Thursday, 27 December 2012

Wettest year for wetland reserve

This year has been disappointing at Feckenham Wylde Moor in terms of very low butterfly, dragonfly and damselfly numbers. We had hoped that after last summer's good conditions that everything would have done well this year. This was not to be the case. However, we did get relatively good numbers of various warblers.

The reserve has been very wet all through the summer and is now the wettest I have ever seen in all the years that we have had the reserve. I places there's up to 12" of standing water and the public footpath alongside the Mouch ditch is virtually impassable. The footbridge is under water and very difficult to cross. I have never seen this before!

The meadows are under significant surface water and this does not bode well for next spring, particularly if we get more rain. Any creatures that over-winter underground will be struggling. Plants, too, are waterlogged. However, FWM is a wetland so we hope it will manage to get back to normal...only time will tell.

We were unable to mow and bale so this has meant that the meadows have been left virtually untouched. We did manage to get a couple of days with the roving volunteers, who worked hard to cut the margins, which will make a difference. We have had up to 20 Hereford cattle on site but these are currently away for TB testing and we don't know, as yet, when they will return. They had, up to a few weeks ago, done a magnificent job in eating most of what we could not cut but we have had to be selective where and for how long they graze particular areas.

These photographs, taken on Wednesday 12 December, show the frost which always make the reserve look very picturesque.

Anyone planning to visit will struggle to negotiate the bog that, in places along the trail, is very sticky and will hold onto your wellies or even steal them from you. Our new kissing gates that have replaced some of the stiles have suffered following the heavy rains and we now have plans to try to change them or at least make them easier to negotiate. Please take extra care if visiting.

All the best for the New Year!
Paul, Feckenham Wylde Moor

Friday, 23 November 2012

Soggy Grafton Wood

It's a bit wet out there, isn't it?!   

At Grafton Wood this Wednesday we had 26mm of rain during the morning.  Despite the conditions 10 people attended the work party working on the north coppice.  It was almost impossible to get to the container to get the tools but, undeterred, a large chunk of coppice was cut and a good fire lit. This helped drying out the coppicers in the afternoon!

And then more rain fell...

John, Grafton Wood

Monday, 12 November 2012

Deer talk

It's always exciting to spot deer when out for a country walk and it was fascinating to gain more insight and knowledge from Peter Watson’s well illustrated talk.  Peter Watson is Director at The Deer Initiative and his talk to the Malvern Local Group last week gave us an insight into the UK's deer populations.

In England and Wales there are six kinds of deer roaming the countryside but only two of them are native species, the red and the roe. Both of these are rapidly increasing in numbers and range and they represent a remarkable conservation success story. In 1972 there were a few red deer and now there are about 40,000; the roe were wiped out by 1750 and now there are over 500,000. 

Fallow deer were introduced to this country by the Normans and were protected in the hunting forests for centuries; many escaped during the two wars. Muntjac deer were introduced at Woburn Abbey by the Duke of Bedford and now there are over 200,000 roaming our woodlands. Chinese water and sika deer were also originally introduced on the big estates, escaped, and are growing in numbers in many places.

Why do we need to manage these deer? They are valuable in many ways, aesthetically, historically, as venison, and as trophies. However, they also impact on our environment in undesirable ways - eating trees, crops, native flora and bulbs, and causing problems for nesting birds. Some are infected with diseases like bluetongue, bovine TB and ticks. About 60,000 deer a year are involved in road traffic accidents. 

The purpose of The Deer Initiative is to deliver a sustainable, well-managed deer population, in balance with its habitat. Groups as diverse as the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, the RSPB and shooting organisations are involved in and support the Initiative. Management includes infrastructure support, population and impact monitoring, and collaborative culls. Interestingly, in some areas the number of traffic accidents reduces hugely after relatively small numbers of deer are culled. Fallow deer and muntjac are the main problems nationwide and need to be controlled.  

Our next meeting is on December 6th at 7.30 pm at Malvern Evangelical Church. Jonathan Briggs will present “A Mistletoe Miscellany”. We look forward to seeing you there.

Alison, Malvern Local Group

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Monkwod Dormice ... doing well!

2012 seems to have been a bit mixed for dormice around the country but at Monkwood it’s been one of the best years yet!

Things started well with a successful grant from Peoples Trust for Endangered Species to help pay for 65 new dormice nest boxes to follow up a tube survey of the perimeter of the wood in 2010-2011 that found signs of dormice all around the wood.

