15 Jun 2009

Whitchurch Drive

Thanks Keith for this post whilst I'm enjoying the sun in Corsica

Isolated between Junction 6 of the M54, its slip roads going north and the old A5 is a tongue of land rarely visited by humans, mainly due to the fact that to get to it you have to highly developed skills of fast traffic evasion.

Once there, however you discover another little Aladdin’s Cave of a site. Were it not for the constant din of traffic you could easily forget its situation. There are various habitats – dark and dingy woodland – an open marshy area – meadow and the infamous “peanut” traffic island.

Where are all the cars?

We met in the car park of a well known supermarket where the risk assessment was restricted to “Mind the cars”. After a brief diversion identifying plants at the side of the road we waited and waited for a gap in the traffic to cross. Eventually we all made it safely!

Two groups were formed, one to explore the interior of the southern end and the other the edge. The interior group plunged down the embankment into the dark and dingy wood; but it was not bereft and a few hardy plants were identified. After a while we headed towards the M54 and came upon an open marshy area which was abundant with life, including lots of orchids, and death – we believe a fox (or similar) takes it prey here. We found dead pheasant (probably) shrew, rabbit and rat plus other odd bits of skeletons.

We met the other group to explore the peanut. Unfortunately the contractors had got there first and cut down the grass and any plants living there. Miraculously we found several bee orchids that had survived the devastation. I seem to recall that there had been protests in the past about cutting this area and destroying the orchids and the council responded sympathetically agreeing to take care – they need reminding of this.

Finally we ventured onto the northern end of the area. This was mainly grassland and plants with a central stand of Scots Pine. Again this provided rich pickings for the botanists and was busy with insect life including a beautiful cinnabar moth.

A fine area but it is likely to deteriorate due to the large number of seedlings that are establishing themselves. I can see a winter task for the group coming along.

A selection of Orchids

Barracks Lane

I'm indebted to Keith for this post in my absence.

“I need a navigator” states Pete. “OK” responds Nigel and climbs into the front seat of the minibus. Pete shows Nigel where we are going on the map. “I’ve got the wrong glasses on” is Nigel’s response.

A good start! Fortunately Ollie and Liz had a good idea of where were going and, as it turns out, there were four road signs pointing to Barracks Lane.

The nature area at Barracks Lane is a series of quarries, long since fallen into disuse, lime kilns and pools. The site is split into two and, enigmatically, we had permission only to view the larger southern area from the path that ran through it, but were free to wander at will in the northern area.

The path through the southern area is a raised tramway used to service the kilns, and being a quarry, was steeply embanked. We needed to watch our step. This area was mainly a green, damp and gloomy place with tall trees fighting for the light and an abundance of hart’s tongue fern. Very few plants were in flower. In the canopy there was a symphony of noise from the jackdaws and their young. There were other birds about but would they show themselves?

Eventually we descended to the southern pool. This was quite large and bordered with some reeds, iris and a few other flowers. We pond-dipped this area later and discovered that the water was teeming with life; but it was devoid of birds (other than mallard and moorhen).

We moved into the northern area. This was a small area that had been planted but did have a pond. Lunch was taken at the side of the pond in the company of a host of amorous common blue damselflies which were laying eggs, mainly on the lily pads in the middle of the pond. After lunch some pond-dipped and others wandered “at will” seeing what they could find.

No-one fell in, but there was a very close shave when I tried to net a dragon fly, missed and almost overbalanced, and I was very concerned as Nigel got closer and closer to the water in his search for hydra. Lots of bugs turned up and one felt in awe as our detectives studied their books to identify them.

Overall this was a bit of a strange place but, surprisingly, it yielded a good list and mix of species including an “eyelash”.

Blog post by Keith Fowler

6 Jun 2009

Marmers Covert

Standing on its own just outside Little Wenlock stands a small, privately owned, very interesting wildlife haven known as Marmers Covert. It was The Wrekin Forest Volunteers pleasure on this day June 5, 2009 to survey this rich and diverse woodland. It was the first privately-owned site the WuFuV’s had visited.

