Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Buddleia, butterflies and controversy part 2

Hello dear reader. Not much to report except that the nice people at Butterfly Conservation kindly emailed me a list of native nectar plants for our british butterflies, moths and pollinators and like I said before, as soon as I got the list, I'd publish it.

So here it is:


Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense
Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg
Wild Marjoram Origanum vulgare
Common Knapweed Centaurea nigra
Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Heather Calluna vulgaris
Wild Thyme Thymus polytrichus
Hemp Agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum
Common Fleabane Pulicaria dysenterica
Red Clover Trifolium repens
Common Ivy Hedera Helix
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Primrose Primula vulgaris
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum
Teasel Dipsacus fullarmum


It's interesting to see that the majority of the above plants, would be considered by your average gardner to be weeds. Yet, some of these plants wouldn't look out of place in a victorian garden. This, I imagine, is one of the reasons for the decline in our pollinators. With technology came the ability to grow and transport large exotic plants around the world, and lets face it, given the choice I would imagine most home owners would pick a lovely looking Dahlia over a Yarrow any day. The thing is, the Yarrow probably has more nectar within it than the Dahlia which has been purely bred for looks alone, nothing else. Our gardens may look full of wonderful colour, but they are basically a pollen desert! And what's worse is that these plants, using their bright bold colours, shout out to every passing insect "GET IT HERE!" When the insect uses all its energy to go and get IT, the poor thing finds meagre offings of nectar. So, it's wasted a lot of energy and time visiting plants for little reward which can only affect how a species lives and breeds.
When you think about the creeping thistles, brambles, clovers and teasels, where do you see these plants in the wild? Teasels, thistles and brambles can be seen along the highways and motorways of the UK. However, the poor insects have to gamble getting splattered by the cars and trucks whizzing past over getting a meal. Our parks and public spaces are well maintained with mown grass fields that are rich in clover and birds foot trefoil, however, they're mown so often, they very rarely get the chance to flower. My mother's lawn is riddled with clover and last year she didn't mow it as often as the average lawn needs mowing. The amount of bumblers (as my wifey calls them) that visited her garden was amazing. My mother isn't very much a nature type person, but she did comment that the continual sounds of bees buzzing all day was a lovely background noise.
I can also attest to the wild thyme too. Last year this was growing in my garden and it was always covered in bees from the moment the sun rose. I used to actually stroke the bees as they were busy feeding, they didn't mind at all (I know, I'm a hippy).
So there you have it peeps, for those of you who want to keep it native. It won't be long (fingers crossed) till spring is finally here. Already I've heard of a few people finding some moths out west, so I might dust the moth trap off and give it an airing this weekend, weather permitting of course. I'll let you know what I find. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Buddleia, butterflies and controversy!

Buddleia, buddleja, butterfly bush or summer lilac. Whatever you choose to call it, I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about, Buddleia davidii
A hardy shrub that grows just about anywhere including brownfield sites, on the sides of buildings and I've even seen it growing out of a chimney stack in Ipswich town centre. It's branches reach up and arch over, tipped with perfect conicals of small lilac or purple flowers, I've even seen a white variety. They have a beautiful, delicate scent which is more noticeable after a summer rain shower and as one of its names suggest, it attracts butterflies and moths in their droves, to which I can attest as I have one of these bushes in my garden.
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta on my Buddeliea Buddleia davidii last year.

However, the other day I learnt something through the power of Twitter. I can already hear your chuckles of derision, but please bear with me dear reader. After Butterfly Conservation (which I am a member of) tweeted its 100 top butterfly plants, which placed buddleia firmly at the top. Another respected tweep, professional entomologist and author Richard Jones pointed out that the plant is a non-native invader!!!
I never knew this! Apparently, it's homeland is in China and it was discovered by a Dr Augustine Henry in the 19th century, where it was sent to various nurseries in Europe where it's colonisation began.
DEFRA consider the plant to be detrimental to the biodiversity of sites due to its rapid growth and ability to outgrow native vegetation. Once it was said that you were never more than 10 foot from a rat (latest estimates put that at 164 feet), I would imagine it's safe to say your not more than 200yds from a buddleia bush.
As I said earlier, it does grow everywhere as can be seen the the NBN (National Biodiversity Network) map on the said DEFRA page (OK, it's getting to the point of acronym overload, must stop using them). BC (sorry, Butterfly Conservation ), when asked why they are promoting the use of a non-native, biodiversity detrimental, highly invasive species as its top butterfly attracting plant, replied with this press release which has yet to be officially released (you heard it hear first folks!):


