Wednesday, 18 April 2018

CHAIRMAN’S JOTTINGS APRIL 2018


At last we are seeing the sunshine. The buds on the two fruit trees in our garden have been waiting for so long that they are only just beginning to show green shoots. These trees are usually beginning to bloom by now and are being pollinated by bees and other insects. I hope the cold, wet weather has not had too much of an effect by delaying the blossom time which means that there will be fewer insect larvae to sustain the baby birds.
However, two and sometimes three the hedgehogs are still visiting the food in our garden each night. Two are males; one is a big bully who pushes the smaller male out of the feeding area! Nevertheless, the latter perseveres and sneaks back on his own.
 
I have been informed that there are now 3 eggs in the Peregrine’s nest on the spire of St James’ Church.
 
Has anyone seen a Swallow, heard a Cuckoo or noticed a Cuckoo flower (Lady’s smock) in bloom yet?
 
The Annual General Meeting of the Louth Area Group followed by a picture quiz, a raffle and coffee and cakes will be at 7.30 pm on Friday 27 April at the Nichol Hill Methodist Church Louth. All are welcome. I am delighted to report that we have nominations for a full committee and enough prizes for the raffle.
This meeting will be the last occasion when you will be able to buy the books that were donated to the group by the family of the late Joyce Robinson. Any remaining volumes will go to the Louth Museum for sale at book fairs. Thanks to your generosity an amount of about £200 has been raised from the sale of the books at LAG meetings.
 
Ray Woodcock Chairman Louth Area Group LWT

Wildflower Project with Spout Yard Trustees 4th April 2018





Despite the very damp cold weather, 13 children met in Spout Yard to transplant some of the cowslip seedlings into pots. They had been sown last September, but were still very small. The children took the pots home to look after.
They then sowed wildflower seeds in the five small circles that had been prepared in the park near the river. The seed mixture, 3g/sqm and the sand to mix with them, was supplied by Spout Yard Trustees.
The seed mixture contained 24 species of wildflowers.  A poster has been attached to the wall of the kiosk to help children identify the flowers as they grow.

Report on Visit to Hedgehog Care 15th April 2018




Eight children with their parents met at Hedgehog Care in Authorpe on Sunday 15th April.
Elaine Drewery of Hedgehog Care explained that she looks after hedgehogs that are brought to her when they are sick or injured.
We visited the 'hospital' area where we were able to look at the hedgehogs. Each was in a separate cage.  Tracey (a helper) told us about each hedgehog and why it was being looked after. She took one out of its cage so that the children could stroke it on the soft area near its head.
Tracey explained that most hedgehogs can be adopted once they are well, though not where there are badgers, as they kill hedgehogs. She showed us the special crates that have been made to transport them to their new homes.
The children also enjoyed exploring the garden area and were given a hedgehog questionnaire to take home.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Talk about Snipe Dales


On Friday 23rd March 2018 
James Forrester, LWT Warden, gave a talk on 'The Management and Ecology of Snipedales'.

Snipe Dales is one of the few semi-natural wet valley systems still surviving in Lincolnshire. It is an area of two halves with mixed woodland in the Country Park and wet valleys, grassland and scrub in the nature reserve.



With almost 40,000 visitors per year, Snipe Dales Country Park and Nature Reserve is an attraction at the southern end of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The geology of patches of glacial deposits on the Spilsby Sandstone overlying Kimmeridge Clay creates an assemblage of dry acid grassland and very wet grassland. There is a plantation of 50 year old Corsican Pine, now much reduced by felling following an outbreak of Dothistroma Red Band Needle Blight (DNB) that began around 2005. Rapid natural regeneration of deciduous woodland has outstripped efforts at managed replanting.

James showed us the modern timber harvesting methods used and how some dead-wood had been left, standing or lying, to promote biodiversity. The land is  managed to maximise the variety of habitats and biodiversity is enhanced by seeding the grasslands by green-hay spreading, managing the light levels in the wooded areas to promote the under-storey, and controlling the natural scrub growth by cutting and light grazing with sheep and with Longhorn and Lincoln Red cattle.

The stream system has been naturalised by removal of some of the artificial dams and culverts, allowing the trout and other fish to migrate easily. Along with trout and Miller's Thumbs are found the curious brook lamprey Lampetra planeri. a primitive, jawless fish resembling an eel, but less than six inches long. It is a non-migratory freshwater species, occurring in streams of high water quality and clean gravel beds in which it lays its eggs.

The Country Park is remarkably rich in fungi, with over 300 species recorded. There are, consequently, a great number of fungus gnats, some 120 species of which have been recorded here. If you are not sure just what a fungus gnat looks like, this web-page is useful.

Snipe Dales is described as 'semi-natural', but it is evident that, left to nature, the landscape would very quickly become a dense deciduous woodland, rapidly invaded with birch and hawthorn and, in the wetter areas, alder, with slower growing trees taking their place in the succession over time. But then in Britain before the Mesolithic, the megafauna of large herbivores would have done something equivalent to the work of James, his many volunteers who give up their time to help in scrub clearance and grassland management and the cattle. With no mammoths available, the chainsaw and tractor have their place in wildlife conservation.

