' on the ground work of actively managing habitats to help our wildlife survive.
What great news! I've recently found brown hairstreak butterfly eggs on three blackthorn bushes at Feckenham. This is the first time they've been found here in ten years and goes to show that the work we've been doing ro encourage new blackthorn sucker growth as well as the work we've been doing with Butterfly Conservation is working.
Brown hairstreaks are quite elusive because they spend most of their time in the treetops. The females start to descend at this time of year to find suitable places to lay their eggs. They need two-four year old growth and a fork of the blackthorn bush to lay their eggs in - blackthorn is the foodplant of the caterpillars.
What's been important this time is that, along with Butterfly Conservation, we've been working on our reserves to help the butterfly as well as with other landowners to help provide a network of hedgerows, trees and shrubs to allow the insects to move between, and find new, suitable sites.