Friday, 24 December 2010

Winter arrives at Feckenham

Now that winter has really set in, the reserve still looks amazing. These pics are of from when the hoar frost was at its best - or worst whichever you consider it to be ! Anyhow, it made for a spectacular landscape with the sun and blue sky. During the morning the small amount of warmth in the sun melted it away and the rich browns and golds of the trees and reeds provided a complete contrast.

We had large flock of mallard, around 50 or so, on the only small patch of open water, all making plenty of noise. No photograph as they were behind the second island and I was not prepared to go round to the far end of the pool and risk them leaving. Unfortunately there was nothing more interesting than them on the water but there were good numbers of fieldfare, redwing, siskin and some redpoll. I also put up 5 common snipe from a wet patch in Kernocks Middle Close.

No sign of our resident kingfisher for a while so I hope that it has not been a casualty of the hard weather conditions. It could still fish at the main pool and so hopefully if the cold spell relents we will see him back.

Our hardy Galloways are still munching away and now making short work of the piles of hay left from summer mowing.

Merry Christmas to you all and here's looking forward to Spring!

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Chance's pet cemetery...

The wood is very quiet, temperatures have finally moved above freezing but have been as low as -9˚C for a week or more. Last month’s bird activity is reduced to tits foraging in the trees and amongst the leaf litter while nuthatches tap away at the hornbeam trunks.

On the east bank of the dry valley the fire from yesterday’s work party gently smokes until the unburnt rhododendron leaves are raked in, smoke then fills this part of the wood. We had a good session yesterday and during the month we have carried out a variety of tasks. A couple of years ago we cleared a patch of rhododendron on the bank but it had regenerated, so this year we’ve been a little more physical and uprooted the stumps. We’ve cleaned out the nest-boxes, finding traces of about a 50% occupancy, but many boxes have had to be taken for repair; metal rings around the entrance don’t stop the woodpeckers going through the sides! We seem to have lost some boxes completely so Avril is recording GPS co-ordinates this year. We’ve begun the process of clearing the overgrown pathways and this will have to be the focus of our work for most of the rest of the season. It is good to finish the session with fruit cake and a drink round the fire as we loose the light so early at this time of year.

Last month’s blog finished with what was supposed to be an enticing cliffhanger for those who do not know the wood. It did, however, draw comment from a family member (who I had hoped would be more supportive) “Well it’s ok but what’s that gibberish at the end? Did you forget to delete something?” So to put the record straight this month I’ve included some photographs.
Your first experience of these grave and headstones can be a little unnerving until you realise that they are not human remains. At the highest point in the wood this is a reminder that this was once the garden of a Victorian family. Queen Victoria apparently started a trend for pet cemeteries by having one at Osbourne house - a quick Google shows many large 19th century houses and estates had these memorials to family pets. One of the most enigmatic inscriptions is: “SHOT” [We think he was]. Was the dog shot, why wasn’t it obvious? Was the dog’s name ‘Shot’, if so, why weren’t they sure?

I said there would be stirrings under the leaf litter by now and sure enough if you move some leaves you can see that the wood is preparing for a great show in 6 weeks or so!

Roger, Chance Wood

Friday, 10 December 2010

Winter at Smite

Despite the cold weather (-8C) a merry band of Farm and Roving volunteers turned out to clear the bank adjacent to The Granary, a Special Site of Slow-worm Interest. Hopefully, as well as helping the slow-worms, the snowdrops and primroses will also benefit from the increased light level and put on a good show next spring.
The ponds were completely frozen for several inches, so while we were kept warm by burning the debris collected, others were on a mission to provide birds with much-needed drinking water.

Of course, before we left, as the light failed, there was just enough time to capture some of the stunning wintry views.

Heather, Lower Smite Farm

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dormice success!

Just a quick note to say we finally made it out to do the final tube check of the year at Monkwood last Sunday. Brilliant news – we found dormouse nests in little Monkwood and in the main block along the north side of the road. Essentially, we have found evidence of dormice wherever we have looked & I think it's fair to assume that dormice are present across the whole site. Nonetheless I'd still like to 'tube' the rest of the perimeter next year so we know we have surveyed across the whole site.

