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A Dipper was heard calling on the 10th along the Ashburn outside the office for the third or fourth time over the previous couple of weeks, raising early hopes that one of our nestboxes may yet again get some use later in the Spring.
The ground is totally saturated and blustery winds have brought down lots of small branches but no trees so far. On the 11th rain was interspersed with sleet and snow showers but the ground was too wet for it to settle.
Another vole nest was found under the top corrugate on the 5th! This is the first confirmed winter breeding we have ever had, after a different litter was spotted in December, no doubt a result of such a mild winter. Indeed, Field Vole signs are beginning to appear all across the field, which is great news. It’s probably no coincidence then that the first Kestrel for over a year was also seen hunting over the field on the 6th, and again on the 7th. Two Woodcock were flushed from along Pennsland Lane hedge in good light on the 6th.
Remarkably, the first 6 days of the month yielded a staggering 120mm of rain. This is already more than the whole monthly rainfall totals for 2010, 2011 and 2012 (96mm, 77mm and 99mm respectively)! The resulting wet ground (and strong winds) resulted in a tree falling over in the Green Lane and trashing part of the fence in Corner Wood.
On a refreshingly mild, dry, calm morning on the 9th, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit and Robin could all be heard singing nearby from outside the barn.
A Conservation Open Day was held on the 23rd. Two intrepid volunteers dared the weather forecast and helped cut back gorse and bramble encroachment from Kiln Close. The rain stayed away for most of the day and a great deal of progress was made – thanks Jane and Tina!
The first frogs appeared on the 23rd January, with spawn a day later. For comparison, previous dates have been;
- 30th January 2013
- 19th January 2012
- 4th February 2011
- 9th February 2010
- 28th January 2009
A group of ten Plymouth University student volunteers visited on 4th, and tackled scrub along Corner Wood and North Park hedgerows. As always, good progress was made.
Some white splashes and a small Barn Owl pellet were found around the wildlife tower on the 6th.
Field Voles holes have started appearing in the grassland this month. In fact, the voles are still breeding, with a young half-grown vole under the corrugate at the top of the field on the 7th. This is no doubt due to the unseasonably mild weather we’ve been experiencing in recent weeks.
Two more trainee hedgelayers attended on the 10th, and completed another 20 metres of driveway hedge. A flock of about eight Song Thrush and ten Blackbird were disturbed from under the remnant hedge whilst clearing up the hedge arisings the same day. A Bullfinch was in the orchard.
A Kingfisher was seen over the Christmas period around the ponds.
The first sign of some of our winter visitors arrived at the beginning of the month in the form of flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare. Both breed further east into Scandinavia and beyond (and for some Redwings, Iceland), and move south and westwards in the autumn into the British Isles to benefit from our milder winters.
Redwings are classic nocturnal migrants, and on a clear night from mid-autumn onwards can be heard passing overhead with their thin, harsh ‘sreeep’ calls. Fieldfares on the other hand are most often seen in flocks during the day, making their presence known with typical, guttural ‘chack’ ‘chack’ calls. They are largely nomadic in the winter, moving around to new areas once food is depleted. Fruit and berries make up a significant proportion of the diet in the winter months, whilst invertebrates are more often taken during the breeding season.
The hedgerows that have been reinstated since the creation of the LLP have been planted with a variety of indigenous hedging plants, including berry-bearing species such as Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), Dog Rose (Rosa canina), Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Spindle (Euonymus europaeus). These species provide fantastic habitat for a variety of species, including the winter thrushes. Unfortunately, Blackthorn fruit (sloe) has been noticeable by its absence this autumn, presumably due to the cold spring.
The lizard was being regularly spotted under the corrugated sheet until 10th November and a family of young Field Voles were seen under another sheet (the one by the pole in the Kiln Close hedge bank) then but have since dispersed.
Four trainee hedgelayers visited on the 29th to take their ‘test’ on the drive hedge. Two instructors from the Devon Rural Skills Trust assessed their work and all passed. About 40 metres of hedge was laid on the day with more scheduled for December. A Woodcock was flushed from one of the LLP paths at dusk whilst tidying up.
The mean temperature for November this year was 14.8oC, compared with 13.4 oC in 2012. Rainfall was 94.2mm this November in comparison with 175.6mm in November 2012.
On the 9th Matthew and Tim completed the burning up of the Blackthorn cuttings in Kiln Close - see August 2013 to find out why we are cutting it back.
Since being spotted under the corrugated sheet at the top of the LLP last month this little fellow – top right - a Common Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) has been regularly in residence and obligingly kept still to be photographed on the 15th. The first four Fieldfares of the autumn were also seen.
On the 16th the latest group of Plymouth University students arrived for the first time. They worked with Hannah in Forde Orchard clearing this year’s scrub from around the ponds.
On the 2nd, a Spotted Flycatcher spent the afternoon in the copse behind the barn, making sorties out into the field and landing occasionally on the fence by the solar arrays.
A day later, some pruning work was carried out later than planned on the cherries and plums in the orchard. The same or another Clouded Yellow was seen, whilst a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling nearby.
There doesn’t seem to have been any long-term effect from the Weasel that visited the vole nest under the corrugated sheet at the top of the field in July, killing the adult voles. More adults evidently like the site, as four young Field Voles were seen scurrying about under the sheet on the 8th. We continue to see Slow Worms regularly under the sheet on the top side of the Kiln Close hedge.
Rowan berries and Blackberries are prolific this year but Sloes (Blackthorn berries), like last year, are not doing as well.
Another first for the LLP was when a Lizard was seen under the corugated sheet at the top of the field on the 16th.
On the 30th 60+ Meadow Pipits were seen, the largest flock to date.
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In line with management guidance for Blackthorn hedges for Brown Hairstreak butterflies, about one third of the roadside Blackthorn buffer was carefully cut out to ground level on the 7th. The length of the hedge will ultimately be managed over a three-year rotation, ensuring that the 1-2 year old Blackthorn shoots that are the main food plant for the hairstreak caterpillars will always be available.
The first Clouded Yellow for the LLP for several years was observed the same day. In fact, it or another was recorded in the orchard on the 9th during Week 19 of the UKBMS, and again on the 13th in Week 20.
Large numbers of Swallows and House Martins have been seen throughout the month particularly during late afternoons on dry days. There have also been more Great Green Bush Crickets around than recent years and the ‘chirruping’ from the crickets and grasshoppers in the grassland and hedges during the evenings is amazing.
The Himalayan Balsam was pulled (again) from Pennsland Lane hedge at the end of the month. This invasive species is now fairly common around many UK watercourses, and spreads readily if not controlled.
On the 30th, a Kingfisher was heard calling on the Ashburn outside the offices. The occurrence of Kingfishers in the area is now an almost annual event, no doubt involving dispersing juveniles which presumably fledge from nest sites nearby.
A single Sand Martin was recorded on the 1st, feeding with 30+ House Martins over the field. A couple of days later, about 25 Swifts were showing well as they flew low over the field feeding on flying insects. A Weasel had found the Field Vole nest under the top corrugated sheet, had killed both voles and decapitated one, as Weasels do.
A Conservation Team Work Party dug out the abstraction pipes and removed the stones that had blocked the flow into the reservoirs. This reinstated the flow from both remaining pipes in the Ashburn.
On the 4th, the first Marbled White of the year was seen by the solar panels and a day later 107 Meadow Brown, 35 Small Tortoiseshell, 11 Marbled White, 9 Ringlet, 6 Small Copper and 2 Painted Lady were recorded on Week 14 of UKBMS. The next two weeks of the survey saw Marbled White numbers top 60, with peaks of 256 Meadow Brown, 50 Ringlet and over 30 Small Skippers.
Whilst topping creeping thistle, three Buzzard captures of small mammals were observed, as were three Great Green Bush Crickets.
On the 18th, 8 visitors attended an LLP butterfly walk in perfect conditions in unbroken sunshine. Hundreds of butterflies were on the wing and every one had a thoroughly nice day.
On the 19th, three Buzzard captures of small mammals were observed whilst topping the Creeping Thistle. The first three Great Green Bush Crickets were also seen.
A Skylark was flushed from the grassland at the top of the field on the 25th, a rather surprising record presumably involving a dispersing juvenile bird.
We recorded a mean temperature of 17.9°C during July with a high of 30.9°C at 16:30 on the 13th. There were 12 days with rain totalling 50.2mm during the month.
Another couple of broods of Blue and Great Tit were ringed on the 3rd, with more on the 7th, including a brood of 7 Nuthatches.
A total of 3 Small Coppers were recorded on Week 10 of the UKBMS; one in North Park, one in Forde Orchard and the last in Kiln Close. Also during the transect, a Red Kite tracked southwards over Bowdley at 12.35pm viewable from North Park hedge.
By the 10th, lots of Dipper noise on the river suggested that the brood had fledged successfully, although the bank vegetation made confirmation impossible.
On the 13th, a single fist-sized duckling was on the pond. Three mallards were seen to fly in at dusk. About half a dozen swallows and 20+ house martins were over the field, and one slow worm was under the metal sheet by the cut-off pole. One field vole was under the sheet by Pennsland Lane.
By the 25th there was no sign of duck or ducklings on the ponds, however a wood mouse and two slow worms were seen under the metal sheet by the cut-off pole and on the 26th there were five slow worms present. The field vole under the sheet by Pennsland lane had created several food stores of grass clippings and built a couple of potential nests.
A Kestrel was seen hovering behind the barn on 6th.
Our usual Mandarin drake appeared on the 9th in the cattle drink and seemed reluctant to go very far from the area. By the12th, he was busy preening on the island. No further sightings were had until the 20th when he had returned.
Sarah Williams visited for her charity challenge on the 8th. The Barn Owl Trust visit was her 104th of the scheduled 150 which she intends to complete, raising £150 for each charity. Some hedge cuttings were tidied up and the fruit tree mulch was weeded. A really inspirational woman . . .
Our Early Purple Orchid again popped up in Kiln Close on the 10th.
A survey for breeding Meadow Pipits in the top of the field drew a blank but a large flock of House Martins and Swallows foraging low over the grassland made looking for a pipit flying in and out difficult.
On the 18th we were treated to an amazing low level flying display when two Crows chased off a Buzzard – spectacular aerobatics.
The small bird boxes were checked towards the end of the month, with several Blue and Great Tit broods, and a House Sparrow brood ringed. Most exciting was the brood of three Dippers that were in the nestbox under one of our bridges over the Ashburn!
The female Mallard initially had 4 ducklings on the 25th but by the end of the month she’d managed to keep hold of only 2.
Despite a couple of days of sun this week, temperatures weren’t sufficiently high enough to allow Week 1 of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme survey to be undertaken. Nevertheless, 2 Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock braved the biting northerly wind in the afternoon to bask on some bramble.
On the 10th, a pair of Dippers was on the river and a female Siskin was watched collecting nesting material just outside the office window. A Conservation Team Work Party tidied up the roadside hedge and then cut back the overhanging branches between the Holly hedge and the roadside to facilitate access with a tractor to top the bramble. The Dippers were again watched swimming in the river below the offices on the 12th. In warm(ish) sunshine, 1 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Peacock were seen and a Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were heard in song briefly.
Primroses appear to be doing particularly well this year and are spreading in the LLP, and the gorse is in full flower. On the few milder wet evenings in the month toads were much in evidence, disappearing again when the nights were dry and the temperature dropped to freezing.
A Peregrine just failed to take a Woodpigeon over the field on the morning of the 16th. By the afternoon, two Chiffchaff and a Blackcap were in song, along with a Song Thrush in Corner Wood, whilst 2 Swallows flew over, oddly, southwards. On Week 3 of the UKBMS, 2 Brimstone (male and female), 2 Peacock and 6 Small Tortoiseshell were noted. A pair of Nuthatches was in and out of the nestbox outside the office window.
A group from Exeter University Business Team visited on the 17th for a day’s volunteering. In the morning, the Alders on the island were coppiced and a duck bivouac built for cover if the Mallards reappear to breed again this spring. After a wonderful lunch, a huge mass of bramble was cut out of North Park; a task that had been on the ‘long-list’ of things to do for some time. It’s quite amazing how much can be achieved by a small group of diligent and focussed individuals in such a short space of time . . .
On 23rd, 13 Peacock and one Small Tortoiseshell were recorded in Week 4 of the UKBMS as a Chiffchaff and two Blackcap sang in warm sunshine. On 30th, in Week 5, two Brimstone, one Orange-tip, eight Small Tortoiseshell and two Peacock were seen. A pair of Swallows was feeding over the ponds and possibly checking out the new implement shelter. Further up the valley, a pair of Nuthatches was packing mud around the access hole of the deep passerine (Woodpecker) nestbox by the top bridge. A Green Woodpecker was yaffling in the background.
Our hopes were raised that we may have our first breeding Meadow Pipits in the field on the 25th when a pair was seen in a couple of locations. Up to four pipits flew up from the field a week later, but whether they were potential nesters or migrants remains to be seen.
A Barn Owl was heard repeatedly screeching over the field and then towards the orchard for several nights from the 29th.
A welcome, sunny, warm day on 5th encouraged the first of the over-wintering butterflies to spread their wings, with 2 Small Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral and a Peacock seen in various parts of the field. Some bird movement the same day included 3 Mistle Thrush and a Bullfinch over east.
The first of the year’s toads appeared on the evening of the 6th and the frogs reappeared briefly in the ponds, disappearing as the temperature dropped again.
A conservation team day on the 6th enabled us to get walls on 2 of the 3 sides of the implement shelter in the orchard and on 13th a group from Plymouth University tidied up the last of the brash from the hedge-laying in between periods of warm sunshine and horizontal snow!
On the 12th, 6 replacement small bird boxes were erected in place of those that had seen better days.
By the 15th, House Sparrow, Blue Tit and Robin were all seen carrying nesting material in and around the barn in the morning.
A day later, a Woodcock was flushed from nearby woodland for the second time in a week.
For the first time in several months, a pair of Dippers was seen in the Ashburn below the office in the morning and a Mistle Thrush was in song nearby later the same day.
The 5th Hungarian cohort visited week beginning the 5th. During their week of volunteering, they helped Diana with some hedge-laying, tackled the canopy of the fallen tree in Corner Wood with bow saws, dug out the abstraction pipes from the Ashburn that had been partially buried during the flooding in December and then helped pile stones to increase the depth of water around the pipes. They also searched for Brown Hairstreak eggs, starting at the Blackthorn roadside buffer by the remnant hedge polebox. This resulted in the discovery of 2 or 3 possibles that appeared to have been predated or destroyed, apparently not uncommon. Finally, they made some outdoor nestboxes for the Conservation Team to erect when next out nestboxing with our carpenter Jaz.
A ten inch fish was seen in the Flo Pond by torchlight on the night of the 6th , probably a Brown Trout that came in as an egg or fry through the abstraction pipes from the river.
A brief ringing session in the orchard on the 7th resulted in 2 Marsh Tits, 3 Blue Tits, 1 Great Tit and 1 Coal Tit.
On the 13th, 3 University of Plymouth Students Union volunteers continued to search for Brown Hairstreak eggs with no success. They then helped to cut back bramble from around the gateway into riverbank walk and along towards Corner Wood by the scrub patch.
