30 Days Wild – Day 30: At Last!

Sorry for the late post of this the last day of 30 Days Wild, but my 30th day was spent on the road. On my travels I passed through areas of the country that I have lived in during years gone by. It was interesting to see that there were buzzard almost everywhere, I remember when it was necessary to go west to at least the Welsh borders to see one. I also saw red kite, once so rare that a special trip was the only option if you wanted a glimpse of one.

As my post is late it coincides with National Meadows Day, so I will mention one of the other things I noticed on my travels, the verges and how they were managed. I was mostly on the motorway network so much of the grass was long, with scattered banks of scrub. I was disappointing to see the particularly wide banks of grassland beside the M6 Toll road being mown short even right to the top and the cuttings left lying, it looked very “neat” but was a disaster for wildlife. I don’t know if it was because it was a toll road but this was thankfully the only section I saw getting quite such brutal treatment.

Incidentally I make no apology for not applying the strict definition of a meadow, that is a field where herbage is cut as a crop, dried in the sun and removed to feed livestock, there are rather few of these now. For my purposes, if it is a grass and hopefully, herb mix that is maintained with little or no spring grazing, it could be a meadow as far as most of the species that use meadows are concerned. So wide verges, roundabouts, golf course rough and corporate greensward all count.

As I said I spent the day on the road, in fact it was also part of the night as well, due to road closures and subsequent detours. On the nocturnal part of my journey I saw a couple of foxes and another recent addition to south-east England, a polecat, which trotted across the road in front of me as I was navigating a back route alternative to the A34.

Today I was at Lepe Country Park, where they were opening a new sensory garden, put together by staff and the Friends of Lepe, it is very fine and well worth a visit. Many years ago I used to work at Lepe and one of the projects I did then was to add what is now the meadow area at the north of the site onto the Country Park. It had been a deep ploughed cereal field but we seeded it and thirty years on is a meadow afforded SINC (Site of Importance for Nature Conservation) status. I took a quick look today and it was alive with butterflies, maybe not an old meadow but a great one for wildlife. This is one of the wonderful things about grassland, a relatively few years of good management can produce something of real value for wildlife. Despite this it is trees that get planted all the time as good for nature conservation, yet most of these secondary woodlands will still be struggling to reach anything like their potential in a few centuries. Plant a tree if you must, but make a meadow if you can or persuade someone who manages grass to step back and appreciate that they manage a wonderful habitat, not a green carpet. With a little imagination we could be surrounded by meadows.

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Thirty Days Wild – Day 1

I signed up for “Thirty Days Wild” this year, the idea is to try to have some sort of wild experience everyday, that is to get outside and experience something that the natural world has to offer. It could be taking notice of birdsong as you walk to the station, watching bees nectaring at dandelions or going out onto  a heath to marvel at nightjar’s dusk antics.

I confess I try to do 365 Days Wild myself and so try to make an entry into my notebook for everyday, there is always some sort of wildlife to be experienced, that is the great thing about it, you never know what will come along and everyday has possibilities.

So onto Day 1, a little late I know but I was away during the first week, which got me off to a really wild start, but prevented me uploading anything.

Pictures from Day 1 were:

flowery roadside

Flowery Pembrokeshire vergeside

I was staying in West Pembrokeshire and was really struck by the profusion of flowers along the verges, something we don’t get so much in Hampshire. In fact my nearest round about to home is very rich in wildflowers but is mown heavily, usually just as they are starting to flower. The result of lots of flowers was a mass of insects such as this swollen-thigh beetle.

swollen-thighed beetle

swollen-thigh beetle

We finished the day by the sea where the flowery theme continued, with masses of thrift.

trift on rock

Thrift growing on rock by the sea

It is not too late to sign up for Thirty Days Wild (or perhaps 20 Days now) just visit http://www.hiwwt.org.uk  to sign up.

One for all the Mothers

To avoid confusion perhaps I should say “Moth-ers” as I mean those interested in moths rather than the producers of off-spring. Although actually I would hope mothers and everyone else would be interested too as this is about not just moths but what kind of world we want to live in.

On Friday we ran a moth event at Blashford, sadly only one person turned up, which was a shame as we had our largest catch of moths this year. Two moth traps had been run overnight and we had caught almost ninety species, an illustration of the huge diversity of moth species flying at this time of the year. In addition I also run a trap in my own garden and altogether I have seen well over one hundred species in the last two days!

I will not list all the species, but we had some large and impressive species such as elephant hawk moth, poplar hawk moth and buff-tip, as well as lots of smaller but nonetheless beautiful ones. The many clouded border were interesting as none are exactly alike. We caught one new species for Blashford, another micro and again one of the Pyralids, Rhodophaea formosa, just like the previous new record featured in my last post. It is described in the book as “local, but perhaps spreading” and lives in hedgerows, so should not be short of habitat.

Rhodophaea formosa

Rhodophaea Formosa

Personally it was my garden trap that caught the stand-out species though, a fine female four-spotted footman.

four-spotted footman, female

four-spotted footman, female

In the picture you can only see two of the spots, there are two on each fore-wing, making four in all, however it is usually males that are seen and they have no spots at all. The other notable species and one I rarely see, was the small chocolate-tip.

small chocolate-tip

small chocolate-tip

I am delighted to say that my one attendee at the moth “event” did seem to really enjoy it and went away inspired to make and run her own trap at home.

The huge diversity of moth species to be found, even in a suburban back garden shows us just how much wildlife is out there and which we hardly see, there is no part of even our built up cities that is not habitat for some species. Although nature reserves may hold the greatest range of species we need to consider everywhere as wildlife habitat. There is no need for industrial estates and corporate head quarters to be surrounded by closely mown carpets of rye grass, be bold, let some wild flowers grow, contribute something to supporting wildlife and save money on grounds maintenance into the bargain! There has been much in the press recently about providing for bees and other pollinators, but actually we could do this quite easily by just modifying mowing regimes and benefit lots of other wildlife at the same time. The local highways authorities could lead the way by setting an example with roadside verges and round abouts, many of which are still ruthlessly over mown. A truly Living Landscape needs these opportunities to be made the most of, if we give a little thought we can all make small space for wildlife and together make  a big space and wildlife can be inspiring, as the moths in our traps demonstrated.

In more general Blashford news, the great white egret is occasionally being seen, usually outside Ivy North hide, on Ibsley Water there were at least 3 common sandpiper and in front of Tern hide a brood of three little ringed plover chicks.

Do something for wildlife today!