Position statement on Buddleia and its planting in the UK
Background
Buddleia is widely planted in gardens across the UK and is clearly a favoured nectar source for butterflies in gardens. It is always top of the list of most commonly used nectar sources in our Garden Butterfly Survey and lives up to its alternative name of the “Butterfly Bush”. The plants are also highly attractive to moths, bees and other insects.
There are around 100 different species of Buddleia, which were mainly introduced to the UK during the 20th century. The most popular species, Buddleia davidii was introduced at Kew in 1896. Apart from being planted widely in gardens, the plant has become widely naturalised in the countryside and towns where it colonises disturbed ground sites such as railway lines, quarries, roadsides and waste ground.
Concern has been growing in the last decade that the plant is spreading and causing problems by invading important wildlife habitats, notably brownfield sites which are important for invertebrates (Shardlow, 2010). It grows vigorously and can form dense stands that eliminate other plants.
In 2008, Defra and the country agencies for Wales and Scotland published a new strategy to control invasive species and listed Buddleia on their non-native species website www.nonnative species.org. Defra has estimated that Buddleia control costs the British economy £961,000 pa, largely because it can germinate in crumbling brickwork and cause damage to old buildings and needs to be cleared from railway lines (Williams, 2010). There is a factsheet on Buddleia on the non-native species website but no risk assessment has been done to date (2012). However, Buddleia is not listed among the wild invasive non-native plants listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and is not listed by Plantlife as a plant that should be added (Plantlife website).
Butterfly Conservation’s position
Buddleia provides an important nectar source for adult butterflies, moths and other insects in townscapes and the countryside. This has become increasingly relevant because wildflowers have become so depleted following habitat loss and the general lack of nectar sources in the countryside. also brings enjoyment to many people, both because of its heavy scented and beautiful blooms but also because of the butterflies and other insects it attracts. It therefore plays a role, alongside other non-native garden plants, in helping to maintain or restore the link between people and native UK wildlife such as butterflies. In gardens, Buddleia is often pruned annually thus removing seed-heads and reducing the potential for seeding.
Buddleia is not important as a caterpillar food-plant and cannot replace naturally occurring wildflowers, which are crucial to provide a variety of nectar through the year as well as being food-plants for caterpillars. Buddleia can cause serious problems on some important conservation sites, especially brownfield sites. It needs to be controlled in these and other semi-natural sites to allow natural vegetation to develop. The cost of control can sometime be considerable.
In reaching a position on Buddleia it is important to weigh up the undoubted benefits it brings in garden situations against the possible risks to wildlife habitats. It is also important to recognise that Buddleia is already naturalised and well established across much of the UK.
Gardens
In view of its value as a nectar source, BC will continue to recommend its planting in gardens alongside other butterfly-friendly non-native plants, but will avoid giving it undue prominence and will give advice on its management and control.
Buddleia seeds do not ripen until dry weather during the following spring. We thus recommend that plants in gardens are dead-headed after flowering or cut back during the winter to prevent seed development and the risk of spreading into adjacent habitat.
Semi-natural habitats
BC will advise against planting of Buddleia in semi-natural habitat re-creation schemes or in positions where it may be unmanaged and pose a risk to nearby wildlife habitats. On sites where Buddleia has become a problem it should be controlled in the same way as other invasive plants (e.g. native and non-native scrub), by cutting and/or spraying. It is a relatively easy plant to control by cutting, so is in a different category to other invasive plants that are very difficult to control (e.g. Cotoneaster and Rhododendron). However, seedlings may continue to become established and cutting/removal may need to be repeated at regular intervals.
References
Defra et al. (2008). The Invasive Non-Native Species Framework Strategy for Great Britain. Defra, London.
Plantlife (2012) Invasives and the law. www.plantlife.org.uk/uploads/documents/Invasives_and_the_law.pdf.
Shardlow, M. (2010). Buddleia and invertebrates. Letter to British Wildlife 21, p 301. Williams,F. et al (2010). The Economic Cost of Invasive Non-Native Species on Great Britain.
www.CABI.org
Fifth draft October 2012

So there you have it, BC have admitted that yes, it is a non-native species, but it is rich in nectar which helps due to the decline in native food sources. They also say that you should dead head your buddleia as soon as it's finished flowering, and I agree, that if you do this you actually encourage the plant to send up more flower heads providing a longer food source, so a win-win situation on that one.
I've also asked the nice man (Liam) at BC if he could provide a list of native butterfly attracting plants for those of you who want to keep it native. He's promised me he'll get onto it after the weekend and as soon as I get it, I'll post it here for you dear reader.

