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Showing posts from July, 2015

Badger Food

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For a few weeks now, the badgers have ignored the peanuts I've put out for them. I've seen them emerging and setting off across the wood or into the fields, but there has been no social activity around the sett, which is so great to watch.

 Badger approaches the peanuts
Over the last few evenings, I've tried adding some sultanas to the peanuts and whether that has tempted them, or the dry weather has made natural food harder to come by, I'm not sure, but last night they came over to feed. The whole clan spent much more time around the sett than they have done recently. It was a cold night and I could hear them collecting bedding, dragging bundles of dry leaves along their paths through the brambles.

Spring pheasant
Badger food?
In the spring a couple of pheasants regularly turned up to pinch the badgers' peanuts. Now they've been replaced by a small rabbit. It has been around for the last three nights and comes a little closer to me each time.

Rabbit in the se…

Butterflies at Kiplingcotes

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Last week I went to a conservation volunteer work day at Kiplingcotes Chalk Pit. As its name implies, this was once a quarry, but now it has become a spectacular chalk meadow, teeming with butterflies. At this time of the year the greater knapweed is flowering and nearly every flower had a marbled white butterfly on it. Our task for the day was to remove the ragwort which is poisonous to livestock, but we left a lot for the cinnabar moth caterpillars and other insects that depend on it.

Marbled white on greater knapweed
I realised that it would be a good place to return for a 'Big Butterfly Count', so I went back on Monday. The weather was not so good, being cooler and windy and it even started raining soon after I arrived. I walked along the track at the top of the reserve and in the 15 minute time limit I counted 55 marbled whites, two small whites, a large skipper, six meadow browns, two ringlets, a common blue and three six-spot burnet (moths). That's a total of 70 but…

One man went to mow

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It was going to be a cooler, showery day, so I went to Fulford Ings to continue with some Himalayan balsam pulling. I spent most of the morning amongst two metre high nettles, getting stung continuously and rained upon intermittently. Would a monoculture of balsam be any worse than a monoculture of nettles? Neither is very attractive from a human perspective, but nettle is the food plant of the caterpillars of several of our most common butterflies, whereas the balsam is an alien which is displacing our wild flowers and damaging our river banks.

The meadow in mid-June
There's a bend in the river on the stretch I was working on and it wasn't until I stopped for lunch that I realised that the main meadow area, around the bend, had just been mown. I was shocked to see it so bare, as two weeks ago it had been a mass of wild flowers, just waiting for some insects to emerge. Now that we'd had some warmer weather, I was expecting it to be buzzing. Last year, when I met the landow…

Balsam Bashing at Acaster Malbis

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Today I've been to a volunteer work day in an area of fen meadow beside the River Ouse, just to the south of York. Much of this habitat has been lost due to drainage of the land for farming, but the threat to this patch is from Himalayan balsam, which is damaging so much of the floodplain meadows. There is a lot of tansy here and a good population of the endangered tansy beetle, which makes eradication of the balsam particularly important.

The fen meadow
Himalayan balsam taking over
It was a warm day, so we found a shady area for our lunch break, beside the track along the river bank. The sparkle of a tansy beetle caught my eye, on a clump of tansy on the other side of the track. When we had a closer look, there were tansy beetle larvae on the plants too.

Tansy beetle larva
This was the first of a series of work days as part of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's "Re-flowering the floodplains" project. There will be more balsam pulling to do, as well as wild-flower planti…

30 Days Wild - Day 30

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For the final day of "30 Days Wild", the weather was perfect - warm and sunny - so I decided to canoe along the Pocklington Canal. I've walked along the banks many times and hadn't thought much of it really, but seeing it from the water, on such a lovely day, was a different experience entirely.

Hagg Bridge
Otter spraint under the bridge
I started from Hagg Bridge, near to Sutton on Derwent. It's a fairly low road bridge, so the towpath underneath is near the water level, making for an easy entry point for a canoe. The plan was to canoe eastwards to Melbourne - beyond that it's not navigable, even in a canoe. Once clear of the bridge and the willow trees around it, it got into open farmland. The banks were lined with reeds and much of the water covered in yellow flowering water lilies. There were lots of huge dragonflies and more delicate damselflies skimming over the water. It was all very beautiful and much better than I had expected. I got about two kilome…