May is a great time to get out into the woods. The leaves a fresh and vibrant, the spring flowers are stunning and the birds will be in good voice. To encourage enjoyment and appreciation of our woodland, The Tree Council is promoting May as ‘Walk in the Woods’ month. So why not get out to a local woodland this month and enjoy this vibrant season. You could visit one of our woodland sites such as Zebon Copse (near Fleet) or Herbert Plantation (near Burghclere); to find other good sites take a look at the site finder on the TBH Partnership’s website at http://www.tbhpartnership.org.uk/sites/ . There are also guided walks organised for ‘Walk in the Woods’, the most local being at Finchampstead Ridges (see https://www.treecouncil.org.uk/Take-Part/Event-Details/EventId/1298 ). Having enjoyed a walk and seen some bluebells, add them to the records of the Big Bluebell Watch organised through the Woodland Trust.

     

For more info see

https://www.treecouncil.org.uk/Take-Part/Walk-in-the-Woods

and

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/bluebell-watch/

 

 

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This weekend marks international world migratory bird weekend. Three major ‘fly-ways’ exist on earth – Americas, East Asia-Australasia and most relevant to us in North Hampshire is the African-Eurasian flyway. By now virtually all of the birds which migrate to the UK to breed this summer will have arrived with the odd stragglers still on their way through. Swifts, Hobbys (predators of swifts) and Flycatchers are the last to arrive.

As part of our monitoring programs on HCC Northern nature reserves we conduct early morning bird surveys to identify returning and resident birds. Primarily we are looking for those that are rarest or specialists to heathland habitats (found at Broxhead, Castle Bottom, Yateley Common and Shortheath on our sites). This includes Dartford Warblers, woodlarks and Nightjars. Dartford Warblers are resident but are bolstered occasionally by numbers coming from overspill populations on good years from the continent. Early results indicate that Dartford numbers have dropped since the snow in March with them only having been heard at Broxhead recently. Woodlarks are now back at Castle Bottom and Yateley Common West end. Nightjar surveys are conducted in the evenings during late May and June.

Other birds of interest have also returned including large numbers of Garden Warblers and Willow Warblers. Black Caps and Chiffchaffs are also setting up territories but some of these populations are now resident all year round. Sadly Nightingales have not been heard yet returning to Yateley West End despite concerted efforts in recent years to improve habitats for them.
This may still be because not enough of the habitat is in the right condition but the lack of returning Nightingales needs to be considered in a wider picture. These wider factors are what World Migratory bird weekend aims to highlight. The loss of good habitat, both in quality and quantity and being free from disturbance are issues found in the UK but other issues in the countries these birds pass through may include weather problems, lack of feeding opportunities and shooting and predating of tired birds. But this is also a celebration of the incredible journey that these birds undertake. The cuckoo is a well studied by the BTO– the ones from the UK spend as little as 15% of their time in the UK, 38% on migration and the rest in central Africa. There journey to the UK takes two months but their journey back can take 4 months as they stop off in either Italy and Spain before flying across the Mediterranean and the Sahara Desert with further stop offs in Africa. I was pleased to hear a cuckoo calling at Castle bottom earlier in the month and hope to hear them again during their brief stay.

Did you know this week (6th-12th May) is Hedgehog Awareness Week.

Organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS), this annual event aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how we can do our bit to help them.

Here are some facts from the Hedgehog Preservation Society but if you want to find out more you can visit their website: https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/

 

HEDGEHOGS

The Latin word for hedgehogs is Erinaceus and our own British hedgehog is scientifically known as Erinaceus europaeus; it is the same species that occurs throughout most of the continent of Europe.  In Britain it is found almost everywhere except some of the Scottish Islands, but tends to be scarce or absent from wet areas and pine forests.  Uplands and mountainsides are not popular, probably because they lack both suitable food and suitable nesting places.  Hedgehogs are well established in our urban habitat and can, somewhat surprisingly, survive very well in our cities, making extremely good use of cemeteries, railway land, wasteland and both public and private gardens as long as they are joined up with others.  Shakespeare mentions hedgehogs in ‘The Tempest’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and he refers to ‘hedgepigs’ and ‘urchins’.

Description

Everyone is sure to know what a hedgehog looks like.  The hedgehog’s back and sides are covered in 25 mm (1”) long spines (which are really modified hairs).  These are absent from the face, chest, belly, throat and legs which are covered with a coarse, grey-brown fur.  There are approximately 5,000/7,000 spines on an average adult hedgehog.  What many people do not know is that a hedgehog has a small tail.

Garden Visitors

At the risk of disappointing some people, it is worth mentioning the fact that hedgehogs tend to ‘do the rounds’ and visit several gardens within an area.  Ten or more different individuals may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean that ‘your hedgehog’ is in fact probably a number of different individuals visiting at different times.

Helping your Friends

The best ways of assisting hedgehogs are by helping them avoid man-made hazards and providing them with suitable places to nest, especially in the winter.