The apple trees were formatively pruned on the 15th to give them some shape. Some of the side branches were cut back and the leaders were removed entirely. This should generate some decent growth at the crown so that next year they can be pruned to a ‘standard’ shape; a nice clean trunk up to about 6 feet in height. The same day, a duck nestbox was erected over-looking the cattle drink. If we’re lucky, the pair of Mandarin Duck that has appeared briefly every spring might stay and breed, safe in the knowledge that their ducklings would have the perfect wet landing. A Dipper was seen flying up the Ashburn in this area a day later, it or another was in song outside the office on the morning of the 25th, with another flying downstream on the 28th. Nice to have them back.
A foraging Barn Owl was seen in the field at 8.30am on the 18th, presumably our resident male, who appears to be prone to some diurnal sorties.
The laying of the section of Pennsland Lane was completed by mid-February.
The year started with Diana, our hedge-layer, on site as she continued to lay the top section of the Pennsland lane hedge.
A Peregrine flew south over the LLP on 7th, scattering the flock of 30 or so Meadow Pipits and pushing half a dozen Redwing out of the grass and into the hedges.
Two Dippers were heard calling on the Ashburn outside the office a day later, raising hopes they may hang around long enough to set up territory here for the first time in a couple of years.
On the 9th, the brush-mower got a work-out when it was put into service cutting the brambly slope at Corner Wood. Where in the past it had taken a couple of people nearly 2 days to complete, the whole slope was done in only 2 hours, due to the area contracting year on year because of our continued efforts. Most notable however was the appearance of a large brown bat which, for nearly half an hour, flew over the newly cut slope catching insects, then periodically disappearing into the woodland. Its appearance coincided with a spell of mild, dry weather, the warm sunshine probably encouraging this individual to come to forage opportunistically.
Our regular University of Plymouth Students Union group visited on the 16th and almost finished clearing the brash from Pennsland Lane hedgebank to ready it for laying.
On the 18th some significant snow fall first thing turned everything white. The bird tables were busier than usual with Blue and Long-tailed Tits, House Sparrows, Chaffinch, Robin, Nuthatch and even the occasional Magpie. Pictured above is the island in the Flo Pond in the Orchard. It started thawing during the late morning as the temperature moderated and the rain set in.
On the 22nd two foxes were spotted during the middle of the day from the office window, one on either side of the river which was in full spate. Work started on the erection of our implement shelter in the orchard week commencing the 28th, and by the 31st, the roofing had commenced. After 5 days of hard graft, in mainly appalling conditions, all the structural work and the roof had been finished, leaving only the sides to be clad.
On the 30th, the first frogspawn had appeared in the Flo pond, some 3 days later than the average over the last 6 years. Frogspawn and two partial dead frogs were found on top of the shelter suggesting a local Buzzard had been using it as a perch to feast.
After recent heavy rain and strong winds, a large Oak had fallen straight across the path in Corner Wood, narrowly missing both the Tawny Owl nestbox and two small bird nestboxes.
Our hedge-layer Diana continued laying Pennsland Lane hedge as the month ended.
Overall the month was wet! - 26 days with some rain totalling 186.9mm.
On the 12th, 6 Plymouth University students spent the morning searching for Brown Hairstreak eggs on the new Blackthorn growth along our roadside perimeter. This is apparently by far the best way of surveying for this rather retiring species, as adults either spend most of their time at rest, or high up in a mature ‘master’ Ash tree. The eggs are typically laid singly, or occasionally in pairs in the fork of one and two-year old Blackthorn wood, and although only 1mm wide, are white and urchin-like so easily identified if lucky enough to be found. Remarkably, one egg was actually found in the small area searched so far. This discovery will inform how we manage the roadside Blackthorn buffer with its spreading suckers; sensitive management such as rotational coppicing, should, we hope, provide lots more suitable habitat for this localised and declining species.
After the excitement of finding the egg, the afternoon was spent doing more mundane tasks, such as tidying up the brash that had been removed from Pennsland Lane hedge, which is currently being laid. At dusk, Woodcock were flushed from the grassland
There has been lots of Badger activity in the field with turf being disturbed over quite a wide area in their search for food. This will provide lots of opportunity for new plants to germinate next year. An early primrose was blooming on 6th and we had a great view of a Heron taking off from the ponds and flying over the LLP on the 12th.
The paths were mown for the first time in months on the 13th, as it had been too wet to use the tractor before this and they were getting quite long.
A ringed Blue Tit was retrapped in North Park hedgerow on the 18th. V272952 was originally ringed in one of our nestboxes not more than 200 yards from where it was controlled on 1st June 2008, making it over 4.5 years old.
The abstraction pipes were unblocked on the 1st of the month, having blocked with debris between the river and the reservoirs. One unblocked just by wiggling the pipe. The second had to be unscrewed in the river and unblocked quite easily. The third was partly buried and couldn’t be unscrewed or unblocked at that time.
On the 7th our regular University of Plymouth Students’ Union Barn Owl Project group and members of the University’s Zoological Society arrived for the day. They had a presentation on volunteering, followed by a tour of the LLP. After lunch, half the group gathered the Holly and Beech saplings that would otherwise have been removed from the slope in Corner Wood and transported them to the site of the new hedgerow behind the barn. The other half started removing brash from the Pennsland Lane hedge, ready for hedge-laying. A Dipper, the first for many months, flew up the Ashburn towards Pennsland Bridge. Droppings were discovered on rocks in the stream indicating that the bird had been visiting regularly.
On the 14th, the group of visiting Hungarians plus a long-standing supporter of the Trust, Rob, planted the new species-rich hedgerow behind the barn. The turf was removed and rolled back to the fence, to stop the soil from washing away, then the resulting bed was dug over. Finally, 260 Holly, Beech, Hawthorn, Field Maple, Oak, Birch, Hazel, Dog Rose and Guelder Rose saplings were planted in a double-staggered row. This will now discharge the final condition imposed on the installation of the solar PV arrays by Dartmoor National Park Authority. A Woodcock was seen to fly from woodland by the office towards the remnant hedge at dusk, and as night fell a male Tawny Owl sat in the Ash by the barn and called into the inky blackness.
A day later, our 4 Hungarian volunteers started to lay the hedge to the east of Pennsland Lane gate under the careful supervision of our regular hedge-layer Diana. Good progress was made, though several more days will be needed before it is finished.
Two more sightings this month of the Barn Owl leaving the barn during the early evening suggest that it is a regular visitor.
Week commencing the 19th was a wet one! 11.6mm fell on 19th, with 32mm on 20th, 25.8mm on 21st, 18.4mm on 22nd, a massive 45mm on 24th and a further 11mm on 25th. After so much rain, the Ashburn was in full spate on the evening of the 24th. The sheer quantity of water had moved large boulders and both washed away and created new waterfalls along its length but we had fortunately kept hold of both bridges although the water did go over part of the lower one. The abstraction pipes appear to have been partially buried however, so will need to be liberated from the new river bed level.
The autumn grazing regime came to an end on the 8th when the livestock were removed.
A chilly damp month, the mean temperature this month has been 10.7°C (12.7°C in 2011 and 11.3°C in 2010), 2.4° less than September. With rain on 30 of the 31 days we have had a total of 144.4mm in the month - the wettest day was the 5th with 22mm.
The poor ground conditions have meant the paths haven't been cut and the topping of invasive species, thistles etc. has been postponed until the tractor can be used without churning up. A Conservation Team Work Party on the 17th removed the tree guards, then weeded and re-mulched around the fruit trees in the orchard.
A day later, the abstraction appeared to have blocked for the first time in ages and will need to be looked at but is almost certainly an inevitable consequence of autumn debris washing down the River Ashburn.
A Barn Owl was seen flying out of the barn just before 7pm on the 30th.
A glance at the weather data for Waterleat from 2006 onwards, showed that April, June and August 2012 were wetter than in previous years with over 150mm of rain recorded in each month, amounts more typically associated with the autumn and winter months.
The grazing regime continued, with the livestock being shut in Kiln Close for ten days at the start of the month.
The Blackberry bushes that looked so hopeful back in August have so far failed to deliver the bumper crop we had hoped for.
A 1st winter Wheatear was an odd sight atop North Park polebox on the 17th, before flying into the orchard.
The management of invasive species continued with the tractor topping the nettle regrowth, also on the 17th.
A Conservation Team Work Party brush-mowed the top half of the orchard and some of the lower area was strimmed on the afternoon of the 19th and this was finished off the next day.
On the 25th, single Meadow Brown and Red Admiral were recorded on Week 26 of the UKBMS butterfly transect, whilst the first five Meadow Pipit of the autumn appeared at the top of the field.
We had 19 days with rain during the month and a total of 63.2mm in the month – less than 2010 and 2011! Of this 26.2mm fell on the 23rd when the river level rose significantly again.
More Creeping Thistle was removed from the orchard and various other areas around North Park. The Hogweed that was going to seed was also carefully removed.
At least 5 Great Green Bush Cricket were seen in one very small area in the orchard and one wonders quite how many would have been seen with a more concerted recording effort.
Several of the plum trees have had fruit but the lack of sunshine and rain is causing the fruit to rot before they ripen. Hopefully they will provide some food for insects, birds and even small mammals before they disappear. It appears to be a particularly good year for Bramble flowers so hopefully the Blackberry crop will be unusually good this year. The Blackbirds and Magpies are feasting on the Rowan berries as they ripen.
The heavy rain on the 14th/15th swelled the river tremendously for August making a walk along the apprentice path spectacular on the 15th.
Our dusk walk on the 15th was cancelled (due yet again to appalling weather and lack of bookings) but our daily walks when the rain stops have revealed large numbers of Damsels flies around the ponds and the occasional Emperor Dragonfly.
We decided to prune a handful of the apple trees in the orchard due to the damage they had sustained over the spring, when many had suffered from windthrow and/or broken branches. Despite not being at the optimum time for pruning apple trees, this won’t do them any long-term harm. With a mean temperature of 16°C it was overall a warmer August here than any since 2006 but with unusually high rainfall.
A dead Slow worm on the path to the bird hospital in the morning of the 3rd was perhaps the result of the wettest and 2nd dullest June on record. Four Slow worms were seen under the corrugated sheet by the pole in the Kiln Close hedge on the 12th.
A butterfly transect on the 5th yielded the first 20 Marbled White of the year, 40+ Meadow Brown, 5+ Ringlet and 10+ Large Skipper.
More invasive species control on the 6th removed more Docks and some Creeping Thistle from the top of the field, where another 4 Crossbill went over calling north eastwards.
Despite a very wet start to the month our evening guided walks were mainly dry, a second group from the Kingsbridge Natural History Society visited on the 9th and Parke WI from Bovey Tracey joined us on the 13th. Both groups saw large numbers of tiny froglets in the grass in Forde orchard and also amazingly on the path adjacent to the Pennsland lane hedge, about 200m from the ponds.
The group of Hungarians returned to bash bracken on the slope by Corner Wood and then proceeded to pull Creeping Thistle on the 10th.
A butterfly transect on the (dry and warm!) afternoon of the 17th recorded over 100 each of Marbled White and Meadown Brown, and double figures of Ringlet.
The annual grazing regime commenced on the 19th July with the first 8 calves and a cow being brought on. A day later, a further 6 calves joined them, making a total of 15 head. Due to the record-breaking rainfall so far this summer, the grass has grown in huge quantities, so hopefully the livestock will help to thin it out a bit.
The end of the month saw two Green Sandpipers accidentally flushed from the muddy edge of Flo pond. A Pipit was also flushed out of the grass by North Park the same day but remained silent, thereby evading specific identification.
Week 17 of the butterfly transect yielded 38 Marbled White, 227 Meadow Brown, 24 Ringlet, the first 12 Gatekeeper of the summer, 17 Small Skipper and 3 Large Skipper.
Slow worms continued to be seen under the corrugated sheet with up to seven on one day, several small ones and the largest thicker than a man’s thumb.
The Kestrels have been noticeable by their absence this month with very few sightings over the field.
The wildlife tower and both our poleboxes were checked on the 11th as part of our Annual Monitoring Site visits. In the tower, over a dozen bat droppings were on the floor of the upper nestbox access space but none of the dedicated bat provisions were checked. Some extremely fresh roosting evidence was found in one of the poleboxes.
Some patches of nettles that were already going to seed were topped at the top of the field, as were the docks in Forde Orchard on the 12th – the first time this has been done so early (usually July).
The sparrows are breeding in at least two of the nestboxes on the barn and have also got a brood in a box on one of our neighbour’s homes.
On the 19th, a butterfly transect recorded the first 9 Meadow Brown, 2 Common Blue, 1 Small Copper, 1 Large Skipper, 1 Peacock and 1 Large White. Large Red and Common Blue Damselflys were also recorded around the ponds plus a female Beautiful Demoiselle in Corner Wood. A Roe Deer hind was startled from Riverbank Walk.
All of the rain (106.4ml so far this month) has resulted in more grass than the last two years. By the 19th we had had 15 days with rain, which has not been good for the Barn Owls or the insects. 79.7ml fell in June last year when we had 21 days with rain, and 26ml in June 2010 when we had just 6 wet days. Temperatures have been lower with the weather station recording mean air temperatures of 12.5°C so far this month compared to 12.7°C in 2011 and 15.4°C in 2010 and highs of 25.4 °C in 2010 and 17.1 °C in 2011 compared to 17.8°C today for this year. Where is the British summer?
June 2007, which is the first month we have a full data set for, was also wet. With 20 wet days, we had a total of 138.4ml rain but the mean temperature was higher at 14.3°C with a high of 21.9°C.
One or possibly two Barn Owls were seen hunting at the top of the field at about 8am on the morning of the 19th, and watched again just above the office at 8.20am on the morning of the 22nd. Both sightings were after overnight rain, which presumably forced the bird to forage during daylight after the rain had cleared through.
A butterfly transect on the 19th and recorded the first 9 Meadow Brown of the year, plus 2 Common Blue, 1 Small Copper, 1 Large Skipper, 1 Peacock and 1 Large White. Large Red and Common Blue Damselflys were also recorded around the ponds plus a female Beautiful Demoiselle in Corner Wood. A Roe Deer hind was startled from Riverbank Walk.
Our mid-summer evening Walk was extremely wet with only two brave souls attending and getting soaked. However we did confirm another first for the LLP with the identification of a new plant on the site - Bristly Ox Tongue. The rain held off (mostly) for an evening guided walk on the 25th with a large group from the Kingsbridge Natural History Society.
On the 26th, some invasive species, mostly Docks, were controlled in Forde Orchard, and some of the fruit trees that had suffered some wind throw had to be re-staked. A vocal flock of 13 Crossbill went over the field heading northwest at 12.00pm. Excellent, prolonged views of a Common lizard scurrying around in the long grass were also had in the orchard.
A C.T. Work Party on the 28th finished invasive species control in the orchard then, with the help of the third visiting group of Hungarians, erected a fence around the solar panels ready for the annual grazing in July.
The first Cuckoo of the year was heard in the field on the 1st. A day later, a lizard was seen under the corrugate along the remnant hedge, constituting the first May record of this seemingly elusive species in the LLP.
On the 3rd, a Conservation Team Work Party sunk some posts to create 10m. x 10m. vole quadrats for training and monitoring purposes. The start of Riverbank Walk was also tidied by the cattle drink just outside the orchard.
