We have done a vegetation survey of the verge adjacent to the SSSI. The verge holds a number of species of orchid an also some other nice patches of chalk grassland. The hope is that between the Parish Council and the DoT we can get the site managed better to sustain this valuable habitat.
We have now done all three roost visits planned for the tunnel and the results have been written up and passed to Elspeth Ingelby at NYMNP. We found both Myotis and Common pipistrelle bats using the tunnel on the main three visits and a final check of the tunnel found a Brown long-eared bat roosting on the ceiling. The data from the spring/summer visits seems to ask as many questions as it answers and there are indications that the bats may even be using the tunnel as a ‘route through’. Certainly there is no ‘major’ roost present but it is being well used. The winter hibernation visits did not add anything to the single record we have from 2016 of a single bat hibernating there. We will wait and see what proposals come forward for the future of the tunnel but thanks to the help of all the volunteers we now at least have a much better knowledge of its use by bats. Thanks to everyone involved.
Six people headed off on the Rosedale walk to look for Ring ouzel and Redstart. From the car park Red grouse were calling and throughout the day were plentiful and amazingly tame. A lot of displaying and chasing and calling by numerous males were witnessed. Surprisingly there were no Wheatear present around the kilns but it was not long before we found two males in pristine condition on a meadow. At the same time a Redstart was singing from the hanging woodlands but refused to show itself. While attracted to the Redstart a pair of Ring ouzels were spotted at the far end of the meadow, Rob picking up their distant song. Before we could get really close they were disturbed by some other walkers and cyclists but did not go far and we then closed up and had better views. An odd call was bothering us which we eventually confirmed as the call of a Ring ouzel when later in the day we watched on calling from a clump of heather. As we walked a further pair of Ring ouzel was then detected further north with much better views. Golden plover were calling and a singleton and a pair were seen as we progressed along the track and a further pair of Ring ouzels flew out of some rushes to the east of the track. Greylag geese came flying over from the south, not quite a moorland bird! Just as we approached our lunch stop near the mine shaft it started to rain and waterproofs were donned. During lunch a Sparrowhawk put in a brief appearance on the southern crest of the hill. The walk was a bit swifter in the wind and rain but stopped before we got back to the cars giving us ample time for further good views of Ring ouzel, one of which had a yellow ring on its left leg. Redstarts were again singing but as before there was no sign of them. A great day out.
I think we were all thrilled at the wonderful day in Cropton. Andrew and his friends with a few additional SFNS eyes found total of 38 male adders, 2 Slowworms and a juvenile Lizard despite the weather not being ideal. The colour variation in the adders was quite dramatic from almost black to a pale green/cream background. The colder weather seems to have kept the Lizards and Slowworms a bit lethargic and had not come out to ‘sun’ themselves. Apart from the reptiles frog spawn was found in many of the shallow pools and wheel ruts and a male toad almost got stood on. The birds were also quite impressive with a quite good numbers of Siskin and Repoll, including a flock of 40-50 of the latter species. We were surprised to have a Raven cr0aking mid morning and the day was rounded off with a chattering Goshawk and also a group of 11 Crossbills, including 2 juveniles, that came and sat in a small dead tree right above our Well done Andrew – we thought we would be lucky if we saw 2 or 3!
The verge at Betton is part of a RIG site for its geological interest. The verges also have considerable botanic interest with both Pyramidal and Bee orchid populations as well as other chalk flora. There is some current management of the grassland on the south side of the road but none on the north where the grassland is becoming very rank and hawthorn and catoneaster are invading. We believe that most of the orchids and best of the flora is on the north side of the verge rather than the south side. Discussions with the Parish council have been very positive re modifying the management but there appears to be little formal information to base any decisions on about where and when to cut etc:.
The proposal is that SFNS carryout a botanical survey of the verges in early summer plotting the areas of greatest botanical interest to allow meaningful discussions on future management to take place. Keep on the web site or your e-mails for a date when this will take place if you are interested in taking part.
The production line for the new boxes at the Cropton Cabins funded by FC has been going well and the 20 boxes from fresh cut larch have been successfully made. These will be installed after the survey there in August.
