Friday, 25 February 2011

Feckenham's mystery picture revealed

Well the quiz received massive interest and comments from you keen blog readers. The answer is shown below but before you rush to scroll down to see if you were correct, let me tell you what we've been up to on the reserve.

Our Volunteer Taster day was a great sucess with a good number of people attending. The day started with a guided walk around the reserve then a session working on brash clearance and pond digging. Everyone enjoyed their day and subsequently we have had 4 new volunteers come to our Wednesday work parties.

I've been out on the reserve with a group of volunteers from Chaddesley Woods who are helping us to regenerate our old hedge along Moors Lane. This has not been managed since we purchased the reserve in 1981 so it is long past it's best. We are coppicing down to around 48" which will give us a basis for laying at another time when the stumps have put on decent growth. There are many gaps between so we plan to plant with native hawthorn and blackthorn in the autumn to enable the hedge to thicken in the years to come. When thick enough it will create a far better habitat, particularly for birds that like to nest in a thick hedge.
Little grebe

The sun has come out and it's been very warm; it felt like spring was already here and just to make a point our coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara - cough dispeller) is in full flower. It was exactly a month later in mid-March last year!

We have 14 Canada geese on the main pool - it's a shame because they can't stop arguing which spoils the peace and quiet somewhat. They have paired up and hopefully they will move on to nest elsewhere, we just don't have the room. Our coots are back and re-asserting their ownership of the pool and we have a single little grebe who is waiting for a mate. 

Now onto the quiz. I'm afraid that no-one got it right. It was in fact the great reedmace (bullrush) Typha latifolia. So, due to the great success of the mystery pic, here is another one. Now this one is really easy...! 

What's this?
Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Thursday, 17 February 2011

February in Chance

The volunteers have worked so effectively that the major job planned for this year was completed last month.  This left us last week's and next month's work parties to concentrate on clearing the paths.  Bramble grows very rapidly here and soon leaves some paths so overgrown that they become impassable without a good cut back each year.

The next few weeks should see the wood looking at its best and now is the time to meet and chat to the walkers who come up from Kinver to see the spring bulbs; the snowdrops are probably at their best now, daffodil and bluebell shoots are showing well and suggesting that this might be a good bluebell year.

The woodland birds continue to call and I should have had a great photo of the buzzard had I not had the close up lens on the camera at the time!
Catkins at Chance
There wasn't room for all the snowdrop photos here so why not visit our Flickr page

Roger, Chance Wood

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Woodland Work at Smite

Hedge planting
Blue skies and sunshine beamed down on the Tuesday Roving Volunteers as they visited Lower Smite Farm last week to start the last phase of planting our new wood – 400 oak trees. Tree planting has been steady throughout the winter and alongside the tree planting in the new wood, the Farm volunteers have been planting new hedgerows and gap filling the hedges planted last year. Everything has come on apace and we are on target for completion of this work.
Copse clearance

Today we took up work started last autumn on the clearance of the copse behind the barn.  Armed with chainsaw, bow saws and loppers, we set to work on the remaining trees marked for felling. It is amazing how much this clearance work has opened up the copse and let in much-needed light.   

The next task is to put up more bird boxes before the nesting season begins in earnest.

Heather, Lower Smite Farm

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Feckenham update

Following our winter brown hairstreak egg count, and still wallowing in the sucess of our first 14 eggs last year, we were slightly disappointed to find just 7 this time. All of these were on the new short suckers that had grown since we cleared the area two years ago. We think that the reduced number is due to a significant amount of 'fresh' lichen growing in the crevices where the eggs are laid on the blackthorn this winter after what was a relatively damp 2010. We will be doing quite a lot of work to rectify this by coppicing the old blackthorn in the same area where the new eggs were found as well as on the other side of the reserve, to see if this encourages more egg laying. This work will be done in August before the new laying season begins. New suckers won't have grown until next year or the year after but we do need to manage this on a rotation basis for the benefit of the butterflies now we have them on site.We also hope to locate an 'assebly' tree this year.

Work on pollarding our big old 'crack' willows is well under way and although this will change our skyline they really did need attention. Many had split already and were leaning on other trees with some overhanging branches that would inevitably come down in strong winds. The work will ensure that these trees do not disappear. We have left some excellent owl and bat habitat together with the old woodpecker holes. Last Wednesday we had an excellent sighting of a rather scruffy tawny owl. It came out of a crack in one of the old ash trees and flew within a few feet of us at shoulder height along the ditch line. 

Finally, I've noticed that there are no comments on the blog.  So, here is something to stimulate your brain cells. What is this photograph of? There are no prizes but it will prove that someone out there is reading....!

Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Winter at Penorchard

Work on the reserve stopped when the weather changed in early December. With snow falls and daytime temperatures of minus 10 degrees it was impossible to carry out any management work.

All activities did not stop, however, as the snow brought the sledgers to the reserve - whilst many enjoyed themselves, some left their litter and broken sledges behind them. Even though we'd prepared notices about not sledging in the meadows and arranged for them to be displayed around the reserve it still took three half days to collect up all the litter.

However, winter is a useful time to carry out a large mammal survey. The muddy conditions show up the deer tracks well and I have recently had good views of the roe deer. These observations have also presented me with a problem. The tracks indicate that the damaged barbed wire boundary fence (which we must repair before the horses return to graze in the meadows next July) is the main access point for the deer entering and leaving the reserve. I have to come up with an idea for a suitable fence repair which will keep the horses in whilst maintaining safe access for the deer. If anyone has any ideas please let me know.

Early February will see the volunteers returning to the reserve. This year we will be concentrating on cutting back some of the blackthorn and bramble which we started to do last year.  You're more than welcome to join in & we'd be delighted to see you!  Contact Paul at Smite for information on 01905 754919 or

John, Penorchard