Now, here's the stranger thing, this plant is everywhere, yet garden centres actually sell this plant and people even buy it!!! And we're not talking pennies here, we're talking several quid, around £7-8 in places for is what basically a weed. Talk about fools and their money being soon parted. People, go out and about and save yourself a few quid if you want to plant a weed in your garden.

Now for something completely different!

Recently saw this posted on the web thing. If you click on the link and scroll down to the 2nd (first one in white) event happening in Dorset, you can see that you can have the chance to meet up:

"...at 3pm for tea and biscuits before moving of into the woodlands to shoot Pigeons/corvids as they come into roost a great afternoons sport. [sic]"

WHAT THE ...! Since when is blasting an innocent nesting bird to death considered to be great sport??? You don't even get to eat them, it's just barbaric massacring of nature for no reason at all except to stroke some social deviant's altered ego. It's just like America where they shoot Gofers for no reason but to show how manly they are against such a dangerous foe. Sure, London restaurants serve Wood pigeon, but these are killed by a professional marksman with a high powered air rifle in a clean shot to the head so as not to cause any suffering and also, so they don't damage the edible part of the bird with shot. Blasting a pigeon out of the sky with a 12-bore shotgun renders it inedible to anyone, so the only reason for this show of machoism can be only to fuel some limp dick's passion to be Rambo. This is the 21st century and is this the pinnacle of what we can achieve? I hope not.







Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Toads need your help!!

Firstly and most importantly, can I say a big thank you to you all for reading my blog. For the first time 
ever, I reached over 140 views in one day. I'mgobsmacked. I'm glad you're liking what I'm writing about and I hope youcontinue to do so. I would also like to say hello and welcome to my newfollowers, Hi.

Now, the time is approaching, green shoots ofsnowbells and daffodils are beginning to raise their heads from the muddy soil,birds in foreign lands are gearing up for the long journey to the UK and toadsare beginning to wake from there winter slumber ready to migrate to theirmating ponds. Spring is beginning to spring, and it's the last bit about toadsthat I'm going to concentrate on. Now I know they're not the prettiest ofcreatures, they're not full of grace in their movement either, especially whenthey try to hop. But they are very important to our local environment. They aresomething to welcome into your garden especially if you're a keen gardener.They love to eat all the little pests and grubs that love to eat all yourlovely little plants. They don't cause any damage to anything and they are oneof nature little creatures that you can interact with.
Why are they important to our environment? The answeris simple, balance. Nature needs to keep things in balance, if things get outof hand, nature usually sorts it and restores the balance. Imagine if therewere no toads, frogs, newts or lizards running around snapping up all thelittle bugs that like to munch on our food plants, flowers, crops, trees evenour wooden buildings. These bugs would be so numerous the damage done would beimmeasurable. If bats and dragonflies were absent, mosquitos would be morenumerous than they are now and we'd be eaten alive. I know, a bit dramatic, butyou get my gist.
Now the main problem is the balance thing, for ushumans have a real uncanny knack for messing this balance up and thencomplaining when it all goes wrong. In some cases we try to address the balanceby adding something else, i.e. another non-native species, which just messesthe balance up even further. But hey, slowly and surely, we're learning and ourbiodiversity is improving through our understanding of how it all works. This understandingcan be passed on to our kids and here's an interactive opportunity for you todo this and you don't even have to have kids to help.
Like I said, toads are on the move and every year theyreturn to the same mating ponds that their ancestors mated in and so forth andso on. However, roads get built across these migratory routes and toads andcars don't mix, especially for the toad. Every year, your local Amphibian and Reptile Group (ARG) set up 'Toad Patrols'. These patrols usuallyinvolve a group of people who go out on nights, when the conditions arefavourable for toads, and help them cross the road by walking along the vergesand placing them in buckets so they can be safely ferried to the other side ofthe road and can continue there journey. This is also an ideal opportunity toconduct surveys into the population increase and decreases to see how theirfaring.
It's a great thing to get the kids involved in andyou're doing lots to help your environment. If you want to get involved, pleaseclick on the link above to find your local group, or if you live in the Ipswicharea Duncan Sweeting of Suffolk ARG has asked me to post the following:

Toad Patrol introduction training , in Ipswich on the 18th Feb 7.30pm ,please e mail margaretr2@yahoo.co.uk if you would like to come. We will coveridentification of toads, sexing and recording the information , Suffolks toadcrossings and answer questions

So please feel free to come along, they're a friendlybunch who, like toads, don't bite.
Remember, acting locally helps globally.


Monday, 11 February 2013

Moths & building a moth trap

Well, now I've got a little bit of time to myself, I thought I might cover the subject of moth trapping. For those of you who think moths are just little brown or white uninteresting flappy things, think again. In my (and several other people I know) opinion, moths are far much better than butterflies and there's only 52 species of butterfly in the UK. Whereas, there are 2500 species of moth!
Now I know many of you are going to ask that infernal question of why do moths batter themselves silly round a light bulb at night and spend all day hiding in the dark? The answer, no-one knows! One of life's little mysteries I guess, but it's a mystery with a plus on it. At least with moths, you only have to switch a light on and they all come running (well, flying) unlike butterflies who you have to chase across your local park with a net looking like the local nutter! Well that's what the wife calls me when I do it and she makes sure to keep her distance from me in case anyone she knows might spot her with me.
Now, I know what your thinking, you've googled up moth traps and looking at the price have thought, that's well out of my budget, and I agree with you. The cost of purpose made moth traps is disgusting, but have no fear. With some DIY knowhow you can make your very own Skinner moth trap like I did and hey presto, you're on your way to being a moth-er (although lepidopterist is the official term. Sad old git was also a something I heard someone say, but not sure that's an official term).

What do you need:

Wood is a good start. I got some wood from an industrial estate, a company I was delivering too receive a lot of their goods in plywood packing crates. I saw that most of this was being broken up and put in the skip so asked the yard man if I could take some and explained what for, he happily agreed.
The box part of the trap needs to be about 18" high and about 2' long and about 18" across. But these measurements are by no means gospel, this is about the average size. I've seen traps a lot bigger than this, that needed to be put on castors to move it around it was so heavy. So you need enough plywood to do four sides and a bottom. If there are no companies get packing cased deliveries, you can always try your local household rubbish tip. The amount of useful stuff being taken to these places is astounding and I'm sure it wont be long before someone comes along with the stuff you need. Also keep an eye out for some clear sheets of perspex that will act as a funnel to guide your attracted moths into the bottom of the trap. From my experience with perspex, it's an absolute b*!*^* to cut, so it might be an idea to see if you can get hold of this first and then work around the dimensions of the perspex to save you cutting it.

Now, if you're attempting this project you must have some idea of how to put stuff together enough to build a box, so I'm not going to go into detail, just so much to say I used some battening, wood glue and screws to fix all the sides together. Here's mine:


I know it looks a bit grubby, but it's seen some action you know. 

You will need to add some small blocks to each end of the box on the inside. These are to hold the perspex in place and it needs to keep the bottom gap about an inch (25mm) apart to allow the moths to fall into the box. I cut mine from some battening using a hacksaw.

No work of art, but it does the job!

So you can see how it works.

Again, these were fixed in place with a bit of wood glue and hold the perspex thus:

The perspex doesn't have to stick out so much at the top, but as I said previously, it's a b*!*^* to cut.

Electrics!

So, that's the basics done, now we have to consider the electrics. There are two types of electrics that are used to attract moths, mercury vapour (MV) and actinic. I use a 125W mercury vapour bulb, which is supposed to be the most successful method, but requires it to be plugged into the mains, so is really only OK for home garden use unless you happen to have a generator. Actinic's are low voltage and can be powered by a 12v car battery, so they're portable, but not as successful as a MV bulb.
Whatever you decide to use, I found this site to be useful and  this is where I purchased my DIY kit. I say purchased, it was actually a Xmas pressie and it kept me busy during the cold winter months assembling it, which was quite easy as it came with instructions. BUT I MUST STRESS HERE, THAT IF YOU'RE NOT CONFIDENT WITH ELECTRICS, PLEASE SEEK SOMEONE WHO IS! I will not be held responsible for other peoples stupidity!
Another IMPORTANT point to note here is that if you do choose to use MV, then use MUST use a ceramic bulb holder. The MV bulb gets extremely hot and an ordinary bulb holder would melt exposing dangerous electrical parts! You have been warned.

