Monday, 30 April 2018

Around the sites

Chesworth Farm
Everyone loves a big red tractor!

Sacrificial Crop Preparation - Chesworth Farm

A very exciting time at Chesworth as this week saw the beginning of a project I have wanted to carry out on the Farm for many years. The project is taking place in Wheat Rick and New Town Nine Acre fields respectively and the more observant visitors to the Farm might well have noticed two plots have been ploughed this week.

The aim of the project is to sow several crops which we will not harvest but come the autumn will produce lots of seeds and grain to support the bird population which winters on the Farm, you may see these in the future being referred to on the blog as sacrifical crops. Species such as Linnet, Yellowhammer, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting should all benefit from the bounty of free food during the winter period and we hope they will use the nice big hedgerows to roost in and avoid predators from.

The next stage of the process is to power harrow the project area which will break the large clods of mud down into a fine tilth which will support the seeds and give them a better medium to grow in. We hope the weather will brighten up soon so we can get on with sowing the all important seed. These two plots are going to be the center of lots of attention throughout the year and I will keep you posted with how they are developing.

Around the Farm David Verrall has once again been busy finding lots of different species and this time he managed to get a lovely photo of a pair of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies which have been surprisingly few and far between this spring.

Small Tortoiseshell - D. Verrall

Friends of Chesworth Farm AGM
Lastly on the subject of Chesworth Farm, last Monday we have the Friends of Chesworth Farms' AGM which was very well attended. All of the formalities were swiftly sorted out and then we had a fascinating talk by Nick Sexton about his life living on the edge of the Farm. From a personal point of view it was fantastic to further my knowledge of the Farm's history though World War II and see how the Farm has developed over time. Very well done to all involved and to Nick and Angela Sexton for their wonderful talk.

Leechpool & Owlbeech Woods

Owlbeech Woods
A trip down to Leechpool and Owlbeech Woods at this time of year is a must as the Bluebells are just starting to fill the air with their sweet smell and the purple/blue carpet is just starting to cover the forest floor. It makes the fresh green leaves of the Beech and the perfect white trunks of the Silver Birch show up even more all giving an truly brilliant wildlife spectacle that is not to be missed.

Up on the heathland at Owlbeech the warm spring sunshine has brought a plethora of species out and about with Common Lizard and Adder seen this week mainly in the areas with Bracken and the Green Tiger Beetles are making the most of the bare earth areas. Plenty of butterflies are now on the wing with many Brimstone's seeking out the vast amount of Alder Buckthorn to lay their precious eggs on. Willow Warbler's are very evident with their melodic song being heard throughout the heathland, soon we hope to hear the churring of the Nightjar once more.

Southwater Country Park

Horsham Green Gym at Southwater Country Park
Horsham Green Gym have once again been busy down at the Country Park, this time they have been installing a new rustic bench on the beach area as well as continuing to improve the drainage around the circular path. This is the first of a number of small improvements we have planned around the Park before the busy summer season kicks in.

Our thanks as always to the volunteers at Horsham Green Gym for supplying us with immense support and skill. It does not go unnoticed around the district and we are always grateful.

Warnham Local Nature Reserve

Orange-tip - D. Verrall
The Reserve has been very busy whilst the weather was nice and warm and as a result there have been lots of wildlife sightings logged over the past ten days. David Verrall once again managed another excellent shot, this time of a male Orange-tip which was feeding for a change in stead of buzzing around the woodland rides.

We have seen a real increase in the number of summer migrants and passage migrants this week with Common Sandpiper being seen every day with a peak of three birds on the 28th April. The best place to see them in Tern Hide and they are often feeding on the muddy scrapes right in front of the hide. Sean Collins managed to get this fantastic photo of all three birds not only together, but together in flight!!!
Common Sandpipers - S. Collins
There has been a marked increase in the number of hirundines on the Reserve this week with Swallow being seen every day as well as plenty of House Martins and a handful of Swifts too. Hopefully the Swift numbers will continue to increase over the next few weeks as the local breeders begin to find their nest sites once more and come on feeding forays over the millpond. Sean Collins also managed to bag a nice shot of the first returning Common Tern for the year which was exciting and as seems to be the theme this year it was about a week behind the 5-year average first arrival date at Warnham.
Common Tern - S. Collins
Many thanks to everyone who has sent me photos and any wildlife records, they make the production of the blog a lot more fun to read! Until next time...

