Sunday, 23 November 2014

Winter Wildlife in Japan

At the Conoco Room on Friday 21 November we were honoured by the presence of the Chairman of LWT Board of Trustees Geoff Trinder.  In addition to his other duties, Geoff is a keen amateur photographer who has travelled through many countries taking pictures of wildlife in all it’s forms.  From his vast repertoire we were treated to some stunning pictures from his recent winter visit to Japan.
Starting with his arrival in Tokyo, we were given a flavour of life in this enormous city: a population of around 20 million where you will see very few non-Japanese.  Good transport links are essential for a city this size & these exist on 5 levels: 2 underground, 1 main rail & 2 road systems one on top of the other.  On the roads the rickshaw drivers are kept busy running around in their open-toed shoes & hats shaped like upturned woks!
Moving swiftly on to the wildlife, the first set of pictures showed the enormous Red-Crowned Cranes, up to 6 feet tall with a wing span of almost 7 feet.  More pictures followed of the graceful Whooper Swans & Sika Deer ( this deer species is wild in this country too & now inter-breeding with our native Red Deer).
To be a truly enthusiastic wildlife photographer you need to be prepared to rise very early in the morning: the next set of pictures were taken from sunrise in thick snow which meant Geoff had to be out of bed at 4.00 am!  Pictures included Red Fox, Dipper & Harlequin Ducks also some excellent photos of birds in flight including Black-Eared Kite, Slatey-Backed Gulls (similar to Lesser Great Black-Backed) & the magnificent yellow beaked White Tailed Stella Sea Eagles (larger than Golden Eagles). 
Back to the hotel now where we see a room sparse of furniture (most Japanese sit on the floor!) & a curious picture of a toilet with a touch control panel: recommend not to tamper with this without a training manual!  In the restaurant, food is meticulously presented but may be an acquired taste – fish & seafood seems to predominate & has a “chewy & slimy” consistency.  Chopsticks are normally used even with soup (which is quite thick) & slurping is encouraged as a sign that you like it!
Finally, some more fine pictures of Whooper Swans (very noisy), Brown Eared Bulbul, Varied Thrush & even a Tree Sparrow rounded off with some Japanese Macaques (otherwise known as Snow Monkeys) all with their own individual personalities.

The vote of thanks came from Brian Cooper given with a bow in true Japanese style!

As a footnote, Biff Vernon recommends a couple of wildlife books that are easy to read &, at the same time, full of interesting facts on bees & meadow wildlife, some insights into how scientific research is conducted and some profound implications for ecology and the future of our wildlife.
“A Buzz in the Meadow” & “A Sting in the Tail” both written by Dave Goulson.  



Monday, 17 November 2014

Brent Geese at Donna Nook

BRENT GEESE (Branta bernicla)

These geese are 'winter visitors' arriving as early as late October from their breeding grounds in the Arctic regions. They fly in loose flocks along the coast, rather than in tight skeins like grey geese and are an 'Amber List' species because of the important numbers found at just a few sites.
These handsome, black and white, relatively small geese are present in the coastal sky, on the salt marsh mud and in the fields nearby where they feed on Eel grass and other vegetation. They are particularly fond of young cereal crops! Jane took the two accompanying photographs at Donna Nook last week. However, the Brents can be seen all along our coastal areas whilst they make the sky look very busy at the RSPB Frampton Marsh Reserve.

THERE ARE THREE SPECIES OF BLACK AND WHITE GEESE ON OUR SHORE.
HOW DO I KNOW WHETHER IT IS A CANADA, A BRENT OR A BARNACLE GOOSE?
An easy way to distinguish the smaller Brents from Canada geese is to look for the slim, white clerical collar around their necks. Canada geese have a much bigger white chinstrap whilst the Barnacle geese have a white face with grey, white and black feathers on their body.
Ray Wodcock

Photos: Jane Woodcock

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Conservation Forum November 2014-11-0

The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s annual Forum took place today, appropriately in the ‘David Robinson Hall’ at the Fortuna Horncastle Business Centre. The day was to focus on Lincolnshire's coastline with particular consideration of the tidal surge and floods of December 2013. The day was introduced by David Shepherd, Nature Reserves Development Team Manager and Deputy Chairman of the LWT.

The first talk was given by Sharron Bosley, Project Manager for The Wash & North Norfolk Coast. She outlined the many ways in which the area’s importance is recognised leading to its designations as a European Marine Site (EMS) protected by the Bern Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats and Bonn Convention on the conservation of Migratory Species.  The curious Ross Worm, Sabellaria spinosa, reefs are amongst the habitats peculiar to the area.


Sharron described how the tidal surge of 5th December 2013 had affected the various sections of the coast and particularly the Blakeney National Nature Reserve, where the 'Freshes' are no longer such fresh lagoons as they were following the breach in the defences that allowed seawater in.  The surge has raised management issues about the long term future and sustainability of the reserve with the inevitable shift in the distributions of saltmarsh and freshwater zones as sea level rises.  A more immediate concern was how to deal with carparking, now that the carpark is buried under a metre of shingle.

