Micro Madness

When the thunder rolled in at 1:30am followed by lashing wind and rain, there was a touch of regret/anxiety over setting the traps at Ladywalk. All moths that would have littered the outside of the box had of course scattered but plenty still lurked inside.

It’s very comforting to go down the reserve and see that there are still places with such overwheming diversity and sheer volume of insect life, especially when you’ve been used to trapping in a small urban garden. The amount of micro-moths was impressive, many species probably got away. Tonnes of beetles were in the trap too, double figures of shieldbugs and ladybirds all appeared to be hiding from the storm. How many more moths would there have been if it didn’t rain?

Caloptila stigmatella, Willow Ermine 2, Ypsolopha scabrella, Argyresthia trifasciata (loads), Argyresthia brockeella (loads), Argyresthia goedartella (loads), Crassa unitella, Batia lunaris, Carcina quercana 2, Anacampsis populella 10, Blastobasis sp, White Plume Moth, Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix, Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix 2, Cnephasia sp. 2, Acleris literana, Agapeta hamana 3, Ancylis badiana, Epinotia bilunana, Bramble Shoot Moth, Cydia splendana, Euzophera pinguis, Mother-of-Pearl 2, Eudonia sp, Chilo phragmitella 2, Calamotropha paludella, Catoptria pingella, Buff Arches, Poplar Hawk-moth, Single-dotted Wave 9, Small Fan-footed Wave, Riband Wave 2, Large Twin-spot Carpet, July Highflyer 3, Ochraceous Pug, Clouded Border 5, Latticed Heath, Bordered Beauty, Early Thorn, Common White Wave, Light Emerald, Sallow Kitten, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Buff-tip 3, Herald, Round-winged Muslin 3, Dingy Footman 37, Common Footman 2, Copper Underwing, Mottled Rustic, Rustic 5, Silky Wainscot, Dark Arches 6, Common Rustic 3, Dun-bar 15, Dingy Shears, Smoky Wainscot 9, Clay, Heart & Dart 2, Large Yellow Underwing 36, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 2, Lesser Yellow Underwing 15, Double Square-spot 7, Short-cloaked 3. 

64 species

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Bank Holiday Moths

 Better than we were expecting with a dip in night temperatures. Nice to see some green in the form of a Light Emerald in the trap again and the second Chocolate-tip of the season. More unusual were firsts for us at Ladywalk with Small Clouded Brindle and Figure of Eighty. They are common moths but glancing through some of the past records they haven’t been recorded, so nice to fill some gaps.

Small Clouded Brindle 1, Buff Ermine 2, White Ermine 1, Muslin 1, Swallow Prominent 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Clouded Border 7, May Highflyer 1, Light Brown Apple Moth 1, Green Carpet 3, Silver Ground Carpet 2, Figure of Eighty 1, Poplar Hawk Moth 4, Rustic Shoulder Knot 2, Vine’s Rustic 1, Seraphim 3, Common Pug 2, Foxglove Pug 1, Chocolate-tip 1, Heart and Dart 1, Light Emerald 1, Flame Shoulder 2, Spectacle 1, Mottled Rustic 3, Setaceous Hebrew Character 2, Small Square Spot 1, Swammerdammia sp. 1. 

48 moths of 27 species

Mini-Orchard Beginnings

 If you’ve visited the reserve in the last couple of weeks and have strolled round to Riverwalk Hide, no doubt you’ll have noticed some newly planted trees. These are the beginnings of Ladywalk’s orchard.

 Inspired by other sites in the county, we would like to collect together varieties of orchard fruit that have their origins in Warwickshire. Granted, Warwickshire has never had a rich orchard history as say Worcestershire has, but we would like to keep these varities alive. So by planting an orchard at Ladywalk we hope to; help maintain variety diversity, provide another valuable habitat and food source on the reserve and perhaps even try some of the fruit for ourselves!

