Wildlife Diary 2007

December 2007

LLP volunteers Forde Orchard Plymouth University Students

Plymouth University Students help to clear the scrub in Ford Orchard

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.

LLP guided walks and events

November 2007

Wild rehab Tawny Owl at night

A released rehabilitated Tawny Owl was seen regularly outside the office

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.

Pictures of Barn Owls, Little Owls and Tawny Owls

October 2007

LLP House Martin flying over rough grassland

House Martin catching insects by flying over rough grassland

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.

September 2007

LLP Cattle Livestock Grazing [Chris Richards] 050906

The cattle are a vital part of our land management

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.

August 2007

LLP wild Barn Owl perched at night

A Barn Owl takes advantage of a fence post whilst hunting in the LLP – the colour ring on its leg allows us to identify individuals

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.

Pictures of Barn Owls perched hunting

July 2007

LLP staff and volunteers bracken bashing

Staff and volunteers bracken bashing in Kiln Close

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.

 June 2007

LLP Marbled White butterfly [David Ramsden] 080606 (A)

Marbled White butterfly

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 !!!!

LLP pictures of butterflies

May 2007

LLP fox in rough grassland

Fox seen in daylight in the rough grassland

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.

April 2007

LLP lesser celandine, common dog violet, lesser stitchwort

Primrose, Lesser Celandine, Greater Stitchwort and Dog Violet 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.

LLP pictures of flowers and grasses

LLP pictures of butterflies

March 2007

Primroses

Primroses in Corner Wood

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!

The Lennon Legacy Project. A true story . . .

February 2007

Two Frogs

Sunbathing Frogs

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.

 January 2007

LLP Frog and frog spawn

Frog and frog spawn

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.

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