Mark Robinson, Lincolnshire's Senior Coastal Advisor at the Environment Agency, was our next speaker.  He described the damage caused by last year's tidal surge, which added 1.8 metres to the high tide, and outlined the current state of play in managing our sea defences.  The Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) is set by Defra and managed by The Humber Estuary Coastal Authorities Group (HECAG).  The non-technical summary can be downloaded here. Mark explained that the policy currently in force is to 'hold the line' for the Lincolnshire coast, keeping the flood risk at its present level of 0.5% as sea level rises through the century, but with the recognition that in parts of the southern sections of our coastline, perhaps in the area of the Lincolnshire Coastal Park, there may have to be some 'localised managed realignment' in the period after 2055.

To turn policy into reality work has to be done to strengthen the defences and various options include the ongoing beach nourishment, bank enlargement, sea wall raising, revetments, groynes and rock reefs.  Much attention focussed on the protective value of a wide foreshore, mudflats and saltmarsh, and Mark explained how with a slowly rising sea and sufficient supply of sediment the foreshore could grow, but how if sea level rise was too fast the accretionary environment could quickly change to erosion.

The management strategy is to be reviewed in the 2015-16 period but beach nourishment will continue at least until this review is completed.  Meanwhile, the plans for protecting Boston with a tidal barrage, improved sea walls, facilities for relocating the fishing fleet and work on the dock entrance are well advanced. Given government approval construction should take place in 2017-19.

After lunch we heard four slightly shorter talks. First up was Dave Bromwich, the Trust's Head of Nature Reserves, who set the scene with descriptions of the damage to the Trust's reserves in the December 2013 surge from Far Ings to Gibraltar Point.  But we also learnt of nature's resilience, this season's vegetation growth seemingly little affected by the sea-water flooding.

Dave Miller, Coast and Wash Warden, concentrated on the work being done to ensure success for Lincolnshire's last colony of breeding Little Terns, Sternula albifrons.  At Gibraltar Point the nests are protected in various ways from predators and small patches of beach including nests have been raised in wooden boxes on stilts to keep them above the level of spring tides that would otherwise have washed them away.

Matthew Blissett, North West Lincolnshire Warden, described the Trust's work to conserve what may be Britain's last colony of the Marsh Moth, Athetis pallustris. It has always been a rare moth though it used to be found locally from the south coast to Carlisle and was recently breeding in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. Now it seems to be confined to one small area of plantain-rich short grassland at Rimac.  Twenty larvae were moved a short distance to another piece of grassland and surveys the following two years indicated that the moth had succeeded in breeding here.  Further survey work will be needed in future years to confirm the establishment on the new site.  Although probably Britain's rarest moth, the Marsh Moth does occur right across Europe, Central Asia and into northern China.  The Lincolnshire coast seems now to be the western fringe of its distribution.


Finally Rob Lidstone-Scott, Outer Humber Warden, spoke about the Grey Seal, Halichoerus grypus, colony at Donna Nook.  Again there was much to hear about the events of the night of December 5th-6th last year.  We learnt that numbers of pups born here have risen from a few dozen in the 1970s to over 1600 last year, a steady increase which is reflected in other colonies along England's east coast.  The Donna Nook colony has just overtaken the Farne Island colony in size, but numbers are now rising very rapidly at Blakeney in Norfolk.  Donna Nook appears to be a very favourable location, with pup mortality rates very low compared to the Farnes.  The increasing population is something of a mystery; the seals have no natural predators save the rather rare appearance in the North Sea of Orcas, their favoured fish prey are mostly species of little commercial interest so competition from the fishing industry is not acute and their protected status since the late 1970s have allowed their populations to expand.  Although seemingly abundant here, Grey Seals are amongst the rarest seal globally with the UK having almost half the world's stock.

Increased tourist attention is a serious management issue, though the seals seem unaffected by close human presence so long as a fence divides the two species. The last few years have seen visitor numbers rise over 60000.  Perhaps a virtual visit is in order; Rob manages a facebook group Donna Nook National Nature Reserve. Last winter's tidal surge presented a particular problem and discussions are ongoing as to whether a new path, higher up in the sand dunes, might be constructed for visitors, giving people a good view but at the same time allowing the seals a refuge above the level of exceptional tides. Fortunately last years drama did not increase pup mortality significantly, seals, it seems, can swim!

The afternoon was rounded off by LWT Chief Executive, Paul Learoyd.  We heard that the Trust's insured losses through damage in the flood were of the order of a million pounds but learnt of the plans developing for a new visitor centre at Gibraltar Point.  It had been 'an interesting year', as Paul put it.


Biff Vernon







Friday, 7 November 2014

Tree Planting Volunteers needed

Tree Planting Volunteers needed
Nettleham Woodland Trust has identified Chalara fraxinea (Ash dieback) at Monks Wood and on the advice of the Forestry Commission are going to remove 4000 ash trees and replant.
The FC has given a grant for the new trees and planting sessions will happen on Saturday 22 and 29 November. Any volunteers should arrive with their spades and any food and drink they will need, at the North Wood, TF042791, sessions will run between 10.00 and 14.00hrs.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Of Whales and Bees

Two reports were published today, concerning our largest and our smallest wildlife.


