AUGUST – THE END OF SUMMER

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The final month of meteorological summer, August sees a tailing-off of summer wildlife, as it prepares for autumn. Most birds will be in hiding, raising young or moulting, looking to avoid predators, but we should see the first signs of autumn migration. The peak flowering season is past, and insect numbers will reduce as food becomes less available but, whilst quantity may be reducing, quality remains with a wide range of insects out and about.

To find out more of what nature may have to offer in the coming month, read our guide for August.

Why not make the most of the – hopefully – good summer weather, and visit local wildlife sites around Rushcliffe? Click here for some useful links to nature reserves in Rushcliffe, both NWT and Friends of sites, and some other sites outside of Rushcliffe.

Get closer to nature through organised events

Sun 14th Aug – Gotham Circular Wildlife Walk

Taking in Gotham Nature Reserve and Stonepit Wood NR and West Leake Hills (approx 4-5 miles). Meet 9.30 am by the village “totem” pole in Gotham, on the main road through next to the village shop. Contact Gordon Dyne for details (gordon.dyne@gmail.com).

Sun 21st Aug – Friends of Bingham Linear Park Nature Wallk

10 am to 1 pm. Meet at Tithby Road bridge – top of steps leading to walk.

Walk along the local nature reserve to see flowers and wildlife. Path is rough so wear stout shoes/boots. It is very exposed so wear sun cream/hat and bring a drink.

Sun 21st Aug – Cotgrave Country Park Park Fun Day

11 am to 3 pm Free Entry.

Wide range of nature-focused family activities, food and drink stalls and local and conservation charity stalls. For more details, click here.

South Notts Local Group will be there – come and say ‘hello’.

ACTIVITIES FOR THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS

Friends of Rushcliffe Country Park are running a programme of activities through August. Click here for details.

WINTER WILDLIFE TALKS PROGRAMME

Last winter we were treated to a series of excellent online talks to brighten the dark nights: exploring wild flowers in Hampshire, gardening for butterflies in Derby, watching big game in South Africa, birding in Scotland, touring the Scottish Isles and building hedgehog highways in Oxfordshire.

The forthcoming winter programme is looking equally good, and is almost ready for launching.  In the meantime, book these dates in your diary: 6th October, 3rd November, 1st December, 5th January, 2nd February And 2nd March (all Thursdays).

WORK PARTIES

Our local nature reserves rely on volunteers to help maintain them, and organise regular work parties.  Planned parties for August are as follows:

Sat 6th               Wilwell Farm Cutting          Springdale Wood

Sun 7th              The Hook Reserve              Lily Ponds

Sat 13th          Wilford Claypits                  Meadow Park

Thurs 16th     Cotgrave Country Park

Details of times, etc. can be found in the Diary section here, so if you have some spare time and energy please feel free to join in – you will be very welcome!

PLEASE NOTE THE WORK PARTY ADVERTISED PREVIOUSLY FOR SHARPHILL WOOD ON 28TH AUGUST WILL NOT NOW TAKE PLACE.

Work parties are also being planned in the next few weeks to help clear the path alongside Greythorne Dyke and the boardwalk. If you can help please email Lorna at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust (lgriffiths@nottswt.co.uk) and let her know if you’d prefer weekends or weekdays.

Don’t forget, you can find out more about what’s happening with nature in Rushcliffe by following us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SouthNottsWildlifeGroup

 

Silver-washed Fritillaries in South Notts

1 Silver-washed Fritillaries in the New Forest

Silver-washed Fritillaries (SWFs) are spectacularly wonderful butterflies: big, blowsy, gingery-orange with an intricate filigree upperwing and silvery underside. Watching one flying down a sunny woodland ride is a truly wondrous sight. So, it was with great interest that I read Gordon Dyne’s recent Facebook post (18/7/22) about SWFs at Wilwell. I saw my first SWF in Suffolk in 2012, and remember with great pleasure seeing it fly towards me, glowing ginger in the sun, before perching on a nearby tall thistle; I was so overwhelmed that I forgot to take a photo of it! I have since seen SWFs over the years in the New Forest but, perhaps my most memorable experiences came in August 2013, which strike a chord with the Wilwell sightings.

We live in Ruddington, not that far from Wilwell. On the morning of August 5th that year, looking out of the window, I saw an unfamiliar butterfly in the front garden.  Grabbing my camera – kept ready, just in case! – I dashed outside to see, on the buddleia, what at the time seemed like an apparition, but was in fact a male Silver-washed Fritillary! I watched it for several minutes feeding first on the buddleia and then on Echinops flowers, before it flew off, leaving me to wonder if I was dreaming (although the images I captured told me I wasn’t).

