30 Days Wild – Week 1

I’m taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s “30 Days Wild” campaign, trying to get involved with nature in some way every day of this month.

Day 1: For the first of my “30 Days Wild” I was stuck indoors most of the day waiting for parcels to be delivered. It was a wet and windy day, and I thought I might have to resort to hugging a tree or dancing in the rain, but in the evening I managed to get down to Badger Wood and check the camera trap. The adolescent badgers have had a “Random Act of Wildness” of their own.

Badgers playing tag

Day 2: Today was my first “Balsam Bashing” day of the year at Fulford Ings. Last year I was rather late in clearing the area and much of the Himalayan balsam had already gone to seed. It was no surprise to find patches growing wherever I’d left heaps last summer, but it was easier to clear those than the scattered clumps that would have appeared without last year’s work. Much of the balsam is still very small and difficult to get out of longer grass, so I concentrated on the bigger plants, some already a metre high. I’ll return for the small stuff in a couple of weeks, when it will have grown considerably. Although the meadow was resown just a few years ago, following the installation of a new sewer main for York, it is superb in mid-summer – a mass of wild flowers, including tansy which the endangered tansy beetles have been quick to occupy. It would be a disaster if it was all destroyed by the invasion of Himalayan balsam. Those who claim that invasive plants don’t do any real damage to our environment need to get out more.

The meadow at the end of June 2013

Himalayan balsam crowds out everything else

Tansy, with beetles, growing in the meadow

Day 3: A conservation volunteering day at Wheldrake Ings. Large sections of the boardwalk have been rebuilt by the volunteers over the last few weeks. Some of the volunteers are very experienced at boardwalk building but I’m not very good at the constructive stuff, so I helped to dig holes for some of the supporting posts and removed sections of the old boardwalk. At lunch time we sat in one of the hides and watched swans and egrets around a lake. Reed warblers were warbling in the surrounding reed beds.

Old boardwalk coming out, while new boardwalk is built

Building the framework

Another section nearing completion 

Day 4: Another conservation work day, this time at Skerne Wetlands. We cleared the vegetation around some of the trees we planted at the edge of the new wet wood area. They had disappeared amongst nettles and willow herb. The rest of the group went ahead and cleared around each tree and I followed on behind with a brush-cutter, clearing the remaining undergrowth. While we were doing that, the Field Officer was mowing some of the paths. We later raked up the cuttings and made habitat piles with logs in the base, to encourage grass snakes. Marsh frogs were calling from the newly flooded ponds.

Young trees in the wet wood

Creating a habitat pile for grass snakes

Water crowfoot in one of the ponds

Marsh frog - an alien species

Day 5: In the afternoon, I went to Fulford Ings again, with a wheelbarrow, rabbit netting and some tansy plants. Last August we planted several large clumps of tansy, to encourage the endangered tansy beetles. A lot of it was eaten by rabbits, so I wanted to top up some of the clumps and protect them with netting. In fact, I found more tansy had survived than I'd thought, but it was still very small and hidden in the grass. I planted the bigger plants I'd brought and secured the netting around them with tree stakes (having previously obtained the land owner's permission, of course).

Tansy plants protected with netting

Day 6: I'd planned to plant out some wild flower seedlings today, but it was so windy I decided that would have to wait for a better day. I went badger watching in the evening. Windy evenings upset the badgers. They rely on their excellent hearing and sense of smell to warn them of danger. When it's windy they can't hear danger approaching and their ability to smell an enemy is compromised too. Several badgers did eventually emerge, but they were too nervous to come to the peanuts I'd left out and went off across the woods almost straight away.

Day 7: Today was our monthly conservation work day at Allerthorpe Common and thankfully the wind had dropped. We've been down to four volunteers recently, so it was nice to see seven turn up today. We were cutting birch seedlings and treating them with glyphosate, to prevent the heathland becoming a woodland again. The extra few people seemed to make a huge difference and we got a lot done. At lunch time, a cuckoo flew across the reserve. When we'd finished the day's work, we had a walk around and saw the May lily, a locally rare plant. It's in full flower now and spreading outside of its special fenced enclosure.

Volunteers taking a break

The May lily in full flower


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