We have added the bat survey dates to the calendar for 2018 and hope to see some of you there. This year we will be surveying Low North Camp, Cropton Cabins, Keys Beck and Broad Head Farm. Please let Nick Gibbons know if you are coming at 07790 113025. This will help should there be a cancellation for weather and we can also hopefully do some car sharing where practical. Anyone with any bat detectors and recorders please bring them with you. I shall bring some SD cards which I can analyse for bat calls if you do not wish to do your own.
Thanks to a break in the weather we managed to complete the bat box checks across the whole forest. A grand total of 72 bats of 6 species were recorded – Common and Soprano pipitrelle, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s, Brown long-eared and Noctule. Brown long-eared was an extra species to or spring checks and were found at Wykeham and Keys Beck. The latter site produced a total of 3 bats this time which was a nice surprise after a complete blank in the spring check. During the checks we also managed to add replacement boxes in both Wykeham and Broadhead to replace the damaged ones removed during the spring.
We plan to do some repairs on the hibernation boxes at Broadhead soon and also add some replacement boxes to Pexton Ponds area where there are only a few good boxes left at present. The Broadhead hibernation boxes clearly contain a maternity colony during the summer as there was 5-6cms of droppings in the bottom of both of the boxes and a Noctule was still present when we did the check.
At Dalby Beck we found a male Natterer’s with a ring on – Y2833. A quick ask around of John Altringham and John Drewitt originally lead us to believe we had misread the ring as there was a male Natterer’s, Y3833, ringed at the windy pits in 2003. It later transpired that the bat had actually been rung at Ellerburn church in 2013 and Y2833 was the correct number. It has been recorded at the church each year since it was ringed.
With the help of some amazing photos from the archive from Brian C the Society put a stand up for the Rotunda Birthday event over the August bank holiday. Some of the photos of our early pioneers of the SFNS show how dedicated they were and how they worked with their very basic equipment of the time – no digital photos and long lenses then. The stand created some interest with a few people picking out names they knew recorded in the first minutes of the SFNS in April 1899. The stand was unmanned so there are sadly no records of any comments apart from those on the reception evening on the Friday.
The Rotunda appears to be thinking of this as an annual event so we need to think of what we want to do for next year and also look for volunteers to help out. One of Brian’s ideas is to get photos from the archive with ‘un-named’ people on them and see if we can get anyone to recognise them.
Despite the gloomy forecasts for the weather earlier in the week it was a good warm evening with little wind and with plenty of insects available for the bats to eat. From the car park we descended to the nearest viewpoint over the water to sit and wait. A heron flew in and perched on the top of the pines to our left and was beautifully silhouetted against the sky. The first surprise of the evening was that our first bat at 8.23 was a Noctule . This was clearly visible feeding above us with its characteristic ‘chip’chop’ call coming from the bat detectors. It was soon joined a by a second, and these bats continued to feed high over the valley for most of the time we were present. After 10 minutes and with no other bats other than the feeding Noctules we headed off down the lake to see what else we could find. Our first pipistrelle, a Common, did not appear until 8.39, soon to be followed by a Soprano pipistrelle at 8.41. By the time we reached the dam at the far end of the lake there was still little activity from any bats apart from the Noctules. A few pipistrelles of both species passed through and we then headed back half way up the lake towards the car park, disturbing a toad off the track as we went, and sat at another view point. Despite it now being quite dark there was still no sign of any Daubenton’s bats over the water which was the second surprise of the evening, as it seems a very suitable site. A few Common and Soprano pipistrelles were feeding in front of us but it was relatively quiet. As a last resort we returned to our starting point at the top of the lake where we found Common and Soprano pipitsrelles in numbers, regularly having 2+ bats in front of us. At last the rattle of a Myotis bat on the detectors and, turning on the light, we had some good views of Daubenton’s bats flying low over the water for the next 10 minutes. There was probably only one or two Daubenton’s present judging by the timing of their appearances.
Analysis of the calls from the two recorders the following day did show that we had missed 2 passes by Daubenton’s bat earlier in the evening, one near the dam and the other half way back up the lake. The second ‘missed call’ was particularly interesting as it revealed those characteristic reverse hook pattern of a Daubenton’s social call which I have not seen as clearly as this recording for some time.
There were also some nice Noctule calls with changes from the short flat calls, when little information on their surroundings is required in a large open area, to steep sweeping calls when they got closer to the side of the valley and more navigational information was required.
A good finish to the Nats outdoor programme for 2017.