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Showing posts from August, 2015

Wildlife on Allerthorpe Common

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Yesterday we had our monthly work day at Allerthorpe Common, controlling the birch regrowth which threatens to turn this increasingly rare lowland heath habitat into a birch woodland. We soon disturbed a wasps' nest, so had to avoid that area for the rest of the day. I was stung by a wasp last week and didn't want to repeat the experience - I react badly.

Pellets from the Barn owl box
We stopped for a coffee break and checked the barn owl box, which we were sure had not been occupied this summer. In fact, it contained a heap of pine 'cuttings', presumably nesting material for a grey squirrel, together with a number of barn owl pellets. It appears that neither species has actually nested there.

Red-veined darter on a matching shirt
Common lizard on a daypack
 A not so Common lizard
Red admiral on an oak tree
At lunchtime, we were visited first by a Red-veined darter dragonfly, which landed on a volunteer's shirt, and then by a Common lizard which was on a daypack. W…

Planting Tansy for Tansy Beetles

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I got permission to plant out 600 of my home grown tansy plants along the river bank at Acomb Landing in York. The stretch was once a good area for tansy beetles, with plenty of tansy, but the floodbank had been rebuilt and most of the tansy was lost. Just one good clump remained, and last week I counted 32 tansy beetles on it.

Himalayan balsam and willowherb
The floodbank had the best vegetation on it and the area within was covered in Himalayan balsam, so it made sense to clear some of the balsam and replace it with tansy. I started last Monday and spent the whole day pulling balsam and clearing the ground for the first tansy clump.

The first planting area prepared
On Tuesday it was wet from the outset, but I managed to clear a bit more ground and plant out two clumps of about 100 plants each. By lunchtime it was raining hard and my 'waterproofs' were soaked right through, so I had to call it a day. I went back on Thursday and Friday, cleared a huge area of balsam monocultur…

The Annual Tansy Beetle Survey

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In mid-August, the new generation of tansy beetles emerge from pupation and an army of volunteers start surveying the banks of the River Ouse around York, recording the location of every tansy clump and the number of beetles on each. Last Saturday I took my friend Meg to Naburn Lock and then drove round to Cawood Bridge, further down river. She walks south and I walk north, and we meet up around Stillingfleet.

Tansy amongst the Himalayan balsam
After half an hour of recording tansy plants, I stopped for a coffee break on the flood bank. A roe deer came out of the Himalayan balsam that lines the river bank here, stopped to look at me, and then bounded away over the flood bank and into the wheat field behind. I then walked a long stretch with nothing but Himalayan balsam about 10m deep, before reaching an area of 'waste' ground covered in nettles 2m high, willowherb, bindweed, and hidden in the middle, some clumps of tansy. Here there are beetles, and after an hour of fighting m…

Time to pull Himalayan balsam

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Himalayan balsam is in flower and will be going to seed in the next few weeks, so the time to get it pulled is now! I've just spent the day at Fulford Ings, clearing along the bank of the River Ouse. It's tragic that balsam is coming up in the middle of tansy clumps, destroying the habitat of the endangered tansy beetle, known as the 'Jewel of York'. Where there is such precious vegetation, I pull out the balsam by hand, but in other places where it has reached saturation point, it can more quickly be removed with a long-handled slasher.


Himalayan balsam on the river bank
I'm trying to clear a half-mile stretch, just to the south of York. Further down river, the balsam has already reached saturation point along large stretches of the banks. It's not only displacing the native vegetation, but also damaging the river banks themselves. In winter, when the balsam dies down, it leaves bare earth which is easily eroded away. It's an environmental disaster, but on…