Ladywalk Badgers

 A late afternoon in early January, sitting in “B Hide” trying (unsuccessfully on this occasion) to spot a Bittern, I was chatting with Pete Sofley. I was probably rambling on about badgers and otters as I often do, and the outcome of this conversation was that I would set a few trail cameras around Ladywalk NR to see how the reserves badgers were faring. So, the trail cameras were dusted off, checked over and soon attached to any sturdy structure overlooking a likely spot.

 I am a massive fan of the mustelid family, particularly our largest two members, the Otter and the Badger. For me though, the badger is a clear favourite. I’ve tried to capture some footage throughout the year, snippets of which have appeared on Ladywalk’s twitter feed. Quite a few people have voiced their enjoyment of these short clips, and I have been asked many times, “What are the badgers up to now?”

Here is an attempt at briefly explaining 6 months in the life of the Ladywalk badgers.

January

 Badgers do not hibernate, but they do however slow down their activities during winter months. A very mild January led to there being more activity than usual for this month. Our badgers took advantage of the unusually mild weather. They were seen collecting fresh bedding. (Sows may well be pregnant now with the cubs being born around February/March). Sows pregnant now will be as a result of matings that took place last year, probably around September or October. The sows carry out a procedure known as delayed implantation. This means that regardless of when conception occurred, the sow can ensure the birth of the young in the spring when food availability and conditions are more favourable. A January mating was caught on trail camera (a rarity) and lasted for around 45 mins. This is known as “long duration” mating and is a serious attempt at reproduction, rather than short duration mating which is thought to be linked more with bonding when the sow isn’t fully receptive.

February

 This is the month that cubs will be born below ground, often in a special chamber dug out especially for the purpose. If there were successful matings last year there may be Ladywalk cubs below ground now. Only time will tell. Badgers were seen out foraging together this month. A badger was also picked up on the riverside otter camera. This is a good distance from the sett and demonstrates just how far they can range in an evening’s foraging. An average badger sett contains around 5 adults.

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March

 If the Ladywalk badgers have had cubs, they will be around 6 weeks old now. They will be exploring the chambers in the sett but won’t yet venture above ground. Lots of badger activity recorded on cameras at various locations around Ladywalk reserve. Badgers are very active at the moment. I’m hoping towards the end of this month or early next month to capture a glimpse of the cubs if there are any on the trail cameras.

April – Coronavirus!

I decided to remove cameras from the reserve to enable me to conform to the government’s guidelines of no unnecessary travel. I did not want to be travelling to the reserve to maintain the cameras. Still no evidence of cubs.

Late April / Early May

 The government have clarified the position on travel to exercise. You can take a short drive to exercise. I took this opportunity to replace one trail camera. Still hoping for evidence of cubs. I left this camera for just over a week before deciding to visit again to replace card and batteries. The camera although quite securely fastened into position had been moved out of position. The badgers do sometimes interfere with the cameras if they can reach them. It’s that innate curiosity that the weasel family are famous for, they just can’t help themselves. The result was the camera recording a weeks’ worth of tree branches blowing in the wind. Still no evidence of cubs!

 May

 If there are cubs, they will be between somewhere in the region of 11-13 weeks old now. They should be out foraging with the sow and enjoying lots of chasing about and play fighting.

Proof of Cubs

 Late May and the badger cubs were seen around the reserve enjoying the warmth of the sun. I initially saw a single cub that disappeared into dense undergrowth, eventually reappearing with two siblings. It was a fantastic sight watching three cubs setting out foraging in the early evening. The Sow wasn’t far behind keeping an eye on them.

 A successful year for the Ladywalk badgers. It is late July as I write this and the cubs will now be exploring their habitat, fully weaned and feeding themselves. I have caught one on trail camera a few times heading to a favoured area to take a drink.

 It’s a difficult time of year for setting trail cameras at the moment. Various vegetation is at its peak and very dense in certain areas. This makes setting cameras tricky as the plants and foliage moving in the breeze repeatedly set the cameras off. I’ll be putting the cameras out again in the autumn to see how the badgers are faring.

Regards,

Moocher

 

Shoreline Improvements

  After last year missing out on getting the main marsh mown and baled for hay due to weather conditions, we made sure we got an early cut and collect in this year. We had a good display of wildflowers and orchids this year but nothing compared to the previous year in variety and amount. Since we started hay making on main marsh seven years ago the marsh has improved year on year and in recent years has been more successful for breeding Lapwing.

  The local farmer has mown the main areas that they can reach with their heavy machinery. The wetter strips around the main shoreline and scrapes were left, so we started this week clearing in preparation for returning waders and wildfowl. The shorter sward areas were mown to improve for grazing wildfowl, particularly Wigeon.

 We have purchased a cheap, second hand rotavator for the immediate shoreline. The idea is that we will refresh the soil for invertebrates which will benefit waders now and again in the spring when the shoreline is exposed again.

  John Allton has been working on a new ‘scuffle’ for the tractor which in essence works as a plough for sowing the wild bird crops but we can also use it to ‘scuffle’ the soil along the rest of the shoreline. It’s a great bit of kit and will use on other areas of reserve.

  As I was mowing this strip that was left by the main contractors it was teeming with life; Short-tailed Voles and loads of insect life feeding on the late nectar, particularly the Water Mint. Daddy long-legs, Crickets, Bees and loads of moths were disturbed, especially Silver Y’s.

  We decided to leave strips of the best areas for wildlife and these will also be good for feeding areas for Snipe who have a fondness for feeding in areas of Purple Loosestrife. I noticed Red Bartsia growing this year for the first time which is semi-parasitic and  is another good addition to the marsh.

