Monthly Archives: March 2014

In and around Fauna and Flora with Richard Storton and Tarja Wilson

We have held two outdoor sessions on the Open Learning Programme for which there are of course no slides or podcasts. The first was last October – a Friday morning threatening rain when a small group of 6 or so went round with Richard Storton. For some it was the first chance to get into the Flora fields and up to Pony  Wood. Richard talked us through the plans and the reasons for some of the choices – providing a habitat for the species we want to attract whilst giving public access and preservingthe landscape. We are hoping that Richard can do a return visit this summer in an early evening which will be easier for people to get to and could be lovely.

Richard is based is based in  Lancaster and is an RSPB wetland advisor. He has helped us with the management plans for the reserve

The second session was last Saturday afternoon a gorgeous early spring day. 25 of us went through the orchard and into Flora with Tarja Wilson who’s interest is managing hedges and hedgerow trees for the benefit of wildlife. Again there was an opportunity to go into the Flora fields and again discussion on the choices we face. The trees are a well loved landscape feature and attract interesting birds – flocks of red-wings feed from the berries in winter and on Saturday 3 reed buntings were in the venerable old Alder tree. However the crows and magpies perch on them patiently waiting for a movement in the reeds which enables them to spot a nest site and take the eggs – not encouraging for the snipe to nest there! 

David Loxam came with us and pointed out his 50 year old hedge-laying, as well as the way the banks were built up to create a dyke. We walked long the land which we bought from NACRO where the ancient strip system is still evident and heard what a nuisance that was for the tenant farmer who had two lots of rent to pay in one field. When you knolw what to look, for the history of the landscape is all around the Flora and Fauna  site.

Tarja,who is the Environmental Projects Officer for Lancashire County Council was impressed by the work of today’s hedge – layers and was full of praise for what isbeing achieved.

Open Learning Update, History Sessions

Hi All

The missing podcast, Mike Derbyshire’s talk on the agricultural history of the area, is now available. (Mike kindly repeated the lecture to a different audience as the first recording hadn’t worked.) Last weeks session with information on resources for historical research will be available shortly.

 After Easter  Ian and Ken who did the metal detecting will be presenting their finds, and talking to us about their activities around Lancaster.

We also have the oral history session on the web

So we will soon have a  lot of interesting source material and would love it if history enthusiasts would follow some of it up .  One Fairfield member is interested in children’s play, based around the playground so if any-one has contacts with elderly residents I am sure she would be keen to talk to them.

Another suggestion has been oral history based round the farming families in this area, and another a time-line illustrating the history of the reserve.

There is no deadline for any of this and as we have captured material on the website it can be picked up at any time – but do keep in touch with anything you do and feed in anything you know that could help others


Final flush count for this winter

Just Graham and me this morning, wading through the marshes. The reserve is really wet now. The rushes that we walked through last month on the edge of School Pond and now part of the pond itself and there is a lot of standing water lurking within the Hay Meadow marsh. The snipe are clearly still happy with the habitat. 14 flew up from School Pond, 20 from Big Meadow and Upper Sowerholme recorded its highest score of the season with 5. Lower overall than last month, but this is to be expected as the birds move off to pastures new. I saw Richard Storton afterwards and he was impressed with the tally. In fact, he is optimistic about the chances of snipe breeding on the reserve. He says that we are most unlikely to ever find a nest, but if drumming behaviour is observed that is strong evidence that the snipe are breeding. Apparently the snipe fly high up in the air and then drop like a stone, the noise being generated by their tail feathers. A weird noise apparently, most likely to be heard around dusk on a still evening. Let’s hope someone hears them!

Volunteering Saturday 8th March

Here is Jonathan’s call to arms for what we hope will be a major step forward for Flora

Greetings All,

There’ll be a volunteer session this Saturday, March 8th, starting bright eyed and full of wonder at 10.00am, and finishing bedraggled but highly contented at 1.00pm.
Please do come along if you possibly can, for as long as you can manage. All help is, as always, very much appreciated.

For the benefit of newcomers – we will meet up at the Storage Building on the footpath at the Sunny Side Lane end of the orchard.
If you’re late and don’t quite know where to go, you should find a nice person to point you in the direction of Ian Procter. Ian will be the one looking resplendent in his high-visibilty vest.

Our agenda this session couldn’t be simpler: the planting up of Flora’s Pony Wood and the extension of the wood down the hillside toward Little Wood.
We have over 500 saplings to plant so this is a really important job and we hope for another big turnout of volunteers.

It’s been wonderful to have so many volunteers at recent sessions – a very big thank you, especially if you’re one of our orchardeering newbies – and hopefully we’ll be able to keep this momentum up for the foreseeable.
There’ll be a party of Lancaster University students to help this Saturday but we still need as many local people as we can muster.

Please bring a spade if you have one.

And that’s your lot from me for now,

Hope to see you on Saturday,
Best wishes,



Was it a snipe? Was it a woodcock?

I flushed a bird at the bottom of my garden yesterday. It came from the hedge on the right and flew over the garden, gradually gaining height, heading for Fauna. I assumed it was a snipe given there are so many around but bumped into Jon later who thought it was more likely a woodcock. It came from the side where the next garden is very overgrown with a lot of dense vegetation, patches of mud and standing water. Has any-one seen woodcock around the reserve?