For more information about Snipe Dales see the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust website.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

LAG CHAIRMAN’S JOTTINGS MARCH 2018


What a month for weather – snow drifts were still in the Wolds a week ago and the rivers are flowing fast. Water is lying in the fields and our garden has the texture of a marsh. Starfish and razor shells carpet the beaches and poor old Cleethorpes has sand in too many places. Woodcock galore have been seen at Gibraltar Point whilst Nicole sent me a picture of one in her garden at North Thoresby.  But the early spring flowers are coming out in profusion, let’s hope they survive the snow and cold weather forecasted for this weekend.
Unfortunately, this Woodcock has been virtually housebound since early February, so he has not been able to clear the snow or to get to exposed places to see the variety of species swept in with the extreme weather. Nevertheless, he has handed in his crutches and looks forward to being on the move very soon.

MARCH MEETING
Our next local meeting will be at 7.30 pm at the Nichol Hill Methodist Church Louth on Friday 23 March when LWT Warden James Forrester will tell us about the ‘The Management of Snipe Dales Nature Reserve.’ Entrance, including refreshments is £2.50. Children are welcome and are not charged.

UPDATE
The books presented to the group by Chris Robinson from his late mother Joyce's bookshelf have raised £190 for the LWT to date. Thank you for your interest and generosity and to Biff Vernon who is managing the sales. The remaining books will be on sale at the March meeting and at the April AGM.

AGM
The Annual General Meeting of Louth Area Group members will be held at Nichol Hill Church, Louth on Friday 27 April 2018 at 7.30 pm. Please note that, in accordance with the Constitution, all Committee members and Officers stand down at each AGM.  Chairman Ray Woodcock and Secretary Biff Vernon and Treasurer Rod Baddon are willing to be re-elected, as are current committee members: Colin Byatt, Avril Huke, Louise Scott, Judith John, Andy Goy and co-opted member Chris Henderson. If these members are re-elected, we will have a good representation to enable our group’s programme and other events to continue successfully.
However, if you wish to join the committee and make a commitment to carry out specific duties and attend as many of the meetings as possible please contact Ray Woodcock on lag2014rww@aol.com to discuss the role and to obtain a nomination form.
Although the entrance is free I hope that you will buy some raffle tickets. The relatively short AGM will be followed by a quiz (bring a pencil) and the raffle together with coffee/tea and cake.

Best wishes
Ray Woodcock Chairman Louth Area Group LWT

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Talk by Nick Watts of Vine Farm - February 2018

February's talk at the Louth Area Group of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, was given by Nicholas Watts, MBE.  Nick has farmed at Vine House Farm, near Spalding, since 1964, where he has been one of those all to rare creatures, a farmer who is also a serious conservationist with a passion for wildlife. 

Many years ago Nick realised that key to maintaining a flourishing bird population on his land was their food supply and when visitors saw the abundance of birds around his farmyard where he had scattered grain and asked if they could buy some birdseed from him, Nick put two and two together and created a new direction for the farm business. A significant part of Vine Farm now revolves around the growing ans selling of grains and seeds for bird food.

Nick showed us how many of the changes in farming practice over the past half century have conspired to produce an environment much less favourable to many bird species. This area of the fenland is almost entirely devoted to arable crops, but decades ago mixed farming was the rule with most farms having some cattle, pigs and poultry, housed in old buildings that provided nest sites and opportunities for birds to reach grain stores and wet areas where insects could breed. Away from the farmyard, changing cropping patterns have meant less food and nesting opportunities in the fields. The use of agrochemicals, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and growth regulators have conspired to produce an environment hostile to the whole food web on which all birds depend, but those that eat insects are particularly hard hit. Even many of the birds we see eating seeds on our feeders, need insects to feed to their young in the spring. There are some winners, the herbivorous wood pigeon and the magpie that lives off roadkill.

Nick demonstrated how, often quite simple, things he has done on his farm have had a big impact, yet have fitted into the farm's need to operate commercially. Subsidies through the Stewardship scheme have allowed wildflower strips to be planted around field margins. Skylark plots, uncultivated squares within cereal fields to allow safe nesting, may help the birds but provide the farm with an income slightly greater than the value of the crop foregone! Nick has had ancient brick barns repaired, for the benefit of nesting barn owls, with help from money from the wind-farm. He has built brick tower nest-boxes for owls and other birds and his numerous nest-boxes near a pond have had a phenomenal positive impact on the tree-sparrow population. Nick has influenced the drainage board to manage dyke banks in a way that is better for wildlife and is cheaper. A win-win!



Of course buying bird seed helps the business, but Nick's case that improving the food supply is key to maintaining flourishing bird populations is unanswerable.  Asked whether he was optimistic about the future, Nick pointed out that, whatever their views, only a very small proportion of the country's population actively engage in conservation work, and farmers are no different. The vast majority of farms are not operated in a way that prioritises wildlife, so he is pessimistic about future prospects.

Vine House Farm has a wonderfully informative website. If you are not shopping, skip past the opportunities to buy the bird food and read about the history of the farm, what has been done to enhance the habitats and learn about how large scale cereal farming on a commercial fenland farm can operate alongside a thriving bird population.




Thursday, 22 February 2018

Herbarium Training

Aidan Neary - LoveLincsPlants Project Officer writes: I have spaces available on 2 free plant identification and herbarium collection training sessions at Whisby Education Centre led by Fred Rumsey and Kath Costello from the Natural History Museum. 
Session 1 (over 35s): Thursday 22nd March 2018. 10am to 4pm – 4 places leftSession 2 (18-35 year olds):  Friday 23rd March. 10am to 4pm. – 7 places left
The main focus of the session will be on plant collection, pressing and drying
techniques as well plant identification tips. An excellent opportunity to get
involved with the creation of our new Lincolnshire herbarium (#LoveLincsPlants).
To book on please send an email to:
Aidan Neary
aneary@lincstrust.co.uk