A covering of snow such as we experienced at the beginning of January really makes the larger mammals easier to spot, though just two brown hares trying to remain inconspicuous in their forms, amid a sea of white, and looking like clods of soil from a distance, makes me wonder if their numbers are declining again. A fox foraging along a hedge bottom a little later would have almost certainly done so without me having any suspicion of its presence, though, in the still air the scent of others was still hanging.
Several Snipe were present during the cold spell. Normally these would be on their favoured still-water marshes but ice always drives them to pastures new – especially those with some flowing water where they can probe deep into some soft mud with their sensitive bills. Skylark numbers reached around 50 in nearby fields and Fieldfares and Redwings became very conspicuous in the unmanaged, berry-laden hedgerows. There was a noticeable movement of Lapwings, triggered by the conditions, but such cold-weather movements as they are known, once involved thousands rather than the few dozen individuals that I witnessed.
If anyone enjoys the meadow and would like to be involved in looking after it, please let me know. Call me on 9144896 or email me at email@example.com. There is nothing at all onerous in becoming a warden but many hands make light work and spread the load. Although I get down as often as possible there are times when a visit is needed to ensure that any extraneous risks or damage is recorded and dealt with, and helping out with the occasional work parties and the annual open day would be really appreciated.
Nature-wise it went very quiet after the snow melted away but singing Great Tits are a hint of spring and soon the first Brimstones and Small Tortoiseshells will be on the wing. I did see a few more Hares after my previous concerns for their numbers and of course March is the month noted for their crazy antics where, it is now known, the female boxes an over-amorous male; it used to be thought that the tussles were between males. The fields off Lings Lane are a good place to watch their antics.
You may have noticed that Meadows is now plural and I shall be incorporating notes on them both. You will now be wondering where the new one is (and some may still not have found the old one – follow the finger posts along Lings Lane). Well, the new one is near the burial ground by the bends on Wysall Lane and it is to become a wildflower meadow (unlike the existing nature reserve which is a relict pasture). The land was bought, with a great deal of foresight, a few years ago, but will not come in to use as a burial ground for some time and the council, after considering various options, decided that a community wild-flower meadow was the favourite.
As I write, the adjacent car park is under construction and this will be followed by cultivation and seeding of the one hectare (2.5 acre) plot, with great views westwards across the Wolds and Bunny Moor. The field has very well-preserved ridge and furrow and this historic aspect will be maintained and as the meadow matures, it will be colonised by threatened wildlife such as blue butterflies, making it a wonderful educational site for schools and families. The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust has given invaluable advice and financial assistance in establishing this new amenity, which it is hoped will be reaching its full potential within a couple of years. It will be fascinating to document the wildlife as it re-establishes on this habitat which was once so widespread in the English countryside but has now all but disappeared locally.
The cold soil from the cold winter, resulted in a delayed spring as far as flora was concerned, but I expect by now, i.e. early May, things are back to normal. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in late March showed no delay, and moths and butterflies were about on the first sunny days but I wonder if they were adversely affected by the later than normal blossom, leaves and catkins.
I have been captive breeding harvest mice since last September, when I acquired a pair. I hasten to admit that there are no special skills required to undertake this; just an understanding family, some tanks and two mice are all that it takes! Entertaining and endearing though they may be, I have to admit that we were relieved to see the mild weather of March since we were awaiting benign conditions for the release of some of these litters. There is plenty of suitable habitat in Keyworth Meadow and these mice have been found to breed there on many occasions so the release of a few extra will not upset the ecology. Hopefully, there will be a good population in the late summer of 2010 that would otherwise have been much reduced by the harsh winter and the severe predation that these tiny rodents suffer.
The sheet of corrugated tin in one corner of the meadow, is a makeshift refuge for appreciative creatures including grass snakes and toads but it was nice to see that one of the harvest mice had built an overnight shelter beneath it too.