Two Hobbies were over the field on the 5th but didn’t hang around long. Also seen were; two Green Woodpecker, plus a Roe Deer hind, a Kestrel, and the female Mallard from the island with 8 ducklings! She was later seen marching her eight newly hatched ducklings from the pond through the hedge to the river.
A female Sparrowhawk flew down the field from the Holly hedge on the 7th. A Barn Owl came out of the same hedge and landed on a post along the road, then moved down onto another post before flying off at about 4pm in bright sunshine. The Sparrowhawk was seen again a day later.
A Pied Flycatcher was in song by the big Beech tree along Riverbank Walk on the 22nd, the first record of this species for about three years. Three recently fledged juvenile Grey Wagtails were on the island the same day, constituting evidence of breeding nearby.
On the 24th, the Pied Flycatcher was still in song in the same place. The luckiest Blue Tit alive was freed from one of the nestboxes she had been breeding in, having got her hind claw caught up in nesting material, probably horse hair. The hair has caught tightly around the toe and claw and had to be cut away with nail scissors. This was the first time the box had been checked for about 9 days so she was very lucky in that respect. She was otherwise in good condition and a good weight, indicating she had not been trapped very long. Once freed she set about reproaching us from a nearby Holly!
The Bluebells and a few Whitebells are in full bllom as is Red Campion, Herb Robert, Hawthorn blossom, Crosswort and buttercups.
The same(?) pair of Mandarin reappeared briefly for the first time since the middle of April when they flew over the Trust’s offices and upstream on the evening of the 25th. Over 50 House Martins were foraging over the field on the 28th.
The well-camouflaged female Mallard was eventually picked out prostrate on the island on the 2nd, presumably incubating eggs. Also in the orchard, a late Fieldfare went off ‘chacking’ northwards from the top of one of the Sycamores. Another 3 Orange-tip (2 males, 1 female), 3 Peacock, 4 Small Tortoiseshell and a Holly Blue were recorded during more fine weather.
A small charm of Goldfinches was seen in North Park hedgerow on the 12th, whilst a Blackcap was in full song in trees by the barn. Several Chiffchaffs were also in song, as was a Grey Wagtail. At least two Mistle Thrushes can be heard in song at opposite ends of the field and a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling nearby.
The House Sparrows are making lots of noise in and around the barn nestboxes, as are at least one pair of Blue Tits and a pair of Nuthatches.
The first Swallows and House Martins of the year were seen soaring over the field on 14th.
Bluebells are beginning to flower joining the primroses, celandine, stitchwort, dandelion and violet already in bloom. The primroses in particular are creating an amazing show this year as is the Blackthorn blossom in the hedges. Leaves have appeared on the Hazel, Silver Birch and the Elder, which also has flowers starting to form. The recent combinations of sunshine and rain have encouraged the grass growth and we are now seeing Ladybirds.
The neighbour’s three white geese were on the pond, as was the male Mandarin on the 17th. There were 4 Mallard eggs on the island but no adult, raising concern that the female had been flushed or had deserted the nest. However, she reappeared and was still incubating on the 19th. Also on the 19th a male Grey Wagtail was around the Oakley pond, several Blackcaps were in song around the field, with a Song Thrush singing in Riverbank Walk.
On the 20th a bird on the bird table outside the office looked very much like a Willow Tit, the scarcer cousin of the Marsh Tit which is a frequent visitor to our bird feeders. Unfortunately views were all too brief and the bird didn’t call so will go down as one that got away.
On the 5th, the second cohort of Hungarian volunteers arrived for the first of their three days at the Trust. Day 1 consisted of presentations about Barn Owl conservation in the UK and about the LLP, followed by a tour of the LLP. Day 2 was spent making outdoor nestboxes, whilst the final day was a Conservation Team work party; the track by the cattle drink just outside the orchard was improved and various areas of scrub were cut back. The newts which were being seen in the ponds were positively identified as Palmate (Lissotriton helveticus). A male Stonechat was photographed feeding in the grassland above the orchard.
On the 17th a pair of Mandarin were on the Flo pond, possibly the same pair that spent a few days there in early April last year. However, a day later a pair of Mallard seemed to have replaced them. They have been there every day since so fingers crossed for breeding on the island again this year. Unfortunately our feathered friends have had a significant impact on the huge numbers of tadpoles that were to be found in thick swathes around the edges of the ponds, those that have survived can still be seen swimming further out in the water now.
Spring flowers have responded really well to the sunshine with bright clumps of primroses, celandine, stitchwort, dandelion and violet appearing.
Our resident House Sparrows are thriving on the organic corn provided for our neighbour's hens and are investigating nestboxes now.
The paths were cut and various areas of invasive species topped on the 28th with the Trust’s new flail mower.
Week 0 (the preparatory week) of the new season’s UKBMS Butterfly Transects was conducted in beautifully warm sunny weather and the following were recorded; 3 Orange-tip, 6 Peacock, 3 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Comma.
Energy on the House Ltd., our chosen solar installers started work on the 6th. The holes for the field-mounted frame were augered and those for the upper array filled with concrete the same day, whilst the holes for the lower array were concreted on the 7th. Much of the ground works, such as the trenching for the DC cables was done on the 8th and 9th, and Western Power Distribution came to lay their new three-phase cable to the barn on the 10th. The aluminium field-mounted frame was also installed on the 10th but poor weather stopped work on the 11th before the panels could be installed.
Work recommenced on the 13th when the panels were finally fitted. All that now remains is for WPD to come back and erect the new three-phase transformer on the 24th, and our new energy supplier to connect up and turn everything on on the 29th. After that we’ll be generating our own electricity, which should support all operations in the office during fine days, and provide significant reductions to our carbon footprint and our energy bills.
One or two Woodcock were seen flying around the field just before dusk on the 6th. About 20 each of both Fieldfare and Redwing were on the move northwards on the afternoon of the 14th, along with several vocal flocks of Siskins. Has winter passed?
On the 17th some 150 Starlings were seen in field and later the Holly hedge, representing the first record of Starlings feeding in the LLP.
A week later, two male Bullfinches were around the bird tables again. The same day, Western Power Distribution came to fit the new Three-Phase Transformer, returning on the 24th to insulate the droppers.
On the 4th our volunteer Kim noticed a Tawny Owl sitting in the entrance of our Tawny Owl nestbox in Corner Wood. This is the first confirmed use of the box since it was put up. Unfortunately it hasn’t been seen since, but we’re optimistic it may be used for nesting this year.
A flock of Long tailed Tits were seen working their way up the green lane hedge from Corner Wood on the 7th but they haven’t been seen on any of the bird tables yet, they were frequent visitors last winter.
On the 11th, a Conservation Team Work Party cleared the area around the top of the big pond where the artificial Kingfisher bank is planned. About half the rock pile in Forde Orchard was also sorted for this project.
The same day, four small bird nestboxes that were in poor condition were replaced in the valley and two specially-built Willow Tit nestboxes were erected in an area of wet woodland. Willow Tits are fussy and prefer to nest in their own excavated holes in rotten tree stumps so nestboxes need to be covered in bark and pre-packed with sawdust to stand any chance of use.
A Song Thrush was in full song in scrub behind barn on the afternoon of the 16th, a male Tawny Owl was on the telegraph pole outside the office on the 18th and a male Bullfinch was on the bird tables again on the 19th.
The first frog activity was recorded on the 18th, with the first frogspawn recorded in the Flo pond a day later, and in the Oakley pond by the 26th.
A volunteer work party took place on the 18th when a Harvest Mouse nest was found along the Pennsland Lane hedge. The usual Plymouth University group came on the 25th and the scrub in the area behind the barn was cleared ready for our very own solar PV array to be installed.
On the 12th the regular Plymouth University group finally finished cutting back bramble from North Park.
A couple of days later a Conservation Team Work Party spent some much-needed time in the orchard. The plastic tree guards that had become brittle in the two years they’ve been in service were taken off and disposed of. The weeds growing through the weed-suppressing mulch around the base of the trees were also removed and the stays, ties and mesh tree guards were adjusted ready for another growing season. The only thing to do now is to re-mulch around the trees once it’s dried up a bit and we can get the mulch transported to the orchard.
The only time the temperature dropped to below freezing was in the early hours of the 10th with -1.1o C. The strongest gust of wind was recorded on the 12th at 35mph, with 34mph on 13th.
Four Bullfinches (3 males and a female) were outside the office this morning, unusually taking advantage of the sunflower seed on the bird tables.
A Conservation Team Work Party cut back encroaching vegetation from around the ponds for the first time since their renovation in spring 2010.
A flock of over 200 pigeons flew over the field heading North East on the 6th, later in the day several groups of up to 50 pigeons were also seen flying over, heading in the same direction.
The second Advanced Barn Owl Surveying and Mitigation (ABOSM) course went ahead in the new Meeting Room on the 10th. Habitat management is covered during the day with a site visit to the LLP. During this visit, attendees saw a Blue Tit come out of a low hole on the east facing side of our wildlife tower as it was getting dark. This bird was presumably either feeding on invertebrates or going to roost. A Kestrel, Buzzard and Mistle Thrush were also recorded. A number of Field Vole holes were surveyed and counted on the slope just above the office.
Parasol mushrooms continue to appear in the grassland, the longest season we can remember. The Holly berries are fantastic and providing food for the Redwings passing through; if it’s anything like last year they will all be gone before Christmas. The Blackthorn on the north eastern side of the field, where the hedge has been allowed to grow out into the pasture, has produced the most incredible crop of Sloes this year.
The week commencing the 21st was volunteer week. Our regular Plymouth University conservation volunteer group cut back bramble and gorse encroachment from the upper side of North Park hedgerow, whilst on the 23rd-25th a group of volunteers from the Hungarian Barn Owl Foundation did more scrub control in Corner Wood, having received a couple of presentations about the LLP, the Barn Owl Trust and its work. This was the first group of Hungarians to visit, with another group due in February.
The highest temperature occurred on the 3rd with 15.3o C., the lowest 2.7 o C. and the mean an amazing 11.2 o C. Rainfall totalled 59.2mm.
As the fine weather continued, much of Forde Orchard was also cut with the mower.
Nine cattle returned to the field having come up clear on their TB testing. On the 5th, whilst cleaning out the small bird boxes ready for next year’s breeding season, a bat was discovered roosting in one of the tit boxes on a large dead tree. A hasty retreat was beaten and the bat was left undisturbed. It was about the size of a man’s thumb, brown and furry and was considered most likely to have been a Pipistrelle.
A day later, some more bat provision enhancement measures were undertaken in the wildlife tower, with the erection of some bat boxes. Some Hessian sacks were also hung up for crevice dwellers.
Three juvenile Barn Owls that had come in as casualties earlier in the year were released from their aviary on the evening of the 1st. One was found roosting in the wildlife tower on the 6th.
On the 9th we had stunning views of a Kestrel hunting over the field above the wildlife tower - after an entrancing display it headed off to sit on top of the telegraph pole at the top of the field.
A planning application for a 10kWp solar PV system in the field by the barn was submitted to Dartmoor National Park Authority at the beginning of the month. It is hoped that consent will result in a significantly reduced carbon footprint and greater sustainability for the Trust’s energy requirements.
The cattle were shut in Kiln Close for a week around the middle of the month, and were eventually removed at the end of the month as scheduled, having done a good job, as usual.
Huge quantities of Holly, Sloe and Hawthorne berries are in the hedges, with more parasol mushrooms still coming up all over the field.
Of interest outside the LLP, a Short-eared Owl was brought in to the Trust with a wing injury and is currently being rehabilitated, although whether it will ultimately be releasable is still unknown.
A Kingfisher was still around the ponds in late October, with one seen flying off the island in the Flo (big) pond on the 25th.
The first Plymouth University student volunteering group visited on the 31st and set about clearing scrub behind Forde Orchard hedgebank.
Our annual grazing regime consists of 11 bullocks this year, and for the most part they have the run of the LLP with the exception of the orchard and ponds, and Corner Wood (for obvious reasons!). However, every now and again we like to ensure that all the field benefits from the grazing by shutting them into particular areas. On the first of September the cattle were shut into North Park. With access to water from the Ashburn, they did a good job, so were let out again after only 5 days. They will no doubt be encouraged to spend time in Kiln Close before they disappear at the end of October.
A Conservation Team Work Party on the 7th, tackled scrub around the Forde Orchard stone-faced hedgebank and then began the difficult job of cutting the alder saplings back from immediately around the pond. This is essential work to protect the integrity of the pond as, being clay-lined, the trees would eventually cause leaks by the spreading of injurious roots. Being on a steep slope, it can only be done by hand but after a couple of hours good progress was made, although a bit more time will be required to finish the job later this winter.
Pressure of other work this year has meant that topping of invasive species such as thistles, docks and nettles hasn’t been done as much as we would like and probably means extra work next year to get back on top of them. The up side of this is more seeds for over wintering birds.
Winter work is being planned and includes clearing encroaching scrub in Corner Wood to allow the Bluebells to come up next year and some cutting back of internal hedges. If you would like to get involved in practical tasks in the LLP contact the conservation team for dates and details.
The big news from the LLP was the sighting, albeit fleeting, of a Wryneck along the fenceline in Kiln Close on the 9th. It was accidentally flushed from the ground and flew straight up into the hedge, where it paused briefly before disappearing. A member of the Picidae family, (Wryneck and Woodpeckers), Wrynecks feed predominantly on ants and therefore spend much of their time in terrestrial habitats than other woodpeckers, save perhaps the Green. They are a scarce but regular visitor to the British Isles from Europe.
Remedial enhancement works commenced on the bat provision in the wildlife tower at the end of the month, with the maternity roost (in the top part of the building) receiving added insulation and draught exclusion measures to make it more attractive.
A Kingfisher heard calling around the ponds on the 29th again gave impetus to the artificial Kingfisher/Sand Martin bank idea, with several further sightings around the Flo pond into October.
During a period of fine weather at the month’s end the difficult slope at Corner Wood was finally cut with the brushmower. Our first Crab Apples have appeared on two trees in the hedgerows of Kiln close.
The cattle were removed for a few days at the end of the month for their TB testing.
Week 18 of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme on the 2nd revealed 50 Gatekeeper, 98 Meadow Brown and 1 Wall Brown.
A day later, a C. T. Work Party pulled invasive species, including Himalayan Balsam and Creeping Thistle, our hard work being rewarded with views of a Kestrel on the tall telegraph pole. An ‘unkindness’ of six Ravens overhead at about 4pm were kind enough to put us onto the arrival of a thermalling juvenile Hobby which slowly drifted off south after some minutes.
The Butterfly Walk and Talk held on the 6th benefited from warm, sunny conditions and reported good numbers of Gatekeepers, Common Blues and Silver-washed Fritillaries. An eagle-eyed visitor spotted one of our orchard apple trees covered in beautiful rosy-red apples!
The annual grazing regime started on the 16th August, when 11 bullocks were brought in. They will stay on site until the end of October.
A pipit which was flushed from grass above North Park on the 11th, flew into North Park hedge but didn’t call and was most probably a Tree Pipit.
By the 25th August, the wet weather had blocked all attempts at us getting out with ‘the Beast’ to cut the scrub on the slope at Corner Wood.