  To add to this we have been working on how to improve the main shoreline of the marsh along the western edge of the main pool. We have been looking at slowing down the encroachment of Phragmites which are slowly taking up more of the shoreline. So we will start cutting back some of the areas which will open up the pool for winter wildfowl and Snipe which seem to prefer feeding in the winter stubble edges. Also with increased predator activity a more open shoreline will give feeding birds more reaction time to predators making them less nervy.

Hopefully all these additions will help improve feeding conditions for both waders and waterfowl over the coming months.

Pete Sofley

LADYWALK  RESERVE – BREEDING REPORT 2019

Introduction

Thirteen visits were made, across the whole reserve in the period between 11 April and 8 August.  With the exception of a visit on 13 June when there was no access to the reserve due to flooding each visit took approx. 5-6 hours in duration. As was the case in the three years that I have done this surveying I split the reserve into 12 transects and my methodology was again to list all birds in each transect by sound or sight on each visit. The reporting details that follow are largely from my notes, plus information from other sources such as Pete Sofley (reserve warden),  regular users of the reserve and on  Twitter. This year we have been provided with much information from our ringers, notably about the  success or otherwise of tits in the nestboxes. I am sure that there are other peoples’ breeding records that can enhance this report. If so please forward them to me via Richardking54@gmail.com.

 

The transects remain the same as previous years and are as follows –

Transect 1 – from car park to the double gates, technically not part of the reserve but treated as the reserve in this report.

Transect 2 – from double gates to Hide A.

Transect 3 – at Hide A

Transect 4 – from Hide A to Rudd Hide *

Transect 5 – at Rudd Hide

Transect 6 – from Rudd Hide to Riverwalk Hide*

Transect 7 – at Riverwalk Hide

Transect 8 – from Riverwalk Hide to Bittern Hide*

Transect 9 – at Bittern hide

Transect 10 – from Bittern Hide to B Hide*

Transect 11 – at B Hide

Transect 12 – from B Hide to Lock Up inc. the wood & fishing pools*

*Or vice versa

Visits were normally between approx. 8am and early afternoon and were dated –

11 April                                                           6  June

20 April                                                           17 June

26 April                                                           1 July

6 May                                                              18 July

17 May                                                            29 July

31 May                                                            8 August

 

Weather

  2019 saw some of the worst flooding the reserve has seen, with a greater frequency than during recent summers. The breeding season started well weatherwise as April and May were drier than average with quite a lot of dry and sunny weather. The deterioration came in June, particularly between 11th and 14th when there was nearly two inches of rain, leading to flooding at the reserve entrance putting it out of bounds. The sand martins were washed out of their nests, and subsequently in two more floods in the next two months. It is impossible to aggregate the effects of this flooding on breeding birds but it is likely to have wrecked the nests of various warblers and ducks. For example shoveler were present through the breeding season, and have nested here in 2017, but there was no evidence of successful breeding.  In the case of lapwings if it was not the nests being washed out it was the chicks drowning or being predated , in the June floods at least two chicks were lost. June and July both had more than twice the average rainfall and August was not a lot drier with the 8th being particularly wet. With three floods through the summer it seems likely that some birds such as sand martins whose nests it is easy to monitor attempted further nesting, twice, but were flooded out and eventually gave up.

A  detailed summary for the 2019 breeding season

Mute Swan: There were two breeding pairs on the reserve, the same as 2018. A nest below Riverwalk Hide was first seen on my visits on 11 April with another nest seen at New Bay on 20 April. By 17 May two cygnets emerged from the nest below Riverwalk Hide and the New Bay nest produced seven cygnets. Bizarrely two of these cygnets disappeared during the June flood – were they washed away or predated? No more cygnets have disappeared since.

It is possible that another pair nested on the river because a pair plus nine small cygnets were seen on the river on 17 May. It is not clear where they nested although on 11 April there appeared to be a nest on the river island but this was not seen again.

MuteSwanCygnets2

Canada Goose: More broods were recorded of this species than last year when there were three. On 20 April three nests were within sight of Hide A and a bird on a nest in front of B Hide. The first goslings were seen on 6 May and the peak date for families was 31 May when three goslings were on the marsh, seven on the new scrape and elsewhere there were families of four, two (twice) and eight. By the end of July many of these goslings were on the river.

Shelduck: None were seen on the reserve during my recording period, unlike previous years when at least their presence in April and May provided some optimism that they might breed.

Gadwall: are present throughout the year on the pools and river with five pairs recorded on Main Pool on 6 May. Broods were reported on 17 May, 10 June (1+9)  and 21 June when there were six ducklings at B Pool  I saw a single duckling on B Pool on 1 July where an adult and five ducklings were later seen, prob. those recorded last month. On 20 July a brood of nine was recorded on Twitter.  On 8 August there were about 20 gadwall on Main pool but the only brood was of four ducklings, with another brood of eight on B Pool.

Teal: Pairs were recorded on the Main Pool on 20 April and 26 April (two) and whilst small numbers were present through the summer there was no sign of breeding.

Mallard: Broods were numerous and families seem to gravitate to the river where there seems to be little predation. The first brood I saw was a female  + 7 at the Angling Pools on 20 April.  A female + 9 were on the river on 26 April and there was another brood of ten seen on 6 and 17 May. Other broods were as listed –

6 May – two broods of 4 and 9 on river between Rudd and Bittern Hides and two broods (1,7) on 31 May

31 May – 1+3 large ducklings on the Main Pool

6 June – 1+3 large ducklings on the river and about six juveniles nearby

17 June – 1+6 ducklings in same location and a female with 11 ducklings elsewhere on the river.

1 July – 1+4 at the above location, and a female was seen with 1 duckling on B Pool. There were also a number of older juveniles on the river on this day.