 In spring the trees will be excellent for pollinating insects and generally good for a host of invertebrates year round. It’s well known Bullfinches will enjoy snacking on the buds. Redstarts and other migrants may pop in and as the trees mature they will be valuable to species such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and even nesting sites for Little Owls. Of course the fruit will be attractive too. One of the chose apple varieties fruits early in August whilst the other will hopefully hold onto it’s fruit into the New Year providing a good place to see Fieldfares and Redwings on the reserve.

 So far we have planted six trees in two rows of three. The trees have been staked and we’ve done our best to deter the host of creatures that would like to munch on the tasty, young buds by protecting them with a sheath AND a wire fence, but we’ll see. The soil is incredibly fertile and moist so they should get off to a good start. Concerns were raised over the flooding risk but the site was carefully. It does not waterlog like other areas of the reserve and if flooding should occur it rarely lasts longer than a day.

 As for the varieties, we have chosen two ‘Wyken Pippin’ apples, two ‘Warwickshire Drooper’ plums and two native crab apple trees. The apples are grafted onto an M25 rootstock which controls the ultimate size of the tree. M25 is very vigorous and will produce a full-sized orchard tree of up to 4.5m in height and 6m in spread with lots of wildlife value and that traditional orchard feel. The plums are grafted onto a St. Julian A rooststock producing a tree roughly the same height but perhaps less breadth. The crab apples have been planted in the middle of the orchard so that they aid pollination between the different apple varieties and improve fruit set. A few additional crab apples have also been planted around Rudd Pool by an already mature apple tree to provide another fruiting area in years to come.

 Plans are to extend the rows of the orchard to include two of a rare Warwickshire apple variety called ‘Hunt’s Early’ which I couldn’t find to buy ‘ready-made’ so instead had to preorder to be grafted which will take 18 months! I’ve also heard reports of another Warwickshire apple called ‘Shakespeare’ but couldn’t find any details on it. If anybody has any information on this variety (or any others from Warwickshire) we’d love to hear about it and include the variety in the orchard.

 The varieties are listed below. Suppliers used were Walcot Organic Nursery in Pershore, Worcestershire and Keepers Nursery in Maidstone, Kent. Both have provided excellent service and very healthy trees.

Apple – Wyken Pippin

Origins: The pips of an eaten apple from Holland were planted at Wyken Manor near Coventry in the early 1700’s. The variety is an ancestors of Laxton’s Superb.

Description: Flat, round apples with smooth green skin with fine russet dots. Sometimes with some red flush. Juicy sweet and richly flavoured.

Picking time: Mid October

Season of Use:  Can store until January.

Apple – Hunt’s Early

Origins: Warwickshire, 1884. Was commercially grown in Kent.

Description: A sharp, early season apple. Flushed red.

Picking Time: August

Season of Use: Doesn’t keep, use in August.

Plum – Warwickshire Drooper

Origins: Grown commercially in orchards in Warwickshire and believed to be first known as Magnum though there is some uncertainty as many varieties had the word Magnum in. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that it became known as the Warwickshire Drooper.

Description: A small, yellow plum with reddish speckles. A good multi purpose, good for cooking or leave longer on the tree for a sweet dessert plum. The tree’s branches arch downwards hence the name.

Picking Time: Early September.

Excerpt from Forgotten Fruits by Christopher Stocks:

 “It might sound more like an unfortunate condition than a type of fruit, but this gloriously titled plum is actually named after the way it’s branches droop from the tree, almost giving it the look of a weeping willow. Odd growth habits aside, it’s rather handsome yellow, egg-shaped fruits are excellent for cooking and preserving, and at their best they make a decent dessert plum. It was once a popular variety, widely planted in the Midlands and sent to the London markets, but today it is rather rare, and well worth cultivating. In it’s county of origin the fruit was sometimes fermented to make an alcoholic drink know as Plum Jerkum, which was reputed to ‘leave the head clear while paralysing the legs’ and whose exciting effects surely deserve to be rediscovered.”

 For those interested in planting local fruit varieties no matter where they live, I’ve found  the above mentioned title and the The Apple Source Book by Sue Clifford to both be very useful. Planting trees is always a good thing to do but planting local fruit trees will reap many benefits.

