Winter wildlife

The Hedge Working Party were mainly working near Pony Wood this morning and so had a look in the wood for the recently reported little owl. We didn’t see that but we did put up a brown hare which went bounding off through the wood.

Later I had a lovely sighting of a mistle thrush in the Orchard

Orchard Bee-fly

In the Orchard area today (05.05.2017) and so many animals flying around now, despite being a windy day. Seeing several old favourites for the first time this year which is always a good feeling but the highlight must be seeing the Dark-edged Bee-fly here for the first time at Fairfield.

Fly of the Day – Bombylius major
One of 11 species that we have in the Bombyliidae family of flies and a fairly common one seen in a variety of habitats including gardens occasionally. It looks like a smallish chestnut bumblebee with a long proboscis which might look a bit like a stinger but this fly is totally harmless to humans. The proboscis is able to get the deep nectar from primroses, etc. It is looking to lay its eggs by the nests of solitary bees so that its larvae can attack them although it often doesn’t ‘lay’ but rather fires its eggs using rapid back and forth flying motions. The female has a special ‘sand chamber’ in which it can mix sand and dust with the eggs to give them more weight so that it can fire them more effectively! This photo was taken at the start of the orchard at the Sunnyside Lane end.


Hoverflies in the Orchard

Lovely sunny day so visited the Orchard this afternoon (23.04.2017) to enjoy the wildlife. So much buzzing about! I like the top path – the path is mown but the vegetation around is allowed to grow. Lots of interesting flies, bees and wasps make use of this. Lots of Speckled Wood butterflies and male Orange-tip Butterflies. Saw over a dozen of the latter but no females with their black tipped wings.

Spent some time watching which insects were visiting the apple blossom. Most numerous were the honey bees, these being followed by several species of hoverflies and other flies, with finally just a few solitary bees. There are many factors influencing numbers such as time of day, weather and, not least, the influence of the observer (me). Social and solitary bees are fairly tolerant of human proximity but flies are much more ready to fly or stay away at any sign of human movement.

Hoverflies are called the gardener’s friend because not only are they valuable pollinators but in their larval stage (the caterpillar stage) many are voracious aphid carnivores. I took a photo of two species of hoverfly on the apple blossom – a Syrphus (black and yellow wasp-mimic) and a Platycheirus albimanus. It is just possible to see that the Syrphus is a male (the eyes meet at the top of the head) and the P. albimanus is a female (the eyes are separated at the top of the head).

Two hoverflies

Two hoverflies

Fly of the Day – Platycheirus albimanus
A widespread and familiar hoverfly that likes woodland margins, hedgerows and gardens and that is especially conspicuous in May. The larval stages are predaceous on aphids on various plants and bushes including on apple trees so they, and other hoverfly larvae, will be important contributors to Orchard health.

Platycheirus albimanus

Platycheirus albimanus

Teal and thrush

Three teal on Alder Pond this morning, plus a song thrush in the Orchard.

Also, I have been meaning to report that the Hedge Working Party observed a hare in Lower Sowerholme on 25th January.

Volunteering session Saturday 14th January

Sorry I didn’t give notice of the session as I thought the blog was ‘under repair’. Now I know its back up and running here is the report of what we did.

A rather disappointing turnout of only 11 volunteers on a lovely winter’s morning. Problems with temperamental hedge trimming machines also made for a poor start but once under way we got a lot done:

  • We finished weeding the wildflower plot of couch grass.
  • The root-suckered blackthorn alongside the Fauna path was cut back.
  • We finished off cutting back bramble invading Carr House Meadow. This will need further work digging out the rooted stems.
  • The willow living screen alongside the School pond was trimmed, repaired and strengthened. Still a lot to do here.
  • The pruning of the Orchard fruit trees continued.
  • Corrugated iron sheets were transported to Lower Sowerholme in readiness for further brash burning.
  • The very much overgrown and underused ‘log benches’ in Pony Wood were taken up and used to create a habitat pile within the wood.
  • Brash from hedge laying which had strayed onto the Stump Circle was dragged back into the woodland.
  • A broken strand of barbed wire near the Ash Tree dogleg on the Fauna path was repaired.
  • Two tables and a gazebo were erected for the afternoon wassailing.

More butterflies

Lots of whites flying in the wetter areas of the meadows today, and this Green Veined White was enjoying bramble flowers next to the Fauna path. Also spotted were Meadow Browns, a Gatekeeper preferring bindweed at the south end of the orchard, and Speckled Woods.



Dragonfly paradise in the reserve today with at least three species around Alder Pond, where we watched one pair dipping tails into the water laying eggs continually for ten minutes or so. In the orchard a Common Darter took a rest on a bench long enough to be photographed.

Common Darter

Common Darter

Wildflowers and (reported) owl sightings

Whilst preparing for the Ragwort Working Party yesterday morning a woman passing by told us that she had seen baby barn owls at dusk on the top of the shed stone wall. She said that they and their parents could be heard calling to each other in the trees. We looked and listened after the volunteer session last night but without result.

Newly observed flowers include teasels in the Orchard:


The first of our wildflower plugs in flower: greater bird’s foot trefoil:


And what I think is bloody crane’s bill in the Hay Meadow


Butterflies in the Orchard



The comma (above) and (below) what we think was a gatekeeper ( it was more orange than the photo suggests and than the meadow browns )  were both seen in the hedgerow on the southern side of the Orchard yesterday afternoon. Also present, were a skipper and large whites.