The Wildlife Trusts are proposing that 17 special areas around England and Wales should become protected places for our dolphins, whales and sharks. These hotspots are where these charismatic animals gather to feed, breed and socialise.  One of these areas if off the Lincolnshire coast.

Read more about the Wildlife Trust's campaign to 'Save Our Ocean Giants'.
Download the full report: 'Megafauna Hotspots'
Download the report summary

Joan Edwards, Head of Living Seas at The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, provide interesting reading about the subject on the Living Seas Blog
And on twitter: The Wildlife Trusts' Friends of MCZs@action4ourseas
Visit the Trust's website devoted to Marine Conservation Zones.

****************
Also today, DEFRA published it's report on protecting pollinating insects.
It's good to see the government giving this issue some serious attention but it sits awkwardly with their policy of opposing the EU ban on neonicotinoid insecticides.

The Wildlife Trust has more information about pollinators here.


.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970-2013

DEFRA has published its statistical release about our bird population.

The full report can be downloaded here.

This is the Executive Summary

Overall, breeding bird populations in the UK have declined compared with 40 years
ago. In 2013, the all-species index was 12 per cent below its 1970 level, and there was a
small but significant decline of five per cent from 2007 to 2012. However, trends vary
between individual bird species, between habitat types and between groups of species
that share the same habitat type.

By 2013, the UK breeding farmland bird index had fallen by 55 per cent to a level 
less than half that of 1970. The largest declines in farmland bird populations occurred 
between the late seventies and the early nineties, but there has been a statistically 
significant on-going decline of ten per cent between 2007 and 2012.

By 2013, the UK breeding farmland bird index had fallen by 55 per cent to a level 
less than half that of 1970. The largest declines in farmland bird populations occurred 
between the late seventies and the early nineties, but there has been a statistically 
significant on-going decline of ten per cent between 2007 and 2012.

In 2013, the UK breeding water and wetland bird index was 17 per cent lower 
than its 1975 level. There was a significant decline in the smoothed index of 12 per cent in 
the short term between 2007 and 2012.

Seabird populations in the UK have fallen by 24 per cent since 1986; this is the 
lowest level recorded. Most of the decline has occurred since 2003; there has been a 
decline of nine per cent in the short term since 2008.

In the winter of 2012-13, the wintering waterbird index in the UK was almost 
double its 1975-76 level (up 95 per cent). The index peaked in the late 1990s and has 
declined since, with the smoothed index falling by almost five per cent between 2006-07 
and 2011-12.



Monday, 20 October 2014

Steve Lovell – “Extremadura”

17 October 2014
 
Griffin Vulture Photo: Steve Lovell

30 of us were treated to a beautifully photographed tour of “Green Spain”. Extremadura, the land beyond the Douro, is the largest autonomous region of Spain but has the lowest population density of only 25 people per square kilometre. Unlike the coastal regions of Spain, winter does not attract a multitude of northern sun seeking humans but 12 thousand cranes will fly down from Scandinavia and the reservoir lakes are covered with thousands of visiting water birds including an estimated 40,000 shovelers. Steve’s route took us through all the varied habitats, from the rocky hills and forests of the north to the rolling heaths and “dehesas” of the central and southerly regions and through the irrigated agricultural lands in the east. The “dehesas” (meadows, pasture) deserve special mention: they are managed areas of thinned holm oak forest and go through cycles of cereals, pasture and scrub, which is then eaten by the Iberian black pigs, which in their turn are eaten by Spaniards. Hoopoes are well camouflaged against the golden landscape but nuthatches and other colourful birds are easily seen. Drifts of French lavender and red poppies add colour, lupin and clover add nitrogen, and as Steve pointed out, the botany of this area is staggering in its variety and colour.

Extremadura is a bird watcher’s paradise. The following are just some of the species that Steve had photographed: blue throats, assorted buntings, purple herons, purple swamp hens, storks, sparrows, kestrels, black kites, little and great bustards, griffon vultures, azure wing magpies, bee-eaters, etc. etc., even a Spanish imperial eagle. Large lizards, oil beetles, dragon flies, frogs and swallowtail butterflies were caught in Steve’s lens, as well as deer and a very handsome fox.

The government of Extremadura is working very hard to promote the area as a destination for eco-tourism and it has the greatest number of Special Protection Areas in the whole of Europe. One road, known as “Roller Road”, has even been kitted out with bird boxes on every telegraph pole and is successfully attracting large number of these beautiful birds. Reserves are well provided with information boards and helpful staff, the biggest reserve being Monfragüe National Park.

Spring is the best time to visit but winter is wonderfully quiet and there is plenty to see. If you want a break from ‘nature’, then you can drive down the “Silver Route”, named after the ‘conquistadors’, such as Pizarro and Cortés, who came from this area. You can visit the holy pilgrimage town of Guadalupe, the unspoilt listed heritage city of Cáceres and marvel at the Roman theatre still standing and still used in the town of Mérida.