2 Feeding on Echinops, Ruddington

Then, two days later, I went to Staunton Quarry near Newark ( a gem of a place, home to Grizzled Skippers and so much more) hoping to find butterflies to watch and photograph. And my luck was well and truly in.  Walking through the entrance, the first butterfly was a lovely Large White and the second was – you’ve guessed it! – another Silver-washed Fritillary, this time feeding on Ragwort.

3 On Ragwort, Staunton Quarry

So, to misquote Oscar Wilde, whilst seeing one may have been fortunate, was seeing two in South Notts, in two days more than a coincidence? And was my astonished enthusiasm misplaced?

According to The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland (1) ’They were once found as far north as southern Scotland, but in recent years have been virtually unknown beyond a line between the River Mersey and the Wash’. The Eakring Birds website (2) shows only 9 records in the whole of the county for the years 1995 to 2012.

I recall contacting the County Recorder, who confirmed there had been a number of similar sightings in South Notts in 2013. Sadly, since then, I have not seen any more SWFs in my garden.  However, almost regular annual visits to Cotgrave Forest over the past few years have produced a number of sightings, the last of these visits a fortnight ago producing at least a dozen sightings of SWFs in flight.

So, like Gordon, I wonder where they came from – natural range expansion northwards, possibly linked to climate change, or introduction?

The excellent Eakring Birds website(2) at one point seems to favour introduction, saying that  ‘The Silver-washed Fritillary was released into Gamston and Eaton Woods near Retford a number of years ago, and where it still survives in small numbers. But recent years have seen an increasing number of records from across the county, which includes known releases of captive bred stock at both Dyscarr Wood and Cotgrave Forest in addition to Gamston and Eaton Woods, but probably also at several other sites.’

However, it follows this up by conceding the possibility of natural range expansion, saying ‘The number of isolated records from across the county suggests that the butterfly is making some natural attempt to recolonise Nottinghamshire. In July 2014, we found a dead Silver-washed Fritillary at the side of the A60 near Mansfield Woodhouse. Completely distanced from any suitable breeding habitat (or possible release site) the location suggests likely migration and so do other recent records from Newstead and Annesley CP, Annesley Pit Top, Staunton Quarry, Bestwood Lodge, Idle Valley NR, Rainworth and from gardens in Calverton, Cotgrave, Woodthorpe and Radcliffe-on-Trent.’

Neil Pinder, on his equally-excellent website (3) says ‘According to The Invertebrate Fauna of Nottinghamshire, 1916 by JW Carr, SWFs were formerly present quite widely in the first decade of the 20th century. Locations given are Rowhoe Wood (Widmerpool), Owthorpe and Bunny Woods, woods about West Leake and Gotham and Plumtree. The species was already in decline by then with the reduction of coppicing being blamed’. He goes on to say ‘In late July and August 2013 several sightings of this species were reported in Rushcliffe with at least 2 separate reports from Cotgrave village. They were present in good numbers in 2020 in Cotgrave Forest and now seem to be firmly established there’.  Neil  concludes ’the continuing presence of Silver-washed Fritillary (in Cotgrave Forest) since 2013 … suggests to me that recent introductions are the origin of these populations.’

So, perhaps it’s a case of paying your money and making your choice, Whatever the choice, the good news is that, on the face of it, we have a continuing SWF presence in Rushcliffe and we can only hope, as Gordon does, that ‘a local population is developing’ at Wilwell.

Chris Overton

July 2022

References

  1. The Butterflies of Britain and Ireland. Jeremy Thomas & Richard Lewington. British Wildlife Publishing. 2010.
  2. An historical review and modern atlas of Butterflies in Nottinghamshire. Eakring Birds. http://www.eakringbirds.com/butterfliesnottinghamshire.htm
  3. Rushcliffe Wildlife. The Wildlife and Wildlife Sites of Rushcliffe. https://www.rushcliffewildlife.co.uk/butterflies.html.

Images copyright Chris Overton

 

 

 

The Wood Wide Web

For 30-40 years it has been well established that trees and fungi form a symbiotic relationship where types of fungi act as extensions allowing tree roots to get further into the soil and get to water and extract nutrients. A proportion of which go to the tree in exchange for the products of photosynthesis.
 
But this linkage goes further, in that the fungi network links up to other neighbouring trees, including saplings growing around them. It is thought that nutrients from established trees get transferred and for example support neighbouring saplings, which may be their “offspring”, with sufficient nutrients so they can survive in the shade, waiting for an opening in the canopy. These linkages between trees are not necessarily species specific, so in a sense you can talk of a woodland community.
 