10 of these boxes were used to replace some existing worn out or squirrel-damaged ones at the north end of Monkwood and the rest enabled us to set up a new run of boxes in an area of younger growth at the south end of the wood. The new boxes went up at the end of March and had only been up for a few weeks before we found a torpid female dormouse during our check in June.

Dormice hibernate fully during the winter but during the summer, and particularly during spring when there is less food around, they can go into a deep sleep known as torpor to save energy and so are often found fast asleep at this time of year. After a couple of minutes in the hand they will start to wake up but sometimes are relaxed enough to go back to sleep again! Instant winner of the ‘Cutest animal in the wood’ award!

Wood mouse
In July we found a few new dormouse nests but no dormice. However, the boxes were home to a total of 10 yellow-neck mice (Apodemus flavicollis) and one woodmouse (Apodemus sylvaticus). Apart from having pretty slummy domestic habits and making a right mess of the nestboxes, yellow-neck mice are widely believed to eat torpid dormice so the dormice often seem abandon the nestboxes in favour of safer natural nest sites at this time of year.

In August we found just one female dormouse in the same box as 2 months earlier but showing little increase in weight and we began to suspect that all the rain was keeping the dormice in at nights and affecting feeding and breeding.

We needn’t have worried though - by September the dormice were back and we found a few more nests  and two males and one female in another of the new southern boxes. All three were a good weight for the time of year and beginning to fatten up for hibernation. Judging from the weight and fur colour, one of the males was a juvenile born earlier in the year and a good sign that some young were being born and finding enough to eat.

Dormouse weigh-in
This was all confirmed last week in our October check. Apart from a few nests we didn’t find any dormice in the southern boxes but found three juveniles in one of the northern boxes. Again these were all at a good weight ready to go into hibernation in the next few weeks.

Many thanks to PTES for funding the new boxes and to all those who have helped with the checks this year. Particular thanks must go to the Trust for the management work during the last few years as the regenerating scrub patches provide excellent dormouse habitat and the population seems to be responding accordingly.

Hopefully 2013 will be even better.

Andy, Worcestershire Dormouse Group

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A blog from a blog

A different kind of blog....

Last week we held our first taster day for volunteers to help with our wildlife garden at Lower Smite Farm.  We had a great turn out and one of our new volunteers went away and updated her own blog.  Rather than just pop a link to it as 'blogs you may like' we thought we'd do it justice with a proper link in a blog post all of its own.

Thanks Alison for writing the piece and we hope everyone enjoys reading it...

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Waiting for snipe - art for sale!

As we wait with binoculars poised for the arrival of wintering snipe and their allies on our wetland reserves, and not least on our patch at Broadway Gravel Pit Local Nature Reserve, I was inspired to do a watercolour of a common snipe.  

The framed original is for sale at £150 - sized 16 1/2 inches square (420 x 420 mm).  

If anyone is interested please contact Wendy at the Trust or 01905 754919..... should it sell I will donate 50% of the sale proceeds to the Trust.

Many thanks
Mark, Broadway Gravel Pit

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A night of the Wyre Forest

John Robinson was the first warden of the Wyre Forest and he held that position for 30 years before retiring.  Last Thursday evening he shared his vast knowledge of the forest with the audience through his award winning photographs and his amusing anecdotes. 

The Wyre Forest is one of the largest areas of ancient semi-natural woodland in England and is a National Nature Reserve. In medieval times the forest would have extended from Malvern to Bridgnorth; it is now much reduced at 6000 acres. Half of that area is broad-leaved woodland with much of the coniferous area in the process of being converted to broadleaf by The Forestry Commission. The Industrial Revolution was one of the biggest influences on the forest when timber, usually oak, was used for charcoal production and the forest became somewhat depleted.

John's excellent photographs encompassed many of the species found in the Wyre Forest: dormice and badgers, puff balls and parasitic toothwort, goldcrest and lesser spotted woodpecker, pearl-bordered fritillary and marbled white, dipper and grey wagtail, glow-worm and beetle. However, hedgehogs have not been seen in the forest for 20 years and it is suspected that the small number of orchids found in the forest have been brought into the forest with other material. Redstarts are rare now and pied flycatchers are declining rapidly but barn owls are now to be found around the edge of the forest. The forest supports large numbers of redwing during the winter months.

Many of the photographs were taken from John’s kitchen window (in the forest) or from ingeniously-designed hides. He was able to enlighten the audience as to how some of his prize-winning photographs were taken. 

The next meeting of our Malvern Group is at 7.30 pm on November 8th at Malvern Evangelical Church. Peter Watson will give an illustrated talk: The Management of deer in the 21st Century - we look forward to seeing you there.

Derek, Malvern Local Group