Showing posts from October, 2014

A Day in the Reedbeds

Today I went to a conservation volunteering workday at Skerne Wetlands. This is a new nature reserve near Driffield, being created from an old fish farm. It is not yet open to the public, so it’s a real privilege to be there. We’ve been cutting willow which is growing in reedbeds that were once the ponds where fish were raised. The cut stems were collected up and will provide material for craft sessions at the Pearson Park Wildlife Garden in Hull.

Cutting willow in the reedbeds
Some of the ponds will be re-flooded to provide a variety of habitat for water birds and other wildlife. One is being landscaped for creation of a wet woodland area, with strips being dug out for flooding and raised areas left in between where trees will be planted.

One man and his dog dig out the wet woodland area I’ve had a camera trap out recently under the seed feeder in my garden. I was pleased to see that there are still hedgehogs around, hoovering up the fallen seed. The mild weather we are having should hel…

Eden Shorts at Wildscreen

Eden Shorts in Cinema 1 Yesterday I went to the Watershed in Bristol for the screening of shortlisted entries in the Eden Shorts competition, showing as part of the Wildscreen Festival. The films covered a huge range of subjects, from elephants to caterpillars and the standard was extremely high. They had 357 entries in the competition, of which 12 were shortlisted and judged by Nigel Marven and Michaela Strachan. The worthy winner was Simon Owen, with a superb film called “Effortless Beauty”. The runner up, Danny Copeland’s “Swimming with Blue Sharks”, was filmed off the Cornish coast, though you’d think it was in tropical waters. I was delighted to have made it into the shortlist with my badger film, but I’ve a long way to go to rival the winners.

The Exhibition Hall
Five years ago, I attended a weekend course on wildlife film-making in Norfolk, with Wildeye. One of the other participants was a student called Sam Pearson. He now works for Eden TV and he presented the films yesterday, m…

Strictly Stoat Dancing

At the far side of the field behind my house there is a rabbit warren. They’ve had a good summer and the number of rabbits has increased dramatically over the last few months. The other day I looked out of my bedroom window and saw a line of rooks along the fence beside the warren, which was unusual. Then I noticed the reason for their interest – there was a stoat about. It started rushing around and leaping into the air – behaviour I’ve never seen before. Apparently the rabbits are so intrigued by the antics that they ignore the danger, until it’s too late.

Rooks watch the stoat, hopefully
The rabbits stood around watching in amazement, so it seemed to be working, but I never actually saw the kill. A few minutes later, when the stoat had gone, a kestrel arrived and perched on the fence, obviously wanting a piece of the action. I think the rooks and kestrel all left disappointed – the stoat wasn’t sharing.

A kestrel turns up

Beach Cleaning with the SAS

Yesterday I went to a beach clean at Spurn Point, organised jointly by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Surfers Against Sewage. I got there early, so as to have time for a wander around before the beach clean started. We’ve had easterly winds recently, bringing in lots of migrant birds. Passing Kilnsea Wetlands, I saw a group of twitchers with telescopes all lined up, so there had to be some rarity around. I tagged along and discovered it was an Isabelline shrike. It was on a bush about 500 yards away, and I’m afraid it was indistinguishable from a sparrow at that range.

A gaggle of Brent geese on the mud-flats
Roe deer enjoying the new crop
I left them to it, watched the more common waders and Brent geese on the mudflats for a while, and then walked around to the Beacon lagoons. In the field alongside, there were four roe deer, casually grazing on a new crop of winter wheat. I returned to the car park for my sandwiches, then went to the visitor centre which was the meeting point for the bea…

Webs in the Fog

A thunderstorm last Wednesday blew up ‘my’ circuit in the local telephone exchange, so I’ve had no internet connection for the last six days.

The gorse was covered in spiders’ webs
On Sunday we had our regular monthly work day at North Cliffe Wood. It was a foggy morning and when we arrived at the heathland area the gorse bushes were covered in spiders’ webs, with every strand of silk lined with water droplets, like pearl necklaces. It’s quite remarkable that there can be so many spiders which normally go unnoticed. The webs come in different designs, according to the type of spider, some a neat arrangement of silk strands while others are just a great tangle.

Web design varies...
...according to the type of spider. We brushcut some of the rushes that have come up amongst the heather and raked up more of the bracken which was cut with the mower last month. The heather has come on well this year – new clumps have appeared in the areas we’ve mown in previous years.

New heather clumps have app…

Collecting Tansy Seed

Today I’ve been to Fulford Ings, to collect seed from tansy plants to sow next spring. Each plant produces dozens of flower heads and each flower contains hundreds of seeds, so the small amount I’ve collected will have no effect on the natural spread of the plants. I’ll aim to produce another 1000 tansy plants next year.

Dead flower heads now contain ripe seed The seed will be left to dry out in my kitchen The new generation of tansy beetles that emerged from pupae in the summer have now gone underground for the winter – except for one, which was still wandering around!

The last tansy beetle still active

Chalk Stream Restoration

Today I’ve been helping out with some stream restoration work, at the headwaters of the River Hull, one of the UK’s most northerly chalk streams. After a long period with low water levels, the stream had become silted up and was turning into a marsh area. The plan was to dredge out a channel down the middle and stabilise the banks with coir logs. The end result will be a clear chalk stream, with scope for far greater biodiversity.

Digging out a new channel
Coir logs stabilise the bends
The new course of the stream was all carefully worked out, with coir logs installed on the outside of bends, where erosion would be greatest, and deeper pools in places for fish to congregate. Inevitably, it involved some short-term disruption to the wildlife. Small brown trout got caught in temporary pools created by the digger and had to be rescued and taken to deeper water.

A rescued brown trout. It was quickly returned to the water.
For the background to this project, see…