Inevitably this web is at its most complex, consisting of many fungi species and extensive, in primary and ancient woodlands and almost certainly non existent in most new tree planting. It also encompasses other woodland plants as well, although curiously, for some reason, the wild cabbage family have opted out what has been described as a “neural” network. Interestingly no mention was made of grassland, although I would be surprised if similar symbiotic relationships didn`t also exist.
 
But listening recently to The Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC Radio 4) a Canadian scientist has also demonstrated that there is actual interchange of information in the form of a bio-chemical “language”, to maintain contact with neighbouring trees. This it is suggested is used, for example, to send out warning messages from a tree being attacked by say pathogens or being grazed, allowing neighbours to ramp up their protections, producing toxins etc.

Slow Worms

These are lizards that have lost their legs, enabling them to slide through grassland and hide underground in narrow tunnels. Apparently, they are principally nocturnal hunters, favoured prey being slugs and the like, but I would guess insects as well. They give birth to live young (although technically they are inside an egg sac). Over winter they hibernate down in tree roots. Palentological studies show  slow worms go back some 40-45 million years at least.
 
They keep growing throughout their lives, so size is an important indicator of age. Adult slow worms grow to be about 50 cm (20″) long, and can live, apparently, up to 30 years in the wild. The female often has a stripe along the spine and dark sides, while the male may have blue spots dorsally. Juveniles are gold with dark brown bellies and sides with a dark stripe along the spine, and are initially around 4cm long.
 
At Wilwell virtually all the slow worms recorded in the past four years are young adults circa 15 to 25 cm in size, including some believed pregnant and the odd one re-growing a lost tail. The tail can be discarded to distract a predator. We have seen the odd one that was clearly juvenile including one that was nowt but an orange bootlace (I would guess born that year). But we have only ever recorded one really old specimen estimated at around 35 – 40 cm. Why the dearth of older creatures? – well one thought is the local badger sett, as badgers relish worms and you might expect them to also take slow worms, and I would guess foxes would too.
 
Slow worms are known to frequent gardens, so if you see what looks like a very small snake it is almost certainly a slow worm.
 

Notts WT Work Party dates

Here are dates for Notts Wildlife Trust volunteer work parties in the southern half of Notts coming up in the next few weeks including a couple in the Rushcliffe area. Click on the links for more details.

Attenborough

Monday 4th July – Delta – Balsam work

Tuesday 5th July – Delta – Balsam work

Friday 8th July – Delta – Balsam work

 

Monday 18th July – Delta Meadow

Tuesday 19th July – Delta Meadow

Friday 22nd July – Delta Hide – Meadow work

Attenborough Women’s Group

Saturday 16th July – Delta – Balsam work

Attenborough Sunday Group

Sunday 10th July – Butterfly Patch

Sunday 24th July – Location TBC

Tuesday Group

Tuesday 5th July – Kimberley Meadow – Hay work

Tuesday 12th July – Teversal Pastures – Common Standards Monitoring

Tuesday 19th July – Dukes Wood – Meadow management

Tuesday 26th July – Location TBC

South Notts Group

Wednesday 6th July – Skylarks – Path work

Wednesday 20th July – Skylarks – Meadow management

 

Beaver Reintroduction Project  

The opportunity to find out more about Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trusts exciting new Beaver Project up at the Idle Valley Nature Reserve with our Northern Nature Recovery Manager Janice Bradley. This illustrated talk was originally given as part of South Notts Local Group (NWT) AGM.

Janice explains the rationale behind the reintroduction and why it is being done at there. Supported by lots of images and videos, Janice gave us an up-to-the-minute picture of progress, including some resourceful behaviour by the resident Longhorn cattle, and the apparent universal appeal to other animals of beaver scent! At the end she took a number of questions from audience members.

Viewing the talk costs £3 (incl booking fee) via Eventbrite, follow this link to purchase link to talk https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/talk-recording-beaver-reintroduction-at-idle-valley-nature-reserve-tickets-371200198787 and. You can then access the talk via YouTube, accessible till the end of Sept.

Funds raised will be donated by SNG to support the Beaver Project.

Wildlife Trust Podcasts

Wildlife podcasts created by County Wildlife Trusts around the country. Had a look through and these include series on Wild Cornwall (from Cornwall WT no less), Derbyshire Wildlife (by guess who ?), Greystones Wildlife Friendly Farm. There are also podcasts about the Dawn Chorus, Wildlife Gardening, Bats and the perennial Hedgehog and other things as well. Worth a look (or listen).