Hedgehogs in the Garden

The hedgehog is known as ‘the gardener’s friend’ as it will eat slugs, beetles, caterpillars etc., and does no harm, so if you have a garden a hedgehog is to be encouraged.  They should not be kept in close captivity, but regarded as welcome visitors.

 

The Yateley Common Bioblitz, 11am on the 22nd July – 11am on the 23rd July aims to collect valuable species data whilst inviting the local community to get involved and learn more about their countryside.  This event is being run as part of:

Chris Packham’s UK Bioblitz 2018

Nature Reserves Are Not Enough!

For ten days Chris and his team of experts will be visiting 48 nature reserves in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales to highlight the extent to which the nation’s wildlife is under threat.

The Bioblitz campaign has a scientific purpose. The results of this 2018 audit will be recorded to create a benchmark; this will help measure the rise and fall in numbers of different species in the future.

The Journey

Spider 200The team will be starting off from the Scottish Highlands on July 14th and from there, over the course of 10 days, they will weave their way across the 50 sites. All forms of wildlife will be investigated in this snapshot of the country’s wildlife:  from flies to fungi, mammals to moths and birds to butterflies. At each site Chris and the UK Bioblitz team will be helped by species specialists, alongside enthusiastic amateurs, to pinpoint the winners and losers in the battle for Britain’s countryside.

The Reason Bug-3 200

“The UK is home to remarkable and beautiful wildlife and some wonderful habitats but it’s also in big trouble, and in the case of some species this means we are fast approaching the last chance to make a difference.

“I want the 2018 UK Bioblitz Campaign to be a detailed and complete wildlife audit, a ten day snapshot of the state of our wild places and what lives there. It will celebrate some conservation successes but also reveal some of its failures. It will show that nature reserves are not enough and it will prove we need a healthier wider environment. A healthier countryside”  Chris

Hedgehog 180


The Results

Results from each day’s survey will be collated and we will enter the information on this page when it becomes available.

 

Details about the BioBlitz at Yateley Common will be advertised in the lead up to the event.

National Gardening Week was launched by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 2011 to celebrate gardening and for gardeners to share their passion. You can get involved by doing something at home or by visiting an event organised by the RHS.

RHS events. There are several events organised by the RHS at their gardens. The most local to Yateley being Wisley Gardens in Surrey, where they will be providing advice and ideas to inspire gardeners. National Gardening Week at RHS Wisley

Gardening for wildlife. Why not use National Gardening Week as a time you do a little extra to help wildlife in your garden? This could be as simple as leaving an area wild or as involved as building a new pond. If you don’t have a garden you could plant some flowers in a window box to provide nectar for pollinators. We touched on gardening for wildlife in a previous blog post (October2017) and the National Gardening Week website contains additional information on things you can do in your garden for your own pleasure and for the benefit of wildlife; from building a bee hotel to planting a green roof.

For more information visit: http://www.nationalgardeningweek.org.uk/ where you can find information on events at RHS gardens and things you can do at home.

This time of year is the ideal time to carry our Newt Surveys. There are three types of newts native to the UK, all of which can be found in local ponds.

Ranger Steve is licensed to handle the protected Great Crested Newt, so we took the opportunity to do a bit of staff identification training, as well as surveying the newts in Stroud Pond on Yateley Common.

Last night Rangers Steve and Binz, began by assessing the pond and identifying the areas where the vegetation and conditions were most suited to newts laying their eggs. They then inspected the vegetation looking for curled leaves where the newts had laid their eggs and then folded the end over. In this way they were able to identify a number of Great Crested Newt eggs, so the presence of the newts was established.

They then put out a number of newt traps which are specially designed to capture but not harm the newts for the purpose of surveying.  This type of survey work can only be done by those specially trained and with the appropriate licenses.

As the light faded Steve then showed Binz how to ‘torch’ the pond -using a strong torch to spot any swimming newts, and a couple of Palmate newts were seen.

Early the next morning Ranger Steve returned with Ranger Jean to collect in the traps and collect the results.  This involved removing the traps from where they had been placed under the water, and collecting any newts in trays to identify and count.

 

This was a great opportunity to find out about the population of newts using the pond. In total we recorded 32 Great Crested Newts (23 Female and 9 Male) and 23 Palmate newts (7 Female and 16 Male).

 

 

Tips for identifying British newts

  • The smooth or common newt in breeding season has spotted flanks and throat.
  • The palmate newt, commonest in slightly acidic areas, has an unspotted throat; breeding males have a tail which ends in a filament and webbed hind feet.
  • The great crested newt is our largest species, breeding males have a ragged crest along their back.

Today, 22nd April 2018 is Earth Day.

Who are the Earth Day Network?

Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 195 countries to build environmental democracy. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. We work through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.

This year Earth Day is focusing on plastic pollution.

Plastic pollution is poisoning our oceans and land, injuring marine life, and affecting our health! And the Earth Day Network have many ideas how you can help reduce plastic waste.  To find out more visit: https://www.earthday.org/