October WeBS Count

  Though the miserable weather did make hiking around Ladywalk pretty unpleasant the flooding has really shifted the birds on to the pools. The new scrapes at B pools look superb with good numbers of duck close up to Bittern Hide and nearly 100 Black-headed Gulls enjoying the floodwaters. The long-staying and content juvenile Garganey remains in New Bay along with the female Pintail and a few Snipe.

  Please be aware that the footpaths between Bittern & B Hides are under water at the moment though passable with wellies. As we waded through, up went about 50 Mallards and a few Teal who were quite happily dabbling amongst the weeds. Pete did the stretch from the outfall to the main gates at Ladywalk counting 10 Chiffs and a couple of Blackcaps. Other passerines were hard to come by, just a few Redwings over, 3 Willow Tits together along Riverwalk (maybe a family party) and a dozen or so Meadow Pipits on the meadows behind the bund on the Whitacre Heath side.

Species List;

Mute Swan (41), Canada Goose (43), Mallard (350), Gadwall (128), Shoveler (78), Wigeon (70), Pintail (1), Teal (105), Garganey (1), Tufted Duck (43), Goosander (3), Little Grebe (18), Great Crested Grebe (1), Cormorant (41), Little Egret (1), Grey Heron (4), Water Rail (3), Moorhen (50), Coot (192), Snipe (3), Black-headed Gull (111), Lesser Black-backed Gull (8), Kingfisher (1).

Autumn 2018 All-Dayer

  Records were broken at the weekend as Ladywalk secured it’s highest autumn total for an all-dayer with a neat 90 species. The team of 6 started pre-dawn as usual and started brightly, kicking off with Tawny and Barn Owls in the gloom. At the north end Pete picked up a distant Marsh Harrier, having been seen earlier at Middleton. Simultaneously, Steve Cawthray picked up a Great White Egret over on Eon Meadows and a good tick in the form of a Snipe whilst a single juvenile Black-tailed Godwit graced Main Pool and was the anomaly in an otherwise migrant wader free day. Overhead passage was a bit thin on the ground, just a handful of Meadow Pipits with 1 Yellow Wag early on but they were accompanied by a number of Grey Wagtails heading south. On the ground things were disappointingly quiet in the cool, blustery conditions. It took an age to find warblers, we finished with just a single Garden and 2 Reed Warblers whilst we failed to find the usual Lesser Whitethroat.

  Breakfast baps and an excess of chocolate doughnuts were enjoyed out in the reeds and we totted up our mornings work – 75 species – perhaps 5-10 species down on the norm at this point, so plenty of gaps to fill. As the rain came down though and the waders refused to fall from the sky, it wasn’t looking good.

  Fortunately, we had a fantastic period after breakfast, mopping up expected species and picking up a few more surprises. Sam and Kev were dedicated in their stakeout for the humble House Sparrow, they picked up a Hobby over B pools and a late Swift bombed through. The Garganey that must be here every day lately was pinned down at the unlikely site of Rudd Pool snoozing with his Gadwall rather than Teal mates and Pete & Steve moved further afield to Whitacre Pool and the waterworks spooking 2 Redstarts along the hedgerows.

  The morning team finished early afternoon with 90 species (we thought it was 88 at the time) leaving Richard Walker to fly the flag late in the day and do his best to find something from a list of no-shows but it wasn’t to be. Species missed that we would expect were Mistle Thrush and Lesser Whitethroat, Red-legged Partridge, Skylark, maybe LSW. Wader-wise anything would have done, we’re not fussy – Common Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greenshank- but it didn’t matter. It does show the potential though, that the dream 100 day is possible even at Ladywalk if it all goes your way, though more likely in the spring for us. Bring on May.

  Thanks go to the team; Pete, Steve, Sam, Kev, Mark, Richard and Ben and thanks to the organisers. A pleasure as always to be part of the West Midland All-Dayer.

