Welcome to the LDV NNR ringing blog, this blog is designed to share the experiences, findings and tales from a group of dedicated ringers. We specialise in conservation orientated research projects, largely focusing on wildfowl, waders, owls and birds of conservation concern, in and around the Vale of York NNR's.

NB - Whilst the purpose of this blog was initially designed to cover our nationally important wildfowl ringing activities, regular readers may have noticed the increase in posts detailing wildlife found across the valley (ranging from plants, fungi, butterflies, dragonflies & other invertebrates). Ringing posts will resume over the winter months, and will run alongside wildlife and work posts.

Friday, 18 September 2015

14/09/15 - Scabious wonderland

Once again this summer the team have been busy cutting the meadow at Thornton Ellers, in order to maintain the areas rich and varied flora. Thornton Ellers is an interesting site where post glacial sand dunes meet the peat of the floodplain of Melbourne/Thornton Ings. The site contains a host of species including Common Spotted Orchids, Harebells, Devils-bit Scabious, Common Valerian and Star and Pill Sedge.

Thornton Ellers - Devil's-bit Scabious 'patch'

The meadow is cut using an allen scythe, and raked by hand as to try and not damage the peat by using larger equipment. Similar to last year, we have been using this green hay as a source of seeds, moving the newly cut hay over to Leven Carrs, where hopefully the seeds will help in developing a diverse grassland/fen community on this site. This is in conjunction with a grassland/fen restoration project, which is being undertaken as part of a large habitat creation/arable reversion plan, helping to connect several areas of semi-natural habitats in the Hull Valley. Using wildflowers from our NNR’s, along with our staff and volunteer expertise to make it happen, is a great way we can help other areas benefit wildlife as much as our own.

 Cutting, & later spreading the 'green hay'

Whilst cutting the hay we came across a number of frogs and toads (largely young ones), that have now moved away from the water bodies and ventured into the wet grassland. Toads seem to have been present in good numbers this year at various sites across the valley. Following the spring once toads have emerged from hibernation, they return to the same ponds each year to breed, afterwards they then move away from the water bodies and spend time in wet grassland, woodland and other damp areas, by October they will then start to look for a cosy spot to hibernate in for another winter. 

Common Toad

Following the initial cutting of the meadow throughout July we re-visited the site more recently, to find the Devil’s-bit Scabious now in full bloom. Scabious flowers later than most of the other species, hence why we leave this patch until after it has flowered, allowing us to capture the seeds which can then be transferred to Leven Carrs. With the rest of the meadow now being cut apart from this one area, all the nectar loving species were making the most of the scabious, with a vast number of hoverflies and bees feeding on the flower heads. 12 different species of butterflies were also seen, including counts of 26 Peacock, 17 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Small Copper, 8 Painted Lady, 11 Red Admiral and 2 Commas, along with a single Common Blue, Wall Brown and Small Skipper, whilst Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods could be seen flitting between the brambles nearby.

Red Admiral

Whilst counting the butterflies amongst the bramble and gorse we also encountered a number of Shield Bug nymphs, with both Common Green and Gorse found – the latter in double figures, along with several adults. 

Common Green Shield Bug Nymph

Back in the meadow this caterpillar – a Broom moth, was found feeding on an unopened scabious head. Broom moth caterpillars are one of the more brightly coloured ones, with the striking yellow lines on this individual catching our eye.

Broom Moth Caterpillar

The hedgerows near the meadow are also usually a good spot to look for hawking dragonflies, on several occasions we've been fortunate to see both Migrant and Southern Hawkers. Common Darters and Ruddy Darters are also present but are more likely to feature in and around the meadow and along the woodland edge.

Migrant Hawker

With a vast array of wildlife just in this small space, it really shows the value of wildflowers such as scabious, which provide nectar for so many of our butterflies, bees and hoverflies. Since first managing the meadow here from the early 1990’s we have seen the patch of scabious increase from just a handful of plants, to an area now covering half a hectare, and with our management of the site the area now has a lot less Juncus (Soft Rush) and Gylceria (Reed sweet-grass), which are not as beneficial to wildlife as they can often form dense monocultures and swamp out other more delicate species. The Juncus may be of no use to our nectar loving creatures however it is used by spiders, and with the seasons changing and the autumn upon us, we are starting to see an emergence of our eight-legged friends – feared by some but enjoyed by others! 

Four-spotted Orb Weaver

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