The month began with a hint of what was to come, in the form of about a dozen Marbled White on the slope behind the barn, accompanied by a couple of Meadow Brown and several Skippers.
Three days later, a record-breaking 189 Marbled White were recorded during Week 14 of the UKBMS butterfly transects, with dozens literally coming up in clouds at the surveyor’s feet. Also recorded were 120 Meadow Brown, 29 Ringlet, 26 Small Skipper and 6 Small Tortoiseshell. On the same day, a Grey Heron and a Kestrel were also recorded overhead.
On the 6th, the bracken pulling experiment continued on the slope behind the barn during the monthly C. T. Work Party. A couple of dustbins with mesh lids were filled with water and put in the wildlife tower to increase humidity, which should make it more attractive to cavity-dwelling bat species.
The morning of the 7th saw a group of 15 from the West Somerset Wildlife Trust joining us for a late morning guided walk and were rewarded with good weather and large numbers of butterflies.
On the 14th, a Kingfisher was seen briefly sitting on the big pond island, before flying off downstream. It had apparently been first seen on the river a couple of days earlier and is probably a dispersing juvenile from a nearby brood. Week 15 of the UKBMS revealed 14 Small Skipper, 26 Large Skipper, 6 Large White, 5 Small Copper, 12 Small Tortoiseshell, 92 Marbled White, 113 Meadow Brown, 18 Ringlet and 1 Small Heath.
The bracken in Kiln Close was mechanically topped on the 19th.
The LLP’s first Skylark was seen on the airstrip on the 23rd, and was most probably a dispersing juvenile from nearby.
After a trip out with the Conservation Team on the 26th to ring young Barn Owls, Julia Clark, a licensed bat worker, was asked if she would check the wildlife tower bat provisions to advise on how to enhance these spaces for bats. Much to our surprise she found bat droppings on the floor of the 1st storey in an area not specifically designed for bats and after collecting some to have a better look with colleagues later suggested they were most likely to be from a Lesser horseshoe which may have been using the area as a feeding perch. There were many more droppings on the floor but no obvious evidence in the various dedicated provisions (typical!).
In the first week of June, the orchard seemed to have the lion’s share of the prolific numbers of Ladybird larvae that have appeared throughout the LLP; mostly 7-spot Ladybird but also some Harlequin.
On the 6th, another Small Heath was reported in Forde Orchard (3rd record), and the first of the year’s Meadow Browns appeared during Week 10. By the 15th, the first 3 Marbled White also put in an appearance.
The 3rd and the 4th saw average temperatures of over 19 °c (33.9°c in the sun) but most days have been well below usual for the time of year. The much needed rain arrived on the 12th when we had 30.8 mm, more than the total for May.
During the week of the 12th unusually a flock 20+ gulls was seen wheeling over the field, they appeared to be feeding over the path but it wasn’t clear what they were eating, they reappeared on the 19th.
On the 18th a young badger was seen at dusk, it appears to have been feeding on neighbouring free-range guinea pigs.
By the weekend of the 18th there were ladybirds almost everywhere you looked in the orchard and the first ripe cherry was seen on one of the trees.
The ponds have naturalised beautifully after all the remedial works done last year.
A small fish, probably a Brown Trout, was seen in a pool in the River Ashburn from Riverbank Walk on the 21st.
We were lucky that it stayed dry for the dozen or so people that attended out midsummer evening walk on the 22nd and again on the 23rd when we had a Mid Devon Natural History group here for an afternoon LLP talk and guided walk. Both events were a great success and enjoyed by all attendees.
On the 26th, a presumed juvenile Dipper was in the Ashburn just above the ponds before flying upstream.
A summary of the weather records accumulated for the site show a significantly cooler than average June with more rain on more days and more wind than usual – certainly not a blazing June here!
|June LLP||Rainfall (mm)||Rain (days)||Mean temp (C)||Max temp (C)||Min temp (C)||Mean wind (mph)|
The month began with a Barn Owl flying around screeching up the valley then over the field on the evening of the 2nd. In the River Ashburn, what are thought to have been several Brown Trout were seen, with one jumping for May Flies.
On the 9th, Dr. David Fee of Ambios Ecology visited to set up a remote Anabat bat detector in Forde Orchard hedgebank adjacent to the new wildlife tower, which recorded all species of bat moving along the hedgerow. In only 2 nights the following species were recorded and it is hoped that a few more will be added when he returns for another go in June;
- Greater horseshoe
- Lesser horseshoe
- Common pipistrelle
- Soprano pipistrelle
- A Myotis species
- Long-eared bat
A day later, a longhorn beetle Rhagium bifasciatum was on the window ledge of the Conservation office window, taking the total of Longhorn beetle species at Waterleat to 3! At lunchtime, the small bird boxes were checked and several early broods of Blue Tits were noted, with several more females incubating.
A field Vole nest with 3+ small young was found under one of the sheets of corrugated iron and up to three Wood Mice and a Field Vole were seen regularly under another. A Conservation Team Work Party on the 11th pulled docks and creeping thistle from the top of the field. A Pheasant with 6 poults was flushed from the grass, and several Buzzards and a Kestrel were hunting on and off throughout the day. Two Field Voles were seen crossing one of the many vole holes.
Thirty House Martins were feeding over the field on the 12th, with 20 Swallows there a day later.
The LLP’s first records of Pearl-bordered Fritillary this year involved 2 individuals by the hospital release aviary just outside Kiln Close on the 20th. These were followed closely on the 24th by another first for the LLP, a Green Hairstreak, which showed well albeit briefly in the same general area. Meanwhile, a Dingy Skipper was recorded in Kiln Close on the same day.
On the evening of the 22nd, a Nightjar was heard churring to the north of the LLP, from the direction of the Larch plantation, while a Barn Owl screeched overhead. On the 24th, the resident Kestrel was seen foraging and making a successful kill, which it consumed before returning to foraging.
By the end of the month, some 50 Swifts were hawking over the LLP. Another Dingy Skipper, two Wall Brown (4th and 5th LLP records) and a Small Heath (2nd record) were noted during Week 9 of the UKBMS butterfly transects. The ponds have naturalised incredibly quickly and attracted Common Blue, Azure and Large Red Damselfly, and lots of Broad-bodied Chasers.
Plants in flower by the end of the month included Lesser Stitchwort, Autumn Hawkbit and Musk Thistle. Grass growth has been affected by the low rainfall this year and in some areas of the field the litter layer is still visible and we have seen dieback on areas of shallow soil.
After a warm dry April the month was cool, overcast and windy with some rain on 18 days although the rainfall recorded in the month was lower than average at just 26.1mm. There was a mean temperature of 11.5°c and the highest temperature recorded 18.3°c.
|Rainfall (mm)||Days with rain||Mean temp (C)||Max temp (C)||Min temp (C)||Mean wind (mph)|
During the first week of our annual UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme transect walk on the 6th, a sulphur-yellow male Brimstone put in a welcome appearance, along with 3 male Orange-tip, 3 Peacock, 4 Small Tortoiseshell and a Large White. Half a dozen Chiffchaff and the same number of Blackcap were in song in the hedgerows, and the pair of Mandarin were in the Ashburn again below the lower bridge. They reappeared on the 10th and have not been seen again but may turn up in the future.
Week 2 of the butterfly transect yielded a Green-veined White in addition to similar numbers and species as Week 1. Two Swallows were vocal over North Park and a Tree Pipit was making use of the rough grass in Kiln Close.
A Barn Owl was heard repeatedly calling whilst flying over the field at dusk on 9th.
A Conservation Team Work Party on the 13th weeded and re-mulched around the fruit trees in the orchard, all of which have survived and are looking healthy. The cherries are coming into flower and looking glorious and the apples and plums have lots of new growth. A small crop of apples is expected as the trees will be feathered maidens this year (2 years old). A Swallow was seen over the pond in the afternoon.
Greater Stitchwort, Pink Campion, Gorse, Herb Robert and Bluebells were all in flower by mid-month and vast numbers of sunny yellow Dandelion flowers highlighted the paths where the grass is overdue for cutting. Both of the ponds were teeming with tadpoles and newts are being spotted regularly.
Two Tree Pipits were in the rough grass on the 18th, and a pair of Sparrowhawk were hunting the hedgrows along the road.
On the 26th, a longhorn beetle Rhagium mordax was on the post of the bird feeder outside the Conservation office and a Common Lizard was under the bird feeder outside the Admin office. This represents the 5th record of Common Lizard for Waterleat, all roughly in the same general area and all in April, with no sightings at any other time of the year.
Also the same day, 3 Red Admiral, 6 Peacock, 3 Speckled Wood, 3 Large Skipper, 2 Brimstone, 2 Large White, 1 Orange Tip, 9 Green-veined White, 7 Small White and 1 Holly Blue were recorded during Week 4 of the UKBMS butterfly transects. Other fauna included Wood Ant Formica rufa, Sloe bug Dolycoris baccarum, mating Green Tiger beetles, 1000s of St Marks fly Bibio marci, 1 Wood Mouse, 2 Field Vole and several Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula. Flora included Bulbous Buttercup, Creeping Buttercup, Common Mouse-ear, Germander Speedwell, Pink Campion, Garlic Mustard, Lesser Stitchwort, Winter-cress, Crosswort, Common Sorrel, Bluebell, Ribwort Plantain and Sweet Vernal grass.
The first Cuckoo for several years was seen and heard in the Holly hedge, before flying out over the field.
On the 3rd, the slope by Corner Wood was cut with the Field and Brush Mower before the spring flowers appear. The bramble had hardly grown at all and, as a result, this was done in record time and with the minimum of effort. During some minor maintenance work to the orchard tree guards, a Red Admiral and 2 Small Tortoiseshells were recorded, reminding us that the butterfly transects which start in April would soon be upon us.
One the 10th, a Peregrine, 2 Sparrowhawks and half a dozen Buzzards were making use of the thermals that developed in the sunny, still conditions.
By the 16th, and in glorious weather, the first Chiffchaff was seen in Oaks outside the office, and another later heard singing along the lane hedge. Two Small Tortoisehells, a Peacock and the first Brimstone of the year were also seen. Spring flowers include celandine, primrose, dog violet and wild strawberry.
In the morning, a CT Work Party tackled more scrub along the remnant hedge and removed a fallen tree from the lane hedge. In the afternoon, an LLP vole hole survey was conducted in the LLP’s rough grassland, with a mown strip nearby as a control. A transect line of 50m. was pegged out and 1m. square quadrats were used to count all visible vole holes more than 10cm apart. Not one hole was found in the cut sward. In comparison however, 34 out of 50 quadrats recorded vole activity, the maximum being 12 separate vole holes! The average was 2.46 vole holes per 1m. square from all 50 quadrats measured.
Lots of Buzzard activity was recorded in the fine, sunny, warm weather, as a Green Woodpecker yaffled in the background and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed in the distance.
On the 29th, in the early evening, a pair of Mandarin Ducks were seen on the pond.
The male House Sparrow was still in song outside the aviaries on the 2nd and was back again checking out the nestbox outside the office on the 3rd, this time with a female in tow. By mid-month, at least two pairs, and possibly up to three males, were seen entering the small bird holes in the LLP barn, raising hopes of the LLP’s first ever House Sparrow breeding attempt. The Dipper boxes were erected underneath the Riverbank Walk bridges.
On the 4th, David Fee from Ambios Ecology visited to advise on enhancements to the bat provision in the wildlife tower. He promised to return in the spring with a remote bat sensor, which will tell us exactly what species we have on site and therefore what measures to take. Also on the 4th, the first frogspawn was noticed around the edge of the Flo pond in Forde Orchard, some 5 days earlier than last year. By the 11th, this had grown dramatically coating the riverside bank, with a significant amount also in the Oakley pond.
Some brand new small bird nestboxes were erected in trees along the length of Riverbank Walk on the 18th, with two older boxes being replaced. The first primrose of the year was also seen in the Pennsland lane hedge on the 18th.
On the 19th a Buzzard was seen perched on the roof of the wildlife tower and numerous small bird droppings were visible on one of the back gable end timbers.
The orchard continues to mature, with all the trees doing well and the exciting prospect of our first proper crop of apples this coming summer.
The Plymouth University volunteer group came on the 23rd and cleared more scrub from the hedgebanks, and helped move the last of the rocks to around the base of the wildlife tower. In the Flo pond at least 6 newts were counted around the periphery of the mass of frogspawn
The month began with a female Sparrowhawk flying up the roadside hedge in the afternoon.
A large number of vole holes are appearing around the field suggesting good vole activity despite the freezing temperatures.
On the 11th, a Conservation Team Work Party bagged up the wood chippings that were left after the tree work conducted at the site of the new Meeting Room. These eleven bags of chip can be used in any of the aviaries on site, on the LLP paths or in the orchard as mulch for the trees and will save the Trust some expense.
A Grey Heron is being seen regularly on the river Ashburn and hunted outside the office on the 14th whilst a female Siskin visited the bird table.
Clear evenings on the 18th and 19th provided wonderful views of a huge full moon rising in the east and allowed the overnight temperatures to drop and cover the valley in a thick white frost. Unfortunately the weather station is on the blink and away for repair so we have a hole in our recorded data.
The 21st heralded the start of a prolonged run of House Sparrow sightings around the LLP barn and BOT office, with a male checking out the nestbox outside the office for a few minutes. On the 27th, it or another was going into one of the small bird holes in the barn, whilst on the 28th a male was in song in a nearby hedge.
On the 24th, some crown feathers from a male Goldcrest were found underneath a post along by the Ashburn, the result of a Sparrowhawk kill no doubt.
The bridges were measured up for Dipper nestboxes, which will be fitted early next month.
A further 30+ Fieldfares were noted in the remnant hedge feeding on Holly berries on the 4th. By the middle of the month all the berries, holly, rosehips, sloes and haws had been eaten.
The two ponds have both been covered in ice all month with just a small patch of clear water where the water comes in from the river providing an area for wildlife to drink and bathe.
On the 6th, 7 students from Plymouth University finished cutting bramble from around the orchard and moved some large stones to around the base of the tower for the benefit of reptiles and amphibians. On the 10th, a Wren was flushed from under the eaves of the wildlife tower roof, and some small bird faeces were noted on the roof timbers.
By the middle of the month, the number of vole runs had started to increase dramatically at the top of the field.
A couple of inches of snow fell on the 17th, which seemed to encourage some winter thrush movement off the moor throughout the morning at least. More snow overnight meant that Waterleat was inaccessible by anything other than 4WD vehicles and a further fall on the night of the 19th/20th gave a total covering of 8 -10”.
A Woodcock was seen on the 19th and good numbers of Fieldfares have been seen flying out of the hedges.
There were 190 days of rain; 906.9mm in 2010, with July and November having the most rain compared to 220 days in 2009 (1095.5mm) when November and February were the months with most rain.. Highest temperature recorded by the weather station was 25.4C in May ( 25.1°C in July 2009) and the lowest -7.9°C in December (-6.1°C in January 2009).
Routine maintenance of the pond abstraction pipes in the river surprised an unidentified fish fry, which disappeared upstream at the start of the month.
On the 13th a Field Vole treated visitors to the field to an amazing display as it scurried around in full view for a couple of minutes, even allowing time for a couple of photos, and on the 14th lifting the sheet of corrugated iron briefly at the top of the field revealed 3 young Wood Mice – an LLP record!
