Wildlife reports 2019
thanks to Gill Massey, Wildlife Area Leader

April 2019
Well, after a false start to tease us in February, I think we can say that spring has finally settled in and spread her skirts over the countryside following on from March’s lion like beginnings. It’s not just the weather that has its good and bad spells, and there have been upsets in the orchard. Unfortunately, someone has thoughtlessly dumped some goldfish in the wildlife pond. Goldfish are non native and voracious predators. I had hoped to report that our large amount of frogspawn had turned into a large amount of tadpoles but, sadly this is not the case. There was just a tiny group left hiding out in the shallows when I looked yesterday. The rest have been goldfish lunch. The fish will also be eating all sorts of other pond wildlife. We are slowly removing the fish to new homes but, as I can attest, this is not easy: however, we will persist.
While we are dealing with bad news, there is a lot of anxiety about top predator the Asian Hornet (see picture to the right). Our native European Hornet does also eat other insects but not to such a great degree. The Asian Hornet has now moved west into France where it has devastated colonies of bees, and wiped out whole hives. There is a danger that it has come over to England accidentally in luggage and may be blown over the Channel. As well as honey bees, it also eats bumble bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths.
Authorities are anxious that all sighting are reported so they can check and hopefully trace the hornets back to their nest.
Click here to find out more.
On to more cheerful news. The good weather has brought back the pond skaters. Hopefully they are nippy enough to avoid the goldfish. Spring flowers are getting into their stride with celandines, primroses, daises and red dead nettle all providing food for our pollinators. Even the much maligned (when it gets a grip in the garden) dandelion has lots of insect visitors, and later in the year I have seen goldfinches feeding on the seeds. Brimstone butterflies have made a fleeting appearance along with tortoiseshells and peacocks. The hedgerows are sprouting, and, best of all, the yellow rattle has germinated. We left it last year to drop its seeds without help from us so it’s good to see the little seedlings appear. Spring has worked her magic again.

January 2019
 “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”  Recent mild weather has allowed the first celandine flowers to appear, daisies are making a brave show on lawns, white dead nettle and dandelions are flowering, and cow parsley and goosegrass are putting forth new leaves. Sparrows are chattering and the robin is singing no doubt to establish nesting territory.  Don’t be fooled. There will be more bad weather to come, a “Beast from the East” or something similar. Plants will be checked but not killed. Other creatures need winter shelter. In the orchard we have built a bug hotel by stacking up old pallets and packing the spaces in between with dried grass, leaves and straw, fir cones, hollow stems and small stones, to provide insulated crevices for a variety of critters to overwinter. We have also created a hibernaculum, a shelter to allow other ground dwellers to have a space for hibernation or semi hibernation. An easier way of doing this is to have a log pile in a sheltered, quiet corner, which we have also done. Any fairly large prunings are stacked up, not too neatly, with other smaller branches and twigs tucked in between. Again this allows space for creatures to find shelter from the worst of winter weather. Keeping the bottom of hedges uncleared of vegetation also helps as does leaving seed heads on all manner of plants.  We all like to hunker down on cold days and wildlife needs sheltered, undisturbed spaces to see it through to spring whatever the weather. So leave a few “untidy” corners in your garden so you can see some old friends return with warmer days.
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