Thank you Steve, for opening our eyes to the beauty and fascination of Extremadura.

Julie Cooper


European Cranes  Photo: Steve Lovell

Monday, 22 September 2014

Exploring the Foreshore at Rimac

A walk led by John Loft. 21st September 2014


It was a blustery afternoon with a threat of showers when 27 members and their cars crowded into the car park at Rimac. The apparel ranged from fully kitted lifeboat man to a light anorak and trainers. I was delighted to see so many new faces from the LAG catchment area, many of whom were already LWT members, together with a couple from the Boston Area Group.

John gave us a quick briefing about the structure of the sand dunes and salt marsh at Rimac. It is a classic example of an 'accretion coast' whereby colonising plants form a series of sand dunes and salt marshes. We straggled along behind John across the salt marsh looking at the seed heads of Sea lavender and Sea aster with Scurvy grass, Sea purslane and Perennial glasswort underfoot. However, it took a little time to identify the Cord grass seed heads. There were a few waders on the large lagoon in the middle of the marsh; we heard the Snipe and Curlew before we saw them.

We crested the large sand dune and gazed in awe at a magnificent beach with Grey seals cavorting in the creek which was the outflow from the River Eau. They seemed to be as interested in us as we were in them. There were Cormorants drying their wings on the bank and a large group of gulls and Shelduck on the edge of a marsh. The body of a gannet with a 6 foot wing span was resting on the sand. It must have been a recent death as the striking blue pigment of the bill and feet was still very bright.

We could see clumps of the Common glasswort (edible samphire/samfer) growing on the sand with muddy sediment forming around the stems. In some cases Cord grass had grown to form little islands and as one moved back to the established dunes Marram grass and its deep roots strengthened the dune against wave action. The red stemmed Sea sandwort and the delicately flowered Sea rocket were still in flower at the edge of the dunes and some scrubby Sea buckthorn was beginning to spread.

The tide was coming in fast. It was time to go. As John guided us back to the car park some us of had a close look at a Grey plover in its winter plumage. Thanks John for a great outing. RW
Bird list: Cormorant, Little egret, Teal, Oystercatcher, Grey plover, Little stint(?), Snipe, Black-tailed godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed gull, Common gull, Herring gull, Greater black-backed gull, Skylark, Swallow, Carrion crow, Starling, Linnet. Dead Gannet & Heron.
Ray Woodcock



John mentioned the Sea Aster Mining Bee. Here's something I wrote about it last year. It's really a rather curious creature.
Biff Vernon

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Seed Collection at Red Hill

Since our Louth Area Group (LAG) outing to the Coronation Meadow last year and the Louth U3A trip in June of this year members have responded to Harry Turner's requests for seed harvesting.

On the 6th and 20th of August members, including John and his grandchildren, and Dennis, Avril, Peter, Alan, Catherine and Ray, collected Cowslip and Scabious seeds. We all enjoyed the work and Harry was delighted with the results.

Ray Woodcock

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Counting the Birds

"In the last decades of the 20th century, 44 million breeding birds vanished from the British countryside. The total avian population has probably never been lower since the last Ice Age."

That's the startling conclusion from Mark Cocker in his article looking at the various recently published atlases of British birds in the New Statesman.

Mark Cocker's latest books include Birds and People and Birds Britannica.
 

Monday, 4 August 2014

LAG VISIT TO GIBRALTAR POINT RESERVE

Saturday 19 July 2014



The forecast was dreadful. Luckily we had only a few drops of rain whilst the rest of the county enjoyed Summer downpours. So it was a select band of 13 who benefited from the tour of part of the storm damaged reserve with Warden Kevin Wilson. It was walk, listen and look. We heard and saw how far the 5 December tide had reached and were fascinated to see where the flood water had broken through a 200 year old dune to pour along the road and to form – for a short time - a sea water lagoon. Kevin pointed out a Red-banded sand wasp that lays its eggs in a moth caterpillar where they develop as the host dies. We saw Yellow wagtails and Linnets flitting over. There were Cinnabar moths on the Ragwort and the ground hugging brambles were in fact Dewberries. Essex skipper, Gatekeeper and Ringlet butterflies were sucking up nectar in profusion. Over the dunes a Marsh harrier was being mobbed by Meadow pipits – it did not seem to take any notice of them as it flew majestically out to sea.

It was not until we reached a stand of sycamore trees, looking sad after a salt water soaking, that have been left to thrive in contradiction to most reserves where sycamores are removed, that Kevin was asked what he had been doing on the time of the flood. Quite unassumingly he told us that by night he was constantly assessing the water levels and warning local residents of the imminent dangers. By daybreak – sleep was a couple of hours - he had been up to his chest in water probing with his feet to find sluice gate controls to ease the flow of water.

