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'
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'
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
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.
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.
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
Four-spotted Orb Weaver