Friday, 28 March 2014

Spring arrives early at Feckenham Wylde Moor

Now that Spring has arrived and the weather has become warmer there is quite a lot of activity on the reserve.

On the pool we have pairs of little grebe, tufted duck, coot, mallard, canada geese and this splendid pair of Grey Lag geese.

The tufted probably won't stay to breed as the coot that 'owns' the pool is constantly chasing them away. The issue seems to be that the tufted ducks want to make a nest where the coot usually does and he isn't having any of it. I doubt that the grey lag will stay either and the canada geese don't look like nesting again this year which to be perfectly honest is a bit of a bonus. We have had up to 14 on site and whilst they do a good job in grazing the pool banks they make a lot of noise and mess! Reed buntings are around and looking for nest sites in the tussocky areas left of the pool. I also put up six Common Snipe last week from the same area.

We were treated to a sighting of this female roe deer. She spent some time grazing the new growth to the left of the main hide, where we had random patch cut last year.

Our frogs are also getting together and we watched them leisurely swimming up and down the pool margins. No sign of our toads yet but hopefully we will have the same large numbers as we did last year which was a record for the reserve.

Not only has the wildlife been busy, my volunteers have too. We have been creating raised paths where the existing paths have become very boggy with deep mud which makes walking round very difficult. We have piled willow brash from pollards on top of dead sedge and then another layer of this on top. Hopefully it will make a difference but I suspect that once the cattle come back in they won't take long to trash it. We have also experimented with putting down logs and sedge around one of the kissing gates, again in the hope that it will raise the path above the mud.

It's a shame that our paths get so boggy but it is a wetland reserve and so we should not be surprised.

We have once again an excellent show of coltsfoot in front of the main hide and by the time you read this the first cowslips will be in flower and hopefully our next spring plant will be the lady's smock which for me is a certainty that spring has arrived and with it the orange tip butterfly.

With the warm weather I would not be surprised to see some warblers arriving and it won't be long before the cuckoo returns.

Paul, Feckenham reserve manager

Friday, 21 March 2014

Hedgerow success at Hill Court Farm!

At the start of the Winter volunteering season we had one, long, unruly hedgerow, choked by brambles and looking very sorry for itself.  The Hill Court Farm volunteers have slashed, chopped, sawn and dug away and the result is a hedgerow that can breathe, with lots of newly planted trees, which will offer a fantastic habitat for a diverse range of wildlife.   

After  clearing out the bramble and removing dead parts of the hedge we laid as much as we could, leaving some nice tall standards such as Ash to attract a greater variety of birds.  Then, with a some much appreciated help from the Roving Volunteers, we planted hundreds of new trees including hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, holly, dogwood, guelder rose, spindle, service, rowan and field maple.  

Some benefit to wildlife of a nice, thick, diverse hedgerow are obvious - eg. as a great source of food, shelter and nesting sites for birds. But hedgerows have a myriad of other perhaps less obvious benefits. For instance in Spring, when queen bumblebees are looking for nesting sites, they tend to favour vacated mouse, vole and shrew nests and hedgerows are a great place for her to find just such a spot.

Looking ahead to our Spring tasks we will be undertaking a variety of jobs such as ditch clearing, development and monitoring of a woodland pond that we created last year and collecting and spreading wild flower seeds. I look forward to sharing news of these tasks as we tackle them.

This month's volunteer work party at Hill Court Farm on Saturday 29 March coincides with our volunteer taster day  so if you'd like the opportunity to experience some practical conservation work then we'd love to have you along.  We will be working on some fencing to protect our length of hedgerow.  No previous experience is necessary and all you need to bring along on the day is a packed lunch/drink and some gardening gloves (if you have them). Contact Naomi on 01905 754919 or email her at for more information and to book a place. 

Sara, Hill Court Farm

Monday, 17 March 2014

Notable Trees of the Malvern Hills: a Talk by Peter Garner

This was one of those inspiring talks which makes you stop and think; most of us walk on the Hills regularly and think we know them well, but you suddenly realise that there are places you haven’t been, and many things you haven’t noticed.
Peter Garner shared his detailed knowledge of the Hills and the trees which grow there, with humour and great enthusiasm. There are over 50 species of tree on the Hills but Peter chose to describe 20 in the talk, with many beautiful pictures, taken in all seasons of the year. Some interesting facts emerged, for example: mistletoe grows only on non-native trees and hybrids; the only non-poisonous part of a yew tree is the red fleshy fruit; ash dieback disease was less apparent in 2013 than 2012 and is possibly less of a threat than originally thought. 
Black poplar is scarce nationally, but common on Castlemorton Common, although there are only male trees (the females were cut down years ago because the fluffy seed contaminates corn). A few surprises were picked out, like the fig tree in Little Malvern Quarry, the holly with yellow berries, and the whitebeam in the Dingle.

Peter linked his tree knowledge with other wildlife especially birds. The redwings and fieldfares love the crab apples on Westminster Bank, the stock doves like to nest in the black poplars, and the ring ouzel visits one particular rowan tree on North Hill.

The next meeting will be on April 3rd at 7.30pm at the Lyttelton Rooms. Mike Wilkes will talk about the Wildlife of the Cloud Forest and the Galapagos Islands.

Alison, Malvern Local Group

Monolith trees at the Knapp

The Roving volunteers were working in the orchard at the Knapp and Papermill last  week.

Yesterday we planted four apple replacement trees in the orchard: two bramley and two Annie Elizabeth (named after Darwin’s daughter) – the varieties that are there already.

We have lost 2 trees to the storms this year and one was damaged in last year’s storms by a fallen ash. The 2 windblown apples were good and solid so we decided to prop them up to provide good quality deadwood for noble chafers, fungi and invertebrates in general. Upright trees get more direct sunlight so are warmer and generally less damp than log piles - providing a different type of deadwood habitat. The trees were secured in place using plain wire and are attached to fence strainers. They will be monitored for stability.

The volunteer group meets every Thursday at the Knapp and Papermill. For more information contact Naomi. 

James, Central Reserve Officer