On the 15th, the regular group of Plymouth University volunteers cleared some cut wood from around the new boardwalk to facilitate regeneration next spring, and also managed to find time to fill some of the worst potholes in the orchard, as well as cut bramble back from the Forde Orchard stone-faced hedge bank. During a brief tour along the new riverbank wood path a Woodcock was flushed from underneath a large Beech tree but was only seen by a handful of lucky observers.
Our resident Dipper treated the Conservation Team to a bout of singing from a rock in the Ashburn outside the office on the 17th whilst the river was in full spate after a night of torrential rain and gale-force winds.
A brief walk around the riverside boardwalk on the 26th provided good views of two male Bullfinches eating Ash seeds by the top bridge, and good numbers of Blackbirds and Redwings along the LLP hedgerows.
Following the Western Power Community Project last month the new riverside path is in daily use, opening up a very different perspective on the Trust's land holding.
The colours of the autumn leaves by the stream are spectacular in the autumn sunshine.
The hedgelaying along Pennsland Lane was recommenced on the 4th and had been completed by the end of the month.
A group of Plymouth University student volunteers came on the 18th and cleared scrub and stone in Forde Orchard. Fortunately the weather was dry enough for their picnic lunch.
By the 21st, the roofing contractors had finished the tiling on the wildlife tower and Jasmin (our handyperson) had begun making the oak doors.
There were more sightings of the Kingfisher, and a Kestrel has been seen hunting the field almost every day. A wood mouse has taken up residence under one of the sheets of corrugated iron at the top of the field.
Late bramble flowers were blooming at the end of the month
Invasive species were tackled on the 7th, with the troublesome Himalayan Balsam having to be pulled by the River Ashburn just below the office, presumably having been washed down from further upstream.
The 9th saw 2 Wheatear and 2-3 vocal Tree Pipits making use of the grassland, as well as 2 late Gatekeeper recorded during Week 24 of the Butterfly transect.
By the 15th, the wildlife tower had started to take shape nicely after a period of kind weather and long days from our contractor.
An extremely vocal Kingfisher made itself known on the Ashburn outside the office on the morning of the 23rd. This may be the same bird that was seen on the 26th August and probably relates to a dispersing young bird from further downstream.
The Western Power Distribution Community Project commenced on the 27th as planned. Some 31 apprentices plus their trainers arrived en masse and went to work, replacing one of the aviaries on site, and creating riverside access to the Trusts’ previously inaccessible land along the Ashburn, with paths, bridges and boardwalks. After three and a half days of extremely hard graft, in sometimes challenging conditions, work was complete. A massive thank you to all those involved – we look forward to enjoying and sharing this wonderful resource with visiting groups in the future.
The month began with another sighting of a female or juvenile House Sparrow on the fence near the LLP barn, followed a couple of days later by a male. Whether they bred successfully on site is still unknown but it would be nice to think they had.
On the 9th a Tree Pipit flew over the top field, calling frequently. A day later, a Wall Brown, the LLP’s fifth record of this species, was watched sunning itself on the slope above the office.
A Conservation Team work party fixed the camera posts that had been damaged during the year, and pulled Creeping Thistle from the orchard. Several of the apple trees have ripening fruit, a nice bonus in their first year.
On the 11th a site record 34 Common Blue were recorded in Week 20 of the Butterfly Transect.
Despite the rain this month, which has improved the grass yield, the ground is still really dry and there are still several patches where the bedrock is close to the surface where the ground is quite barren.
The grazing livestock were shut into Kiln Close for just under a week to ensure they do their job in all areas of the LLP.
An intriguing but frustratingly brief record involved a Kingfisher flying upstream from the ponds on the 26th.
On the 31st, official notification was received from Dartmoor National Park Authority discharging conditions imposed on the consent for the stone wildlife tower, which is to be built as a legacy to our dear friend John Woodland. Work started immediately, and progress is expected to be fast
On the 1st, the Grand Raffle Prize-winners had an LLP tour in the afternoon, then watched the ringing of the local Barn Owl brood. A male and then a female Beautiful Demoiselle were seen around the lower pond. Later that day the much-needed rain arrived with 8.6mm recorded, the first significant rain since 7th June.
The next day, Grahams Garden machinery, based in Truro visited with a Field and Brush Mower to demonstrate its ability to cut scrub from the problem slope in Corner Wood. Having decided to buy the machine, the slope was subsequently cut over 7 man hours when previously it had taken nearer 30! The machine will also no doubt facilitate the cutting of the vegetation in Forde Orchard, which will be done in late summer once the wild flowers have gone to seed as per our Conservation Plan Agreement.
The Bracken and Creeping Thistle patches in the fields were topped mechanically on the 5th. At the same time, a new species of plant for the LLP in the form of a Knapweed sp. was recorded along the roadside boundary and several new patches of Hedge Bedstraw were observed around the field. The fruit trees also got another manual watering on the same day.
Week 14 of the Butterfly transect revealed a site record 95 Marbled White (plus another 12 in Forde Orchard), 12 Small Skipper, 19 Small Tortoiseshell, 6 Comma and 40 Ringlet. Despite the disastrously poor summers of 2007, 2008 and 2009 for butterflies, the fantastic spring and early summer weather this year seems to have aided something of a much-needed recovery in the LLP.
On the 9th, the once-troublesome slope by Corner Wood was finished off with the new brush mower in record time.
The following week more conservation work included pulling the remaining Bracken and Creeping Thistle from the slope opposite the office. The last of the Bracken in Forde Orchard was brushcut, as was the area around the scrub clump on the way to Corner Wood above Riverbank Wood.
The contractor arrived on the 26th to sort and transport stone to the site of the wildlife tower, and he dug the foundation trench at the same time.
A couple of days later the annual grazing commenced with 8 heffers and a cow being brought on by our grazier. The same day, another contractor started excavations at the site of the proposed new meeting room and progress has subsequently been swift. All that now remains is to find the funds for its construction, so any contributions would be much appreciated.
A new Sedge was found on the slope above the office but hasn’t yet been specifically identified
On the 4th the fruit trees had another manual watering and on the same day, the various patches of nettles were topped by tractor. Pond fauna included 7 male Broad-bodied Chasers Libellula depressa and a male and female copulating with 4 exuviae in the water, also Common Backswimmer Notonecta glauca, Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum and either Azure or Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura/Coenagrion sp.
Butterflies recorded during Week 11 of the butterfly transects included 1 Painted Lady, 1 Peacock, 1 Speckled Wood, 1 Large Skipper, 2 Large White, 2 Green-veined White, 12 Common Blue, 7 Mother Shipton moth, 4 Silver Y moth, 1 Speckled Yellow moth, with 1 Dingy Skipper and 1 Small Copper just outside the area in Forde Orchard.
On the 14th, a Barn Owl was again observed hunting over the field, and has been doing so every evening between 8.30-9.00pm for about a fortnight.
The next day 50+ Swifts were seen catching insects over the field before flying off to the west.
The 16th saw another C.T. Work Party. The nettles were pulled in Forde Orchard and then pulled Bracken from the slope above the barn as an experiment. Hundreds of Garden Chafer beetles were seen (Phyllopertha horticola) as well as loads of Orthoptera, including young Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima). Also lots of froghopper larvae in cuckoo-spit on the Creeping Thistle.
With no significant rain for ages there has been far less grass growth than in previous years and in some areas where the soil is thin the grass paths have turned brown. The foxgloves are almost over now and the mallow is in bloom. We have small apples on several of the new trees in the orchard.
The few new shoots that had managed to sprout from the ‘dead wood’ Sycamore in Forde Orchard were cut back on the 17th.
By the 21st the first Marbled White had been seen at lunchtime in beautiful weather and proved to be the forerunner to a remarkable year for this species (see below).
A visiting group of 6 arrived for an LLP tour on the 22nd, during which time 4 Marbled Whites were seen in the continuing fine, sunny weather. The same day, Week 12 of the butterfly transects recorded 5 Small Tortoiseshell, 5 Marbled White, 35 Meadow Brown, 1 Ringlet, 2 Large Skipper (1 of which was seen laying eggs on Bracken), 10 Small Skipper (2 of which were mating on Bracken) and 4 Holly Blue. Other invertebrates recorded at the same time included Hornet Hover-fly, Emperor dragonfly, Broad-bodied Chasers, Common Blue Damselflies mating, Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltoni and possibly a Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata perched on vegetation in Lurge. Plants flowering included Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill Geranium dissectum, Perforate St. John’s-wort Hypericum perforatum, Hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, Fat-hen Chenopodium album, Field Bindweed Convolvulus arvensis, Musk-mallow Malva moschata, Enchanter’s-nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Fumitory Fumaria sp. and Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca. Later on the same day, the fruit trees got another manual watering due to the hot, dry weather.
Marbled White numbers had risen to 35 by the 28th with 35 Meadow Brown and 9 Small Tortoiseshell (plus 3 Small Skipper, 4 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Common Blue in Forde Orchard). Common Restharrow Ononis repens was in flower in Kiln Close.
On the 4th, two goldfinches flew out of North Park hedge whilst 3 buzzards patrolled low over the top of the field. Hundreds of St. Mark’s-fly Bibio marci were on the wing and mating on grass leaves. The following species were in flower; Crosswort Cruciata laevipes, Bulbous buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus in Kiln Close, Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens in North Park, Pink Campion Silene dioica, Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Germander Speedwell, Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum, Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata, Daisy Bellis perennis, Field Forget-me-not Myosotis arvensis, Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia, Common Cornsalad Valerianella locusta, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata, Winter-cress Barbarea vulgaris, Common Sorrel Rumex acetosa and Sweet Vernal-grass Anthoxanthum odoratum.
A couple of days later at least 3 male Orange-tip and 2 Green-veined White were in North Park/Forde Orchard. Literally thousands of tadpoles (both frog and toad poles) in various stages of development have suddenly reappeared in both ponds, which are still full of water and settling in nicely.
On the 10th, Week 6 of the butterfly transect recorded Orange-tip, Green-veined White (2), Small White, Large White, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood (2). A vocal Tree Pipit was flushed from the top of the field whilst at least a dozen Swifts and House Martins moved through northwards overhead, probably as part of a much bigger movement.
The monthly C.T. Work Party on the 12th pulled nettles around the top of the middle wall in Forde Orchard and then cut out of the ground the last few pieces of visible pond liner from around the big pond. A Swift and 2 House Martin low over the orchard mid-afternoon was something to look at between heavy rain showers and hail!
A day later the following plants were recorded in flower; Ground Ivy Glechoma hederacea, Common Birds-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus, patch of non-native Pink Purslane Montia sibirica in the hedge along the access track. There are still Primrose and Lesser Celandine flowering in Corner Wood along with Pink Campion, Greater Stitchwort and native Bluebells.
What was originally identified as flowering Timothy Phleum pratense, turned out to be Meadow Foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus on the 17th.
On the 21st, in gloriously fine, sunny weather, 3 Western Power Distribution managers visited to look at the apprentice project planned for the autumn. At the same time, up to 5 male Orange-tip and a small Fritillary sp., possibly Pearl-bordered sp. or Heath Frit. were recorded in Forde Orchard briefly. Also, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Orange-tip, Small White, Green-veined White, Large White, Common Blue and Small Copper recorded during the Week 8 butterfly transect.
More flowering plants include; Cock’s-foot Dactylus glomerata, Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus, Field Woodrush Luzula campestris, Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina, Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua, Yellow Pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum, Black Medick Medicago lupulina, Wood Avens Geum urbanum, White Clover Trifolium repens, Cleavers Galium aparine, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum.
The dry hot days since the 20th have really brought everything out and the whole field is looking wonderful. The apple trees in Forde Orchard have blossom and there are a few tiny cherries forming on the cherry trees. On the 25th a Roe deer was seen grazing alongside the long path at lunchtime in full sunshine.
Week 9 of the butterfly transect on the 27th recorded 4 tatty Small Tortoiseshell, 1 tatty Peacock, 1 Large Skipper, 1 Small Skipper, 3 Large White, 2 Green-veined White (male and female copulating), 2 Holly Blue, 7 Common Blue, 9 Mother Shipton moths and 13 Silver Y moths. Flowering plants included Crested Dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus, Lesser Stitchwort Stellaria graminea, White Campion/Bladder Campion Silene sp., Prickly Sow Thistle Sonchus asper, Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris, Foxglove Digitalis purpurea, Creeping Cinqefoil Potentilla reptans, Common Vetch Vicia sativa. Pond fauna in the ponds included Pond Skater Gerris lacustris, Water Measurer Hydrometra stagnorum and Water Boatman nymphs Corixa sp.
On the 7th the first Brimstone butterfly was seen flying past the office. A further 3 Small Tortoiseshell and 2 Peacock were seen during this year’s first butterfly transect. Also seen were Bee-fly Bombylius major, 7-spot ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata, White-tailed Bumblebees and other Bombus spp., thousands of small spiders (Pardosa/Pirata spp.). There was a Field Vole under one of the corrugated sheets in the field and a Common Shrew under a second sheet. Plants flowering now include Primrose Primula vulgaris, Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea, Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria, Dandelion Taraxacum officinale spp., Dog Violet Viola sp., (Wild/Barren) Strawberry Potentilla sp., Wavy Bitter-cress Cardamine flexuosa, Hairy Bitter-cress Cardamine hirsute, Ivy-leaved Speedwell Veronica hederifolia, Gorse Ulex sp. A Chiffchaff and 2 Swallows were also recorded!
Another Brimstone put in a fleeting appearance on the 9th, with 3 Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell. Spring felt finally sprung with 5 singing male Blackcap variously dotted around on site.
On the 14th, a Conservation Team Work Party cut bramble back off the Corner Wood fence line, filled some of the worst pot holes in the drive and finally moved some donated telegraph poles to the edge of the Kiln Close track to make the access that bit safer. All of the fruit trees in Forde Orchard are now covered in leaf buds and most are just about ready to erupt, so all thirty were given a good soak after the relatively dry spell we’ve been experiencing of late.
On the 15th a Swallow and the first House Martin of the year disappeared over the LLP heading northwards.
The big pond is still full of water after the ground works, despite very little rainfall.
In Forde Orchard, the first leaves started erupting out of their buds on the Cherry trees on the 22nd, with the plums and apples not far behind.
A couple of newly arrived Swallows spent two days checking out the barn for potential nest sites at the end of the month but had departed by May.
At the beginning of the month 3 contractors visited with a view to providing a quote for the proposed wildlife tower.
A male House Sparrow was first heard singing in scrub behind the barn and was still in song a week later. Fingers crossed for the LLP’s first breeding record of this increasingly scarce species.
On the 10th the Conservation Team did some rock picking in Forde Orchard, then mulched around the fruit trees and spread the rest of the mulch along the top access track. Six tractor buckets of soil were spread over the most rocky areas of the upper slope to facilitate brush-cutting in the autumn. In the afternoon, the brash cut out of Pennsland Lane during hedgelaying was moved and burnt.
An untimely fresh Peacock was seen on the 9th, and a Small Tortoiseshell put in a brief appearance on the 10th.