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Countryside Round-up

Southwater Country Park
Mute Swan - A. Rodgers

Spring has certainly sprung around the sites with lots of beautiful wildflowers beginning to put on a show as well as the dawn chorus of our birds really starting to spark into life. Down at Southwater Country Park the pair of Mute Swans on Cripplegate Lake have made a nest right next to one of the paths so we have had to temporarily close this path off to reduce disturbance to her as she lays and incubates her eggs.

Two of the wardens went to check on her progress yesterday and she looks to have been pretty busy, when she eventually stood up Jo and Andrew could not believe their eyes. She had laid 8,  yes 8,  eggs in her beautifully crafted reed nest!!! I am pretty sure not all of the eggs will hatch as some of them were laid in the cold snap which could have affected them however we could potentially have 10 Mute Swans in a few of weeks time!
Phyllonorycter leucographella leaf mine on Pyracantha - Southwater Country Park
Staying at the Country Park, I also stumbled across the larvae of Phyllonorycter leucographella which is a micro moth. This is one of a huge number of leaf-mining moths that can be found in Great Britain. You can see the mine in the photo above which stretches like a blister across the midrib of the leaf. The mine is created by the larvae of the moth eating the inside of the leaf. The species is fairly common and can usually be found where the foodplant of the larvae grow which is this case is Pyracantha.

Chesworth Farm

Nosey Llamas - Chesworth Farm 
The Easter Scavenger Hunt was a great success despite the inclement weather and all of the children who attended were rewarded with a lovely Easter egg. Many thanks to the Friends of Chesworth Farm for putting on such a good event. 

If you have visited the Farm over the last week or so you may well have seen more flowers starting to appear around the site and you also might have been lucky enough to hear Chiffchaff, Skylark, Blackcap or Willow Warbler singing their hearts out as the males try to attract a mate for the breeding season. Keep an eye out for the bright yellow Lesser Celandines which are putting on a nice show by the Volunteer Centre.
Lesser Celandine - Chesworth Farm

Leechpool & Owlbeech Woods

Hibernacula Creation - Owlbeech Woods

Horsham Green Gym have once again been pulling out all the stops up on the heathland at Owlbeech Woods and this time they have been creating bare areas on the heathland soil which helps all sorts of invertebrates as well as ground nesting birds such as Woodlark and Nightjar.

They have also managed to create more hibernation habitat for our reptiles an amphibians such as Adders and Common Lizards, all of which are regularly seen on the sandy soils at Owlbeech. One of the volunteers also managed to spot a Grass Snake whilst at Owlbeech which was our first of the year here.

Warnham Local Nature Reserve

Sunset at Warnham LNR - R. Allison

The Reserve is finally starting to dry up after a very very muddy Easter Trail meant that much of the site was only accessible in wellington boots! Over 350 children came for the wildlife themed Easter trail which was excellent. It was so nice to see children enjoying the site even if the weather wasn't particularly pleasant, once again thanks to the Friends of Warnham Local Nature Reserve for their running of the event.

There is plenty of evidence of spring in the air here too with the Heronry becoming more active by the day with plenty of well grown young starting to make their feelings known about the need for food from their parents. This week has also seen a large arrival of spring migrants to the Reserve with Chiffchaff and Blackcap seemingly singing from everywhere as well as a couple of Willow Warblers which are singing from the willows around the Aston Trelford Hide. We have finally manged to get a tiny bit ringing done which produced the first spring migrant of 2018 which was this lovely female Blackcap.
Blackcap - Warnham Local Nature Reserve
Finally our warden Ryan and Horsham Green Gym managed to witness a truly amazing spectacle up at the Sandpiper Hide scrapes of grotesque proportion. Whilst doing some maintenance of the scrapes the volunteers found several huge black masses out into the open water, on closer inspection they were actually tadpoles and thousands of them! Below are a couple of pictures of them, has anyone else seen as many tadpoles in one group?!

Just a few Tadpoles!  - Warnham Local Nature Reserve

Friends of Chesworth Farm Annual General Meeting

Friday, 6 April 2018

Warnham Local Nature Reserve

We need your views about Warnham Local Nature Reserve. Please give us your opinions on the management of the Reserve and what improvements you would like to see, to take our short survey please go to:

We know how much local people value Warnham Local Nature Reserve and we are always looking at ways to improve the experience there. At the same time we appreciate that some people do not visit it, and we would like to know why.