There was a lot of property damage at Gibraltar Point. The Visitors' Centre and accommodation block were made uninhabitable which had a direct impact to the reserve. No place for full time volunteers to reside and the possible loss of employment for the canteen staff. No services for visitors or teaching groups with a loss of revenue from the café and shop and no hay crop from the meadows. The various article in Lapwings chronicle in detail the changes that have come about since that night. The long term plan is to manage this changed habitat and to make the location safe and welcoming for visitors by replacing board walks and by installing more substantial toilets and a shop to replace the temporary Portaloos and refreshment wagon.

As somebody who has always been interested in the zonation of the seashore and the development of salt marsh from beach to sand dune I was very excited when we reached the area to the north of the Fenland Lagoon. Here the sea had broken through from the lagoon and had scoured a pathway through a wild flower meadow. Well, it was a wildflower meadow last summer!Now it is covered with the bright green Sea club rush and in the salt water path there are the classic salt marsh colonising plants of Common orache, Glasswort (our old friend Samfer), Sea purslane, Annual sea blite and Scurvy grass. From the location of the plants the seeds must have come with the tide rather than having laid dormant in the meadow which would have been salt marsh many years ago.

The verges still had colour from Knapweed, Wild carrot, Bartsia, Betony and Bird's foot trefoil. The Yellow rattle had lost its yellow but was rattling well in the breeze. We 'hide-hopped' back to the car park. The lagoons that are overlooked by the hides on the West side of the road were unaffected by the flood and as ever were supporting loads of ducks, waders and noisy Black-headed gulls. The Black-tailed godwits looked handsome in their chestnut Summer plumage, the Avocets were dainty whilst a young Great crested grebe looked rather lost on an island on the mud. Turtle doves used to be common in this country and are now quite rare – but we saw and heard one sitting on the top of a Hawthorne bush twenty metres from the road.

We finished off our outing with a rustic picnic under threatening clouds.

BIRD LIST (30)

Little grebe, Great crested grebe, Cormorant, Little egret, Canada goose, Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, Tufted duck, Marsh harrier, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Lapwing, Black-tailed godwit, Bar-tailed godwit, Redshank, Black-headed gull, Wood pigeon, Turtle dove, Skylark, Swallow, Meadow pipit, Yellow wagtail, Sedge warbler, Grasshopper warbler(heard) Long-tailed tit, Magpie, Carrion crow, Linnet and Yellow hammer.



Sea Club-moss
(top pic. Turtle dove)
Ray Woodcock


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Seed Collection at Red Hill

A COUPLE OF HOURS IN THE SUMMER SUNSHINE AT RED HILL
Good morning to you all,
I remember how impressed we were by the work of Volunteer Warden Harry Turner when we visited  the LWT Red Hill reserve last year with the LAG and last month when we visited with Louth U3A. Harry has done wonders during the last decade to create an SSSI site and the Coronation Meadow. On both occasions some of us said that we would be prepared to offer help at the reserve so long the task was not too onerous.
 
I have just heard from Harry who tells me that he would appreciate some help in collecting the heads of cowslip plants in order that he may extract and dry the seeds. Rather than ad hoc arrangements we agreed that 10.00 am on Wednesday 6 August might be a good time for people to gather at the car park opposite the Coronation Meadow  to spend a little time gathering Cowslips. Children will be welcome.
 
Map reference TF 264806, nearest post code LN11 9UE.
  
The only equipment needed is a medium sized polythene bag or as Harry defined it, 'the size that contains a large loaf of bread'. 
 
Let me know if you can join me or just turn up on the day.
Best wishes
Ray Woodcock

Chairman LAG

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Visit to Gibraltar Point Reserve

LOUTH AREA GROUP LWT

10.00 am Saturday 19 July 2014

We shall meet at the Main Car Park of the Gibraltar Point Reserve at 10.00 am when the Warden, Kevin Wilson, will take us on a tour of parts of the reserve where we will have the opportunity to observe how the ecology of the site has been changed by the December 2013 floods and what management measures need to be taken to deal with the changes. We shall also see lots of birds, so bring your bins.
The visitors' centre café and toilets no longer function. However, there are mobile toilets and a busy snack bar at the car park. You may wish to take your own refreshments, particularly water, as it is likely to be a hot day. We will be on the move for about a couple of hours – but on flat ground!
The daily car park fee is £3 whilst groups visiting Gibraltar Point are asked to make a donation towards the upkeep of the reserve.
Ray Woodcock

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Wildflower Seed Picking Picnic

 We are having a Picking Picnic event at Red Hill on Sunday 10th August from 10am-1pm.

This will be an opportunity to gather free wildflower seed of local provenance for your gardens and growing projects.  You can also help the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust gather seed for community green spaces too.

I will give a wildflower identification field presentation and provide collecting bags and some refreshments.  Toilets are available on the site.  Bring a packed lunch and drink if you’d like to join a picnic afterwards!

Similar events may be organised later in August/September.

Here also is a link to more information on Red Hill Nature reserve:  http://live.data.wt.precedenthost.co.uk/sites/default/files/Red%20Hill.pdf

I look forward to seeing you there!

With best regards,

Mark.