The last of this academic year’s Plymouth University groups visited on the 17th before examinations, graduations and holidays restrict their availability. Bramble was cut out of the top hedgebank in Forde Orchard, and the pond liner left over from the pond works was cut up and moved ready for disposal.
A pair of Mallards put in a brief appearance from the 20th to the 22nd, raising hopes of another breeding attempt.
A Chiffchaff was in song in the roadside boundary hedge on the 27th
The month began with the discovery of a Barn Owl pellet underneath the cut off pole by Kiln Close. Also in the same area, Field Vole holes every couple of metres along the track past the old dung heap, leading to hopes of a good vole year and a productive breeding season.
On the 9th the first frogspawn was seen in the ponds, though a hard frost iced everything up the following day and probably didn't do it any good. However, by the 15th the ponds were boiling with frog activity and there was a barrel load of spawn in the Oakley (lower) Pond.
The usual monthly Conservation Team work party on the 10th chipped the remainder of the brash for mulch and tidied up more brash along Pennsland Lane, the result of the traditional hedge-laying of the boundary hedgerow that is now nearing completion. The route of the proposed riverside walk was also marked out. This pathway will be built in October as part of a Community Project by the Apprentice Programme at Western Power and when complete should make for a beautiful walk along the Ashburn through a previously inaccessible area.
The work party also marked the locations for the fruit trees in Forde Orchard ready for planting. The first session on the 13th planted half the trees and involved volunteers from Orchard Link, a charity dedicated to providing support for orchard owners and enthusiasts, in an effort to ensure that orchards become and remain a sustainable element of our landscape. In appalling conditions (including snow!), the second session involved the regular group of Plymouth University volunteers, some of whom had originally helped with the initial stages of scrub clearance in the orchard over two and a half years ago when the orchard creation project first started to take shape.
A contractor visited on the 12th to look at the site for the wildlife tower.
Another contractor visited the ponds for a second time to firm up a works specification on the 15th with a view to finally starting remedial works on the 18th.
On the 17th the regular Plymouth University group finished planting the orchard fruit trees in appalling conditions, including heavy rain and driving snow. The same day the contractors, Land and Waterscapes Ltd. based in Somerset, arrived with their heavy plant, and started work a day later.
Firstly, they drained the Flo pond, and relocated all associated wildlife either to the Oakley pond or to the river. Dozens of frogs were no surprise but the presence of half a dozen Brown Trout was more of a shock. We can only assume that they were washed into the pond as eggs or fry through the abstraction from the River Ashburn. The trout were eventually translocated back into the Ashburn; fingers crossed they survive. The next step was to excavate a trench, into which mud and bags of bentonite (a clay powder acting as a sealant) were mixed to create slurry. More bentonite was mixed around the sides of the pond. Finally, the area between the ponds was landscaped with boulders. After only 4 working days on site, the site was tidied up and the contractors left. The abstraction was started and within 48 hours the pond was full, and has remained so . . .
On the 25th, managers from Western Power Distribution visited to walk the route of the proposed riverside walk on the Trusts land. Up to 50 apprentices and several managers will join us at the end of September to create the route, allowing access to a previously inaccessible stretch of the beautiful River Ashburn through Riverbank Wood.
As the cold weather continued into the New Year, the minimum overnight temperature for the LLP was recorded on the 3rd, at –6.1 degrees centigrade.
Snow that fell on the 6th covered the ice on the ground and was followed by more snow on the 12th making access by vehicle to the site extremely difficult until 15th. Ice could still be seen on the ponds in the sunshine on the 17th – it had been there since the cold snap in December.
The remains of two Woodpigeon were found on the 4th, almost certainly the result of predation by a bird of prey, most probably Peregrine. Also the same day, 10+ Meadow Pipits and 2 Song Thrush were in and around North Park.
On the morning of the 9th, a Woodcock was accidentally flushed from under the remnant hedge in Kiln Close.
On the 12th another 4" of snow fell, what is now hoped to be the last this
January's Plymouth University group came on the 20th and cut bramble from around the gateway into Riverbank Wood. This facilitated access for the contractor who came on the 28th to start landscaping in Forde Orchard, and remove the Sycamore stumps left after tree felling last autumn. The same contractor also levelled the site of the proposed wildlife tower and part of the access track to Corner Wood at the same time.
By the end of the month two Woodcock had been flushed from below the remnant hedge on the 30th.
On the 5th, our annual Winter Work Party was attended by 12 volunteers, including a group from the Nature at Sundown project and from BTCV Plymouth. We spent the day cutting back the overhanging branches of the remnant hedge in Kiln Close and the predominantly Hazel road boundary hedge. Great progress was made despite the rather inclement weather – once again it poured.
On the 9th the regular group of Plymouth University students visited to continue scrub control on the slope by Corner Wood. In warm (yes, warm!) sunshine much of the bramble was cleared and several of the old gorse stumps, (the result of previous scrub control sessions) were dug out. It was so warm by mid-day that a Red Admiral was seen to speed over the barn at lunchtime.
By mid-month, the driest weather for some months finally allowed for an impromptu session to move the large boulders left on the riverbank in Corner Wood. This will facilitate more regular maintenance of this beautiful stretch of the River Ashburn in the future.
The monthly Conservation Team Work Party chipped the cut timber in Forde Orchard ready for use as mulch around the fruit trees when they are planted in February.
On the 17th another potential contractor visited the site of the big pond to discuss options for remedial works.
The remaining non-indigenous trees in the orchard were felled and cut up between 9th-11th.
The Dartmoor National Park Authority planning Case Officer accompanied by the Tree and Landscape Officer visited on the 12th to see the site of the proposed wildlife tower.
The regular Plymouth University group of conservation volunteers came on the 18th to clear scrub in various parts of the field, doing a thoroughly good job as always.
Despite the rather late date, fine weather on the 20th saw a flurry of late butterfly sightings including Red Admiral and Peacock. Kestrels, Buzzards and a Peregrine also seemed to be enjoying the sunny spells hunting or thermalling over the top field.
By the end of the month there had been 28 days of rain, 27 of which involved more than 2mm. A torrential rainstorm on Saturday 28th deposited 28.6mm which fell mostly in the late afternoon. By 5.30pm, 45mm per hour was falling, leading to severe flooding nearby.
On the 1st a juvenile Wheatear was seen on the low hunting post in Half Hatch.
The cattle were let out of Kiln Close and were almost immediately shut into North Park for a few days, to ensure that all areas in the LLP receive some grazing. By the end of the month they had grazed most areas adequately however unfortunately they avoided the areas with the fresh green nettle shoots!
Forde Orchard was brushcut and raked as per the Dartmoor ESA management prescription, and in readiness for this winter’s fruit tree planting.
We have a great crop of Holly berries and Sloes in the hedges (the best for years), which will provide food for wildlife.
Kestrels and Buzzards are being seen hunting over the field almost every day and it’s quite unusual to go for a walk without spotting one perched on the longest telegraph pole left at the top of the field.
We have made an application for planning consent to build a wildlife tower in the field just outside Forde Orchard. If we are successful this would be funded by a donation in memory of our Friend John Woodland (follow the link to find out more about what a wildlife tower is).
Planning is underway for our winter work in the field including our Winter Work Party on Saturday 5th December. If you are interested in joining us between 10am – 4pm for practical work and a guided walk please contact the office for more details.
The first of this term’s Plymouth University student volunteers visited on the 28th and helped clear scrub on the lower orchard slopes ready for the landscaping in December, and in preparation for the fruit tree planting in February.
Our annual grazing started later than usual on the 4th due to a delay caused by TB testing requirements at our local grazier’s farm.
Invasive species were given some attention on the 9th when patches of Nettle, Gorse and Creeping Thistle were topped with the tractor. More Creeping Thistle management occurred on the 11th with help from a BTCV Plymouth group, and again on the 16th during a Conservation Team Work Party.
Dispersing juveniles/migrants included 3 Meadow Pipits and a Tree Pipit flushed from Lurge on the 9th, with 3-4 juvenile Goldfinches along North Park, 2 juvenile Wheatear on the newly topped Nettle Patch at the old dung heap site on the 10th, and 6 Meadow Pipits and 2 vocal Tree Pipits a day later on the 11th.
A Bunting was flushed from a patch of mown Nettle at the top of Kiln Close and flew into a large Hawthorn in the remnant hedge on the 17th. Although it evaded specific identification by not showing again, a Wall butterfly, which showed well on a clump of Cock’s foot for some minutes, was ample consolation, being only the fourth LLP record of this pretty species.
The cattle were shut into Kiln Close on the 22nd and left in for 10 days.
On the 8th, a scaled down 21st Birthday Party (postponed from July 18th ) was held in beautiful weather. A tour of the LLP culminated in an unidentified bat being seen flying in and out of the barn briefly in broad daylight. We finished the event with a picnic and drinks in Forde Orchard, a good time was had by all.
Large numbers of House Martins have been seen hunting over the field most afternoons and there have been regular sightings of the Kestrel family, up to 3 at a time.
A second group of BTCV volunteers from Plymouth visited on the 12th, and spent the day pulling Creeping Thistle in House Park and Lurge.
The aforementioned bat gave itself up on the 13th, being specifically identified as a Noctule (Nyctalis noctua), after being watched going to roost in the barn. This large bat is more diurnal than most despite its name, is covered with buff/ginger fur and has a wingspan of up to 30cm apparently. Presumably this explains all the wing cases of Orange Underwing (Archiearis parthenias) moths that scatter the upper barn floor.
Also on the 13th two Little Owl owlets were released from the mobile aviary in the early evening. They were brought to us starving having fallen from two separate untraceable nest sites The elder owlet disappeared into the top of a nearby Ash almost immediately and then sat watching the younger one, which spent some time checking things out. It seemed most interested in the moss growing on the Ash and took to pulling lumps off the branches and dropping them. Hopefully they’re a pair and will hang around the LLP to breed. Sightings of a single bird over the next few days led us to believe that there was just one still around but the two were seen together by the barn on the 17th.
A adult fox was spotted on the long path on the north side of the field at 18.50 on the 17th and was watched for several minutes snuffling on the short grass before it realised it had an audience and took off towards Kiln Close.
The latter half of the month was dominated by movement overhead. A mixed flock of about 50 hirundines, mostly Swallows with some House Martins went through over the LLP on the 18th with an attendant Hobby through at lunchtime. A week later on the 25th, 3 Peregrines were over the Ashburn Valley at lunchtime, viewable from Forde Orchard. Not to be outdone, one of our Kestrels was on the telegraph pole in Kiln Close mid-afternoon on the same day.
By the end of the month, House Martins were noted moving through in good numbers, with often over 100 individuals feeding over the LLP before continuing on their long southward journey to sunnier climes.
July started with our annual Bracken Bash on the 4th. Despite a disappointing attendance, good progress was made in the warm afternoon sunshine. On the 8th, a youth group from BTCV Plymouth visited to finish off the bracken bashing, and even found time to start pulling Creeping Thistle in a number of places.
The Great Mullein Verbascum thapsus in Forde Orchard was photographed in flower on the 9th, and is an absolute picture. It hosted a large number of Mullein Moth caterpillars which were easy to find on the shredded leaves of some of the plants.
The troublesome bramble-clad slope by Corner Wood was partially brushcut, and the new growth on the deadwood tree stump in Forde Orchard was cut back.
A week of unsettled wet weather culminated in torrential rain and gale force winds on 16th and 17th making access to the field impossible for the Trust’s 21st Birthday Party. With more bad weather forecast for the weekend, we were unfortunately forced to postpone the event until August – fingers crossed for better conditions next time! Friends and supporters please contact the office for further details.
A young slow worm was seen on the new path outside the owl hospital on the 25th.
On the 27th a young Kestrel was again hunting over the LLP. This is one of a brood of 2 or 3 fledged from a nest site nearby, which have been using the field for the last month or so.
On the 2nd, a Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula was seen mating outside the BOT office. Also on the same day, 2 House Sparrow, a male briefly in song, were in scrub along the hedgebank behind the barn briefly, before flying off to the bottom of the drive. This constitutes only the 2nd and 3rd records for the LLP.
A day later, a Sabre Wasp Rhyssa persuasoria (an ichneumon fly) was seen flying into Webcam Aviary.
Since 7th June a Barn Owl has been seen regularly hunting over the field in daylight. The radio tracking team have confirmed that it is the male of the pair breeding nearby. In the early evening of the 13th, a Roe Deer darted out of the long grass and took off across the field.
By mid-month, Yarrow Achillea millefolium was starting to come out, and also Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustre, Spear Thistle Cirsium vulgare, Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Crested Dog’s-tail Cynosurus cristatus and interestingly, Twiggy Mullein Verbascum virgatum. The grass seed heads had also started to ripen and change colour and it’s easy to see that there is a huge variety of species along with the wildflowers.
The Slow Worm was present again under one of the corrugate sheets in the company of a Common Toad, with 30+ Swifts and House Martins overhead. An Azure damselfly Coenagrion puella, Common Blue damselfly Ischnura elegans and Emperor dragonfly Anax imperator were in grassland along the Pennsland Lane hedgerow.
A couple of days later the Swift flock had increased to over 40 and the Common Toad was beginning to look very dry under the hot corrugated sheet.
The radio-tagged male Barn Owl was seen again on the evening of the 14th, having been seen almost every evening for over a week.
By the 23rd, dragonfly species recorded included Golden-ringed, Broad-bodied Chaser and a Darter species, seen too briefly for specific identification. Also, the LLP’s first record of Southern Hawker newly emerged at rest on an Elderflower. The same day, the first 3 Marbled White of the summer were seen, along with an early Gatekeeper, 10 Ringlet, 2 Small and 2 Large Skipper and either a Dingy or Grizzled Skipper which defied specific identification.
A day later 2 Dark Green Fritillaries were seen, constituting the second and third records for the LLP since one graced our offices in June 2006.
On the 29th, a local Peregrine thermalled westwards mid-afternoon.
On the 4th, Changing Forget-me-not Myosotis discolor was found near the top path at the top end of North Park. Other LLP flowers have been amazing this spring; Red Campion, Greater Stitchwort and Germander Speedwell were still in flower on the 7th along with swathes of Creeping Buttercup. Also flowering; Common Mouse-ear, Herb-Robert, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Scarlet Pimpernel, Common Vetch and Garlic Mustard.
Insects starting to make an appearance include Noonday Fly (Mesembrina meridiana) a-plenty and St Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci).
On the evening of the 10th a Barn Owl was heard flying over the LLP screeching loudly, the first time we’ve seen or heard one since last summer.
On the 13th a Conservation Team Work Party tackled some fencing repairs, and moved some rock and fallen dead wood. Invertebrates recorded on the day included a male Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis), White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis), European Slug (Arion ater agg.) (black variety) and an unidentified spider. In the Workshop Aviary a Longhorn Beetle (Rhagium bifasciatum) was found. Plants identified a Three-nerved Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia), Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium) and Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre). The day ended with a large flock of mixed Hirundines totalling 50+ over the orchard.
On the 20th what looked like a pregnant Slow Worm was under one of the corrugate sheets.
By the 22nd Swallows and Martins had arrived in good numbers and could be seen feeding over the field. A trio of Mallards, two males and a female, have been seen several times on the large pond and flying over the valley.
