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