Species List (WeBS Counts in Brackets)

Mute Swan (18), Greylag Goose, Canada Goose (5), Mallard (162), Gadwall (61), Shoveler (12), Wigeon (7), Teal (73), Garganey (1), Tufted Duck (9), Goosander (6), Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe (9), Great Crested Grebe (5), Cormorant (13), Little Egret (3), Great White Egret (1), Grey Heron (4), Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Water Rail (2), Moorhen (34), Coot (55), Lapwing (1), Black-tailed Godwit (1), Snipe (2), Black-headed Gull (24), Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Swift, Kingfisher (3), Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (4 thru north – 1,2,1), Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart (2), Song Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer.

Total: 90 species

July Mothfest!

  A fantastic mothing morning at the reserve today. We were on site at 5am to trawl through the clouds of insect life in the traps. Rafts of micros and LBJ’s were interspersed with a gorgeous collection of photogenic specimens. Pretty highlights included multiples of Large Emerald, Bordered Beauty, White Satin Moth, Drinker, Buff Arches and Early Thorn. Rarer finds included the reedbed-dwelling Silky Wainscot (I can’t find any other Ladywalk records yet), our first Double Lobed in a couple of years at the reserve, Blackneck (another potential first) lured in from it’s foodplant – Tufted Vetch – that’s covering the marsh at the moment and most satisfyingly, a single Angle-striped Sallow (scarce in Warwickshire) after our 3 records last year. There was one we weren’t sure about, in the pics below, any ideas? Comments welcome.

  Early summer mornings in the woods are special at the moment. If you haven’t had a chance to take a look at the Marsh Helleborines yet, there are still plenty in full flower in the clearing behind Hide B. Have a sit down amongst the orchids and bees and watch out for the resident Marsh & Willow Tits and maybe even Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

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Marsh Helleborine glade

 Species List

Early Thorn 6, Vapourer, Riband Wave 11, Poplar Grey 2, Common Footman 7+, Dingy Footman 9+, Buff Footman 3, White Satin Moth 2, Clouded Border 56+, Common Wave 1, Common White Wave 5, Small Fan-footed Wave 1, Buff-tip 6, Pebble Hook-tip 20, Brimstone 3, Scalloped Oak 2, Peppered Moth 1, Dunbar 17, Poplar Hawkmoth 5, Silver Y 3, Rivulet 1, Mother-of-Pearl 23+, Dingy Shears 36, Single-dotted Wave 5, Flame Carpet 1, July Highflyer 23, Large Yellow Underwing 10, Lesser Yellow Underwing 1, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing 1, Bordered Beauty 2, Double Square Spot 29+, Swallow-tailed Moth 1, Snout 2, Fanfoot 1, Cabbage Moth 1, Dot Moth 3, Bird Cherry/Willow Ermines beyond number, Clay 3, Ingrailed Clay 1, Light Emerald 2, Large Emerald 2, Rustic 24+, Common Rustic 6, Smoky Wainscot 24, Silky Wainscot 1, Double Lobed 1, Crassa unitella 2, Brown China-mark 1, Dark Arches 2, Light Arches 3, Diamond-back Moth 2, Straw Dot 1, Small Magpie 3, Anania coronata 1,  Pale Prominent 1, Coxcomb Prominent 1, Pebble Prominent 1, Blackneck 1, Drinker 1, Buff Arches 2, Sandy Carpet 2, Large Twin-spot Carpet 4, Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet 1, Marbled Minor agg. 6, Common Plume 1, Willow Beauty 2, Engrailed 1, Spectacle 1, Flame Shoulder 1, V Pug 1, Ochreous Pug 1, Double-striped Pug 1, Bright-line Brown-eye 4, Angle-striped Sallow 1, Setaceous Hebrew Character 1, Beautiful Hook-tip 1, Mottled Rustic 1, Short-cloaked 1, Ruddy Streak 1, Large Fruit-tree Tortrix 1, Argyresthia brockeella 2, Eudonia sp 30+, Hypsopygia glaucinalis 1, Dingy Shell 2, Marbled White Spot 1.

459 moths counted of 87 species but many, many micros sp. and numbers going unrecorded!