So here's a picture with the bulb attached to the baton that holds it in place.

The black tape is just to hold the cable in place.

Now, if I remember rightly, the electrical kit didn't come with any cable, so I suggest you buy some cable to your required length from your local hardware store. Weather proof cable used for ponds is ideal, remember, our weather guru's on the telly don't always get it right and you want to make sure everything's safe in the event of a sudden shower.
I also have my choke unit (part of the electric kit) in a water proof box in case of such a shower.

Light unit sitting on weather proof box.

These weather proof boxes are also available from all good hardware stores.
Like I said, the bulb gets extremely hot and if it does rain it will crack and start to emit very dangerous (to the eyes) UV light. This is not good. So, it would be good to fashion some type of rain guard for the bulb. I found this pyrex bowl at the tip which does an excellent job of keeping the rain off. But just be careful when taking it off in the morning as I nearly smashed my bowl when I went to take it off and found it really hot to the touch. So what ever you fashion for it, make sure it can take the heat or it's not to close to the bulb to be affected. If you google 'Skinner Moth Trap', you'll see lots of images of traps with bulb shields, so you can work out what you need to do. Here's mine:

Not pretty, but it does the job!

So, there's only one more thing you need for your moth trap, egg boxes. Yes, egg boxes. These provide comfy little cavities for your trapped moths to settle in once they've fallen into the trap.


Add your egg boxes willy nilly to the bottom of the box like so.

So, here's the trap ready for use:

Finished and ready to go (apologies for the blurriness).

Up and running.

So, here's a picture of it from last year up and running.

Even from this photo, you can see the brightness of the light.

You will also notice in the photo the trap is on a white bed sheet, this also helps to reflect the light and attract the moths. Also, you will see the larger egg trays (available from all good decent cafes for free), this also lets the moths that missed the trap find somewhere to settle and these are the first place I look when I come down to the trap in the morning.

Not just moths

The UV doesn't only attract moths, you will also find other little creatures in your moth trap. These include caddis flies, cockchafers and other beetles, ichneumon's, bumblebees and hornets, butterflies and dragonflies are also to be found. I've also found the odd cat chasing moths around the trap as well as the odd toad making good use of it as an eat all you can restaurant. I've also heard reports of people sometimes finding the odd, fat and happy bat sitting at the bottom of a moth trap.

Of course there is just one more thing you need for your moth trap and that is something by which to ID them by. I can suggest the following as being excellent books as it shows the moths at exactly the same size, it's almost as if you've lifted them off the page as you compare a live specimen to the picture int the book.
Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
and this book for the tiny little moths that you will get in your trap.
Field Guide to the Micro-Moths of Great Britain and Ireland

The first book is for Macro moths which is a moth that has a wing span greater than 1cm. Below that, it's a Micro moth.

I think that's enough for now to be getting on with, if you have any questions please message me below and I will do my very best to answer them.

Have fun!


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Citizen science

What's this? No posts for a couple of weeks, then 2 posts in one week! What's going on I hear you ask? The answer is simple, I'm off work sick at the moment after I damaged some muscles in my upper back/neck area. The tablets the doc has put me on have this tendency to knock me out, so I can't drive and have to spend the time cooped up in the house. I have an office to install but can't as I have to rest my neck, which is really annoying and frustrating. So, here I am blogging and catching up with some little bits and pieces I've been meaning to get around too. So, on with the blog.

I know that I've probably brushed on this topic before, but recording our flora and fauna really is important for our environment. Through the keeping of records we can monitor change and when we see that there is change, it causes us to look at the situation closer to see what is causing the change and whether it's through natural development or human intervention, is it for better or worse. If it's spotted soon enough, maybe procedures can be implemented to halt the change or address the situation if need be. Citizen science is the new in thing and can do so much to help our fellow living organisms (yes, you're an organism too) and it doesn't cost a penny to be involved. You can even involve your kids and get them looking and investigating the living world. You don't even have to leave your own house, many things can be found in your own back garden, in some cases, the darkest corners of your home.
There are websites all over the place that specialise in various species from the Bat Conservation Trust's Big Bat Map to the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme.
So, below is a list of links to the various websites where you can record your sightings or get involved in a project. All you have to do is click on the name and a new page will open direct to the website.

