Fell Ponies

Ascot and Bee will be leaving tomorrow (Good Friday) after a first attempt at grazing rushes. They have clearly been eating clumps of rush round the edges of Big Meadow even if the overall rush coverage hasn’t changed a great deal. They have also been much admired for their decorative qualities and their occasional displays of teenage athleticism… and they have provided a useful source of manure for some of Fairfield’s gardeners. The FA will be discussing the experiment next month and will hope to decide whether pony grazing would be useful again next winter, perhaps at a slightly different time or even with larger numbers. In the meantime many thanks to their owner, Nicola Evans and to all the volunteers who kept an eye on them every day. They have been in good health throughout, and the picture shows Bee discussing with her vet last Friday the pros and cons of her annual flu and tetanus injection. The vet persuaded her to go for it.


Visiting the reserve with Claire Harris on Friday we disturbed a hare in West field which ran along by the  west and northern hedges then crossed into Lower Sowerholme, where we saw it again as well as a second one.


Whilst working on trimming the west hedge of the West Field this morning a group of volunteers had a really good sighting of a weasel. S/he seemed a bit cross at being disturbed and far from running away darted in and out of the hedge for several minutes.

I am also informed that the horse manure conceals a wealth of wildlife, mainly insects of course but also a newt was observed.

Volunteering session today, 12th March

Here is Jonathan’s message

Greetings All,

There’ll be a volunteer session at Fairfield Orchard, Fauna and Flora this
Saturday March 12th, starting at 10.00am and finishing at 1.00pm.
Please come along for as long as you can manage.

Here’s the To Do list for the session:

* Dig out (preferably) or cut out bramble in the Orchard especially around
the soft fruit hedge, in front of the bench at the south end and behind
the apple trees.
* Trim the West hedge of the West Field.
* Ensure that the West Field far gate is lambproof.
* Reinstate the wire fence in the Flora Field after hedging.
* Repair the gap in the hedge between the Orchard and the Pads footpath at
the bottom of the Towneley path.

In equine news, the two fell ponies are generating substantial amounts of
– let’s not be coy here – horse manure.
Volunteers with gardens are welcome to bring a barrow or bucket to share
in this bounty. This will NOT involve entry into the field. Rather, an
experienced volunteer will be on hand at the Big Meadow north gate from 12
noon on Saturday to collect and distribute the manure.

And another thing… the Hedge Working Party continues its work through
March meeting on Wednesday mornings at 9.30 at the Shed.
However, the group will NOT meet on Wednesday 16th March. The meetings on
the 23rd and 30th are provisional depending on the progress of spring
weather. If in doubt contact Ian (details below).

And there’s more… the second Big Brash Burning will be held on Thursday
10th March meeting at the Shed at 10am. We need people to haul the brash
from along the Flora Field hedge to the fire site please, and what else
could you possibly be doing on a Thursday morning?

And finally… we are beginning to put together a team of ragwort diggers
(not sprayers).
The work will start sometime in April and if you can spare some time to
keep control of this persistent plant please contact Ian.
Full training will be given along with the loan of a ragfork so you can
work in your own time, should you so wish.

Ian’s contact details are : sysaf123-volunteer@yahoo.co.uk OR 07811 970 595

And that is about your lot for this time,

Best wishes,

Oh, what a beautiful morning!

The wonderfully sunny and almost warm conditions suited the flush counting team this morning. And the snipe too must be finding conditions more to their liking. In contrast to the disappointing figures recently, today’s count set a new record.  Snipe were coming up so thick and fast and in all directions that it was almost impossible to keep track. And there may be some double counting as birds disturbed in School Pond settled into Big Meadow only to be disturbed again. But the tally of 160 snipe (7 of them jack), comfortably tops the previous high of 119 from 2nd February last year. The breakdown was Hay Meadow 6; Upper Sowerholme 1: School Pond  82 common and 3 jack; Big Meadow 64 common and 4 jack.

In addition we noted: 13 teal, 2 mistle thrush and 2 mallard in School Pond; 2 water rail along Lucy Brook in the Hay Meadow; 3 mallard on Friars Pond in Big Meadow and a meadow pipit; a great tit calling loudly from the south end of the Orchard.  To round things off nicely, there was a glimpse of a brown hare keeping a low profile in the Big Meadow marsh.

Bird sightings

Two song thrush in the West Field today reminded me of seeing a mistle thrush in the Flora Field on Tuesday (1st) and several field fare in the West Field yesterday (2nd). Today I also saw a moorhen and a pair of teal around School Pond and a snipe flew up as I passed Big Meadow.