The wet weather over the last few weeks is making the grass grow really fast and unfortunately the docks, nettles, bracken and creeping thistle are springing up too and will need to be controlled.
On the 25th, 2 Collared Doves flew out of the barn, probably whilst nest prospecting.
By the end of the month, the nationwide Painted Lady (butterflies) invasion was in full swing throughout the LLP, with up to 50 observed all across the field, in particular on the White Clover by North Park hedgebank, along with scores of bumblebees.
On the 1st, a trip around the LLP to take the monthly monitoring photographs revealed a Small Tortoisehell, a Peacock, a male Brimstone and a Small White, with one or two additional sightings of Brimstones and Peacocks around the office at lunchtime.
The first butterfly transect of the year was conducted a day later and recorded a Peacock, female Orange –tip, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White. Wild flowers were very much in evidence with Germander Speedwell, Greater Stitchwort, Hairy Bittercress, loads of Wild Strawberry, Dog Violets, Primroses, Lesser Celandine, Common Mouse-ear, Dandelion and Ground Ivy. Also a couple of 6-spot Ladybirds were recorded in North Park.
A week later the first Swallow was over North Park briefly, and 5 Meadow Pipits were still in Lurge.
On the 11th, a male Brimstone and several Commas were observed in beautifully sunny weather. A Sparrowhawk was seen circling overhead. The next day we had great views of a Heron flying low over the field towards the ponds. Nuthatches and Siskin are singing their hearts out every day.
A Conservation Team Work Party on the 15th chipped some fallen and cut wood for later use in Forde Orchard and continued to move stones from the paths which are waiting for their first cut of the year.
The LLP’s fourth sighting of a Common Lizard was of one under the corrugate sheet along the Kiln Close/Lurge hedgerow on the 24th. This is the fourth consecutive April that Common Lizard has been seen, but strangely there have been no records from any other month. Where do they go? Also there, a Slow Worm was seen on three separate occasions, and a shrew, probably feeding from the ants’ nest.
Some bright sunny days mid month have seen the grass starting to grow and celandines flowering. There is evidence of field voles everywhere and before the new grass really starts to grow is the best time to see their holes, tunnels and latrines
Toads have been very much in evidence this month, singing during the day as well as at night and there have been lots of sightings of them in the ponds in daylight and on the paths after dark.
Small mammals have been seen under the corrugated sheets left as cover in strategic locations in the field. A field vole under one and a shrew under another, they all have tunnels and paths in the dead grass below them.
On the 7th, 13 Plymouth University students cut bramble from the now 1-year old Forde Orchard hedgebank, cut up and took out the fallen Willow from the river. They also finished tidying up the Holly hedge by Pennsland Lane and removed fallen branches from the lane hedge.
The pair of presumed-returning Mallard was seen on the Flo pond together for the first time of the 15th, after the lone female’s appearance earlier on the 9th.
On the 16th the first Blackthorn blossom was seen in Kiln Close along the top hedge.
By the end of the month the first Chiffchaff was in song.
The significant snowfall and strong easterly that we experienced at the start of the month was responsible for the loss of several mature trees in Riverbank and Corner Wood. These need to be cut up and removed before any fence damage can be repaired.
Just before the snow both the Flo and Oakley ponds were alive with frogs and lots of spawn had appeared. Both ponds froze over during the cold weather and we thought that much of the spawn would have been damaged by the ice. Much to our delight as the snow disappeared the frogspawn looked fine, it looked as if the snow had insulated it and the frogs are now back in force and very much in evidence when you walk past. However after a few days of dry weather the water level in the Flo pond is dropping, (because of the hole in the liner and the abstraction system not working) so much of the spawn is now getting stranded on the edge and unless we get some rain its likely to dry out and die. We are still waiting for a satisfactory resolution to the “pond problems “.
By mid-month, all the snow had disappeared and the first Primrose was in flower in the centre of the path to Corner Wood, where 7 days previously had lain 6” of snow.
By the 14th, good numbers of Meadow Pipits had been enjoying rich pickings feeding in the long grass for at least a fortnight.
On the 18th, another Plymouth University volunteer work party came and finished off scrub clearance on the difficult slope by Corner Wood.
At lunchtime on the 26th a female Kestrel was seen making hunting forays over the rough grassland from the North Park polebox.
On the 6th a flock of about a dozen Long-tailed Tit and 2 to 3 Goldcrests feeding on the ground in the rough grassland above Riverbank Wood was an unusual sight.
Both poleboxes were checked on the 9th with approximately 8 pellets in the North Park box presumably from a Barn Owl support-released in the LLP during autumn 2008.
A Conservation Team Work Party on the 21st had another go at sorting rocks for the Owl Hospital wall. Good progress was made in the morning until rain stopped play after lunch. A contractor has now been engaged to start work on the project at the end of February.
A lone peacock butterfly was seen in a brief sunny spell on the 19th.
January weather continued the cold unsettled theme with 21 days of precipitation and 9 days of sub-zero temperatures, including a low of -8.9 recorded at 1am on the 7th.
By the end of the month, the ponds were alive with frog activity.
At the beginning of the month, the Forde Orchard fruit trees were ordered from a local supplier for collection next winter. Maidens (1 year old) of Apple, Cherry and Plum of 11 different varieties will be planted in early 2010. The 30 individuals will be traditional local varieties selected according to flowering and fruiting season, and scab resistance with an emphasis on their ultimate benefit to wildlife.
We are currently looking for a contractor to build a retaining dry-stone wall by the new bird hospital using stone removed from the site of the barn extension. The annual volunteer “Winter Work Party” took place on the 6th and a small, merry band spent all day sorting and shifting stones for the project. The weather and company were both excellent and good progress was made. Our Conservation Team day on the 9th continued the sorting and shifting process.
A flock of over 20 Meadow Pipits were flushed from North Park on the 10th.
Work on the new Owl Hospital continues with an opening roof hatch fitted to the release aviary and the bird room being lined.
On the 17th the loss adjustor came to view the big pond. We hope now for a swift resolution to the trouble.
Mean temperature for the month was 5.1ºC with a high of 11.9ºC and low of –1.1ºC. There was 72.4mm of rain and an average wind speed of 3.5 mph with a high of 33 mph. This compares to a mean temperature in December 2007 of 6.8ºC with a high of 14.2ºC and low of –0.9º, 133.2mm of rain and an average wind speed of 3.5mph (high 44mph). Overall much colder and drier in 2008 than in 2007 and looking back through our records the same applies to December 2006. Interestingly records for December 2005 show a similar picture to 2008 with a mean temperature of 5.8 ºC and 84.4mm of rain, however we did record a low of –5.8ºC.
Good numbers of winter bird species moved through in the first days of the month. A flock of thrushes were observed on the 7th, including 10+ Blackbirds, 5+ Song Thrush and 20+ Redwing in House Park. Also lots of Chaffinches were still passing through with large flocks on the office bird tables. Three days later, numbers of Siskins were around with flocks of 20 and then over 30 overhead. Some cold weather movement was observed first thing on the 19th, all of which was interestingly in a northerly or northwesterly direction, including various flocks totalling 52 Woodpigeon , 23 Fieldfare, 12 Redwing and 28 Siskin.
On the 11th, the old polebox in the part of the field known as Lurge (where a pair of Barn Owls bred this year) was replaced with a new design polebox. Recent evidence of occupation was found with about half a dozen fresh pellets inside the box.
The next day a small group of volunteers from Plymouth University came and tackled the Pennsland Lane and Holly hedges and made good progress in beautiful sunny autumnal weather.
The work on the Owl Hospital is well underway with the framework for the three small hospital aviaries and the large rehab aviary completed. An insulated floor has also been laid in the hospital room.
The average temperature for the month was 8.3ºC with a low of –2.8ºC overnight on the 28th.This compares to average temperatures here of 8.4ºC in 2007, 9.0ºC in 2006 and 7.2ºC in 2005.
A flock of juvenile Swallows totalling up to 100 went through south westwards at lunchtime on the 1st.
There’s lots of fresh grass now that the cattle have gone and a few late red admirals were seen when the sun came out.
Building of the first of the new hospital aviaries began on the 20th.
Great views of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly at the top of North Park and a Peregrine flying over on the 21st.
We received news that the two radio-tagged juvenile Barn Owls from the pole box had fledged successfully and dispersed away from the field.
On the 22nd a fallen tree along the Ashburn in riverbank wood had taken out the fence across the river but hadn’t done any permanent damage.
The first Redwings of the autumn were heard then seen going south on the morning of the 27th, much later in the month than usual.
Students from Plymouth University joined the conservation team on the 28th for a day of hedge work.
On the 1st the grazier was informed that one of his calves had an injury to one of its ankles. Having had a look he speculated that perhaps it was a snake bite! The calf was given anti-biotics and will be monitored. If confirmed this would be the first record of Adder for the LLP.
Another flock of Swallows, all juveniles, were again over Kiln Close on the 10th.
The Conservation Team work party on the 11th shifted the last of the troublesome stones in Forde Orchard ready for its first strim at the end of the month. A Common Toad was photographed in Forde Orchard the same day.
The contractor started groundworks by the barn for the site of the new Bird Hospital late on the morning of the 15th and within a couple of days had made excellent progress.
It's a really bad year for berries in the field, not many blackberries, very few bullus and no sloes seen yet. There’s only one really good patch of holly berries in the remnant hedge and a few rosehips.
On the 17th our Natural England advisor visited Forde Orchard to assess the site for potential funding for the orchard recreation. The next day a constant movement of Swallows and House Martins was observed overhead southwards in the morning along with a Peregrine through south at lunchtime.
The same day, the contractors put in the footings, corner post framework and roof beams of the barn extension for the new bird hospital. On the 23rd they poured the concrete floor, and finished all works on the 26th.
Also on the 26th, the grazier removed his cattle, which had been on for nearly 10 weeks. There is still plenty of grass for the voles.
Forde Orchard was strimmed for the first time on the 29th with the help of a volunteer raking up the cuttings.
A Slow Worm was observed in Kiln Close on the 30th.
There was 86.4mm of rain in the month and a mean temperature of 13.2°C.
The cattle were shut into North Park on the 1st but had managed to completely flatten the grass by the 4th so were let out. The area along the length of the new North Park hedgebank where the turf had been lifted was awash with Creeping Thistle again, even after a session pulling it - another session was scheduled towards the middle of the month.
A busy period began with a visit from Chris Sperring (& family) from the Hawk and Owl Trust, who visited and had a walk around the LLP on the 7th. A couple of days later the cattle were shut into Kiln Close on the 9th and their impact closely monitored. On the 11th the polebox owlets were radio-tagged with transmitter backpacks as part of our research into juvenile dispersal.
On the 12th, the ‘Airstrip' was topped, as were the nettles on the old dung heap. Some other patches of nettles were topped, with a control group left, to monitor the effectiveness of this method of management by comparing stands next year.
One the 13th, a Conservation Team work party spent most of the day in constant heavy drizzle pulling Creeping Thistle from along North park hedgebank.
A Tree Pipit was flushed from long grass in House Park on the 19th and was fortunately vocal before alighting again in Kiln Close and disappearing under a mixed flock of about 30-40 Hirundines.
There have been lots of visitors to the field this month. On the 2nd and 3rd two groups from Torquay Museum - the Ornithologists and the Ramblers respectively - visited for LLP tours. Kestrels from the nearby barn were watched feeding over the field and a small mixed flock of Swifts and House Martins appeared when the sun eventually came out to feed on the insects rising from the grass. A few flocks of Siskin were seen, with their plaintive down-slurred calls overhead. Butterflies performed in the sunny spells too, and included Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Marbled White in good numbers.
The annual Bracken Bash event on the 5th had to be postponed due to torrential rain (31mm) and strong winds. Unfortunately, the rescheduled date of the 9th proved to be just as inclement (31.6mm) though at least the wind had dropped. However, by lunchtime everyone was completely soaked, having bashed only half of what needed doing. It was eventually finished off on the 16th.
The rain held off and we were extremely lucky with the weather for our next events. Neighbours Night on the 11th was extremely well attended with 29 local residents having a brief talk about the Trust in the barn and an evening walk around the LLP. On Supporters' Day, the 12th after an LLP slideshow, cake and a tour of the office, the sun broke through in time for our walk around the field and we saw some of the butterflies, most notably the Marbled Whites.
The fresh remains of a couple of Field Voles were found under the corrugate sheet by Kiln Close on the 12th, suggesting predation by a Mustelid, probably a Weasel. The first live Slow Worm was found under the corrugated iron sheet at the top by the Pennsland Lane hedge on the 19th.
By the 20th we had recorded 110.2mm of rain compared to 90.7mm for the whole of July last year, and the mean temperature for the month to date is 14.3°C compared to 14.6°C in 2007 and 18.7°C (14th - 31st June 2006).
By the 21st the crickets and grasshoppers were singing in earnest whenever the sun shone.
The wildflower strip across the top of the field, known as the ‘Airstrip', was topped for the first time on the 21st, having previously only been mown since its creation 2 years ago. More topping on the 23rd was undertaken to limit the spread of Creeping Thistle in the north part of Lurge.
Two owlets from the polebox were ringed in front of two guest observers on the 29th. A juvenile Stonechat also put in an appearance around Forde Orchard, presumably a dispersing individual from the moor, and stayed around until the end of the month.
A really exciting month, another first on the 3rd when we discovered that the Mallards had nested on the island.
Repeated glimpses of a Barn Owl hunting over the field throughout the month and then on the 15th great views of one quartering the field above the office just before 10pm. The next evening on a dusk walk watched a BO hunting the roadside of the field and it flew into the pole box and out again - could it be nesting? On the 23rd we were visited by Peter and Shirley Gregory, last year's draw prizewinners of a "day out with the conservation team". This seemed like a good time to check the polebox and we found a brood of 4 newly hatched Barn Owl young and one egg that could still hatch. There were 8 fresh voles in the box too, so no shortage of food for the family. The adult pair were both present so we weighed, measured and fitted rings to them before returning them to the box with their young. As we were doing this a Hobby was spotted flying over the field. We also checked the boxes we have in the farmstead adjacent to the field and ringed brood of 5 Kestrels one box. We saw an adult Barn Owl (male) roosting in one building and then found a female with a brood of owlets in another nestbox - three well grown and smaller one freshly dead. We fitted rings to the female and the young so that they can be identified if they are found again. Brilliant result, 2 pairs nesting within 500m metres of each other and to top it all at dusk on the same day we watched two adults (one from each site) hunting over the field within minutes of each other.
The grass and flowers in the field are looking wonderful but the wet and cold weather (for June) means that we have seen fewer insects and butterflies than in previous years. There are also not so many Swallows, Swifts and House Martins though we are seeing some. The new hedge banks are looking good and the area of Forde Orchard that was cleared is looking quite green now. On the 11th the conservation team and volunteers spent a day moving stones and cutting and pulling creeping thistle.
Overall it was a windier month than in 2007 and we lost a couple of trees on the steep slope in Riverbank Wood. There was 48.2 mm of rain throughout the month; less than in June 2007 when we recorded 138.4mm. The mean temperature was 14.0°C compared to 14.3°C in 2007 and 15.9°C (1st - 20th June 2006).
The month started with a Small Copper recorded during the butterfly transect in Kiln Close on the 1st with a mixed flock of House Martin and Swallow overhead.