Bat Conservation Trust Big Bat Map Seen a bat, log it down here.

British Trust for Ornithology There's a whole list of various types of bird surveys here.

UK Ladybird Survey So many different ladybirds.

Buglife Surveys Again, there's a variety of things to survey here.

Bat Detective This is ideal if your house bound or for when the weather is just awful.

Galaxy Zoo Another one for being stuck indoors, some lovely images here too!

Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme No good for arachnophobes, sorry.

Soil and Earthworm Survey You'll be surprised how many different types of earthworm there are.

Bumblebee Survey Didn't realise there were so many different types of bumblers either.

Invasive Alien Species Survey This is one for those of you based or holidaying in Norfolk.

Suffolk Amphibian and Reptile Group People are needed to help frogs, newts and toads cross the road during the mating season.

Butterfly Conservation Nothing better than looking for butterflies.

Garden Moth Scheme Just make sure that you have a 'human name' for their records.

iSpot This is also very good for ID'ing unknown wildlife you may have seen whilst you were out and      about

The Big Seaweed Search What can I say, it's seaweed.

Snail Search I'm sure everyone who has a garden can help with this.

OPAL Explore Nature Survey Many various surveys for everyone here.

Conker Tree Survey Mainly involves looking at what's attacking our conker trees.

Dragonfly Habitat Survey Our big buzzy friends.

Hedgehog Survey This one has just started and needs your help.

National Mammal Atlas Project Recording mammals in the UK

Tree Health Survey Monitoring the health of our trees.

The Garden Bioblitz Find out what's living on your very own back door step.

Big Spawn Count Looking out for frog spawn,

And don't forget, even if you don't want to join a particular survey/project but still like seeing what's out there, please send your sightings into your local Biological Recording Centre. A list of them can be found here.

This is just some to get you out there looking. I'm sure there are plenty more surveys out there and if you are part of one or know of one that isn't listed here, please let me know so I can add it to the list and allow others to partake in them as well.
Don't forget, also check your local wildlife groups, be it bats, badgers or toads, there's something for everyone and everything that's done is of use to the environment as a whole.
Being involved locally, helps the environment globally.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

January with a woosh!

Well, is it just me or did January go past like a ferrari on nitro? I've only just got used to writing the date with a 13 instead of a 12 for the year and already I'm having to correct writing the month as 2 instead of a 1. I think it must be down to old age when it comes to you just getting used to something and they change it.
I must say, that January has seen me busy in the garden building my wifey's new log cabin studio, so much time has NOT been out in the wilds of Suffolk searching for elusive wildlife, but instead cursing at a log cabin company (Garden Buildings Direct) for gross incompetency in the basic running of a company. I beseech you now, if you ever consider getting a garden building of any kind, be it shed or cabin AVOID this company like the plague. I would use the words chocolate fireguard, but the chocolate is still useful as you can eat it even when it's melted. Unlike Garden Buildings Direct who have no concept of the word useful! That's it rant over, onto other stuff.

So, as I said, I haven't been out much as my time has been limited. I've only seen about 20 species so far and 19 of them were in the first 5 days of the month. But studio is almost complete and soon I hope to be out and about.

I mentioned in my previous post that some projects were in the pipeline for the coming year and after consulting various people and sorting out logistics, I can now tell you some of those plans. 

Bridge Wood

As many of you know, bats are my main thing and the last couple of years has seen me helping out a dear friend of mine Sue Morgan with her survey of Dunwich Heath, which had some wonderful results with 9 species of bat being recorded out of 13 species that are recorded in Suffolk. This survey has inspired me to do one of my own on the much smaller area of Bridge wood in Orwell Country Park. This is an area of ancient replanted woodland (1600's at least) on the banks of the river Orwell on the outskirts of Ipswich. It'll be an activity as part of the Mid Anglian Bat Group, but anyone with a detector is welcome to come along and join me in finding some bats. Dates have yet to be planned, but as soon as they are, I'll post them here and also on the Mid Anglian's Bat Group website
If you want some more information please post a comment at the end of this blog with your email address, don't worry, all comments are screened by me before being published and I won't publish information queries or emails, etc.

