Posts Tagged ‘churring’

Make the most of the wildlife while it’s there

July 17, 2013

The image of a Grass Snake below, sent in by Bryan Wainwright, illustrates clearly the species distinct collar with two yellow patches each with a black crescent-shaped mark to the rear.  Females are larger than males and also have broader heads with less distinctive yellow patches and which in older individuals may be absent.  Whilst reasonably common on Thorne and Hatfield Moors they can also be encountered in gardens, indeed the leathery eggs can often be found in compost heaps or young emerging from those grass heaps in August and September.  A recent slough from my garden measured 75cms maybe a little more but it had begun to dry and ‘shrink’ when I measured it.

GRASS SNAKE 010A

 

This image below, taken by Matt Blissett, depicts an immature Smooth Newt, recently metamorphosised was taken on Crowle Moors at the beginning of July. It is an interesting record as Smooth or Common Newts as they are also known are generally regarded as prefering neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

 

imm Smooth Newt MB 075

 

The spectacular image below of the SPA interest feature of Thorne and Hatfield Moors, the enigmatic nightjar shows clearly the distinctive white patches which indicate that this is a male.  They arrive in the uk at the end of May and begin to take up their territories and announce that fact with their evocative and magical churring.  These birds are crepuscular in their habits (appearing at dawn and dusk) but can occasionally be flushed during the day.  The species, which is protected in law, is susceptible to disturbance by walkers, particularly those with dogs off leashes.  An annual survey is undertaken on Thorne and Hatfield Moors but it is a basic count of churring males and does not provide any indication of breeding success, fledging or numbers of broods etc.

 

Nightjar TM

 

For more of his spectacular images go to Tim Melling’s flickr site.  See also Mark Avery’s blog where a stunning Purple Emperor adorns Mark’s post.

 

The ‘spittlebug’ below, taken by Steve Hiner (Natural England) is probably Aphrophora alni Alder Spittlebug.  A common froghopper and recorded from both Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

 

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The image below, another of Steve’s shows Strangalia quadrifasciata a colourful and common longhorn beetle.  Associated with old woodland and particularly oak, alder and sometimes willows.  The larvae are wood borers in wood, stumps and logs.

 

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So, nothing controvertial today, just items of natural history interest while they can still be had, enjoyed and shared.

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Skylarks underfoot as ‘gates are opened’?

July 12, 2013

Sky Lark 007

 

The delightful image above sent by Bryan Wainwright shows a fledgling Skylark.  Sharp eyed Bryan in his own words “shood the bird to safety” as it froze and remained motionless in the hope of danger passing it by by.  Nearby I watched as a Redshank adopted distraction tactics to try to ensure the safety of its offspring.  These strategies offer an insight into the risks posed to young birds if Natural England proceed with their proposal and open the gates on their 87 National Nature Reserves across the country to Open Access.

 

Thorne July 2013 254

 

The observations reminded me of an incident a couple of years back when management work (in the bird breeding season) was being undertaken to facilitate ‘disabled access’ on Hatfield Moors.  A pair of woodlark, a Schedule 1 (WCA 1981) species were on territory but as judge and jury of impact of their work and a limited window of availability of men with machines Natural England decided to displace the birds and disrupt their breeding.

There are many papers offering good case studies where increased access and dog walkers have had negative impact upon ground nesting birds particularly.

Recreational use of forests and disturbance of wildlife is a useful literature review detailing case studies undertaken in forests since 1990.  Two species subject to studies, nightjar and woodlark are key species on Thorne and Hatfield Moors SSSI and two species likely to be impacted upon by increased recreational use being encouraged by Natural England.

What is the impact of public access on the breeding success of ground nesting and cliffnesting birds? Is a Systematic Review and another resource worthy of a read. It synthesises the findings of a number of studies of disturbance to nightjar (albeit on southern heathlands) and it does not offer much hope for us here when the gates are opened.

A Review of Disturbance Distances in Selected Bird Species is a Scottish Natural Heritage commissioned report undertaken in 2007 and it too makes depressing reading in terms of likely significant effect on the productivity of breeding nightjar the SPA interest of Thorne and Hatfield Moors.

Already there has been one dog attack and a member of the public bitten recently.   The victim then subsequently reported the incident to the police.  That bite was at a level of a childs face but it was dismissed as a one off and no further action taken.

A case might be made, certainly here on Thorne and Hatfield Moors that there already exists de facto open access.  What’s wrong with that?  Why mend something which isn’t broken, why spend diminishing budgets on access maintenance rather than ensuring that the sites achieve ‘favourable condition status’ as ‘natural jewels in the public crown’, as best examples of National NATURE Reserves, and European Natura 2000 sites?  They are not countryparks or themeparks they are National NATURE Reserves.

Does this matter after all nature is a resource, The State of Nature, something that the ‘Welsh bard’ Iolo Williams made an empassioned plea to us all to do something about before it is too late for our grandchildren to inherit.   See also the early warning offered here.  In a single lifetime the wilderness that was Thorne Moors is now surrounded on all points of the compass with industrial clutter which can be seen and heard if you stand on the viewing platform in the middle of the moor.  No longer can a visitor easily hear the drumming of the snipe or the churring of the enigmatic nightjar they are all too frequently drowned out by cheap holiday flights overhead or wind blown noise pollution from the neighbouring industry or road systems.

In principle the proposal seems not an unreasonable one but there has, in the view of the Executive been a lack of open and transparent public involvement.  The consultation, if the exercise could be described that, has been conducted outwith the public gaze and with organisations whose focus appears other than nature conservation.  There has not been, to our knowledge been any open meeting to which the public have been invited.

Thorne July 2013 099

Must what is left of England’s largest lowland raised mire be ‘moor’ eroded and lost to local people for the benefit of short term gesture politics?  What would the late Wm Bunting have made of this?  He would certainly have challenged the notion that NE as judge and jury could not avoid legislative compliance.  Bunting would certainly challenged the fact that NE be allowed to assess the project which they themselves are primary proposers.  One might be forgiven for drawing the analogy with MPs designing their own expense system or failed bankers expectation that the public purse will fund bail outs?

A Senior Director of NE has offered to attend a meeting but that was a couple of weeks ago and we are still awaiting a response in terms of date ahead of any definitive announcement in respect of dedication.

Watch this space and we’ll keep you updated.  If you’d like to know more then please contact us via execsec@thmcf.org


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Mark Avery

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

a new nature blog

I write about politics, nature + the environment. Some posts are serious, some not. These are my views, I don't do any promotional stuff and these views are not being expressed for anyone who employs me.

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