 

A Night of Prominents

 A really striking collection of May moths were waiting for us at Ladywalk this morning. Prominents were a prominent feature – Swallow and Lesser Swallow (compare below), Pebble and – my favourite – the ridiculous looking Pale Prominent.

 The male Pale Tussock was a nice surprise with it’s incredible furry legs, whilst the White-pinion Spotted and Common Lutestring were both unrecorded last year on the reserve and seem at least uncommon from the amount of past records.

Species List

Red Green Carpet 1, Lesser Swallow Prominent 5, Swallow Prominent 1, Pug sp. 3 (too worn), Muslin Moth 2, Pebble Prominent 5, Pale Prominent 3, Pale Tussock 1, Waved Umber 1, Flame Carpet 2, White-pinion Spotted 1, Clouded Drab 3, Ruddy Streak 1, Clouded Border 1, Lunar Marbled Brown 1, Small Quaker 1, Hebrew Character 1, Common Lutestring 1.

34 moths of 19 species.

pale tussock

May All Dayer 2018

 Highlights of an otherwise slow day were a stunning male Redstart around Whitacre Pool and a Yellow Wagtail on Bittern Hide Flashes. More surprisingly was a very late Redwing, tseeping over the car park at 4am! As always it’s nice to gather 10 species of warbler on the reserve and to clear up on the diffcult resident species.

 I think a Ladywalk total of 93 species on a day like yesterday was impressive. It’s a comparatively small reserve with less contributors than other sites taking part in the all dayer. The reserve though is species rich and diverse in it’s habitats, making it a really good day out and not just for birds…

 The place was dripping with butterflies. Multiples of Brimstone, Large White, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood were all seen, though particularly large numbers of Orange-tip were flitting over the swathes of flowering Garlic Mustard. The first Odonata of the season were noted too, a male and female Banded Demoiselle basking in the sun along the entrance track to the reserve.

Species List

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Hobby, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Crow, Raven, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

93 species

Ladywalk Trail Cam Review (Jan-March)

Dates 1/1/18 to 29/3/18                                                      Area    No.2

           Species          Notes Rec sightings
Badgers Numbers and in good condition       14
Foxes Numbers and in good condition       17
Muntjac deer Numbers and in good condition       59
Grey squirrel Numbers and in good condition       95
Rabbit Numbers and in good condition       27
Brown Rat Numbers and in good condition       29
Wood mice Numbers and in good condition       47
Otter Numbers and in good condition

There seems to be 3-4 on multiple visits

      28
Bank vole Was being eaten by kestrel at time         1
Polecat Good condition         2

  In area No.2 we have used 3 trail cams that have be moved on a weekly basis giving an overall reading of the area. 2 trail cams have monitored the area were possible otter sightings may be made and we are using 1 trail cam to monitor the badger sett (not included in survey results).

 The weather conditions over this time have ranged from rain, standing snow to damp and the temperature has fallen to below freezing for extended periods.

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 Foxes and badgers are both unregularly visiting this part of the reserve. The farther you go to the south end of the reserve towards the river Tame the less is seen of them. This lack of numbers may be due to the females being underground with young and the males staying close to their breeding females in both cases at this time of year leaving only the dog fox’s and male badgers at large. There seems to be very little foraging activity by them both in this area, just the occasional visitor. We will see if this is a seasonal thing over the year with spot testing of the previously sampled areas.

 The muntjacs continue to graze the site being seen regularly. Any of the young deer we have observed with the females in our past surveying have now become self-sufficient and have left their mothers grazing and wondering by themselves. They are unmistakably young ones. There is still plenty of green foliage on the site for them to eat despite the muntjacs ability to survive on dead leaves if it needs to. The cold temperatures have had no effect on them what so ever come rain, ice or snow.

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A lone muntjac deer braving the weather and minus temperatures on an early February morning to graze on the grass land to the side of the A hide.

 There are Grey Squirrels in numbers throughout the area as we expected and a healthy population of Rabbits in the wooded and grassy areas of the reserve and both can be seen out feeding throughout the year.