I asked Pete Lambert how these tiny areas of land are firstly, sought, then ownership established and finally permission to help manage, survey etc is carried out. How do you find these places? Who owns them? The answer is; a fairly long and seemingly complex process that requires far more space than I have on this blog post, but also I still don’t really understand it! Suffice to say, however, that I think Pete and the Shropshire Wildlife Trust do a fantastic job in finding these locations and gaining the necessary permission to work and enjoy the habitats. I know I speak for all WuFuV’s here so well done from all of us to all involved!

We're blessed this year with a huge migration of Painted Lady's and we were not disappointed today.

As is the custom with survey days we split into groups; plant team, boundary team and on this occasion a kick-sampling stream-team led by Pete. The plant team led by the very able and knowledgeable Penny set off in a direction unknown and were not to be seen again till lunchtime. I found myself, mainly by default, I think in the boundary team and I was keen to discover what this really meant as I’d never had the pleasure of being in one before so it was to some amusement that I found myself in the position of recorder – the process of election to this honourable position seems to be whoever accepts the clipboard when handed out – seems I was closest, possibly with hand held uppermost in ‘I wonder if it’s going to rain’ pose.

The stream team set off in another direction as we headed for the boundary.

The main aim of a boundary team I now understand is to simply establish the boundary of the site, note any breaches and whether it is clearly defined or not. We also surveyed. In fact we surveyed everything we saw! I know that’s a bold statement but it seems nothing was going to escape our attention with the result that my record sheet was 12’ long and my writing hand and pencil worn to a frazzle! All good fun though!

We convened at 1pm for lunch just as the bull, his harem, and accompanying lively calves decided to enter the top of the wood just where we’d arranged to meet. There was then an impressive stand-off between ‘our’ bull and one with a similar entourage across the lane and separated by 2 gates. They hollered and remonstrated so loudly all the wildlife and most of the WuFuV’s immediately dived for cover!

Undaunted, but at the same time not wishing to share our dining room with a bunch of bellowing bovines, we ambled back up the road to find a slightly less hazardous spot for sarnies which we did along the charming Little Wenlock Bench Walk (details for this splendid little walk around the village are on the forum (LINK) for those interested in spending a pleasant afternoon with fabulous views over the gorge to Wenlock edge and beyond to the hills of Brown Clee, Caer Caradoc and the Long Mynd to mention just 3.

Lunch saw Pete giving us a run-down on developments, funding, future projects and forthcoming events – looks like we’re in for some very interesting days out with the group and a diary with few empty spaces! Fabulous!

I presented Les with the prize of a double CD of ‘Round the Horne’ for his correct entry for the ‘Where is it?’ competition which was , of course, the Telford Town Park auditorium and stage overlooking Randlay Pool. Les -Mr Fungi Man – Hughes was also the winner of the Caption Competition and seemed to revel in the fact that I managed to find in my little box of giveaways a nice little tin of Campbell’s Condensed Mushroom Soup as his prize. Well done for coming up with...

"Pope in mufti for surprise visit to Telford"

Talking of Graham - I think it was he who found this larva - I suspect it's a Geometrid moth of some sort but can anyone get any closer? It's about an inch long and has 2 distinct chevrons on its back..

Finally, it was time to head back to the bus, noticing on the way Pete’s ongoing passion for collecting bones and skulls to take him with him. Beef Broth then tonight maybe?

A quick PS:- Should there be any budding writers out there - please feel free to submit any articles about anything relating to Shropshire wildlife with pics if poss and I'll upload to the blog. This keeps the content live for our many and growing band of blog followers. Does anyone, for example, want to take up the mantle for the next 2 Friday's? Just write it up in Word, add pics and email to me anytime at paulewatts@googlemail.com and I'll do the rest.

Catch you all soon... and feel free to leave a comment below.