18 July – 1+5 large ducklings on Main pool. On this date a light coloured female was on the river with 7 ducklings. This is the third year that I have seen her with ducklings and they were seen again twice in the next fortnight. On this date 1+9 were reported on B Pool.

The Angling Pools yielded a number of families as in addition to the reserve’s earliest brood 1+6 were seen on 6 May and these were seen again on 17 May. Two broods were here on 31 May (one with 7 ducklings). On 6 June this brood was seen again, near to 1+6 small ducklings. Older ducklings were often seen and heard on these waters as the summer progressed. The small size of the pools with their fallen trees and amount of vegetation surrounding the pools make this area a secure location for breeding mallard.

Shoveler: It is two years since the successful breeding on B Pools and it is possible that breeding failed due to the flooding in 2019. There were pairs present through the breeding season such as at New Bay on 20 April, Main Pool on 17 May. B Pool and the new scrapes would probably have been the best site for breeding and pairs were seen here on 6 June and two were in the same area on 1 July.

Tufted Duck:  Pairs were regular on the pools and river throughout the spring and summer but there was little evidence of breeding, other than an adult + three photographed at B Pool  on 13 August. This species had disappeared from the reserve by late August and why do so few breed here? Secluded areas such as the Angling Pools would seem ideal for breeding and it is a mystery why Marsh Lane has 100 ducklings, Ladywalk so few.  It is possible that flooding may have been a factor in this failed breeding attempt.

Goosander: this species is seen regularly on the river particularly, and the first report of successful breeding was a report of an adult +2 on 2 May. On 17 May I saw a female at a nestbox between B Hide and the sluice, one of two nestboxes in use by this species.

On 6 June there were reports of five broods, totaling 33 ducklings,  between Water Orton and the reserve, with 10 young having been seen the previous day,  so the evidence is that goosanders are increasing.

PHOTO-2020-05-10-15-37-46

Common Pheasant: As usual these were present throughout the summer and  they are likely to have successfully bred although no broods were seen. A broken egg was found at T8 on 6 May; this may have been evidence of a chick hatching or of predation.  It is likely that there were juveniles about the reserve later in the summer.

Cormorant: nested in the same location as in recent years and during my visits I counted between 19 and 28 nests. I suspect there were about 24 nests, and by 17 May many held nestlings that eventually found their way to the main pool.

Little Egret: the maximum recorded on the reserve during this survey was nine but there was no sign of them breeding here, and they did not associate with the breeding cormorants.

Grey Heron: as the summer progressed  juveniles were seen on the reserve from one or two local heronries as was the case in previous years.

Little Grebe: birds were present throughout the year. There was no evidence of breeding at Rudd Pool but 1-2  pairs were regular on Main Pool with 1+ 4 there on 29 July. Whether this brood was predated or not, or it was another brood on 8 August there was only one adult, one youngster present. On this date at this location there was an adult with something in its beak which may have suggested two broods present on this day.

On B Pool again there were one or two pairs and the first youngster was photographed with its parent on 30 April. On 4 June an adult plus two were reported here and on 17 June an adult + a small young bird was seen in front of the hide, whilst on 18 July two juveniles were reported.  Elsewhere on B Pool 1+3 were seen from Bittern Hide on 5 August.

Again for this species the secluded Angling pools would be a good place to breed and in June and July adults were seen or heard here. I suspect they did breed here and a possible brood was seen on 29 July.

It is likely that there were about four breeding pairs on the reserve but it is impossible to know how many young birds were predated but some birds will have fledged.

Great Crested Grebe: birds were present throughout the survey and on 6 May there were two pairs on the reserve. There was a pair nest building, viewable from Bittern Hide, on 6 May and by 17 May there was a nest in front of the hide but the nest soon disappeared.

 One was on a nest at Main Pool on 31 May and 6 June but this nest had disappeared by 17 June after the first period of flooding.

On B Pool in front of B Hide a pair were on a nest on 31 May and 6 June and then relocated by 17-6, probably due to the flooding. Unlike last year I have no records of youngsters.

Sparrowhawk:  bred on the reserve for the second consecutive year, by the Angling Pools, but it is not certain that they were successful. From my regular walk birds were heard at the nest on 20 April and then disturbed twice in May. On 15 and 17 June there were calls that suggested young at the nest, however there was no evidence of young birds in flight, unlike last year when they were really prominent.

Buzzard: one was disturbed from a tree on TI and more regularly heard off the reserve than seen on but again no evidence of breeding which considering the size of the reserve and its trees is disappointing. .

Water Rail: winter numbers in late 2019 suggest this was a good breeding year with the reedbeds in front of B Hide the site of most sightings. On 3 June 1+5 were seen and photographed here and on 25 July young were heard and photographed. Again in the same location 1+3 were photographed on 5 August, and on 16 August there was a report of an adult and chick again in the same location. It is likely that at least two pairs bred, possibly three.

Water Rail3

Moorhen: Keyhole Scrape remains a favoured location for this species with 2+3 there on 20 April and a second brood of two very young birds on 26 April, which were seen again 10 days later. These young were seen under the feeders on occasions and there was an adult and another young bird by Keyhole Scrape on 29 July and a fortnight later.

Rudd Pool held 1+4 small ones on 6 June, the date that there was an agitated bird by the Angling Pools which suggested that young may have been present. In fact only one young bird was seen here (1 July) but it is likely that there were other broods here.