A lot of trees have been planted around the burial ground meadow. We have used native British species; Hornbeam, Wild Cherry and Alder in keeping with the wildflower theme, (though strictly Hornbeam is not native to Nottinghamshire). We have taken advice from Naturescape (the wildflower farm at Langar) and if things go to plan we should be able to sow the field later this summer. There were a few nice species in the field before we started, some of which are still evident, including Pignut, Sorrel, Meadow Buttercup, Lesser Celandine and Yarrow and we will try to preserve these but the overriding objective is to eliminate the nettles, thistles and tough grasses before we seed the site.
There is a choice of mixes of wildflower seeds that we can select and one suited to the wetter conditions at the bottom half of the field is being recommended but whatever we choose, nature will ultimately determine what survives and does well. We are not promising a summer alpine pasture. What we hope will result is an old-fashioned meadow populated with the kind of plants that were commonplace in our great-grandparents’ time, and visited by the insects and other invertebrates that specialise in these species – especially the blue butterflies.
The other meadow (Keyworth Meadow?) has a large elm tree in one corner and following on from my success in finding the caterpillars of White-letter Hairstreak butterfly near Bunny Park I was hopeful that they were using “our” tree too – but no such luck.
As Keyworth now has (or will have) two meadows it’s become confusing – can anyone suggest imaginative names for them?
Not directly related to either of the Meadows, but I met with Mark Speck, a Conservation Officer with the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust in early May to consider options for their “Farmland Birds Bed and Breakfast Scheme” along Lings Lane. This was prompted by an enquiry from the local Guides group as it seems that they are dab hands at nest-box building and the Trust’s scheme promotes nest boxes and seed hoppers in suitable habitats to help boost numbers of declining farmland birds such as reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and especially Tree Sparrow.
Mark agreed that the area was ideal for their scheme and Marjorie and Tim Flint, who are marvellous neighbours to Keyworth Meadow and support our conservation efforts in many ways (as does Norman Davill, another farming neighbour) agreed to have the nest boxes and hopper sited in one of their fields. It will be interesting to see how the bird populations respond to these efforts, which should start, dare I say it, this coming winter.
Little Owls were very evident during our visit, Barn Owls are using the Rushcliffe Barn Owls project’s box and Tawny Owls were behaving nervously, suggesting successful breeding off Wolds Lane. A Common Tern was an unexpected but brief visitor to a nearby lake.
Preparation of the Burial Ground Meadow continues. It is crucial that the pernicious weeds such as docks, thistles and nettles are eliminated before seeding and they are proving to be difficult to get rid of. It may be that the field will not be ready for seeding until the spring. The trees that were planted around the margin and in the bottom corners are just about surviving, despite the drought. It is quite a trek up and down with watering cans but they have been helped out on a few occasions, though the hornbeams seem to have fared badly regardless.
The access path into Keyworth Meadow is in great need of a thorough work session as the Blackthorn on one side and the hawthorn on the other are about to meet up in places! Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Large White, Large Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell were all on the wing at the end of June.
Sunday morning work parties will resume on 17th October. If you can lend a hand we will meet at the top of Lings lane at 9.30am and our tasks will be to fix a ditchboard over the path through he marsh area, clear scrub, fix mesh to the stiles and clear scrub and the fallen tree. Also perhaps cut back the access path hedgerows. Wear suitable gear and come for as long or as little as you like.
There was a Jay again in early September making its usual foray away from dense woodland in search of acorns. The ponds were still dry despite the easing of the drought of early summer and this made the Water Mint with its intense aroma more accessible and there seems to be more Fleabane than ever.
Notts Wildlife Trust is to help out with the Burial Ground Meadow by raking out the thatch before sowing can commence. An earlier “investigation” in to how the thatch could be removed resulted in the Fire Brigade attending and I’m grateful to our closest neighbour for seeing the entertaining side of the spectacle!
Just a reminder (to the few who need it) that camping, camp-fires and throwing litter into the bushes is not permitted and the latter especially is very disrespectful. The Meadow exists for us all to enjoy for what it is – a quiet retreat / beauty spot – please don’t treat it as an urban slum.
Grass Snakes were the highlight of my month in the meadow; they are seen regularly by others but they had always eluded me. I managed to find two snakes and a sloughed skin during the month. Work parties resume there on17th October. Please meet at the top of Lings Lane at 9.30.