Follow this link to the Wildlife Trusts web site that provides follow up links to the participating Trusts

https://wildlifetrusts.us16.list-manage.com/track/click?u=589cf5d7d1ba1571a10c79d77&id=482fa25da9&e=ec349ace72

Rushcliffe BC`s No Mow Scheme enters it`s second year

It’s great to enjoy summer and our ‘No Mow’ areas across Rushcliffe are pollinator sites to encourage wildlife and habitats to thrive even further!
There’s now over 20 sites that state ‘please excuse the weeds, we are feeding the bees!’ 🐝🌻
Last year this scheme covered 6 locations, this year it has expanded to 22 locations . It is perhaps an idea that Parish Councils might look at in relation to sites they manage and for that matter companies and even individuals.
See link this link for more about the scheme and a full list of sites) : https://bit.ly/3PKr44n

Sustainable Urban Drainage Schemes (SUDS)

SUDS are a feature of all new housing developments and are designed to provide the capacity to prevent heavy rain overpowering the drainage system and causing local flooding. The excess can then drain away as the pressure on the drainage network dissipates. It is likely that you will have noticed these deep sided, sloped “pits”, the size and number will vary from location to location depending on numbers and geography. Although from a wildlife point of view a more shallowish and extensive area would be the ideal, in general SUDS ponds are steep deep sided basins, as essentially the builder wants to reduce the footprint of the feature – space is money.

Now I had assumed that they would be designed to be dry most of the time (principally from a safety point of view, but also to maximize capacity ), and some do seem to be grassed over and dry. However looking at the ones created locally this does not generally appear to be the case. Quite a few have reed growing in them and even in June they often have a thin layer of water in them. Is this deliberate to provide a shallow pond habitat or a product of ground water levels ? How beneficial might these be for wildlife ?

If they do retain some water into the summer this might benefit frogs and newts, and if they retain it  throughout the year other creatures like damsel and dragonflies might also be able to exploit them. It would also help if the banks were allowed to be reasonably wild ie not heavily mown. Although as many SUDS “ponds” are situated between the houses and the road I rather suspect neat and tidy will be the order of the day, at least until all the houses are sold !

As with housing, location, location, location also matters for wildlife. Sandwiched between housing and a road, a common practice, as I suspect it pushes the houses back from the road, the possibilities for colonisation is likely to be slow. But at the Wilford Fields wildlife site one of the SUDS is situated directly adjacent the site and when I was last visited seemed to be fairly wild (but dry) and can be viewed as an extension of the wildlife area.

The SUDS pond at the housing development by the Rushcliffe Country Park is tucked in a corner of the site at the back and also seems to be retaining some water over an extended period. It is adjacent to the Ruddington country park access path and the railway land beyond, so again somewhat more open to wider influence.

Grasses are important, grasses are diverse

We tend to think of grass as just grass. In fact there are some 150 different  species of grass identified in the UK. Some are common and widespread, others are denizens of specialist environments such as mountains, moors and bogs, whilst a select few form the grasses that make up the ultimate man made specialist environments of amenity grassland, sports fields and grazing pastures. But for me one of the most fascinating facts about grass is that it didn`t really exist to any significant amounts until towards the end of the age of the dinosaurs. And really became widespread and ubiquitous across the world in the last 60 million years (along with the insects and animals that exploit them).

Grass diversity is important as many insects identify specific grass types as their egg laying plant of choice. So for example many of the hundreds of moth species are grass specialists. It is also an important food source for insects and larger animals both wild and domesticated. These tend to exhibit adaptations to cope with the silica in grass blades, which creates heavy wear on teeth and may also inhibit digestion. So creatures habitually grazing on grass have enlarged teeth (or mandibles) or constantly refresh their dentures. The other grass survival strategy involves fresh growth from it`s base so it can recover from heavy grazing (or mowing), fire and draught.

There are probably some 30-40 grasses found locally. Some are relatively straightforward to identify, once you get your eye in, such as Cocksfoot, False Oat Grass, Yellow Oat Grass (these first three are a major constituent of many country road verges), Perennial Ryegrass (a common constituent of man made grassland) plus Crested Dogstail, Meadow Foxtails, Sweet Vernal Grass, Quaking Grass and Yorkshire Fog. But others, such as the Meadow Grasses, Bents, Fescues, Hair Grasses and Bromes  require an ID book, a hand lens, patience and paracetmol to pin down to a specific species.

But even if you don`t want to go that far, when walking through a grassland, don`t just look at the showy flowers, pay attention to the varied structures of the grasses, they are a key component of the complex web of bio-diversity that makes up the natural world.

Sharphill Wood Bird Survey

As in recent years, a spring bird survey has been carried out at Sharphill Wood, with visits from late March to early June. The report is on our website:
In addition, we have now completed the annual cycle of inspecting nest boxes where Blue Tit and Great Tit nest. A brief report is on our website:
John Elwell – Friends of Sharphill Wood