This species may not do as well on the reserve’s larger waters. At Main Pool two juveniles were seen independently of each other on 18 July and on 8 August there were four fledged juveniles on the pool and another two on the river.

On B Pool from Bittern Hide single juveniles were sighted on 17 June and 8 August in two locations.

It is likely that some young birds were predated but 2019 seems to have been a good year for this species.

Coot: the first recorded nesting activity was a bird nestbuilding on Main Pool on 20 April. Other nesting activity on Main Pool was on 6 May when there was a young bird present and a nest on a pallet raft on 31 May. Two occupied nests were seen on small islands on this pool from Riverwalk Hide on 31 May and were still in situ the following week when there was also an older juvenile present. On 1 July there was still one occupied nest and an adult and large juvenile on the water.

New Bay off Main Pool was the site for a nest on 18 July, and still in use 25 July.

Rudd Pool accommodated juveniles (3) on 31 May and one on 6 June. also, with this again being seen on 17 June. Coots did well here with  two broods of two and seven on 1 July with the former brood seen on 18 July. A large immature was seen on 29 July which suggests a success rate for coot breeding here.

Details from B Pool as follows –

17 May – two broods  (1+2, 2+2 and a nest present on the new scrape.

31 May – nest in front of Bittern Hide, may have been an old great crested grebe’s nest

6 June – again from Bittern Hide 2+1 small one which were also seen on 17 June, as well as 1+2 larger ones

1 July – a coot with young on its nest in front of the hide and by 13 July “several” young coots was recorded.

Details from B Hide also overlooking B Pool were as follows –

6 May – two broods (1+2 small ones; 2+ 1 medium sized bird) and a nest elsewhere.

31 May – family in front of the hide, two broods (2+1, 2+2) and two young birds nearby.

6 June – 1+2

17 June – an unspecified number of juveniles seen.

1 July – an adult with a large juvenile and an occupied nest.

Unlike last year there appeared to be more successful breeding at the Angling Pools –

6 May – one young large coot

17 May – a brood of at least two seen and heard, and they were also present on 31 May again heard, unless it was another brood, on 6 June.

15 June – young birds were again heard.

1 July – two large juveniles present.

18 July – two noisy juveniles seen and on

29 July –  a fully fledged bird was seen.

With these records of fledged birds as well as the number of nests it would appear that the species has done well in 2019. But predators such as crows and lesser black backed gulls are never far away. On 20 April a young bird was taken by a LBB Gull from with the reeds in front of B Hide. Done very quickly and dramatically.

Oystercatcher: in April there was a pair present on the reserve, particularly at Main Pool and they nested on an island here. Two young birds were hatched on 5 May, and I saw one of the young birds with an adult. Unfortunately by 17 May whilst the adults were present there were no young birds.

There were three adults at Main Pool on 17 June but no evidence that there was a further attempt at breeding.

Little Ringed Plover: did not breed here, although quite regular on the new scrape in spring. Up to seven adults were in the area of the new scrape in April and would prob. have been passing through, as were two in the same location on 13 July.

Lapwing:  a good presence of this species in April including four displaying and by the end of the month five nests were being reported, mainly on B Pool islands to which it appears that foxes could not gain access. The first brood was here on the reserve with four newly hatched on 30 May and on 6 June there were five adults present, when black headed gulls were being mobbed.  I saw one chick by Main Pool but at this stage there were five on the reserve. On 6 June I saw 3 adults and two chicks at B Pool but the floods in mid June accounted for two chicks at B Pool but there were still four present on the reserve on 14 & 17 June and later that month. Additionally it appears that a nest on the shingle bank beside B Pool, to the right from B Hide, was flooded.

Into July there were a number of adults on the reserve, such as nine on 1 July. There were two  juveniles at B Pool four at Main Pool on 3 July, reported PS . On 18 and 27 July I saw a fledged juvenile at B Pool so we know that at least one bird from the reserve made it to this stage.

Lapwing5

Common Tern: After 2018 when a pair raised two young on the newly installed tern raft, there was no breeding despite there being two rafts on site. There were two adults present on 20 April and a pair was reported mating on 28 May but birds were few and far apart with no interest whatsoever in the tern rafts.

Black-headed Gull:   Birds were present, including juveniles from elsewhere. Their presence in the breeding season and our habitat suggests that breeding is likely in the future.

Feral Pigeon: are also regular on the reserve but no information as to whether they breed on the reserve. Probably nest locally on man made structures such as Whitacre waterworks and bridges.

Stock Dove:  These remain regular across the reserve especially in the line of poplars by the fishing pools. They undoubtedly nest on the reserve, including in the owl nestboxes. The ringers reported two broods of two in two nestboxes.

Wood Pigeon:  As usual there were constantly on the reserve, where it is sure to have bred in several locations. A bird was seen on a nest just beyond the gate from the car park on 17 June.

Cuckoo:   was present on the reserve during May and June and I encountered two behind Bittern Hide on 6 May. A good record on Twitter was female birds in the reedbed on 17 May.

Barn Owl:  Successful in a nestbox on the reserve with two chicks reported on 22 May which were subsequently ringed on 5 June.

Tawny Owl: Last year two pairs bred on or near the reserve.  There was a bird on three eggs in a nestbox reported by the ringers on 18 April but this nesting attempt was not successful. There was only one other report of birds in the breeding season, two youngsters calling in the Angling Pools area (T12) on 14 August.

Kingfisher:  Regularly seen or heard along the river. On 6 May one seen to catch a fish on the river behind Bittern Hide, and again seen there on 13 May. On this date, also, two or three by the copse where the two rivers merge.

