Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Birds, Bees and Butterflies...and some moths!

Had a lovely walk this morning around the woods at Presthope and along the top of Lea quarry looking at birds, bees and butterflies. It was as part of a series of guided walks on the Edge and whilst the wind was a little cool and blowy there was still plenty to see.
We started off by looking at some moths that we had caught in a moth trap the previous night, there was a good selection considering the overnight conditions were a little chilly. There were none of the big, instantly impressive Hawk moths but there were plenty of smaller but equally interesting species including, Buff Ermine, Nut Tree Tussock, The Spectacle (named due to the fact that if you look at it head on it looks like it is wearing glasses) and Pale Prominent. The Pale Prominent looked just like a rolled up brown leaf and just goes to show how easy it is to overlook these beautiful creatures.
Buff Ermine

Also in the trap was a Cockchafer beetle otherwise known as a Maybug, these insects are on the wing in May and June (hence the name). The larva live in the soil feeding on the roots of grasses and plants whilst adults feed on the leaves of trees. They do not bite or sting although they do look like they might.

We then spent 10 minutes in the bird hide, watching the activity on the feeders, birds seen there included, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit and Great Tit.
With the help of Caroline, the National Trusts ecologist and Ian, county recorder of Bees we found a fairly wide variety of Bees, Flies and Butterflies along the top of Lea Quarry, species included, Common Blue and Dingy Skipper butterflies, Common Carder and Tree Bumble Bee. We were also lucky enough to spot a Queen Hornet which was struggling through the strong wind.
Dingy Skipper

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Cutting and ringing

We spent much of today snipping Hawthorn regrowth off in an area of limestone grassland, the reason we needed to do this was because there were not enough sheep in the field grazing last summer.
We had previously cut down mature Hawthorn trees as they were shading out the wildflowers, the sheep which will usually eat the shoots as they re-grow whilst they are soft were in too few numbers, this allowed the shoots to become woody and tough and therefore unpalatable. Now that they have been re-cut we need to keep plenty of sheep in the field so that it doesn't happen again, lesson learned! The sheep will eat a few of the flowers but certainly not all of them, it is worth losing a very small percentage of the flowers this year for the overall good of the grassland long term.

Volunteers John and Rob doing what the sheep didn't!
This evening i joined Stuart from Chelmarsh Bird Ringers as he checked the progress of some bird box occupants. He ringed the chicks from some of the boxes as they were about 8 days old whilst others he will have to re-visit in a few days as the chicks were still too small. Clutch size appears to be a little smaller than last Spring with 8 eggs being about average, last year it was more like 10.
Please do not look in bird boxes at this time of year, you need special training and a licence. The pictures below aren't great as i didn't want to mess about too long and disturb the birds.
Blue Tit sitting on 6 chicks in the box next to the bird hide.

6 Nuthatches nearly big enough to be ringed.

Friday, 13 May 2011

The birds and the trees

Although the blog hasn't been updated much recently we have been busy On Wenlock Edge, in fact thats the reason i haven't had any spare time to write about it.
We have been selling firewood, in the form of trailer loads of cut and split logs as well as an articulated lorry load.
We have also been replacing some stock fencing to stop cows from nibbling a recently laid hedge, giving guided walks, litter picking and erecting a gate.
Linda and Stuart of Chelmarsh Bird Ringers are currently being kept busy checking bird boxes, of the 160 boxes we have put up around the woods about 80% are being used. All the chicks will have tiny rings fitted to their left legs before they fledge, this allows us to see whether they stay on the Edge or move elsewhere. If they are ever caught again the unique number on the ring can be traced back to the area of Wenlock Edge that they were raised, we will get notification of any re-catches. You need a license to check nest boxes so do not be tempted to look in any, i'll get some pictures and put them on the blog over the next week.
Species using the boxes include Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Redstart and possibly Pied Flycatcher.
Currently eggs are just hatching, chicks are ringed at about 8 days and can fledge after about 10 days. The box that is clearly visible to the left of the bird hide at Presthope has a brood of Blue Tits in it, it will be interesting watching the adult birds comings and goings speeding up over the next week.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Nordic Walking

Only 2 places left on each Nordic Walking session this coming Saturday, see below if you want to join us.
Keeping or getting fit in the outdoors is wonderful and the amazing scenery just adds to the experience.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Nordic Walking

On Saturday the 14th May we are hosting two introduction to Nordic Walking sessions at Wenlock Edge.
It is a great opportunity to try this fast growing low impact sport that offers almost a full body workout.
There will be 2 instructors on hand to show us how its done and ensure that participants are using the correct, most efficient technique. The session will last for between about 2 hours, 45 minutes will be used to equip people with the correct size poles and teach the basics, this will be followed by a walk lasting for about 1 hour. There will then be time to ask questions of the instructors.
This introduction will be available for a price of just £6 per person and includes pole hire, sessions start at 10am and 1pm. Booking is essential as places are limited, either e-mail chris.dunkerley@nationaltrust.org.uk or call 07948072075

WNTCV

Over the two previous Bank Holiday weekends i have had the pleasure of Two visits from the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers. We carried out the last bits of scrub clearance for a few months, taking particular care that there were no nesting birds near the area we were working in.
One of the days was spent in Lea quarry, continuing clearing invasive Bramble and Hawthorn whilst the other was spent at Roman Bank opening up a glade and sunny ride for the benefit of Butterflies and wild flowers. To finish the day off we all rounded up the 6 Hebridean sheep in the field opposite the Wenlock Edge Inn, this worked out at a ratio of one on one! Fortunately the sheep realised that they had no choice but to behave themselves and were soon in the trailer. They needed moving so that the wildflowers have a chance to flower for a few months.
The results on both days were amazing as was the weather and the Easter eggs and the group have made a hugely positive impact on the Edge over the past few months. I'm looking forward to seeing the group again in June when we will be making bird boxes.