Mark Schofield
www.lifeontheverge.org.uk         
Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust
Banovallum House
Manor House Street
Horncastle
Lincolnshire
LN9 5HF

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Wonderful Wild Flowers

VISIT TO LWT RED HILL 25 JUNE 2014

20 members of Louth U3A, many of whom are also LAG members, enjoyed a bright sunny day with brilliant cloudscapes and an extremely knowledgeable guide. It could not have been better. Harry Turner, the volunteer warden at Red Hill has worked so hard for the last decade to convert barley fields into wild flower meadows that have become recognised as an SSSI and as a Coronation Meadow.
We walked across a ridge and up and down hilly meadows with stunning views and excellent visibility. We saw Lincoln cathedral 20 miles away! Harry identified the flowers - I jotted down 80 species - and butterflies whilst describing the ways in which he had managed the site in cooperation with the LWT, councils and other public agencies.
We collected £27 for the LWT and furthermore some of us agreed to join with members of the Louth Area Group of the LWT to provide some 'hands on' assistance to Harry later in the year. Thanks to Sue Coxon for the group shot:  

Some interesting 'Harry facts'.
  • The chalk and sandstone strata of rocks exposed by the quarrying continue across eastern England to emerge as Hunstanton cliffs.
  • Until 1933 Red Hill quarry was actively producing limestone with the chalk being burnt in an earth kiln.
  • The LWT have had the site since 1948.
  • LWT sources provide wild flower seeds for farmers to sow on the verges of their fields.
  • 9 specimens of fairly rare Kidney Vetch have been specially seeded to cover an acre.
  • Tor grass on the scarp slope is the home of the caterpillars of White Marbled butterflies.
  • The Bladder Campion is the sole food source for the tiny moth - Coleophora silenella
  • The soil has to be poor for wild flowers to flourish
  • White clover is not good for a wild flower meadow as it fixes the nitrogen in the soil too efficiently.
  • The very rare Horseshoe vetch, Blue Milkwort, together with rare Yellow Wort and Pasque Flower thrive at Red Hill.
  • Weld - a plant with metre high spike flowers - can be processed to produce a yellow dye.
  • Eyebright is used to treat eye infections and until recently was grown commercially for 'Optrex'.

Self heal - you probably have it growing in your lawn! Prior to World War II, it was used to staunch bleeding and for treating heart disease. A decoction of the leaves was used to treat sore throats and internal bleeding. It is used as an anti-inflammatory and has anti-allergic activity. In western medicine it is used externally for treating minor injuries, sores, burns, bruises and can also be used as a mouthwash to treat mouth ulcers.
Ray Woodcock

Record Your Sightings

Yesterday John Walker and I were walking round my garden when he spotted a Brown Hawker Dragonfly, Aeshna grandis. There's information about it here. It is widespread across much of England but there are very few records of sightings from near the Lincolnshire coast so John suggested sending a record in to the Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership (GLNP) at Banovallum House, where wildlife records database is managed.

If you see something of interest that might be worthy of a record the GLNP would appreciate hearing about your sightings. You can find out more about the process at http://www.glnp.org.uk/getting-involved/your-sightings/ or just send them an e-mail: info@glnp.org.uk


Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) dragonfly photographed in Norwich,Norfolk,UK on August 2nd 2005.


Re-wilding the Meadows

And so the re-wilding season begins!

The 'Meadowmobile' has arrived at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, full of wildflowers ready to be sent around the county to reinvigorate our wild meadows with diverse and beautiful flora. We now have 1500 wildflower plants ready to distribute!

Photo: Wildflower Meadows Project Officer Mark Schofield with the Meadowmobile.

Harry is the Daddy. It's only because of his example and the results he has achieved over nearly 20 years that the Meadow Network Project is now trying to reverse local extinctions and rapid habitat loss of wildflowers in the intensively cultivated county of Lincolnshire. Nearly all the seeds my project is relying on come from the Coronation Meadow he has helped to create.


Harry Turner, Volunteer Reserve Manager at Lincolnshire's Coronation Meadow, Red Hill, inspects the new plaque at the reserve.
Harry is one of the inspirations behind our new Wildflower Meadow Network Project. Red Hill nature reserve was extended with the purchase of adjacent arable fields. To help tranform the fields into meadow, Harry grew wildflowers from seed and planted them across the new area. For example - from nine kidney vetch plants he has grown 500 plug plants and collected and distributed seed to establish kidney vetch over a 15 acre area.
Mark Schofield

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Neonicotinoids

In May 2013 we held the Louth Festival of the Bees. One of our guest speakers, who gave a wonderful talk about the wild bees, has sent this message:

Neonicotinoids
By Brigit Strawbridge
Q: Why do I keep banging on about Neonicotinoid Pesticides? What are they? Weren't they 'banned' last year anyway? And why have I suddenly started posting about them in ernest again?

A: I keep banging on about Neonicotinoids because, alongside habitat loss, they are a major cause of bee decline. They also kill other pollinators and small song birds, and are indirectly responsible for declining numbers of reptiles, mammals and amphibians.

