May Update from Swift Valley

Here are the latest observations from Neville, from his regular walk around the reserve:

Swift Valley in spring. 

The Winter program of hedge laying is looking fantastic with the hedges greening up nicely. Lush grass growth in the meadows (but no animals to graze them) Red Campion has been brilliant and Ragged Robin in the marsh looking good, Bluebells just going over.
Over the past couple of weeks Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiff Chaff, Robin and Common Whitethroat singing everywhere, Willow Warblers were present in good numbers but now gone through, Sedge and Reed Warblers now taking up residence in the marsh’s and the balancing ponds between the old canal and the new housing.This week saw the first Swift’s overhead, with their screeching calls as they journeyed northwards looking for food on the wing. Always a joy to see them, you know summer is just around the corner when they arrive.
10 species of Butterfly so far, Orange tips seen in good numbers with Large, Small and Green-Veined Whites now taking over.
There have been more and more visitors using Swift for their daily walk over the lockdown period, quite a few people finding the reserve only recently. All i’ve spoken to have been complementary about the work the volunteers have been doing, so well done for all your hard work.
On the down side, since the local refuse Tip has been closed we’ve had a number of Fly-tipping incidents to report at both ends of the reserve, the local Council, environment agency and the Police have all been supportive, both clearing up and tracking the perpetrators down. Some of our undesirable visitors managed to burn through one of the meadow bench’s and tried to set light to one of the old grass piles on the edge of the woodland, fortunately that didn’t catch light.

Hedgehog Awareness Week

It is Hedgehog Awareness Week during 3rd – 9th May, 2020. Please click on the link for more information. With so many of us spending time in our gardens right now, it is a great opportunity to make improvements to our immediate environment that will help their dwindling numbers, The information from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society will hopefully inspire you to make a difference!

Brimstone Butterfly

The male of the species is that most noticeable bright yellow butterfly, that is typically one of the earliest species to be observed in spring. The less glamorous female is still readily identifiable with a closer view.

This is peak season for their egg laying. This species is a very good example of native plant dependency. The foodplant for the larvae is the Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) or the closely related Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). Nothing else will do! In our gardens and surrounding countryside, the Purging Buckthorn is more common, as the Alder variety prefers a damper and acidic soil.

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Hedgehog “Pecking Order”

Tony Penycate, a local wildlife enthusiast, has kindly provided some hedgehog observations from his garden. where the hogs visit his feeding station. The pictures show two visiting hogs together, There is some sign of posturing and submission over who gets to the food first.

The smaller hog is standing tall to increase its presence. This is actually revealing the softer underside. The tactic seemiingly did not work, as it has then curled up into its defensive mode.

Feeding Time – I’m going first (I wish)
Feeding Time – I’m going first (I wish)
Ah – give up!

Observations from around the town

Margaret’s Mistle Thrush Nest failure

At the end of February 2020 my husband and I noticed a pair of mistle thrushes in our garden, they began to build a nest in the tree in the street in front of our house. Soon, one of them started to sit regularly on the nest. Even though it was close to our house, it was difficult to see the bird and impossible to see what was in the nest. After about two weeks we saw a rook in the tree and one of the pair of mistle thrushes trying to scare the rook away by dive bombing it.

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February 2020 Update

In the last few weeks, we have been able to focus on scrub and tree management in the reserve. We have cut back the scrub that borders the grassland opposite the zigzag path at Ashlawn Bridge. The subsequent regrowth that we get will give a more layered approach between the grass and the tree line. This new regrowth will be denser, providing a much better environment for small birds. The bare earth beyond the upper line of the grass in the picture shows some of the area that has been cleared.

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New Laid Hedges

Volunteers have been laying a hedge in two parts of Field 3. They have been working with scrub/trees that have gone way beyond the ideal growth stage for laying. The task is worthwhile, as the end result will provide some much needed dense low level cover for nesting birds. There will be an additional benefit of wildflowers emerging in the space between the wire fence and the base of the hedge.

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February 2020 Update

We have spend the last few sessions on clearing the scrub growth from Gun Hill Bank. This area had been cleared many years ago, but the scrub came back when active management was not continued. The aim is to now clear and keep clear, so that this section will be part of the open grassland corridor within the reserve. In time, we should see a restoration of beneficial wild flowers and grasses.

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