Snipe in School Pond

Out with the binoculars yesterday and spotted a total of four snipe visible in the reeds on the north edge of School Pond. Two were displaying their pale coloured fronts, stripes and long beaks. Nice to be able to see their features clearly as opposed to the usual fleeting glimpse as they fly off when disturbed by us on a flush count.

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas and New Year to all our Fairfield Volunteers! And don’t forget that the Hedge Working party resumes its work on Saturday 4th January 2014 from 9am. We can now proceed to work on the Flora West Field west hedge which is our top priority this winter. Then regularly every Wednesday, meeting at the Storage Building.

Little Egret

Turning the corner of the Pads path at the south end of Fauna around 12pm today, Paul and I caught a glimpse of a very white bird close to the Gleeson’s field hedge. It  promptly flew off towards Big Meadow. We both thought ‘little egret’, but looking on the RSPB website I was starting to doubt our identification. However. searching past FA wildlife blog entries pulls up sightings close to Flora/Fauna in January this year. And on the wonderful Birding Aldcliffe website there is mention of 39 little egrets roosting at Ashton Hall earlier this month. So now feel confident enough to claim this species for the reserve,

Volunteer saturday 14th December

Here is Jonathan’s message

Greetings All,

The final volunteer session of Fairfield Orchard, FAUNA and FLORA of 2013 will take place this Saturday, December 14th, starting at 10.00am and finishing around about 1.00pm.
Please come along if you can possibly spare any time. (Father Christmas on this one occasion is excused.)

Our activities will be many and various…

1. Graffiti removal in the playground.

2. Removal of leaves in the lane running down from Sunnyside Lane.

3. Continue the tasks already started in Flora, namely:
a. Dismantling the fence at boundary 3. Once down, we need to cut it into manageable sections and move it to Pony Wood for temporary storage.
b. Infilling hedge gaps with thorn saplings. These include saplings alongside the hazel hedge just built in the Orchard, one small section of the Pads hedge missed near the Orchard and then there is one more challenging section near the concrete wall.
c. Check again for reusable stone near the wall and the concrete trough near Aldcliffe Road.

4. New tasks in Flora:
a. Carefully dig two exploratory lateral trenches at the concrete wall to determine its foundations.
b. Make a plan as to how the former boundary 3 fence is to be re-erected as boundary 2 (after ploughing).
c. Investigate boarding in Pony Wood.

From the HWP desk:
The Hedge Working Party continues to meet every Wednesday (except Christmas Day and New Years Day!) from 9am until about 1pm but come along at your own times if you prefer. Meet at the Shed or, if later, look for us. The next Saturday meeting of the Working Party is the 4th January, again from 9am. Bring your own refreshments to the Working Party sessions.

Opportunities in fruit tree management:
Keith Taylor has been looking after the pruning of the fruit trees for some time but he is keen to pass on his knowledge so we are forming the ‘Fruit Tree sub-group’ of volunteers. Anyone who would like to learn pruning and fruit tree management skills, joining Jean who has already started, should mention this to Ian Procter who will give you the opportunity to spend at least part of your volunteering time working with Keith.

There’s more to February than St. Valentine’s Day:
One for the more distant diary. Steve Rider from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) is holding a hedge planting day at Freemans’ Pools in February. We had a similar session last year with a very good attendance from Fairfield volunteers. Hopefully we can do the same again as we receive wonderful help from the LWT, particularly in haymaking when it’s Steve and Reuben who bring their equipment, time and expertise to make it happen.
Details are:
Practical Conservation Day: Freeman’s Pools, Thursday 20th February 2014, 10am. Meet at the reserve on the cycle path from New Quay Road, Lancaster.
Bring stout footwear, waterproofs and a packed lunch.
If you can come please let Ian know on on 07811 970595.

And that’s your lot from me.

All being well I’ll see you on Saturday – I’ve spoken with my people and can personally guarantee that weather conditions will be perfect.

And if not Saturday, have yourself a wonderful Christmas and we’ll meet again damp, bedraggled and in all likelihood in need of a good workout and some fresh air in January instead. Marvelous.

Best wishes,

Off for a tasty snack?

Earlier this evening there was a tawny owl calling from the top of the (virtually) dead oak tree by Lucy Brook, just south of the Cromwell Road gate. It flew off with a downward trajectory and looked to be heading for the marsh. Had it spotted for supper one of those field voles whose traces we had noticed during the last flush count?

December Winter Flush Count

Graham, Paul and I went for our monthly winter wander through the fields and marshes of Fauna this morning.

On the snipe front, the tally in the Big Meadow marsh was rather disappointing. They were tending to rise in just ones and twos, and the total came to 24. More positive news though was that we put two snipe up in the Hay Meadow marsh, and School Pond yielded about 25. Three of these were possibly jack snipe. Paul had been reading his bird identification book before we went out. It contained useful information on how to distinguish between the two types on the basis of their flight. A snipe will take off when you are some distance away and fly on before landing again. A jack snipe will fly up from almost under your feet and promptly pop down again, probably behind you. (A woodcock, which resembles a large snipe, will clatter as it takes off and zigzag in flight.)

A heron was  around and about the whole time we were out. Graham spotted it first on Alder Pond. It was then seen flying along by the willows in the Hay Meadow. It then stood around in Big Meadow until we moved into there to do the flush count, When we walked home, it was stood in the Grammar School Field.

Another highlight in the Grammar School Field was a brown hare. Graham spotted it running fast along the line of the lynchets from the allotment side right across towards the Fauna footpath hedge.

Other sightings:

  • Hay Meadow: 2 great tit, 1 long tailed tit, 2 house sparrows all in the hedge row along Lucy Brook
  • School Pond: 11 mallard, 7 teal
  • Upper Sowerholme: 1 robin and 2 blackbirds in the boundaries. The pond and ditch were surprisingly quiet.

Graham was intrigued as to what had been eating the tops of the rushes and leaving the cores (visible as clumps of white bits). It was in the Hay Meadow, Big Meadow and Upper Sowerholme. Probably the cows? (They have clearly been in Upper Sowerholme despite our willow fencing attempts to keep them out.)