Neonicotinoids are powerful neuro-toxins (nerve poisons). One of them, Imidacloprid is OVER 7,000 TIMES MORE TOXIC TO BEES THAN DDT!!! They are currently the worlds most widely used pesticide. They coat the seeds of the crops they are used on so the nerve poison is taken up by the entire plant: roots; leaves; fruit; seeds etc. They remain in the soil to be taken up by subsequent crops for many years.

After years of campaigning by those concerned about the dire effect these pesticides are having upon bees and other wildlife, 3 types of neonicotinoid have recently been restricted in the UK, on certain crops attractive to bees, for 3 years. This not quite the same as a 'ban', but it's a hard fought for beginning.

The scary thing is that SYNGENTA, one of the companies who manufacture these pesticides, have now applied to the UK government for an exemption on this ban. If they are granted the exemption we will be back to square one.

So, PLEASE, PLEASE sign and share this petition if you haven't already. It really is incredibly important that these money grabbing multinationals don't wriggle their way out of the restrictions, and your voice may just make a difference.

Many, many thanks for all that you do x

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/david-cameron-uphold-the-european-ban#petition

Monday, 30 June 2014

Gone for a Walk

This is a great time of year for anyone interested in wildflowers.  Last night we saw Mark Schofield on Countryfile (see blog-post below) showing Ellie Harrison, who happens to have a degree in ecology, the wildflowers on a Lincolnshire road verge.  While much is made of flower meadows on the Chalk and Lincolnshire Limestone where the poor soils reduce competition from grasses and vigorous herbs that dominate some of our prettier flowers, there can still be plenty to look at along the road-verges, tracks and footpaths wherever you are.

I've just been for a short walk along a bridleway near my house on the Coastal Marsh.  The fields are growing wheat, barley and rape but the dyke banks and path edges are a profusion of flowers, even in this nutrient-rich environment.

I spotted Viper's Bugloss, Meadlow Vetchling, Tufted Vetch, Meadowsweet, Creeping Tormentil, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil, Common Knapweed, Great Willowherb, Pineappleweed, Mayweed, Red and White Clovers, Poppy, Common Mallow, Field and Hedge Bindweeds, White Campion, Hemp-nettle and Dog Rose. There was nothing especially rare, but we need to appreciate the commonplace.  Actually, there's nothing too commonplace about seeing these flowers growing together in profusion on a warm summer's evening.
Biff Vernon


Photo: Robin Drayton  via Wikimedia Commons


Countryfile

BBC's Countryfile programme came to Lincolnshire this week and featured Mark Schofield of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust describing the significance of the Life on the Verge project to wildflower conservation and plans for the Trust's newly acquired land at the old Woodhall Spa airfield adjacent to Kirby Moor Reserve.  The programme can be viewed again for the next few days on BBC iplayer.

And here's something for next Sunday:



Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fir Hill Quarry

On Friday 20 June 2014 the Louth Area Group had a field meeting at Fir Hill Quarry.  



Claire Weaver from Natural England gave us an informative “interactive evening” following the story of the Lincolnshire Wolds from the formation of the Chalk, through the ice age, the era of woolly mammoths, early man with flint tools, the introduction of farming, the Romans, and through medieval times to Enclosure. On the way we examined chalk and flints, handled a replica Bronze Age sword and identified wild flowers. Lovely weather - a pleasant evening!
Ruth Gattenby




The picture shows an abundance of Hogweed in bloom but below this grows a rich assemblage typical of chalkland flora.  It includes Pyramidal and Common Spotted Orchid, Cowslip, Agrimony, Kidney Vetch, Lady's Bedstraw, Wild Marjoram, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Eyebright, Bladder Campion, Rough Hawkbit, Herb Robert, Hedge Woundwort, and, in the shaded entrance path, the Wood Sedge, Carex sylvestris.

A profusion of ash seedlings suggests a possibility for a volunteer working party next winter to do a little scrub clearance, lest the quarry becomes wooded rather than a refuge for the chalk meadow flora.
Biff Vernon


Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii 

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Cuckoo Spit

I was reminded by the Springwatch programme that the 'Cuckoo spit' we see on plant stems is produced by a tiny aphid-like insect called a Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) which hops a considerable distance when disturbed. In fact, it is actually the nymphs which live in a protective frothy mass of bubbles. The adult is a champion jumper and is able to leap 70cm into the air - a greater feat than the flea and similar to a human jumping over a tower block! Adults mate back-to-back, and the subsequent nymphs go through a number of stages. Both adults and nymphs feed on plant sap using specialised, sucking mouth parts.
Ray Woodcock

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A New Ecosystem

Often when visiting nature reserves or other wild places we enjoy the biodiversity and marvel at the complexity of the ecosystem.  But it can also be interesting to study a location with such a poor flora that, after a few minutes, one can be confident that one has seen every plant species.  The beach from the south end of Sutton-on-Sea to Sandilands is sand recently accumulated with the help of the Environment Agency's beach nourishment programme.  Over 15 million cubic metres of sand have been added to the Lincolnshire beaches over the past 20 years.  For a review of this work and plans for the future see "Adapting to Climate Change on the Lincolnshire Coastline through the Lincshore Beach Management Scheme" by Andrew E. Rouse et al.