Seeding of the Burial Ground Meadow is going to have to be delayed as the sprays have not been sufficiently effective and we hope now to seed in late summer next year. We need to get it right.
A busy month also saw the provision of the Notts Wildlife Trust’s “Farmland Birds Bed & Breakfast Scheme” along Lings Lane (courtesy of Marjorie and Tim Flint). The feeding hopper (breakfast) will help Tree Sparrows and Reed Buntings (and others) get through the winter and the nest boxes (bed) will provide the communal site that Tree Sparrows like.
Unusually, I think, for early November, the meanders and ponds remain dry and this has enabled a thorough search for Harvest Mouse nests and the disappointing news is that I haven’t found any. So the fate of the captive-bred release population is unknown. (None were found on a training day at Watermead in Leics either so perhaps they’ve had a bad year generally).
Fieldfares were back in numbers with a few hundred present along with four Bullfinches and a Woodcock.
The feeding hopper on Lings Lane is already attracting Tree Sparrows with six present along with other commoner species. Previously I have only ever seen (or heard) the occasional Tree Sparrrow there so the “Bed & Breakfast” scheme is having a benefit already. I think six is the most I’ve seen together since the 1980s when they were still fairly common.
A few addition to the local bird list, some from November as I seem to have missed the submission last time: A Corn Bunting is only an addition for recent times as it would have been common here once but this is the first I’ve seen here in ten years. A Peregrine flew over on 14th to brighten up a work party morning. On Christmas Eve, a Jack Snipe flew from a ditch on Lings Lane and on Boxing Day, two Coal Tits were searching through Ash fruits. The latter is quite common locally (two have overwintered in my garden) but they prefer conifers usually.
I’ve seen none in the Meadow area but Waxwings have been around the village for a while. I’ve seen them on a few occasions and other (bigger flocks) have been reported to Notts Birdwatchers. Keep a look out on garden berry-bearing shrubs and trees until late April.
Working parties continue and your help is needed. Call me on 9144896 if you fancy a bit of useful exercise on Sunday mornings.
Woodcock continue to enjoy the cover provided by the less accessible corners of the reserve and are unintentionally flushed quite regularly and it’s nice to see a few Grey Partridges are still around. The best performance came from a Peregrine that was exalted by the prolonged high winds and put in the kind of aerial performance that is familiar on the Atlantic-facing cliff tops, gaining two to three hundred feet in no time and then mercilessly dive-bombing crows and anything else it could spot, just for the fun of it.
The Lings Lane feeding hopper has been re-erected away from the horses that found it to be a rather weakly constructed scratching post and is now being frequented by Great and Blue Tits as well as the intended Tree Sparrows. There’s a limit to the amount of seed that the Wildlife Trust can provide so if anyone feels like helping out please let me know.
Working parties have been busy tidying up the access track and hacking back brambles. There are a lot of nest boxes to erect that have been made to commemorate the centenary of the 1st Keyworth Guides so once again if anyone can help – let me know.
Temperatures soared (briefly) to 15°C on 24th. A Brimstone butterfly stirred from hibernation and a patch of Celandine flowers were fully open on that day but more normal temperatures soon returned and spring returned to the waiting room.
The Wildlife Trust is trying to help us out with establishment of the burial ground wildflower meadow. They were hoping to cut the remaining herbage and rake it off so that the herbicides will contact the “weeds” that were otherwise hidden. But the wet weather that followed that single mild day resulted in the tractor getting stuck very quickly and a more substantial tractor was needed to free them. Developing this field into a flower-rich meadow is proving difficult and there is still a large amount of thistle, nettle and fescue grass. Persistence with the herbicides should defeat the first two but the latter has thin waxy blades that resist contact with herbicide and may prove to be a more taxing problem.
For some years now, in late winter, a pre-roost gathering of Starlings has been a spectacle over the south-west side of Keyworth. Their aerial contortions have caught the attention of Sparrowhawks on occasions before they cascade into scattered roost sites - mainly tall leylandii hedges.