24th May: The Plantlife cowslip survey was done on the cluster. They are not particularly abundant but many won’t have been noticed as the flower spikes are nibbled off by grazers and I was only looking for flower spikes.
Just over a hundred were found. Some couldn’t be recorded as the flowers were not ‘out’. 82 flowering plants were recorded of which 44 were ‘L-morph’ and 38 were ‘S-morph’ (don’t ask, just follow the link below!)
We are hoping to run some moth traps over one night of the BioBlitz with the VC65 recorder Dr Charlie Fletcher (that’s the Vice County and ours in number 65 explanation here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vice-county). We are in a very under recorded area, not just for moths. I run one now and then in Fremington and have had quite a few ‘firsts’ for my square, so I expect similar for the cluster.
The date is yet to be confirmed but it will be in the second week of our extended BioBlitz and any one interested is welcome to attend the opening of the traps the following morning, getting them identified and then releasing them. It will be an early(ish) start and numbers may be limited.
More details will be published as soon as we have them.
On part of the area where we are hoping to re-establish trees, both the issue of breeding waders with the associated calcarious grassland, and blanket bog have been flagged up as a possible concern. I was confident that we were not compromising any breeding waders as I did a fairly detailed survey a few years ago for the BTO in the general area and felt our land in question wasn’t going to be a problem. But there was also this old survey which suggested blanket bog was present high up on the site, even though none shows up on the ‘Magic Map’ portal which shows such things.
So we set off on foot to look for waders and blanket bog. The two areas of concern held no waders, only skylark and meadow pipit with signs of red grouse. A very dwarf nibbled Elder and surprisingly wood sorrel were encountered.
Reaching the top of Fremington Edge we found some pools and wet areas that I hadn’t seen before (its very inaccessible). Out came the probe and we found a shallow area of wet peat averaging about 14 inch (350mm). We were not intending to re-establish trees here, but its nice to know we would not have been damaging any valuable habitat had we chosen to do so.
As we should now have the all clear to crack on, we’re expecting to put the fencing/planting jobs out to tender shortly.
This morning we learned how to survey bumblebees for the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme run by The Bumblebee Conservation Trust https://www.bumblebeeconservation.org. The Cluster survey involves walking a 1km ‘transect’ every week for 6 weeks, which is easy enough. The tricky bit is identifying the species of bumblebee. Luckily we have some very willing volunteers helping out.
The walk this morning, which was more to learn the methodology of the survey was cool with sunny intervals. Add that to the fact that it’s been a cold spring with a lot less flowers than usual, it wasn’t a surprise that we saw few bees. Common carder, garden and buff-tailed/white-tailed were seen though.
Surveying starts properly in June, so what’s seen then will be posted on here.
Yesterday saw an enthusiastic group of National Park volunteers removing about a thousand (?) tree shelters and stakes from one area on the cluster. The old shelters and plastic ties will be recycled by Tubex, who originally manufactured them.
Plantlife are running a cowslip survey to determine the quality of the grassland where they are found. Apparently there are two sorts (morphs) of cowslips and a roughly equal number of both signify healthy grassland.
It’s a very easy survey to do with full instructions provided and you record your results on the associated app for which they supply the simple instruction for how to get it downloaded and working.
We will be doing surveys on The Cluster very soon.
It’s May the 8th. We have seen snow today. April was the coldest one for 99 years, it was also very dry. We have had a lot of dry springs recently. Very few swallows have arrived back here. No house martins noted and no swifts. The pattern is similar throughout the country.