Marram Grass, Ammophila arenaria, established itself in this area a few years ago and last year the Environment Agency planted a lot more with the hope that a natural-looking dune system would build up, protecting the hard sea defences at the infamous Acre Gap, where a major breach occurred in 1953.  It has been growing rapidly this spring and small but developing dunes are now a feature of beach, the mat of Marram roots stabilising the sand and the shoots trapping more wind-blown sand to increase the dune height.

The Marram has now been joined by three other species, able to colonise the somewhat protected sand surface.  Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides, now loosely covers several patches of ground of a square metre or more.  There are also occasional specimens of Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata, and Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali.

It will be interesting to watch the area and see what else establishes itself over time.


Sea Sandwort, Honckenya peploides

Frosted Orache, Atriplex laciniata

Prickly Saltwort, Salsola kali





Friday, 6 June 2014

Damsel in Distress


Sunday 1st June 2014, at Rimac, Jane Woodcock took this gruesome picture of mating Common Blue Damselflies, Enallagma cyathigerum, trapped in a spiders web and being eaten by the spider.

Here is a rather beautiful film made by Colin Green, just five minutes long, but showing many of the species to be found at Rimac.


There's more information about the Saltfleet-Thedlethorpe National Nature Reserve here and from the Fieldfare Trust, promoting countryside access for the disabled. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Meeting Reports February and March 2014

21 FEBRUARY 2014

BIRDING IN THE GAMBIA


Steve Keightly from Frithville near Boston brought some African colour to a winter's evening with his 'breathtaking' photographs of the birds of Gambia. Steve told us about the trips he had made to that tiny African country in 2010 and in 2012. He enjoyed his visits so much that he and four other like minded birders are going again next month. This time they will not be staying in the tented safari lodge by the river Gambia where they sometimes shared their tent with a large monitor lizard.

The Gambia is the smallest country in Africa with a population of about 1.7 million. It flanks the Gambia river and is surrounded by Senegal, apart from a short strip of Atlantic coastline at its western end.

Steve and his party landed at Banjul airport before setting off to comfortable accommodation at Footsteps and Farakundu lodges where they first saw a Black shouldered kite soaring above. He advised us that the best time to visit Gambia was in the dry season between late November and March when the rural sandy roads were not muddy tracks. The mode of travel was by 4X4 and by river transport – sometimes they had to paddle their own canoes! The daily temperatures rose to the high thirties and in this Afro-tropical climate the humidity was very high. However, the vehicles were air conditioned – you just opened the windows and held your breath when passing vehicles covered your vehicle in abrasive dust. Not comfortable conditions to carry a huge, heavy camera with a tripod whilst coping with binoculars and sun glasses strung round your neck.

Local drivers and guides were a must. The guides had undergone a three year apprenticeship to qualify as ornithologists. They were hired by the day at a rate of £40 per person but Steve reckoned they were excellent value and without them he would have missed many of the 226 species he photographed on his trip along the river.

There was a plethora of birds which occupied all the ecological niches. Many were brightly coloured; not just Starlings but Purple glossy starlings and White crested helmet shrikes – the names were so descriptive. They saw six different types of Kingfisher, some lived by the river and others like the Pied kingfisher in the illustration were forest dwellers.

One of my favourite photographs was that of the Verreaux's eagle owl. A large, impressive owl with 'ear' tufts – most dignified until you saw its pink eyelids! The Ospreys which breed in the UK and overwinter in this area of West Africa were a common sight as they fished in the rivers. The Hooded vultures dominated the sky and did a grand job of clearing away carrion and other edible rubbish. Steve spent time at the municipal rubbish tip where Kites and Vultures were joined by other scavenging birds.

To remind me of the 100 or so exotic species shown in Steve's presentation I shall log onto his website at www.yellowbellybirdphotography.co.uk which has a fantastic range of pictures of all his adventures.
RW
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Friday 14th March 2014

Wildlife and the Washlands


Martin Chapman gave us another interesting illustrated talk about many aspects of farming and wildlife conservation. He started by telling us about life in rural Saltfleetby when he was a boy, and discussing the changes as farms have become larger and more mechanised.

In the early 1990s Martin began to develop land in Manby into a wildlife-friendly zone - the LWT group had visited the area in 2012. Encouraged by FWAG Martin created the wildlife pond, now known as Lucy Mae’s Pond, in 1½ acres that was too wet to crop. Fascinating pictures showed the topsoil removed to reveal 3 feet of boulder clay with peat beneath. After excavation of the pond the top soil was replaced and seeded with a grass and wild flower mix. The original bushes had been carefully preserved, and quickly the area became a wildlife haven with reeds and other plant species.

A 25-acre area adjoining Lucy Mae’s pond became Martin’s next project. This was developed to become a washland, taking flood water from the Long Eau River, and becoming an appropriate habitat for water birds. Ray Woodcock told us he had recently counted 27 bird species there.

In the final part of his talk Martin showed how he manages hedges, ditches and arable fields to provide a range of plant species, feed sources for birds and insects, and a desirable habitat for many animal species. RG