A cornucopia of snippets during this grey wet weather, when it’s mainly the moles that are having their moments in our meadows. Are fellow meadow owners bothered by moles? I view them as a sign that the ground is having some natural extra subterranean drainage created, and also that we have a fair earthworm population.
Richard Smith has just let me know that his team of egg spotters have found eggs of the elusive Brown Hairstreak butterfly in the hedgerows of Suzie’s farm at Cwrt Henri. Richard comments that it’s quite unusual to find a new site in the Twyi valley for this rare, and difficult to spot, butterfly which spends much of its adult life high up in tree canopies, only flying down to lay its eggs on semi mature blackthorn, which is obviously only found in hedges which aren’t flailed annually. Click here for a link to a pdf and pictures of the Brown Hairstreak.
This reminds me that at this quieter time of the year, maybe I can tempt one or two more readers, as indeed Suzie has done, to send in some information to me to feature some details of their meadows on this website? The aim is to gradually build up a picture of the diversity of wildflower meadows in the county. You can look at the separate Meadows gallery page, underneath the header image at the top of this page, to see the variety of information and images that folk have already provided, and if you click here, you can access the questionnaire which might form a basis for information which you can send to me, and then I’ll upload it onto the website in due course. Contact details are listed on this page.
Fiona heard a strange bird call from our valley bottom wet meadows last week, and we both manged to spot the culprit as it flew off down the valley. On a later date, and from quite a distance, I managed a few grainy pictures of the heron as it took off from beside our stream, bothered by my presence over 200 yards away. I’m still fascinated by how different birds appear, if frozen in flight – in particular with the heron, the way that its wings nearly reach a right angle bend mid way along. If you’re unfamiliar with the heron’s strange flight call, then you can click here for a sound recording from the British library, where you’ll see it’s described as a “cough”. Though sounding to me more like a cross between that and a dog bark. Once heard, probably never forgotten.
Quite different to the commonly heard twice or thrice repeated cronkk’s of ravens which seem to criss-cross our land at quite an altitude on a regular basis. The cronkks giving way to the obvious sounds of those very strong wing beats if they pass overhead.
Not surprisingly though, no sounds from a patrolling sparrowhawk which flew quite close to me at dusk as I stood beneath a Sycamore on our top hedge.
Quite a lot of events have now been pencilled in for the coming year for the Meadows Group. A finalised programme will be confirmed and published in due course, but for now it includes for meadow group members and the general public:
1: Saturday March 25th. An indoor meeting from 10.00 am to 1 pm at Pumsaint.
Talk on bumblebees by …TBC,
“Soft Rush – A Growing Problem ” – a film based local case study of soft rush control, which Julian has made.
2:Saturday May 20th at the National Botanic Garden of Wales at 10.30 am.
Thanks to Bruce Langridge of the NBGW who will take us on a guided walk beginning from the gatehouse.
The walk could take 2 hours, so will be back in time for lunch.
Bruce says: Come and find out how the National Botanic Garden of Wales is farming its land for biodiversity. The walk will take in an orchid-rich hay meadow, a Welsh black cattle grazed rhos pasture and a field of international importance for waxcap fungi.
This will be free to any members of the National Botanic Gardens, and Bruce has kindly offered reduced daily entrance to the NBGW for any non-members of £5 per person.
3: Saturday July 1st. National Meadows Day.
For now there are events already being planned at Ruth Watkins’ 70 acre farm at Pencraig goch, Llandeusant, to include meadow walks and pond dipping; as well as meadow walks and a garden open day at the small holding of Gelli Uchaf, Rhydcymerau, with Julian and Fiona Wormald. I’m sure more will follow.
4: Saturday September 23rd. An indoor meeting at Myddfai from 10.00 am to 1 pm .
Thanks to Isabel, we hope to have George Peterken, author of the seminal book on meadow management, “Meadows” coming to talk to us, from Monmouthshire, along with another speaker or two, and discussion time.
In addition, for members of the meadows group, and thanks to organisation by Helen from Plantlife, we hope to have a subsidised manual scything course on a couple of days towards the end of August, (possibly Thursday 24 th and Saturday 26 th) at Cae Blaen Dyffryn near Lampeter, as well as meadow walks and possibly site visits to fellow meadow owner’s properties through the summer.
After a further planning meeting next week, of the events subgroup, I hope to be able to confirm most of these, and publish them on the Events page of the website.
Meanwhile as the days lengthen do remember to send me any snippets of news, or photos on topics related to meadows and their management.
Send to email@example.com
Thanks for reading.
Interesting update on all that is happening. We too have the occasional heron landing by the pond for his breakfast of frogs, which he leaves half eaten!
Maybe its the same one who visits us Marianne?
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We too have had recent visits by a heron – hunting down by the pond. The frogs are getting noisy already – the sound of many low croaks rumbling away until silence as we stand too close. Herons remind me of pterodactyls – the glide, the wings and that call. Picking up on an earlier post by Julian, I have now used the very helpful advice on flying styles to establish that we have snipe on and around (more than last year I think) and also a good sighting of a woodcock bursting out of cover when disturbed by us.
Thanks Rachel, I spotted our first frogspawn yesterday, Feb. 2 nd in the pond
I wish I lived nearer to you Julian, your group has some really interesting and inspiring activities. Good luck with your project. About 30 minutes from here, there is a country park – Rushmere, which has a Heronry and live cameras on the nests, they are fascinating birds, but I do not think I’ve heard the call, I followed your link, they sound more like a deer, than a bird.
Thanks Julie, this was the first time I’ve ever heard a heron, so I don’t think they can call that frequently
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I have noticed a great increase in mole hills on my fields too. I am glad to have them – they certainly help with the drainage but I do wonder whether the heavy rain floods their tunnels and whether some of them drown.
Thanks Lynne. I should try to find out a bit more about why moles are so active at this time of the year….
Very grey and wet at the moment indeed. But have you noticed the amount of birdsong there is now compared with only a couple of weeks ago? And it’s also the season of weird jay sounds. Apart from their trademark screech, they are making lots of strange sounds at present. Like this one, click on the link: http://www.british-birdsongs.uk/jay/. Our bird ID guide refers also to “an unexpected mewing”. We’ve been convinced there were unseen buzzards sitting in the wood next to our place but we could never spot them. We then realised it was actually jays making buzzard-like mewing noises. There used to be, on you-tube, (but I can’t find it now) a very convincing impersonation of an angry cat being done by a jay sitting in a bush. And one evening, while waiting to watch our barn owls, I could hear a tawny owl doing both calls (kee-wick and hoo-hoooo-ooo) while moving along a row of nearby oak trees. When it got to the last tree, which had a dead branch at the end, I could see that it was in fact a jay doing a (to my ears at least) a perfect imitation of a tawny owl.
On the subject of owls, I’ve been using the nasty weather to analyse the mammal skulls and jawbones from 24 pellets produced by the barn owls nesting in our box last summer. They contained the remains of 31 field voles, 16 common shrews, 15 woodmice, 12 bank voles, 3 house mice, 2 yellow necked mice (although these can only be distinguished from woodmice by a jaw length of > 16mm, so any not fully grown will be recorded as woodmice) 2 rats and 1 pigmy shrew. Yum yum!
That’s really interesting Andrew, I had no idea about Jays being such mimics. I wonder if you’ve got any photos of your carefully teased out owl pellets. And presumably the ratio of different animals represents the proportions of small mammals around or do you think some are easier for the owls to catch?