Holywell's Park

Yes, Holywell's Park in Ipswich has some exciting stuff going on. They're having a bit of a facelift planned and during some digging work they unearthed an ancient icehouse that used to belong to the Thomas Cobbold Brewery, who owned the park in the 1800's and used to use the water from Holywell ponds for use in brewing their ale. The water was shipped using special barges from the waterfront in Ipswich to their brewery in Harwich. Thomas Gainsborough did a painting of the ponds which can be seen here. The ice from the ponds was removed in winter and put into this icehouse to help keep the contents stored within chilled. Apparently, this icehouse was effective all year round.
Anyhoo, the rangers have kindly asked our bat group if we would like it to turn it into a bat hibernacula/roost and the bat group has gratefully accepted it and guess who's been put in charge of this  restoration project? Non other but me, your loyal servant. This is quite an exciting project to be involved in as it ties in with another project I'm involved in at the park which is the installation of a bat flight rehabilitation cage. What the heck is that I hear you cry. As some of you know, I'm a licenced bat carer who helps to rescue our furry little friends when they've been swiped out of the air by tibbles the cat. When they are nursed back to health, we need to make sure that they can fly, echolocate and hunt, otherwise our efforts will have been wasted when we release a bat that can't hunt properly and the bat will more than likely die a nasty death. So the bat flight allows the bat to fly in an open, yet secure area where we can monitor it and assess it's abilities to do all of the aforementioned tasks. It's also ideal for 'soft release' which means that young bats that need to learn how to hunt and forage can be left in the flight and hunt food which falls down from a moth trap installed on top of the flight into the flight. The rangers and 'Friends of Holywell's Park' have kindly donated us some space to build such a structure and the container transport company Maritime Transport have kindly donated to us a 20' steel shipping container (which is the ideal size) to be converted into a bat flight. We hope to get this all in place before the spring, but it's just a matter of logistics at the moment and most importantly of all, peoples time.

Garden Moth Scheme

Alas, on a sour note, I will not be part of the Garden Moth Scheme (GMS) this year as the new coordinator for the scheme considered my name was not 'human enough for his records'! Honestly, how rude. I know my name's a bit unusual, but to say it's not human is a bit too much. So I've told him in no uncertain terms what he can do with my records and name. But fear not, I will still be recording and my records will be going to the wonderful Suffolk Biological Records Centre. At least they won't be insulting towards me, I hope. :)

So that's it for now, but don't worry, things are warming up and looking good. Here's the minuscule list so far:



Number
Species name
Common name
Location
Date
Species type
1
Turdus merula
Blackbird
Home
01/01/2013
Bird
2
Falco tinnunculus
Kestral
Claydon
02/01/2013
Bird
3
Columba palumbus
Wood pigeon
Felixstowe
02/01/2013
Bird
4
Motacilla alba
Pied wagtail
Felixstowe
02/01/2013
Bird
5
Corvusmonedula
Jackdaw
Tot Hil
03/01/2013
Bird
6
Larus argentatus
Herring gull
Felixstowe
03/01/2013
Bird
7
Larus ridibundus
Black-headed gull
Felixstowe
03/01/2013
Bird
8
Gallinula chloropus
Moorhen
Thorington hall
04/01/2013
Bird
9
Orytolagus cuniculus
Rabbit
Thorington hall
04/01/2012
Mammal
10
Pica pica
Magpie
Thorington hall
04/01/2013
Bird
11
Branta canadensis
Canada goose
Needham lakes
05/01/2013
Bird
12
Fulica atra
Coot
Needham lakes
05/01/2013
Bird
13
Anas platyrhynchos
Mallard
Needham lakes
05/01/2013
Bird
14
Cygnus olor
Mute swan
Needham lakes
05/01/2013
Bird
15
Dama dama
Fallow deer
Stoney hill
05/01/2013
Mammal
16
Phasianus colchicus
Pheasant
Stoney hill
05/01/2013
Bird
17
Parus major
Great tit
Stoney hill
05/01/2013
Bird
18
Discus rotandatus rotundatus
Rotund disc
Stoney hill
05/01/2013
Invertebrate
19
Aegithalos caudatus
Long-tailed tit
Claydon
05/01/2013
Bird
20
Cyanistes caeruleus
Blue tit
Home
27/01/2013
Bird