 The Wood Mice live in the grassy areas as well as the wooded areas and are in abundant numbers across the surveyed areas up to now. As you move towards the river Tame there is an increasing number of Brown Rats living in the banks and undergrowth. They are active mainly at dawn and dusk but can be seen throughout the day if you are lucky.

 We have had 2 Polecats sightings on separate occasions over the last three weeks of testing. A species making a comeback.  We must investigate further over the next few months to see if this is a visitor or occupant of Ladywalk.

 An unexpected bonus whilst we have been observing this area for the otters was a Water Rail that uses the inlet pipe constantly to access the River Tame.

The Otters at LadywalkFeb 2018

 The Otters have been the stars of the last few months for us and this is what we have learned. There are 3 possibly 4 otters entering the reserve on a regular basis through the inlet pipe from the river Tame to the trench leading to the Rudd pool before moving off across the reserve. Only one otter exits this way so we hope to pick up the trail of the others at another point in the future.

 This area is where we have seen the otters scenting, scratching and rolling and is defined by the large pile of loose grass and spraint that the otters have left. It was noticeable each and every time an otter passed by this area, it smelt and scented this point so must be significant scenting post for them. There is a distinct fixed run worn in the grass on the route that the otters are taking along the grass bank by the trench and looks to have been used for some time.

 Otter tracks can be found along the banks of the river and in the wet mud. Unusually in this case showing the webbing photographed on the soft sand by the new inlet. Generally just the pads and claws imprint. They leave 80mm wide strides and when running 300mm – 600mm wide prints.

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Otter footprint

  The otter spraint is irregular sometimes short and rounded pile of droppings. Segments with flattened masses containing fish bones and scales. It is most often found on the banks of streams ponds on logs or rocks in the water. It may when fresh look a greenish colour. This marks the otters range defending its territory and helping neighbours keep in social contact with one another.

  Otter behaviour. We have watched this pair of otters involved in vigorous chasing and play fighting, rolling and sliding on and over each other. This went on for quite some time and was very vocal with high pitched squeaks rather than the whickering chatter it makes when threatening. We observed this behaviour over a number of evenings. This is thought to be part of the courtship display. This takes place with the pair staying together for about a week. They can mate on land or in the water. Otters carry their young for 61-63 days but can prolong it for over 9 months and have a litter up to 4 pups. They can mate all year around but mainly in the spring and otters mate for life.

  We will continue to monitor the otters.  Overtime we will attempt to find more tracks and trails of the otters across the reserve to gather more information on their movements and habits possibly with young in the months to come with luck.

The Badger Sett  January – March 2018

  There are three distinct setts with many entrances and spoil heaps covering a large area. We will only follow the one sett. We know it is decades old and Is very active by the presence of fresh spoil heaps as well as discarded bedding in the area. There are many individuals of different sizes in this family group using the sett and at this point we have no idea how many. We are and will continue to watching their comings and goings, and looking for identifying features among them. This can be done by comparing size, their white patches vary in size and shape and tail width and lengths as well as scars. We have seen a range of behaviours from scenting, greetings, grooming each other as well as badger politics with posturing, disagreements and disputes.

 There is continuous activity across the sett with all local members checking out the activities of their neighbours and inspecting the many sett entrances. Badgers live in complex social groups, which average about five adults. There is usually a slight preponderance of females because of the higher mortality of males in fights and on roads. Only some females breed. Those that do not are generally smaller and more likely to carry scars on their rumps from fights. Cubs of subordinate sows may be killed soon after birth by dominant sows and left outside the sett. During fights badgers often bite each other’s rumps, tearing off chunks of skin and flesh. Males fight in spring and late summer, when they are mating; females throughout the year.

 It was great to see badger tracks in the snow with clear outlines of pads and claws. Badgers front feet usually have longer claws than its back foot and the stride varies on the pace the badger is moving as well as its size.