 Additionally on 17 June one was seen fishing successfully at Rudd Pool and seeing / hearing birds three times in a visit is not unusual.  It is impossible to say how many actual birds are encountered per day but clearly they bred, prob. near the old bridge where the rivers merge and on the river behind Bittern Hide. I suspect that they may have also bred upstream from the car park. These breeding pairs would have been affected by the floods so it is unclear about the success levels of the breeding.

Green Woodpecker: not as regular on the reserve as in previous years and the birds seen or heard were scattered across the reserve. One pair at least bred on the reserve, a nest was reported by the ringers near the ringing station.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: The most common woodpecker on the reserve and encountered in all areas. Nested in a dead willow on Transect 1, halfway along the entrance track on the left. Young were heard in this nest on 31 May and 6 June.  On these two dates several adults and young birds were also seen between Rudd and Riverwalk Hides, where a pair bred, and the area of the copse would have been a successful breeding site.

This species is also regular on the Hide A feeders with a juvenile and male there on 17 June.

It is likely that there were 3-6 pairs across the reserve in 2019.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: This species was present on the reserve in late winter and whilst not reported during the breeding season is likely to have nested on or near to the reserve.

Kestrel:  This species was seen less regularly on the reserve this year, in fact it was seen most regularly the other side of the river at T5. No evidence of breeding on or near to the reserve in 2019.

Hobby: Birds, normally juveniles, were present on the reserve, notably  between August and early October, attracted by dragonflies.  My only sighting during my survey visits was one over the reserve on 17 May. They did not breed on the reserve but probably bred locally

Peregrine Falcon: Similar information this year as last with a juvenile often on the pylon in the car park area as well as making forays into the reserve. This bird came from a nest on the Sainsbury’s warehouse which yielded one young bird. On 8 July two juveniles were reported on the reserve via the blog.

Magpie: Regular across the reserve although a fewer number of family groups recorded this year. On 13 June there was a young bird with adults on T1 and probable young were heard at T8 on 1 July. It is likely that at least two pairs bred on the reserve.

Jay: These are regular across the reserve and most were encountered on 1 July when a small group near the entrance gate suggested a family, and another group was heard elsewhere. However there were fewer juveniles seen this year than in previous years. It is possible that at least two pairs bred.

Jackdaw: Birds were regularly seen on the marsh as in previous years and often seen flying from the trees behind the cormorant colony. They probably bred here but there seemed less birds visible than in 2018.

Carrion Crow: Regular across the reserve and several nests seen in large trees eg the black poplar on the opposite riverbank between Bittern and B Hides. On 31 May a family group of four were between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides where they agitated a willow tit family.

On 1 July an adult was feeding an egg to a juvenile at T11.

I would suggest 4-6 breeding pairs across the reserve.

Raven: On 17 May family party (2+3) feeding on a dead sheep over the river. Birds not often seen on the reserve during my survey visits but would have nested near the reserve, possibly in the area of wet pasture that is proposed as an addition to the reserve. 

Goldcrest:  This bird was seen and heard across the reserve very often, prob. more than 2018. Particularly regular on Transect 1 especially by the reserve gate. Probably nested in the yews by the copse, as usual and on 8 August a juvenile seen between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides. Birds were widespread across the reserve with another brood reported on 3 June and there may have been 3-4 breeding pairs.

Blue Tit: Unlike last year when no ringing was done some ringing took place for this species, and the next, in nestboxes: see the ringers’ returns below. Additional records include five families being located out of their nests on 31May. On this date and on 6 June there was a family still in a nestbox on T12 where a lot of families were encountered on 17 June and 18 July.

Blue Tit, 2019 –

Number ringed            109

Number of nests          16

Average                       6.8 nestlings per box

Great Tit: See the nestbox records for this species as well as that of blue tits. More great tits were ringed in 2019 than blue tits and family groups were recorded regularly after 17 June inc. juveniles at the A Hide feeders

Great Tit, 2019 –

Number ringed            130

Number of nests          22

Average                      5.9 nestlings per box

Coal Tit: This species appears to have declined in the last two breeding seasons, and again they were most often recorded in the area of the woodyard (T2) or in the adjacent T12 (angling pools). Breeding was proven when an adult and four young were seen on 3 June this suggests that at least one pair bred successfully.

Willow Tit: Much work has been done to encourage this declining bird and it appears to have paid off with estimates of up to four breeding pairs producing approx. eight young. In early spring a bird was seen constructing a nest in the damp woodland off  T12 and on 17 May PS reported a bird with a faecal sac in this area.

On 31 May alarm calls of this species were heard and a family seen behind Riverwalk Hide, due to the presence of a crow family.  PS had seen three juveniles a day earlier. Birds were also heard in T12 on two visits in April  and a family were reported between Hide A and Rudd on 6 June.]

Willow Tit8

Marsh Tit:  The blog reported 2+2 on the reserve on 4 June on the west side of the reserve and  PS reported juveniles of this species on 8 July although the location was not specified. It is likely that two pairs bred, with one pair in the area of Transect 12 (angling pools).

Sand Martin:  Birds were present throughout April and May and nested in two riverside locations, behind Rudd Hide and between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides.

First recorded at nest holes on 20 April and on 26th birds were collecting mud from the bird crop area behind Rudd Hide. On 31 May I counted approx. 15 nests in the riverbank behind Rudd Hide and this no. had increased to about 20 on 6 June. By 17 June the birds had been flooded out but were back at their nest holes. By 1 July they had been flooded again and on 18 July some nests were being used behind Rudd Hide despite further flooding. On 29 July approx. 12 birds were entering nest holes in the same area, only to be flooded again. By my visit on 8 August the birds had deserted.