Liz, Monkwood

Sorry, here's the boring bit. Please don't go looking for or disturbing nests yourselves and don't forget that dormice are a protected species and you need a licence to handle them.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Life on reception

I've been volunteering for the Trust for almost 20 years - from running craft fairs in the early days to working on reception at the Smite HQ nowadays. I do it because it's great fun & I hope I'm being useful to the team here.

I only do one afternoon a week and in a typical slot on reception I'll not only answer the phone, I'll also help with admin work - photocopying, laminating, post collecting, proof-reading, birdfood stocktaking and selling. I'm often asked to cut out materials for our education and community work as well as make paper plant pots. I enjoy meeting the various people that come in to see staff or buy things from us - & if I'm really lucky I also get to drink tea and do my daily crossword!

Maybe I'll see you at Smite at some point?

Oliver, Lower Smite Farm reception

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bittern-ly cold!

Here's the Bittern taken at the Moors (Upton Warren) on Monday.

It’s great to see one in the open like this but also sad when you think they are only so visible due to the need to search for food in this weather.

Stuart, Upton Warren

Friday, 26 November 2010

Work at Penorchard

Work has just been carried out at the Penorchard Meadows reserve to help save a rare black poplar tree.

The weight of a large limb overhanging the public footpath in the "Bogs field" was causing a vertical crack to develop in the tree's main trunk. The condition was safe enough for walkers to pass underneath the limb but the crack was widening and in danger of splitting the trunk; hornets had been seen entering the narrow crack during the summer. Arborcultural contractors employed by the Trust took down the overhanging limb to remove the weight pulling on the trunk (see before and after photographs).

Other trees in the woodland area were trimmed at the same time and the larger branches were cut into short lengths to make log piles for insects and smaller mammals (see photograph).

Volunteers from the Stourbridge group removed all of the brash from the area to keep the woodland floor relatively clear to encourage the existing numbers of broadleaved helliborine and violet helliborine to increase. 67 plants were recorded this year (12 in flower), see photograph.

John, Penorchard Meadows

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Autumn at Feckenham

We have had some excellent autumn visitors recently. Flocks of fieldfare, redwing, siskin and redpoll have all been seen on the reserve together with goldfinches and goldcrest which were flying around the main pool with a family of long tailed tits.

Our resident kingfisher has been there every day and has provided some excellent views, in particular taking a dead dragonfly from the pool surface which it struggled to swallow.

I spotted this great spotted woodpecker last week on one of the oaks in the poolside wood and last Friday we had a brief visit from a female hen harrier which unfortunatley was not near enough for a good photograph but through binoculars it could be seen stretching and preening on one of the large willow branches at the far end of the paddock. There have been three or four buzzards about and the raven flew over again last week calling as it went.

We have a regular Wednesday workparty which over the winter will continue with reedbed management and alder coppicing so anyone interested in joining us would be very welcome. We start at 10.00am and meet in the management area at the entrance to the reserve.

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Splash of colour

This mandarin duck has been providing a splash of colour on the Sailing Pool at Upton Warren over the last few days.

Stuart, Upton Warren

Friday, 19 November 2010

Chance Wood - a view from across the border!

Hidden away across the county border in Staffordshire, down a path which would have connected the old village of Stourton with the thriving village of Kinver, lies an area of unusual woodland. Planted in the 19th century as an ornamental wood, Chance Wood is dominated by large oaks and beech with specimens of yes, hornbeam, ash and sweet chestnut. The wood was donated to our Trust in 1977 by the Holmes family of Stourton Court.

In effect the wood must have been an early version of our current passion for 'wildlife gardening'. However, years of neglect led to an impenetrable palisade of sycamore by the early 1980s, not helped by the spread of the once fashionable rhododendron.
On the face of it, not a great recipe for a nature reserve but on Sunday morning when I ventured into the wood to survey the effects of Saturday's work party I was surrounded by a large party of long-tailed tits accompanied by blue and great tits, nuthatch and two tree creepers. It wasn't long before I'd addded green and great spotted woodpeckers to the morning's bird list. My ears still just about register the calls of goldcrest and it only took a few moments to spot them busily collecting invertebrates from the canopy.