The survey will help the Council understand what people would like to see in the Nature Reserve and help us direct future spending and funding as part of our management plan.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Weekend Round-up

Dotted Chestnut - Warnham Local Nature Reserve
A busy weekend around all the sites meant that there was lots of fantastic wildlife reported. Starting off with the moth trap at Warnham Local Nature Reserve which has finally started to get some results after the Beast From The East part 2 hit us last week! The best moth of the weekend was the Dotted Chestnut (Conistra rubiginea) which is nationally scarce and always nice to see in the traps. It is one of the few moths that hibernate after first being on the wing in October/November before reappearing in the spring. The second moth of note which we don't trap very regularly at Warnham is the Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus) which can be seen below. It is quite similar to the more common Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) but the former is generally paler with the dark antler marks at the head end helping with identification. This is also an interesting moth as its larvae have a tendency to be cannibals!
Grey Shoulder-knot - Warnham Local Nature Reserve
The ringing has been very quiet at Warnham lately and there have been very few opportunities to actually get any of the nets up on the Reserve either due to windy conditions or flooding so it was nice to be able to catch a few birds this weekend. The highlight was this Greenfinch which was the first of 2018. They have been very few and far between in recent years which is a theme carried out nationwide sadly as many of the Greenfinches seem to be struggling to beat some of the avian diseases found in the UK.
Greenfinch - Warnham Local Nature Reserve
Meanwhile at Chesworth Farm I added a new fly to the species list when I found the larval mine of Chromatomyia ramosa on Teasel. This is part of the agromizid fly family, all of which mine leaves of various plants. The adults are very difficult to identify and most of them need genitalia examination to be sure of their identity but many of the leaf mines are quite simple to recognise. In the picture below you can see the light coloured markings which are moving away from the central vein. These are caused by the larvae of the fly eating the leaf from within the leaf structure itself.
Chromatomyia ramosa on Teasel - Chesworth Farm
Finally at Southwater Country Park a quick check of the oldest stand of Blackthorn on the site produced a number of the scarce Brown Hairstreak eggs. They are absolutely tiny so I make no apology for how bad the picture is! This is the second site we have found the eggs at this winter after the Friends of Chesworth Farm found some earlier in the month when carrying out a hedgerow survey on the Farm.
Brown Hairstreak Egg - Southwater Quarry

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Reserves Round-up

Weasel - B. Clough
Firstly apologies on the lack of posts on the blog over the past few weeks. We have been busy on the Reserves trying to cram in as much of the winter works as possible as well as meeting contractors to plan for the next financial year which has taken a while! In the meantime however Barry Clough managed to photograph this stunning Weasel which has been seen a number of times over the past week from the Woodpecker Hide seemingly chasing Bank Voles around the log piles so keep your eyes peeled if you visit the feeding station.

Roe Deer - J. Glover
Elsewhere at Warnham Jim Glover managed to get some absolutely stunning images of the Roe Deer that can often be seen around the site. At this time of year they have nearly finished shedding their winter coats and become a wonderful gingery/orange colour as you can see in Jim's photos above. The two pictured are in fact an adult doe (female) and her youngster from last year which you can see is a buck (male). He is just starting to show signs of growing his antlers which at the moment are covered in velvet or fur.
Frozen Reeds - P. Shergold

Lapwing - P. Shergold

Reed Buntings - P. Shergold
 Paul Shergold has also been busy with his camera getting lots of lovely photos of the snow as you can see in the previous post. Paul also managed to get the only picture of a Lapwing on the site over the very cold snap. We have over 150 individuals flying over Warnham but Paul managed to get the only one which seemed to take a liking to trying to land on the frozen millpond so well done Paul. The pair of Reed Buntings also have become much more regular from the Woodpecker Hide which has given lots of visitors the chance to have some nice close views.
Water Rail - D. Verrall
 David Verrall managed to get a cracking shot of the Water Rail on the small pools between Woodpecker Hide and Aston Trelford Hide. This seems to be one of the regular spots for the Water Rails to feed especially when the water level is a little lower which is not that case at present!!!
Grey Heron - D. Verrall
Last and by no means least David also got this great photo of a Grey Heron at Chesworth Farm making the most of the Common Frogs which are all busy spawning in the Wetland Project Fields. This area is popular at this time of year with both Herons, Egrets and a variety of ducks all of which are either eating the adult frogs or their spawn! Thank you to all the photographers above who have sent in this lovely mixture of photos.

Friends of Warnham Local Nature Reserve Event