On the 6th, the Conservation Team work party spent their time picking stones from along the new hedgebanks and spreading woodchip on the Forde Orchard access track. The same day the pair of Mallards was seen around the ponds again briefly. Later that evening, the rehabilitated Barn Owl brought to us just before Christmas with a head injury was released from the mobile aviary. It flew 20 yards from the aviary before starting to hunt!
On the 9th a male Pied Flycatcher checked out the nestbox just outside the BOT office window.
Patches of buttercups, stitchwort and speedwell are blooming beautifully amidst the seed heads of sweet vernal grass and the new North Park hedgebank is greening up well.
31st. Four Mallard ducklings + female seen around ponds
The first day of the month saw a Common Lizard sunning itself briefly on a patch of dead grass just down from the weather station before scurrying into the litter layer. This is only the second record for the LLP after one in roughly the same place mid-April 2007.
The next day a Fox was watched outside the office stalking chickens before disappearing into scrub behind the barn with nothing to show for his audacity.
On the 3rd the first butterfly transect of the season recorded 8 Peacocks, with a Small Tortoiseshell and a Green-veined White later the same day.
Next day, a Brimstone put in a brief appearance behind the barn. Spring finally arrived with the first 5 Swallows through northwards mid-afternoon accompanied by the sound of half a dozen Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in full song in the warm, sunny weather. Don't know what they thought of the snow showers a couple of days later though!
After several days of dry conditions it was deemed safe enough for the final stage of the capital works to start on the 7th with the fencing contractor setting posts in ready for the straining wire. Earlier that day, 3 Canada Geese had flown over the LLP heading north.
By the 14th the final landscaping was taking place in Forde Orchard, and a day later it was all finished and looks amazing.
On the 22nd a long-term supporter of the Trust brought a birding group from Norfolk and spent the morning having a guided tour around the LLP. Birds of note were few and far between but a Sparrowhawk showed well over North Park, and there were couple of Swallows over Shute Park. Butterflies included; 6 Orange-tip, a Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, three Peacock and a Holly Blue.
In the afternoon, a pair of Barn Owls was observed in the polebox by the road boundary. Interestingly, there was no evidence of occupation in the box, suggesting that these birds had taken up residence very recently.
The same afternoon, the North Park hedgebank polebox was replaced with the new, long-awaited polebox design.
25th - Another first for the field - a pair of mallards were seen swimming on the "Flo Pond" - the first birds recorded on the ponds, they were there again on the 26th. The first ladybird of the year was also spotted in the grass.
Five students from Plymouth University visited again and helped to clear scrub around the barn on the 5th.
A day later, a pair of Long-tailed Tits was observed carrying nesting material to the area of gorse and bramble behind the barn along the hedgerow.
By the 10th most of the works in the field were completed with an impressive stone bank and small section of new hedge bank in Forde Orchard and an impressive new hedge (along the original line) for the field known as North Park. Our contractor has now planted all the banks with a conservation mix of indigenous trees and bushes. All that now remains is the fencing. With quite a bit of turf removed during hedge construction there will be an opportunity for seeds dormant in the soil to germinate over the next year or two and we look forward to seeing what appears.
A singing male Blackcap on the 25th suggested spring was on its way.
A Kingfisher was first heard and then watched fishing for about 15 minutes along the Ashburn from the Trust's offices on the 6th before finally disappearing up-river.
On the 6th, 14 students from Plymouth University came and finished the scrub clearance on the edge of Corner Wood and tackled another scrub clump near the track. Their remit this time was to control rather than clear the scrub, so about a metre and half of growth was removed from the edge of the clump, leaving a sizeable area for nesting birds.
Also on the 6th North Park hedge bank hosted 27 Meadow Pipits, rising to over 35 by the 14th.
The stone faced bank in Forde Orchard is nearing completion and looks amazing.
The Kingfisher was heard again around the ponds on the 25th.
A Barn Owl was observed flying out of the Trust barn just before dusk on the 29th, heading off towards North Park.
Another mild winter resulted in the first Primroses being noted in bud in Corner Wood on the 3rd and the first Lesser Celandines in flower in Shute Park on the 7th.
On the 9th a male Sparrowhawk was seen in display flight from the field. This consists of slow wing-flapping combined with undulating flight, reminiscent of a butterfly, high circling and plunge-diving, usually in the presence of the female.
January remained mild, but very wet and windy, resulting in localised flooding in Ashburton on the 15th.
Two stray sheep appeared in the field on the 15th January and reappeared on the 17th but were politely asked to leave both times. They were just in time to see our contractor arrive with swing shovel and dumper truck in order to start the stone-faced hedge bank in Forde Orchard on the 21st.
An early Peacock butterfly was roused from its slumber by the briefest rays of sunshine before it started raining again, also on the 17th.
Work started in earnest in Forde Orchard on the 21st and continued for the rest of the month. Our contractor managed to find an impressive amount of stone on site during excavations, which is being used to make the stone-faced bank.
Life returned to the barn pond, with about a dozen frogs and heaps of frogspawn on the 23rd. By the 24th the welcome sunshine and mild weather had encouraged a Red Admiral out.
The beginning of the month saw a very unseasonal Buttercup in flower in Half Hatch on the 3rd. Resident Wood Mice were still active under the corrugated iron sheet also in Half Hatch until at least 11th.
The next day, five volunteers from Plymouth University came and moved the wood chipped from Forde Orchard into the aviaries, and took down the fence and loosened posts in Forde Orchard, ready for works to commence in the New Year.
On the 19th the remaining scrub was chipped in Forde Orchard and on the 20th the contractor was appointed to start the ground works in January.
The Conservation Team had a day in the field on the 14th and continued with work in Forde Orchard. Cleared scrub was chipped for use as mulch on the track and the bramble used in a ‘dry' hedge ensuring everything was reused. We are now waiting for quotes from contractors in order to get the new North Park hedge and Forde Orchard boundaries built this winter.
Volunteers from EDF Energy came on the 22nd to tackle scrub encroachment near Corner Wood. This is part of EDF Energy's Helping Hands scheme, where staff can use at least two days of company time each year to help support the local communities the company services. Hopefully they'll be prepared for a lot of hard work!
The weather has turned colder with the temperature dropping below -2°C on some nights and ground frosts in the morning which look spectacular on the long grass and spiders webs. The cold nights have meant clear skies and we've had some amazing views of the stars over the field.
One of the rehabilitated young Tawny Owls released in September is still around and very vocal, visiting the oak tree outside the office most evenings and calling frequently from the woodland.
A Red Admiral was watched sunning itself on the fence by Pennsland Lane hedge on the 25th.
The broken corrugated sheets in the grass (used to provide shelter for small mammals and reptiles) were replaced with corrugated iron sheets on the 27th. Two Wood Mice were found under the old sheet in Half Hatch during replacement.
Grazing continued into October and the cattle were removed on the 18th.
About 50 House Martins moved through over the woods and field on the 2nd. These migrants are one of the latest to move back southwards with some pairs still currently feeding young in the nest.
Wood mice have been found for the first time under the corrugated sheet.
The second Conservation Team work party took place on the 10th with more Forde Orchard scrub clearance.
Over 14 days 40.4 ml of rain fell, with 18.8 mls falling on the 16th alone.
Another volunteer work party took place with students from Plymouth University on the 31st. Twenty students came and worked amazingly hard, virtually finishing the scrub clearance in Forde Orchard. A very big thanks to them all.
Unfortunately, evidence of a dead Barn Owl was found on the 2nd. There were feathers in a couple of places above the barn. The way the feathers had been bitten clean through it was likely to have been a fox and although sad it is probably not unusual anywhere where Barn Owls tend to perch-hunt frequently. Unfortunately there was no trace of the body or legs so we were unable to tell if the bird had been ringed. This would have provided important information on where (and when) the bird had come from.
The annual grazing regime commenced on the 3rd with our local farmer putting on 10 cows, 10 calves and a bull. This will promote new growth in the spring and increase floral diversity whilst preserving that all-important litter layer so essential for small mammals, and therefore Barn Owls. Also on the 3rd a juvenile Wheatear was recorded on the North Park hedgebank.
The first Conservation Team work party set out on the 13th to try to tackle the scrub in Forde Orchard. Much of the smaller scrub was tackled with the help of the tractor but the more mature Gorse and Bramble needed a lopper, handsaw or chainsaw. After several hours of strenuous activity we all felt we had made a start. The volunteer work party on the 24th continued in the same vein and a couple more days should see the worst of it done.
On the 17th the first contractor paid us a site visit to quote for works on the planned North Park and Forde Orchard hedgebanks. On the 19th a young badger visited during the day giving some lovely views, it spent part of the time under the Trust's freezer room. A slowworm and family of field voles were found under the corrugated sheets in the field.
On the 26th a visit from Orchard Link gave invaluable advice on restoring this area to an orchard.
On the 6th 2 Tree Pipit, 2 Meadow Pipit and a Peregrine were recorded.
More Creeping Thistle control took place on the 9th in various areas including three patches topped by tractor in North Park. None were tackled in Kiln Close but the strips either side of the remnant hedge were topped. There were also patches done in the House Park/Hayes Close area.
The second and third records of Wall butterfly were recorded during the weekly butterfly transect on the 21st.
Barn Owls have been seen for most of the month foraging and perch hunting over the LLP field, making full use of the supply of small mammals in the rough grassland habitat.
The annual Bracken Bash was held on the 7th. Mercifully the weather was absolutely beautiful and in between bouts of ‘bashing' Sparrowhawk and Hobby were noted. Everyone had a thoroughly good time, so if anyone reading this is feeling like they've missed out, there will be more LLP volunteer events starting this September! Please contact us for details or check the News and Forthcoming Events pages on the website.
The grass seed heads have started ripening and the field has turned a rich golden brown although much of the grass has now been beaten down by the rain. Despite the weather the Mallow and Hedge Bedstraw are flourishing in the Pennsland Lane hedgerow and the Bedstraw smells wonderful as you walk past it.
On the 11th 95 Marbled White were counted, an LLP record, along with 71 Meadow Brown, 30 Small Skipper and 26 Ringlet.
The 24th was dry enough for members of the conservation team to get out and pull some Docks and the odd stand of Indian Balsam from various parts of the field, as well as the worst patches of Creeping Thistle.
Members of DEFRA visited for a rewarding day pulling Creeping Thistle on the 31st. The ten volunteers from DEFRA and BOT staff managed to remove 3 heaped trailer loads in Kiln Close. And the day was so successful we have another volunteer work party booked for September.
On 12th June committee members from Cornwall Wildlife Trust's Churchtown Farm Community Nature Reserve visited us for a talk and tour around the LLP field. On a beautiful sunny, warm afternoon we recorded a dozen Skippers, the year's first three Marbled Whites, and increasing numbers of Meadow Browns were noted.
On the same walk a male Beautiful Demoiselle was recorded by the Ashburn near Corner Wood. These are stunning damselflys, the males of which have a metallic blue-green body and are the only British damsels with all dark wings. Extremely sensitive to pollution, their presence serves as a reliable indicator of the excellent water quality of the Ashburn, which fringes the western boundary of the LLP and eventually runs into the River Dart at nearby Buckfast. A female Broad-bodied Chaser was also recorded in the same area. With yellow spots along the rather short body, individuals of this species can look like large wasps if seen at a distance.
The very next day, on June 13th Barbara Handley from the Hawk and Owl Trust also visited the LLP for a tour with some friends. Unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as kind, nevertheless a good time was had by all.
On the 21st we recorded the first Field Vole under the corrugate at the top of the field, and a Fox and Roe Deer hind along the back path on a solstice evening walk. A day later on the 22nd, a neatly timed butterfly transect walk between thunderstorms and torrential rain revealed 47 Marbled White, 37 Meadow Brown, 8 Small Skipper and 1 Small Copper.
All in all there were 20 days with rain in June totalling 138.4 mm !!!!
May started with glorious weather but quickly deteriorated to more usual spring conditions with some much-needed rain from the 6th onwards. Surprisingly, this inclement weather seemed to suit the dozens of Swallows, House Martins and one or two Swifts which turned up at about the same time to take advantage of the myriad of insects over the field and barn.
The new ponds continue to naturalise with the appearance of two large patches of Bluebells nearby. Some of the white variant of Bluebell have also appeared for the first time in the grassland near the edge of Corner Wood. Buttercups, Germander Speedwell and Common Bird's Foot Trefoil are all in flower in the grass now, and there is a stand of Fumitory along the path at Kiln Close. Our first ever stand of Yellow Archangel has appeared along the LLP lane boundary.
Large numbers of ladybird larva have been seen on and around one of the camera posts at the top of the field (Young ladybirds, called LARVAE, are strange-looking blue-black creatures with yellow spots. This larva spends three weeks eating hundreds of aphids and then turns into a PUPA. Six days later the pupa's case splits open and the adult ladybird climbs out).
The tadpoles in the large pond have started turning into froglets and are hopping around on the pond margins.
The mystery concerning the odd bits of bunny that have been turning up around the field is finally solved (pictured).
A Small Heath was recorded on the 23rd May in Kiln Close, constituting the first ever LLP record for this unassuming little butterfly.
The LLP nest boxes were checked on May 28th. Most were in use by either Blue Tits or Great Tits, but two boxes encouragingly had Pied Flycatchers.
By the end of May, up to 40 House Martins and a dozen Swifts had taken to feeding low over Kiln Close, and a male Pied Flycatcher was in song in Corner Wood.
Unseasonably clement weather continues in April, by the middle of the month one might have thought it was mid-summer.
Corner Wood is an absolute picture, with a carpet of Primrose, Lesser Celandine, Greater Stitchwort and Dog Violet.
A singing male Blackcap in the hedgerow along Kiln Close on the 3rd did nothing to persuade us any differently and stamped Spring's credentials to the LLP flag post. Half a dozen late Redwing which straggled through the same day however reminded us that winter may not yet have relinquished its hold. The first Swallow for the year was recorded on the 11th and the very next day the first Willow Warbler of the year was heard singing in the trees around the BOT offices.
The Butterfly Conservation Monitoring Scheme kicked off this month, with the first male Orange-tip and first Green-veined White for the year recorded on the 11th and 16th respectively. Also on the 16th, the LLP's first ever Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) was seen sunning itself briefly by the weather station but typically didn't hang around long enough for a photograph.
Various species of bumblebee and ladybird are in evidence in and around the field but also seem reticent about posing for the camera - watch this space!
At lunchtime on the 30th two Hobby came in from the south and we saw them thermal northwards up the valley.
This month we have had tadpoles hatch in the small pond by the barn. There have been primroses in Corner Wood and celandines and dandelions in the field. Several brimstones and one peacock butterfly have been seen. A goshawk has been hunting over the field and on 19th March two Barn Owls were seen in the Trust's barn together for the first time ever- hurray!
We have seen at least 30 frogs and have frogspawn in both of the new ponds in Forde Orchard. First evidence of harvest mice found in the field. Another wet month, 22 days with rain (202.2 ml), 27.99ml (over an inch) fell on the 22nd.
24 days with rain this month (161.2 ml) and a temperature range of 13.6°c to -2.6°c. A windy month with the strongest wind recorded at 46mph on the 11th. Frogspawn found in the barn pond on 22nd .