Walking to the bottom of the wood I disturbed the buzzard which had been roosting in an old silver birch and heard the cronk of our local raven flying over. The yew tree in the valley bottom had attracted blackbirds and redwings to feast on the rapidly disappearing glut of berries. Clearly it hadn't taken long for the wood to recover from the onslaught of the dozen or so volunteers the previous day.
I'll try to remember to add to this blog as the year progresses and introduce you to some more secrets of this enchanting woodland and the history of its family. Within the month there will be stirrings under the leaf litter which will result in many locals coming for their annual visit. Which family member was "Shot - we think he was" and who was killed on the railway line at Llanvihangel?
Roger, Reserve Manager, Chance Wood

Friday, 5 November 2010

Wyre Forest visit to Longmore Farm

Naturalist and author Gordon Forrest recently led the Wyre Forest Local Group on a very enjoyable visit to Longmore Farm, Chaddesley Corbett.

As he took us to interesting wildlife areas he was able to share his experiences of studying them over a long period of time. It was particularly interesting to see some of the photos from his books that showed the places throughout the seasons.

Our next outdoor meeting is on Sunday 14th November with a walk around Rock led by Wenda James. We'll be meeting at 10am on the car park at the Rock Cross Inn in the village. The optional Sunday lunch should be booked in advance with Wenda on 01299 402406. Everyone is welcome to attend - for further information about the group contact Richard Cory on 01299 822748 or David Howell on 01562 741891.

See you at Rock!
David, Wyre Forest Local Group

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Worcester group is back!

Worcester Group members may be aware that their committee, having lost several long-standing and valuable members, has struggled for some time to organise activities. It got so bad that the committee didn’t have enough people to carry on and so, regretfully, no indoor meetings were organised this winter.

With backing from Community Officer Zoe and Conservation Asst Paul, a meeting was held at Lower Smite Farm in early October for anyone interested in helping to run the Group. Half a dozen people came along to enjoy Zoe’s presentation about the Wildlife Trust and our wonderful local reserves, and then to enjoy tea and cake with existing committee members and find out a bit more about what we're all about and the many different ways to get involved.

It was a great evening with a very positive result. Everyone was keen to get the committee started again and continue to provide meetings and activities for Worcester Group members to enjoy. We are now delighted to announce that indoor meetings will start again next spring at our new venue of Nunnery Wood High School, Spetchley Road, where there is plenty of free parking.

We have already arranged two special events so make a note in your diaries! On 2 March 2011 Johnny Birks will give a talk on that fascinating yet little-known mammal, the polecat, and on 6 April 2011 our very own Harry Green will talk to us about garden birds and the year-round importance of the garden habitat. The cost for each meeting will be just £2 including refreshments.

The newly-formed committee has lots of creative ideas for future indoor and outdoor events, so do please support us by coming along, having a good time, and supporting the Trust’s work on behalf of local wildlife.

It is never too late if you want to get involved! You can contact the group via the website – we’d love to hear from you.

Sandra, Worcester Local Group

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Moth News!

It was a cold evening at the end of August for our last trapping session of 2010 - as is usual in late summer the number of moths trapped falls away. We none the less trapped 132 moths of about 36 species using six 125mv, one 15w actinic skinner and sugaring a few trees. Some records are still to come in and some species to be confirmed.

Three moths were new for the site: willow ermine Yponomeuta rorrella, Ypsolopha parenthesella and frosted orange Gortyna flavago. Good moths for the site included crescent Celaena leucostigma, pale eggar Trichlura crateagi, and bullrush wainscot Nonagria typhae.

I mentioned last time that as part of the wider Lepodoptera project we have been monitoring butterflies and that the area in the Education Reserve around the Upton (Rabbit) 'Warren' was turning out to be particularly interesting. A day time visit to the area in mid August turned up a previously unknown breeding colony of brown argus butterflies breeding on dove's-foot crane's bill G.molle. A very good find. A photograph of a male and female brown argus taken by JHR Ridley is attached.

John, Upton Warren

Photos: Pale eggar, bullrush wainscot, brown argus

Thursday, 9 September 2010

It's been raining on Feckenham

After recent heavy rain the reserve is showing surface water for the first time this summer. This is good news as our new ponds are full to the brim, in fact the larger dragonfly pond has overflowed.

There is a massive invasion of mosquito larva in the dipping pond. The surface is virtually covered; there must be millions. I just hope that I am not around the day they all hatch!

Today I photographed this kestrel with it's catch. It was on the wires and flew down very leisurely onto something in the ct meadow. It 'mantled' and as I got nearer it flew up into the oak with what I could see was a very big frog. I managed to watch it for about ten minutes devouring the prey.

