Wildlife Diary 2010

December 2010

Snow at Waterleat December 2010

Snow meant that Waterleat was inaccessible by anything other than 4WD vehicles for several days

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).

Pictures of Barn Owls in winter

November 2010

LLP View 13

View across the top of Forde Orchard to the Wildlife Tower (still under construction)

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.

LLP Forde Orchard Hedgebank Creation

October 2010

LLP View 7

The view south from the top of the Lennon Legacy Project – on a clear day you can see for miles

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

September 2010

LLP Wildlife Tower construction

The LLP Wildlife Tower under construction

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.

August 2010

Matt Twiggs Forde Orchard Apple Tree

Matthew inspects the young Apple Trees in Forde Orchard

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

July 2010

LLP brush mower staff Matt Twiggs [Caroline Lewis] 050710 (B)

Conservation Officer Matthew battles with the brush-mower on the steep slopes

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

June 2010

Roe Deer LLP [David Ramsden]

Roe Deer

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.

May 2010

LLP Butterfly Small copper [Chris Richards] 270706 (B)

Small Copper Butterfly and Six-spot Burnett Moth on Creeping Thistle

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.

LLP pictures of butterflies

April 2010LLP celandine flower habitat 1 [David Ramsden] 110410 (A)

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.

LLP pictures of flowers and grasses

March 2010

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

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 butterfly 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

 February 2010

LLP Forde Orchard tree planting - Mark Lockett

The fruit trees in Forde Orchard were planted in appalling weather

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.

Brown Trout found in the Flo Pond

Brown Trout found in the Flo Pond

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.

 January 2010

Barn Owl Trust office in snow

Snow made access by vehicle to the Trust very difficult for a while

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 and on the 12th another 4″ of snow fell, what is now hoped to be the last this winter.

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.

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