The smaller colony in the riverbank between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides was less easy to observe. In early May there were approx. 12 birds here and on 31 May birds were collecting mud for their nests from the vicinity of Bittern Hide but again these were flooded out by the succession of summer floods.

The conclusion was a totally unsuccessful breeding season for sand martins due to the flooding and this has led to a successful application for funding for a sand martin bank which will hopefully be in place near to Rudd Hide for the 2020 breeding season.

Swallow:   Assumed breeder in the stables and associated buildings across the river. Birds from here were collecting mud by Bittern Hide on 26 April.

House Martin:  Small nos. of this species over but did not breed at the reserve. Birds were collecting mud near to Bittern Hide on 31 May possibly by the birds that nest at Lea Marston.

Cetti’s Warbler:  There has been interesting information from the ringers this year as they ringed 24 birds and recaptured a bird on 21 August which was clearly sitting on a nest for its second brood.  This does not mean that there is this number of birds on the reserve but there is an increased number of birds, at one stage there was an estimate of nine pairs. 12 young were ringed this year which suggests an excellent year.

The species was heard in reedbeds  across the whole reserve and the reedbed in front of B Hide is again the  regular location for this bird and it would have bred here. The species was recorded here on six of my visits in April and May including a sighting on 31 May.

Other areas where it was recorded were between Hide A and Rudd Pool, in the vicinity of Main Pool, near Bittern Hide and between Bittern & B Hides. Two juveniles reported on the blog on 8 July.

Cetti

Cetti’s Warbler

Long-tailed Tit:  Several groups of this species seen on each visit including a party with  juveniles at T1 on 8 August. Undoubtedly bred on the reserve as evidenced by family groups and the ringers’ records of ringing 28 young..  Numbers appear to be stable –between five and seven breeding pairs?

Chiffchaff:   The highest number encountered during my visits was nine on three dates in July and August but there may have been passing birds by then (see later chart). There was evidence of breeding ie a family at T1 with at least three young birds on 6 June; a probable family on T4 and two likely juveniles at Hide A on 8 August. The ringers ringed 27 young birds. A third of these were ringed before 31 July which suggested that these were bred on the reserve. There was an agitated bird in the copse on 31 May and this suggested the presence of a family.

As is the case every year there seemed be a lot of contact calls from this species across the reserve in July / August.

Willow Warbler : This species was only recorded on three dates in April and on 18 July. It was not recorded between 6 May and 1 July although ten young were ringed between  18 June and 14 September. It is likely that this decline is due to global warming but over the years our trees and bushes have grown much taller. The area where they are most often encountered is the hellebore area where bushes have been cut back and the grass is shorter.

Blackcap:  Again this was the most numerous summer visitor with 24 birds, inc. two pairs, seen or heard on 20 April. It is prevalent on Transect 1 where birds were reported mating on 20 April, a juvenile seen on 13 June and a likely family on 29 July. Other evidence of breeding was a possible juvenile at T8 on 17 June, a family between Bittern and B Hides and on 19 July two juveniles were associated with tits feeding on ripe bleckberries at T12. Six juveniles were ringed on19 June.

15-20 pairs across the reserve again this year?

Garden Warbler: This species was recorded in similar numbers to those of 2018. Between one and three were recorded on most dates but on 26 April there were 14 birds, seemingly passing through. Evidence of breeding was that nine young were ringed, all but two by 31 July and a probable young bird was by the entrance path (T1) on 29 July. I would suggest that there were only about three breeding pairs across the reserve.

Lesser Whitethroat:  I only had one record this year, one heard on the marsh on 20 April. Two or three were recorded by a visitor two days later but it seems that they did again not breed on or near to the reserve.

Common Whitethroat: Numbers were higher this year than last with most on 31 May when I recorded eight birds + a pair, with five or six regularly encountered. The most common locations were the more open areas by the river – T4 in the vicinity of Rudd Hide and T6 along the nest stretch to Riverwalk Hide.  The former is invariably their best location with regular sightings, inc. two young birds in the brambles on 6 June and probable juveniles heard in the bird crop on 8 August. This species would have nested in the bank of brambles. On T6 on 18 July one family, possibly two were seen. The ringers state they ringed fourteen.

It is likely that there were at least three breeding pairs on the reserve, and quite likely more.

Grasshopper Warbler: PS reported that a pair bred on the reserve producing two broods and up to two birds were in song in April. I did not encounter any birds this year at Ladywalk.

Sedge Warbler: Highest count of birds seen / heard across the transects was ten on 17 May (eight in 2017, five 2018) and there were consistently less sedge warblers than reed.  Both these species and Cetti’s were most regular in the reeds in front of B Hide.  Evidence of breeding were 1-2 juveniles seen between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides. The ringers  have documented  that 33 young were ringed this year. It is unclear how the reed nesting species were affected by the floods and on the basis of my figures there may have been about four breeding pairs.

Reed Warbler: This species was consistently more common across the reserve than sedge warbler with between five and nine birds recorded on every visit barring the first and last visits.  The nine birds  recorded on 29 July and  may have included migrants, tying in with ringing records as on 21 August 26 new birds of this species were ringed  This suggested that these were new birds on the reserve, the reserve’s breeders having left.

In terms of breeding activity, the ringers state that they ringed 82 young birds between mid June and September. An adult was reported carrying food near the ringing area on 14 June and two fledged birds were at B hide on 14 June, this being after the flood.

This species regularly seen at Keyhole scrape where a pair were seen in courtship behavour.  As a result of the floods?  As with Cetti’s and Sedge Warblers very regular in front of B Hide, where one was seen with food on 18 July and five birds were recorded on my next visit, 29 July.