Not many butterflies about at the moment but our first painted lady today and a couple of red admirals. Plenty of emperor dragonfly over the main pool and willow warblers still around. The cattle are making good headway with grazing the cut meadows and the new fresh lush growth looks excellent.Best wishes

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Mothing at Upton Warren

We caught more moths at Upton Warren at the end of July - & got some very pretty photos.

In summary nearly 800 moths trapped of about 120 species using seven 125mv and one 15w actinic skinner. Some records are still to come in and some species to be confirmed. Eleven moths so far were new for the site: 642 Batia unitella: 758 Recurvaria leucatella: 765 Teleiodes vulgella: 796 Aroga velocella: 1155 Epinotia brunnichana: 1637 Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus: 1754 The Phoenix Eulithis prunata: 1874 Dingy Shell Euchoeca nebulata: 1997 Sallow Kitten Furcula furcula: 2049 Buff Footman Eilema depressa: 2111 Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua janthe.

The area in the Education Reserve around the Upton (Rabbit) 'Warren' is turning out to be particularly interesting. This is where 796 Aroga velocella was collected which we think has only previously been recorded in Worcestershire from Hartlebury Common: It is a moorland and heathland species. Its larva feed in a silken gallery at the BASE: the end nearest the body of a leg, hair or other appendage.');" onmouseout="return nd();">base of sheeps' sorrel (Rumex acetosella). We have looked at this area in the daytime and collected further micros which are new for the reserve they are 1273 Dichrorampha petiverella: 776 Teleiopsis diffinis and 1219 Lathronympha strigana.

As part of the wider Lepodoptera project I have been monitoring butterflies and am happy to report this year we were blessed with good numbers of White-letter Hairstreaks on the Wych Elms along the Salwarp on the reserve.


John, Upton Warren

Photos: oak eggar, sallow kitten, white letter hairstreak

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

An escapee at Upton Warren...

Attached is an image that was on the Flashes last weekend.

Nobody could identify it so I sent the image to Brian Stretch (Worcester Birding) who came up with the following -

'It's a Speckled Teal, a South American species. There are 4 sub-species so will try and pinpoint which one, but which ever it is it will almost certainly be an escape'.

He did get back to me...

'It's resident in the Andes from Peru and Bolivia south to Chile and Argentina and is also known as 'Sharp-winged Teal''.

I think another first for Upton Warren - ok it's an escapee!


Stuart, Upton Warren

Monday, 16 August 2010

Feckenham Update

We have been busy at Feckenham over the past couple of weeks; well our contractors have!

We now have our rejuvenated dragonfly ponds in front of the Alders hide and the dipping platform. Our contractor came in a couple of weeks ago and has done a great job in deepening and enlarging our existing overgrown ponds. This work was long overdue. They have filled up well and on our Dragonfly/Damselfly walk on Saturday 15th August we were able to see southern hawker, common darter, azure and blue tailed in good numbers. The common darter were laying so hopefully this bodes well for the future. We have a small amount of clearance work to do around the dipping platform but when this is done it will be ready for educational visits to pond dip.

We've also had our two main meadows cut and by the time you read this the hay will be off site. This year's dry weather has helped enormously and made the ground dry enough to get a light weight tractor on site. We have left wide margins and some large flowering patches for late butterflies; there are currently masses of common blue about which will we hope lay on the vetch.

We had two visits from the Roving Volunteers who worked very hard as they always do to cut and rake off the cowslip patch. This will enable better growth next Spring than this year as we were unable to cut last summer. We will be looking for brown hairstreak over the next few weeks to try to establish an 'assembly tree' and also hopefully to see females on the blackthorn.

One of our visitors spotted a peregrine flying over the reserve recently and our kingfisher is a regular visitor.

We found this young toad. Interesting colour, I have never seen one this colour before. If anyone knows about pale coloured toads, I'd be interested to hear your comments.

Anyone wishing to visit the reserve is reminded that there is no parking on Moors Lane. We only have access rights for management. So, please park in the village or contact the Warden Paul Meers on 07899 806425 for special permission to park in the management area. Also, a polite reminder to photographers, please do not put perches in the main pool bank. Access to the pool area is not permitted.

Till the next time!

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor