Monthly Archives: June 2014

Volunteering Wednesday 25th July

The Wednesday evening session attracted seven volunteers.

  • The Orchard grass was mown in the afternoon which allowed us to experiment with mowing the carefully strimmed area between the Orchard path and the Pads hedge. With the mower on its maximum height and in second gear it worked very well and we should, over time, get this area to grass.
  • With a view to continuing this process the slashing and shearing of the long grass and nettles around the fruit trees continued, followed by strimming.
  • The fence between the track and Little Wood was made secure, hopefully to prevent any further ‘camping’ in there. We do need to make an entrance from the woodland extension side for our own maintenance.
  • The clearing of the playground for Fun Day was completed, paying particular attention to any nettles around the benches, as mentioned at the AGM.
  • Several sycamores in the Pads hedge adjacent to the Orchard were pruned right back and covered with black bags to (hopefully) curb their growth.
  • Overhanging shrubs, trees and nettles were cut back along the Orchard paths.

Thrush and flowers

Very good sighting of a song thrush perched on one of the Orchard apple trees this morning. Also noticed the first of the Brown Knapweed in the Orchard plus Yarrow coming out near the Fauna Stones and some Marsh Willowherb in the Big Meadow.

Richard corrected my identification of a plant in my post of June 20th ‘Wild Flowers’ – it was not Common Bistort but its near kin Redshank. The wildflower photo collection has been amended.

Bird sightings by Richard

Drip’s last post mentioned that a group of FOG members went round the reserve with Richard Storton from RSPB on Friday. The main aim was to get feedback from Richard on the progress of the reserve (e.g. wetness levels, sward condition, development of vegetation – desirable or undesirable). Overall Richard was most impressed and happy with the way things are developing. His principal concerns are that:

  1. the sward is too high in West Field (not currently being grazed because the White Park herd are unhappy being split to meet Natural England’s stipulation that only three cattle are allowed here during the breeding season)
  2. West Field Scrape is too dry because there is probably still a field drain that has not been blocked
  3. Upper Sowerholme is too dry because of the persistent leak in Anna’s Pool

None of this was a surprise as these problems are already being addressed by FOG.

We questioned Richard about the sudden explosion of water figwort in the marshes in the Hay and Big Meadows, and he will be looking into the causes and consequences of this.

Although concentrating on the state of the reserve, Richard was still alert to the birds. He picked up the call of reed buntings, and then spotted several flitting between Big Meadow and School Pond. He thought there was a good chance they were nesting in the rushes. On the boundary between Big Meadow and Lower Sowerholme he noticed starlings and house sparrows, both including young birds. When we started talking about grey partridge, Richard mentioned that he had seen two pairs in Flora Field a couple of weeks ago when he was sat out in Pony Wood looking for lapwing nests. First he saw one stick its head out above the wheat crop, then they all had a bit of a set-to which gave him a good sight of the others.

More wildflowers

Several us went on a very interesting tour of the Nature Reserve today with Richard Storton, our advisor from the RSPB. New wildflowers noticed were Meadowsweet at the edge of the Hay Meadow, Deadly Nightshade, Orange Hawkbit and Fool’s Water Cress in  Upper Sowerholme, Common Bistort, Shepherd’s Purse and Brooklime in Big Meadow, Pineappleweed in West Field and Phacelia and Borage growing as part of the bird and bee friendly sowing in the Arable Field. Most of these are in the collection of wild flower photos but I seemed to delete some by mistake so they will have to wait for another time!

Flowers

I have been all round the Reserve today doing various jobs and noting some wild flowers in remoter parts. These include black medick (in the gutter in Sunnyside Lane near the acupuncturist) and foxglove (under the Aldcliffe Road wall). Perhaps these are just outside the reserve??? But well within our boundary are ox eye daisy and common meadow rue in the West Field. There are very few wild flowers in this field due to its history of heavy fertilization so it is nice to find a couple of interesting ones. People will have noticed the flourishing crop of bird friendly plants in the arable field. One of these is in flower and google research showed it to be Fodder Radish. Not in the wildflower books but worth recording I think. Underneath the Aldcliffe Road wall, which has escaped fertilization I found one of the hawkbits. I am not good at distinguishing these but I think it is Smooth Hawk’s Beard.I will be posting pictures of these plants in the wildflower collection plus a photo of cleavers or goosegrass which gets everywhere and is unpleasant but we must not discriminate against the weeds.

Visit to Heysham Moss Nature Reserve

Reuben Neville about to release 2 Large heath butterflies

Reuben Neville about to release 2 Large heath butterflies

On Sunday morning a small group of Fairfield members visited the Wildlife Trust site at Heysham Moss. The forecast was for heavy showers – in fact we spent the mornng in the warm sunshine. We watched as Reuben Neville released 2 Large Heath butterflies, reared in captivity ( see photos) before exploring the reserve. The site (an SSI)has three habitats: meadow ( grazed by 3 of Bill Grayson’s Redpoll), woodland and raised peat bog.The peat bog is of special significance, 3 m deep it has taken 4 thousand years to form and is home to specialized plants which can thrive in the acidic nutrient – free environment. We saw the carniverous Round-leaved Sun-dew which digest insects, learned about the medicinal properties of the highly aromatic Bog Myrtle, and the war-time use of Sphagnum Moss as a dressing and spotted Bog Rosemary and Wild Cranberry amongst the pink flowered Cross-leaved Heath and Cotton Grass.
The bog was alive with dragon flies and damsel flies and the margins with bees – truly a wild and magical place.Large Heath Butterfly on Bog Myrtle

Lapwing sightings

Went into the arable field yesterday evening from the Howson’s gate. Immediately 4 lapwing rose from the wheatfield mewing their alarm. We hid by the gate into Lower Sowerholme and two dropped down – one on the Sowerholme side, the other just over the ridge where we had seen one previously in the wheat. I walked out again for Ian to try to get some photos – each time we came into the open they were up again – it seemed somewhat unkind. Will post some photos shortly

Volunteer session 14th June

Here is Jonathan’s message

Greetings All,

There’ll be a volunteer session at Fairfield Orchard, Fauna and Flora this Saturday, June 14th, between 10.00am and 1.00pm.
We meet at the tool shed on the footpath towards Sunnyside Lane, but not to worry if you’re a little late – you’ll have no problem finding us.

Tasks on the agenda for this time include…

* Mow the Orchard paths.

* Clean graffiti from the playground.

* Clear encroaching nettles in the playground in preparation for Fun Day.

* Strim the Orchard area between the main path and the Pads hedge. We are particularly trying to keep the nettles down in this area.

* Cut back and clear further areas of nettles around the fruit trees.

* Prune the hawthorn / blackthorn in the fruit hedge round the Oak circle which are currently overwhelming the soft fruit.
There is also the odd sycamore and elder to get out. In addition, the path is narrowing here so some work is needed cutting back encroaching growth.

* The path from the Stump Circle round the back towards the house is getting narrow and overgrown and should be cleared.

* Trim around benches and stumps.

* Continue to trim the worst overhanging vegetation on the Long Pads path – this is just a trim with shears NOT a pruning which might disturb any birds.

* Plant out some donated water loving plants near Anna’s Pool.

Of special interest to firewood collectors: the gates of the Paddock and Lower Sowerholme fields will be open for firewood collection although the wood in the former is now in large logs which will require sawing up. Note also that the Fairfield Association only allows chain saws on its land if the operator is trained and properly equipped.

And that’s all for now. Please come along if you possibly can,

Best wishes,

Jonathan.