Nuthatch:  This bird seems to be declining in the breeding season at Ladywalk, and was more likely to be heard over the river.

One was seen on a dead tree between Riverwalk and Rudd Hides on 6 May, another was by the entrance track (T1) on 1 July and one was heard between  Hide A & Rudd on 8 August.

On 14 August a family was reported at the Hide A feeders. It is likely that one or two pairs bred.

Treecreeper:   There has been a greater presence of this species than the above with regular sightings of, or hearing birds on the walk from the car park to Hide A. They were also regular at the copse (T6) and recorded from all the wooded areas of the reserve. By 17 May birds had fledged from a nest in a willow in the area of the screen, where they were encountered throughout the summer. On 6 May a bird was heard in the wooded area surrounding the angling pools, where they were subsequently recorded on five occasions including two juveniles seen on 18 July. .

A juvenile was ringed on 22 May and I estimate 4-6 breeding pairs on the reserve.

Wren:  Again the most numerous woodland breeder on the reserve, with the most being heard or seen being 30 on 31 May, similar to last year. There were many examples of successful breeding –

Transect 1 – Fledgling on 17 May and a family with approx. four fledglings on 29 July.

T2 – Juvenile on 8 August

T6 – family with young on same date as above

T9 – family seen on 17 June, and a family of three young on 29 July

T12 – a likely family here on 17 May and two young seen a fortnight later.

On the basis of the above and my sightings chart there is an estimate of twenty breeding pairs.

Starling:  I did not record this species during my visits but I assume that they again bred at the old stables over the river.

Blackbird:  Widespread across the reserve partic. in the wooded areas. The most birds seen or heard was 30 birds on 6 May, a much higher figure than in 2018. My estimate is that a probable 15 pairs bred. My only specific example of breeding was a female with food at T8 on 17 June.

Song Thrush:  Recorded across most of the transects as evidenced by the no. of singing birds. Three were heard in song at the same time on18 July and numbers on the reserve appear stable or are rising. I would estimate five breeding pairs.

Robin:  Maximum  birds seen / heard was 21 on 20 April which is the same number on a similar date in 2018. On other visits recorded nos. were between 4 and 13. Juveniles were encountered regularly across the reserve and “lots” were reported on 26 May and on 31 May one was seen at T8. Other juveniles were seen such as at T2 on 6 June, and one on the path at T8 on 18 July. This is a common breeding bird on the reserve with prob. an excess of 12 pairs.

Dunnock:  The most recorded  was 10 birds inc. a pair on 6 May and nos. averaged about 6 during the breeding season. I estimate at least nine pairs across the reserve on the basis of sightings and song. Clear evidence of breeding success was a juvenile at T12 on 18 July and a likely family at T10 on 29 July.

Grey Wagtail: Regularly seen by the river between Rudd & Riverwalk Hides and prob. successfully nested at the confluence of the rivers here.  A juvenile was seen here on 17 June and a male with a juvenile also in this vicinity on 29 July. A pair plus two juveniles were reported near to the car park on 13 May so this suggests at least two pairs nesting on the reserve (or officially just off it),  One pair may have been double brooded.

Pied Wagtail: Evidence of breeding was a juvenile reported by PL on 28 May and one  below Riverwalk Hide on 6 June, with an adult nearby. On 13 July there was an adult with a juvenile near to Bittern Hide where an adult bird was seen in both April and May. Finally there was a pair at B Hide on 17 May.

There is an estimate of 2-3 breeding pairs.

Chaffinch: Whilst birds are quite common at the Hide A feeders this species is not common on the reserve in the breeding season. The maximum was four on 6 May but on five visits none were recorded. Nevertheless at least one pair bred as young birds were reported in good nesting habitat on 1 July near to Rudd Hide.

Bullfinch:  There appears to be a decline in this species at Ladywalk  first noted in 2018. They were less regular at the feeders and only heard or seen elsewhere on the reserve on about five occasions so it is possible they did not breed on the reserve.

Greenfinch: This species has increased again at the reserve particularly at the Hide A feeders during the winter. These feeders were attracting fledged birds by mid July and on 18 July the visiting chair of WMBC reported ten of this species inc. juvs. across the reserve.

Good nesting habitat was the gorse by the entrance track (T1) where a pair were seen on 6 June and another ideal site for this species was the bramble bank by Rudd Hide. They prob. nested here or the other side of the river from this area.

It is likely that 3-4 pairs bred on or near to the reserve.

Linnet: This species continues to increase and is more widespread on the reserve. Several years ago they were confined to the area between the copse on T5 to T7, and over the river, and the max. no. here was at least five on 20 April and they would have bred in this area as usual. Additionally  they prob. nested beside the entrance track to the reserve (T1) where on 31 May a bird’s agitated behavour may have suggested a nearby nest. Further evidence of this species spreading further was two on the gravel beside B Pool.

It is likely that 2-3 pairs bred on the reserve or just over the river.

Goldfinch:  This species was encountered on most occasions beside the river, particularly the area between Rudd and Riverwalk Hides. On 29 July a family group with at least one juvenile was seen further along the river between Bittern & B Hides.  These areas had suitable nesting sites for this species so it is likely that one or two pairs bred on the reserve.

Reed Bunting:  Recorded lower numbers this year than last during my visits, with a maximum of four recorded on several visits (max. eight in 2018). Regularly heard calling from the marsh by Riverwalk Hide and sure to have nested in that area. This was reinforced by the report of 29 young being ringed through the summer. Also on 31 May there was  a female exhibiting distraction behaviour, and young birds seen nearby, between Riverwalk and Bittern Hides. At least one juvenile was ringed.

