Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Rare bats in Grafton Wood

Those of you who keep in touch with us through ways other than our blog will know we've been working on a project to radio-tag rare Bechstein's bats in Grafton Wood this year. 

Worcestershire is on the northern edge of the bats' known range so this year the People's Trust for Endangered Species have funded research into their goings-on.  We've even been featured on BBC Radio 4's Saving Species programme.

With lots of help from volunteers of the Worcestershire Bat Group, we thought it only fair to point you in the direction of their blog about the project... enjoy their take on working on Bechstein's Bat project.

Thanks to PTES, Johnny Birks, Eric Palmer, all the volunteers from the Worcestershire Bat Group and the Bat Conservation Trust for their help and support in this important research project.  We're currently analysing the data.

James, WWT Conservation Officer

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Take a walk around Smite

Of course, it's not just our volunteers that get out and about on our reserves and write about their explorations..... Worcestershire Biological Records Centre is also based at Lower Smite Farm and one of their volunteers recently had a wander... check out Shenstone Birder's blog for 5th Sept

Friday, 14 September 2012

Free of Himalyan Balsam!!

We've just had the first Himalayan balsam free year at Droitwich Community Woods in the 12 years I have been helping to look after it. It is possible to beat it!!!!

Twelve years ago there was Himalayan balsam along the banks of the River Salwarpe from where it  comes into the reserve by Droitwich High School right through to where it leaves us south of the ring road and heads off toward Salwarpe. 

It wasn't just at water level - due to the explosive nature of  its  seeds, it had colonised the banks, in places 1.5 m high, and encroached onto the flood plain. I am over 6’ tall but our tallest plant towered over me and had the ability to shed over a thousand seeds over a 12’ diam. area. 

It's taken us volunteers 12 years to get  to this clear point - doing battle in beds of brambles, 6’ high nettle beds, in the water and up the banks. We have always had a zero tolerance policy but those that know the plant know it is very adept at finding ways to beat you. We also have the problem of the wax coated seeds drifting down with the current. We get, and will always get, the result of there still being masses of Himalayan balsam at many upstream locations. But we are ever watchful and are determined to win!

Roger, Droitwich Community Woods

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Fun at the Conference

The annual volunteers’ conference took place on Saturday and, as ever, we had a really informative morning. 

There were useful updates on some of the flagship reserves, some fascinating information on moths as indicators of habitat health and climate change, topped off with a masterclass in radiotagging adders. If you think that’s surreal, you should see the pictures for the Mixed Bag of Bugs! As someone with a general interest in wildlife but few identification or practical skills, I feel slightly better about not being able to ID moths easily now I know there are over 2600 species in UK alone!

As one of the more sedentary of WWT volunteers (I help out with website events updating and do some data entry and image scanning for the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre who are also located at Lower Smite) it was a real pleasure on a gloriously sunny afternoon to get out and about on the farm with Caroline Corsie and hear a bit more about the land and its use - and some of the issues facing those in modern agriculture.

We were also challenged to undertake an OPAL survey, which was a chance to rediscover our inner child, not least through blowing bubbles (wind strength, in case you are wondering). As a wildlife safari, we startled a toad and acquired a cricket which hitch-hiked back from the field on my shoulder – obviously wanted to volunteer too!

 Thanks to the team for an interesting and enjoyable day. 

Ruth, Lower Smite Farm

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Magic of Moths

“Butterflies are beautiful but moths are boring”. This is the common perception of moths but how wrong we can be!   The first photograph Patrick Clement showed the Malvern local group on Thursday night was of the emperor moth, bluish-grey on the forewings with bands of white, black and orange, yellow on the underwings, and brilliant black, yellow and blue eyespots on all four wings.

Admittedly, there are some rather boring brown jobs among the moth family, including the clothes moths which are never popular! However, many common moths are very attractive indeed and have equally beautiful names: brimstone, green silver lines, small elephant hawk, lilac beauty, clouded silver, large emerald. All these moths are attracted to lights and can easily be caught in a moth trap. Traps come in various designs but are basically a bright light over a box with a narrow opening; the moths enter the opening and can’t find the way out, so they can be studied the next morning and then released. A treacle mixture smeared on a tree will also attract certain types of moth.
Elephant Hawk-Moth (c) Rosemary Winnall
 All moths and butterflies are Lepidoptera; wings covered with scales being one shared characteristic. It is commonly thought that all moths are nocturnal, but in fact there are many day-flying moths, like the chimney sweeper, humming-bird hawk moth and scarlet tiger. There are about 2,500 species of Lepidoptera in the UK but fewer than 60 of these are butterflies. There are 900 species of macro moth and 1,400 micro moths, some of which can only be distinguished by dissection of the genitalia. In the UK, butterflies have a club tip to their antennae, whereas moths generally have feathered antennae or a simple hair-like structure with no club tip.

Patrick Clement had many stunning photos of rare moths, secretive females with no wings, parasitised caterpillars, micro moths with amazing colours and a few surprises like the barn owl sitting on a moth trap. Even the leaf miners were fascinating, with each species leaving different mine patterns. The evening was a wonderful insight into an under-appreciated world.

The next meeting of the Malvern local group is at 7.30 pm on October 4th at Malvern Evangelical Church when we can't wait to hear John Robinson will talk about the Natural History of the Wyre Forest. 

Alison Uren, Malvern local group