 Latrines (dung pits) can as I understand it vary in size, but they are generally around 15cm across and up to 15cm deep as we have found. They will slowly be filled with dung over a period, until almost full, whereupon a new one will be dug nearby. The faeces may also contain evidence as to the badgers diet. Black and slimy, implies a worm-rich diet. However, there may also be evidence of cereal, grains, seeds or even insect casings. It would seem that at this time of year our badgers mainly feast on worms. Badgers will also use their musk and urine spread across their range to mark their territory; so neighbouring clans know where the boundaries lie. This may not apply with more than one sett in such a confined area were boundaries can’t be used effectively.

 Regularly used badger tracks through woodland and fields can be recognised by the height of the plants and growth above the tracks. These may have been used for generations and can be found in many areas of the Ladywalk site.

  The badgers are extremely sociable with males grooming each other outside the entrance to the sett and scenting by bum rubbing to mix there unique blended scent to distinguish themselves as part of their family group. Outsiders are driven off by fighting and rump biting especially during early spring. This takes place from February which is also when most of the young are born.  Females may move their cubs to new nests if disturbed by amorous males. This can be seen from holes with fresh spoil heaps in march.

 Sows normally lactate for at least 12 weeks, sometimes considerably longer if food is hard to come by for cubs as they learn to forage. Cubs are usually fully weaned at around 15 weeks. Juveniles often play around the sett particularly leap frog and king of the castle.

 The staple food of badgers is usually earthworms which generally make up around 80% of their diet. They can eat several hundred worms each night, but being omnivorous they will eat almost anything, from flesh and fruit to bulbs and bird eggs. They also eat slugs and insects and have a keen sense of smell and sharp claws that can root up grubs from under the soil surface. Fruit also features on the menu, including apples, pears, plums and elderberries – you can often find elder bushes growing near to the setts. They will eat nuts, seeds and acorns along with crops like wheat and sweetcorn.

 With the end of one season starts the next and for us the prospect of the start of surveying area 3 over the future months as well as any unexpected subjects of interest that may crop up along the way.

 We will continue to monitor the Otters.  Overtime we will attempt to find more tracks and trails of the otters across the reserve to gather more information on their movements and habits possibly with young in the months to come with luck.

 We intend to continue monitor the badger sett over the next year and possibly on from there to watch their social behaviours and see if the HS2 development has impact on the sett and to what level. We will keep you up to date with what we find as we go along.

Crane for Ladywalk & April Mothing

 Fantastic news and a nice reward for some on the maintenance day was a Common Crane! Seen flying low over reserve at 15:40 by Pete Sofley, it came in from the southwest and over the pools calling. Pete lost it through the trees but A&A Brooks had it from Riverwalk Hide heading north up the valley towards RSPB Middleton Lakes. It was noted flying over there not long after by the wardens:

Oh heck a ⭐️ Crane ⭐️ has just flown north over the silt pond, was high but if anyone is on site, especially around North Pit they should see it!!!”

 So an excellent record for the reserve but not the first. Back in the year 2000, Steve Cawthray was in the right place at the right time. “A party of six was seen flying over Ladywalk towards dusk on October 19th calling loudly SLC. They appeared to land in meadows to the south along the nearby River Blythe, but could not be located the following morning”.  Taken from the WMBC Report from 2000, that record was just the 2nd for modern Warwickshire at the time.

 With many eyes on the reserve, spring really seemed to kick off with 3 Yellow Wagtails, House Martin and Sedge Warbler – all firsts for the year – as well as another Tree Pipit and a visit from a Great White Egret.

 As the birds are now breeding, maintenance was scaled down to avoid disturbance. There is always plenty to do though and 60-70 bags(!) of rubbish were picked up along the river circuit after the flooding. A depressing job but a satisfying result.

 The moth season began on Sunday night at long last. Waiting for a night that wasn’t freezing and/or chucking it down meant we’ve been waiting quite a while. The recorded temperature was a reasonable 4.6C and resulted in 43 moths of 7 species. Nice to see the subtle variations from one moth to the next in the Engrailed pictures below.

Diurnea fagella 1, Clouded Drab 7, Early Thorn 1, Engrailed 2, Common Quaker 12, Twin-Spot Quaker 3, Hebrew Character 17.