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Showing posts from December, 2015

The Great Flood

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It's always seemed odd to me that flood banks have been built along stretches of the River Ouse that serve only to 'protect' the flood plain from flooding. They actually funnel the flood water to towns and villages further down river. Today I've been to the stretch of river just north of Cawood, between York and Selby, where I conduct my annual tansy beetle survey.

Around the corner the road descends into a vast lake
This whole stretch of river has a high flood bank along it, although the fields on the other side of the bank are called Kelfield Ings. There's a clue in the name - why on earth would you build a bank to stop a traditional flood meadow from flooding? This time, the water has reached the crest of the flood bank and gone over, but most of the water on the other side has flowed into the fields from further down river, below Cawood, where the banks are lower. This has protected the next village of Kelfield. In this instance the flood plain has filled up a…

Gorilla Family and Me 1987

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Watching Gordon Buchanan's excellent series has brought back memories of the month-long trip I made to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1987, though it was called Zaire in those days. We saw the Grauer's gorillas in Kahuzi-Biega before travelling on to Rwanda and the Mountain gorillas of the Virunga Mountains. Here's an extract from my diary, of the time at Kahuzi-Biega:

Wed 29th July: Got up at six to go gorilla trekking. After a hard climb up a steep hillside we stopped at the place where the gorillas had been seen the previous day. We found a small chameleon. We then carried on through the forest and found gorilla dung and nests used the previous night. Twice we heard gorilla alarm calls and some chest beating, but never saw the gorillas. Gave up about 3:30 and returned to camp - six hours hunting without success.

 Boulenger's pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon boulengeri)
Gorilla nest, used the night before
Thu 30th: Got up at six again and walked to the park headquar…

Heathland Restoration

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Today I led a conservation work day on a private nature reserve, where we've been restoring an area of heathland overgrown with birch seedlings and brambles. This is a monthly event which has been going on for two years now, but we've been making slow progress recently due to the small number of volunteers.

Brushcutting birch regrowth
I decided drastic action was necessary, so I bought a second-hand brushcutter on eBay! Getting the worst areas brushcut before the work day speeds the job up considerably. Yesterday I cleared a badly overgrown patch so that today we could start by clearing up the cuttings and treating the stumps with glyphosate weedkiller.

Some cutting by hand is required, to protect the heather
A painting job
Stumps treated with glyphosate
It is still very mild and we've had sunshine all day. When I arrived this morning, three roe deer ran off. They are often there, but although I freeze as soon as I see them, they just run until they're out of sight and…

Bird and Bat Boxes at Allerthorpe

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Over the last two volunteer days at Allerthorpe Common, we've been putting up some more boxes for owls, smaller birds and bats.

Barn owls like to have two boxes close together. This gives them an alternative nesting site. The spare box is often used as a roost by the male bird when there are chicks in the nest box. We put up one box in August last year and now our second box has gone up on a large silver birch tree about 20 metres from the first.

Barn owl box 2
Les, the chief birder of our volunteer group, has made a box to a different design, for tawny owls. We put this up in a pine tree on the other side of the reserve.

Tawny owl box
Bat boxes have been very successful in the Forestry Commission woodlands surrounding the reserve, but we had none in the reserve. We put up a cluster of three boxes on a tree near the main pond. Bats will move around a cluster of boxes facing in different directions to find the most comfortable temperature according to weather conditions.

Cluster of…

Upper Dunsforth Carrs

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Today I've been to a volunteer work day on a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve I've never visited before. As its name implies, Upper Dunsforth Carrs is a collection of boggy fields. In the spring, it will be full of wildflowers, but after all the rain we've had in the last few weeks, it is now more like a swamp. We have been mowing and raking up the invasive rush which grows over much of the site. Rotational cutting of different areas keeps it under control.

Collecting up the cuttings
Mower sinking in the mud
The plan was to move into a second field during the afternoon, but the mower sank into the mud at the entrance and we had to pull it out with a rope. After that entertainment, it was decided that we should continue mowing in the first field! While raking up, we came across several field voles and a shrew.

Field vole hiding in the grass
Remains of a field vole's nest
http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/upper-dunsforth-carr-nature-reserve