Approx. four breeding pairs?

Conclusion

2019’s breeding season was dominated by the regular flooding and the likely impact that this had on breeding success. It has been easy to document the effect on Sand Martins and we can speculate that ducks such as Shoveler and Tufted were affected and quite possibly some warblers were affected by what were very high water levels through the reeds.

There were some successes, goosanders are increasing in this area of the Tame and are using nestboxes, and lapwings produced chicks although only one fledged. That was better than  recent years and may be due to some of the work done to deter foxes.

It is fantastic to report the efforts of our ringers who put in many sessions at the nestboxes, the marsh and around the feeders. There were some interesting findings particularly surrounding Cetti’s Warblers and the number of juvenile Reed and Sedge warblers ringed. The information from them and the consistent reports from my four years of this breeding survey are assisting us to develop a greater picture of bird numbers and trends in the breeding season which can assist our habitat management in the future. My methodology is very different to that of most breeding bird surveys, and is time consuming. It is possible that even despite this some of my estimations of numbers of breeding pairs are on the low side.

Any comments about this report or additions to last year’s records would still be appreciated. I write this as the 2020 breeding season commences with no ability to carry out this or other surveys, inc. ringing, at present. I am sure we will get into action in later months when it will be interesting to note whether a reduction of reserve visitors and habitat work has an effect on this year’s breeding success.

Richard J King

 

June Mothing

 The highlight really was a pristine Blotched Emerald trapped by Hide A. The first we’ve caught on the reserve and I’m struggling to find any other records. A species of mature woodland, feeding on oaks and there’s not many of them at Ladywalk. Burnished Brass and Blood-veins looked particularly fresh and sharp.

 As for the morning’s birds, the sorry looking drake Mandarin was waddling around at B pools and a drake Garganey (looking a bit tired too) was briefly on Main Pool viewed from Hide A though it didn’t hang around.

Macros; Figure of Eighty, Blotched Emerald, Blood-vein 2, Cream Wave, Silver-ground Carpet 2, Barred Yellow, Green Carpet 6, Common Pug 2, Clouded Border 9, Brown Silver-line 2, Peppered Moth 3, Common White Wave 5, Light Emerald 3, Poplar Hawk-moth 5, Elephant Hawk-moth, Pebble Prominent, Lesser Swallow Prominent 3, Swallow Prominent 6, Pale Prominent, White Ermine, Buff Ermine 3, Heart & Dart 3, The Flame 2, Flame Shoulder 2, Ingrailed Clay 2, Poplar Grey, Brown Rustic 7, Middle-barred Minor 5, Uncertain, Mottled Rustic 12, Marbled White Spot, Burnished Brass, Straw Dot 5.

Micros; Chilo phragmitella, Apotomis turbidana, Crambus lathoniellos, Coleophora sp., Epermenia falciformis, Homoeosoma sinuella, Epinotia bilunana, Small Magpie 2, Anania perlucidalis, White Plume, Barred Fruit-tree Tortrix, Pseudargyrotoza conwagana, Celypha lacunana.

46 species

September WeBS

  Duck numbers lower than of late, particularly Gadwall. Moorhens seem to have had a good breeding season. The scrapes at B pools continue to disappoint a little this autumn, 2 Ringed Plover flew north over Main Pool mid-morning calling, they swirled and nearly dropped on to the scrapes but changed their minds and kept going. The search for a Ruff continues too this year despite there being plenty elsewhere. I was in duck mode and time poor, so passerines didn’t get much time but there was a bit of Mipit passage and quite a few Pied Wags over, whilst a Willow Tit called from the New Bay area for the first time in a while after a quiet late-summer spell.

Species List

Mute Swan 20, Greylag Goose 1, Canada Goose 28, Mallard 140, Gadwall 81, Shoveler 10, Wigeon 2, Teal 56, Tufted Duck 8, Little Grebe 15, Great Crested Grebe 1, Cormorant 51, Little Egret 2, Grey Heron 9, Water Rail 1, Moorhen 57, Coot 139, Ringed Plover 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Snipe 4, Black-headed Gull 26, Lesser Black-backed Gull 3, Kingfisher 2.

IMG-0541

Wild bird seed meadow by Rudd Hide (Is this quinoa growing?)

 

 

West Midlands All-Dayer Autumn 2019

A very enjoyable day. Though low on waterbird variety, passerine activity was high. Chiffchaffs and crests filled the trees and hedgerows, there was always plenty to sort through. A brief bit of overhead passage early on saw 3+ Tree Pipits, 2 Yellow Wags, Swift and good numbers of hirundines. Little Owls called from behind Bittern Hide and north of the car park. A Lesser Spotted Woopecker showed in willows along the river whilst another drummed softly as we ate breakfast in the car park! Minutes later a familiar squawk alerted us to a couple of passing Ring-necked Parakeets, our first for at least a couple of years. A female Redstart showed in the hawthorns en route to Whitacre Pool, whilst 2 Whinchats included a smart male in Whitacre Meadow.

Species List

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, 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, Lapwing, Dunlin 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Common Sandpiper 1, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Tawny Owl, Little Owl 2, Swift, Kingfisher, Ring-necked Parakeet 2, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 2, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit 3+ (2 f/o), Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail (2 f/o), Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart 1, Whinchat 2, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, 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.

92 species

Thanks to the team;

Pete Sofley, Steve Cawthray, Kevin Whiston, Sam Frost, Tracey Doherty, Dave Eaton, Ben Eaton, Pete Lichfield.

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

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).