Growing the Future Wildlife

May 13th 2014. Most gardeners and allotmenteers are all too familiar with the certain aspects of wildlife. The Slugs and Snails, the Cabbage White Caterpillars, Bean Weevils, Cut Worms, Cabbage Root Fly, Aphids and a host of other unwelcome insects. Not to mention the various fungi, bacteria and other nasties like Potato Blight, Ring Spot and so on. But on our visit to the Growing the Future site we were interested in a wider range of wildlife. Indeed, apart from a lot of very obvious Slug and Snail predation the only other visible sign of damage was the nibbled Chives from Rabbits. And looking around the fence it was easy to see how they were getting in. Unless your fence is dug down at least 18 inches into the ground the Bunnies will soon get through. They are also surprisingly good climbers and will use any convenient logs, etc., to get where they want to go.

Of course this time of year we are treated to an orchestra of bird song. Fortunately for those of us who find it difficult to distinguish one song from another we had a few more knowledgeable members who were able to identify the more unfamiliar Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and, best of all, a Whitethroat. This little bird flitted to and fro so that we were able to both follow and hear it, and John eventually managed to get a reasonable photo. Not long after that we were treated to a Red Kite aerial display and later on we discovered a bird pellet lodged in one of the logs. Was it from a Tawny Owl or some other raptor? Difficult to say but after Chris investigated it a little further the absence of hair and bones indicated that perhaps it was from a Carrion Crow.

As we wandered round the perimeter fence we came across a log which clearly showed the tracks made by the Dutch Elm Beetle. Dutch Elm disease, probably accidentally introduce on imported Elm logs from America, devastated the countryside in the 70′s and 25 million trees were lost. And following on from our recent Rusts and Smuts discoveries we found one on a Spindle Leaf and another on a Sweet Vernal Grass – but Michael still hasn’t found any on Red Campion!

There were few unidentifed Flies buzzing around on various plants, but one that Michael could identify was the St. Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci). This is so called because they emerge around St Mark’s Day on 25th April every year and can be seen in flight in May. John didn’t manage to photograph that but he did capture a Scorpion Fly and a Robber Fly.

As the grass on the site had recently been cut there wasn’t a lot of flowers around. But we did find Herb Robert in the Strawberry bed, Figwort by the road, Germander Speedwell and Bulbous Buttercup in various places, Hairy Bittercress and Shining Cranesbill. A rather fascinating discovery was a Sloe stone which had been cracked open, probably by a Nuthatch.

As recent converts to the beauty and fascination of Moths we were also pleased to find a Moth puppa, species unknown, a Drinker Moth Caterpillar and a Burnet Moth Caterpillar. But perhaps the most interesting of the Moths were the micro ones crowding into the centre of a Buttercup. Apparently they do this to warm up, the cup acting as a funnel to concentrate the warmth of the Sun.

Our thanks to Andrea for allowing us to freely wander over the site, to John for his photos and Hazel for her careful notes.

If any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please send an email to Colin Miles – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested. If you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Survey blogs.

If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.

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