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wildlife round up........

October 2022

Well. I suppose you would call this a ‘mast’ year. Every tree and hedgerow bush seems to be full to bursting with berries and seeds. The local paths are awash with acorns, chestnuts and conkers, the jays and squirrels are busy. If all hedges and woods are laden like this, across the country, then the winter thrushes, (Fieldfares and Redwings) that are now crossing the North Sea, are going to take a long time to get to Shropshire!

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There is a distinct autumn feel to the air, particularly in the early morning but despite this there are still butterflies and dragonflies out and about. Red Admirals are still visiting the few plants that are late flowering in our garden and some Small Whites are out in the fields.

 

It has been a long dry summer and yet another lot of weather records have been smashed. The dry weather has certainly seen the end of several of our garden herbaceous plants and shrubs. Out in the surrounding countryside, our local trees struggled during the summer, and many began leaf fall early this year. Usually, trees that have suffered this kind of stress are susceptible to attack from diseases and often die within the next few years. There has never been a more important time to look after our trees!

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The drought through our summer months left the Strine Brook with only a small trickle and the Wall Farm wetland dried completely. Many animals and birds will have struggled in these conditions. In the last few weeks, we have only recorded garden Hedgehogs on two nights and then only one individual. Last year in the same month we had 4 or 5 animals. Hedgehogs eat different food at different times of year, but worms are a significant part of their diet. Before the recent rain you could go to at least two spade depths in our garden and find the soil just crumbled in your hand. No earthworms here!!Now we have had significant rain keep an eye on the flashes in our local fields. It is a good time to pick up Green Sandpiper, Snipe and other waders. The small pool that develops in the field at the end of the canal (at the Edgmond end) had two Egyptian Geese on it again this week.

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Our village Swallows left overnight in early September well at least those that bred so successfully on Newport Road. In fact, by the end of September all the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins had all disappeared, well so I thought. However, this week I just caught sight of a single House Martin over our garden and later that day I went to Wall Farm. On my walk down to the hide with Peter Nunn, (to look at a repair job) we found a good flock of House Martins and Swallows feeding above the hedge in one corner of the field! Perhaps these are our local birds that have simply moved to better feeding areas or perhaps they are birds on passage from further north stopping for a top up on route?

There are still plants to see in flower on our local walks. This late seeding dandelion head (top of the article) drew my attention, how beautifull.

 

Here are a few plants to look out for (right) Red Campion, White Campion and Creeping Thistle (left) (Cirsium arvensis). I have also seen Borage and White Dead Nettle in full flower!

 

Look out for Ivy in flower at the moment. It is a great nectar source for late flying insects and later on, when the berries are formed, it becomes a feasting ground for many birds.

It has been a good year for hares and we recorded many whilst out on the bird surveys this spring/summer. The group (EWG) has been helping HAU with the collection of breeding bird numbers/species on university farm land. Brown hares were probably introduced back in the Iron age, an alien species no less!! However, it is listed as priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan! We have some very divergent views on alien species in the UK. Japanese knotweed out and brown hares in! Early morning is always a good time to see hares and they are still there to be found on your morning walks this week.

If you are out walking in our local woods then look out for toadstools. The recent damp conditions have given them a new burst of energy. We now know that trees talk to each other through fungal growth (mycelium) below ground so it is not surprising that at this time of year they decide to erect a signal mast! Perhaps they need to make some long-distance calls!

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Conifer Tuft – apparently edible but too much like Sulphur Tuft (poisonous) for me to risk it!

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Rufous Milkcap (right) – also apparently edible but I don’t like the look of this one!

EWG are still building up our understanding of bats in our local area but how fascinating to have a Long-eared Bat in an Edgmond house in recent weeks. Bats make up 25% of all the mammal species in the UK and 20% worldwide and yet we know so little about them. Our Common Pipistrelles were still flying in our garden on the warmer evenings last week.

 

During the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns many people reconnected with the wildlife and countryside around them. Don’t forget how good that felt and keep up those regular walks. Connecting with the living world beyond our bricks and concrete has a positive effect on our mental health! More recently scientists have discovered plants produce phytoncides. These chemicals have a positive effect on endorphins and make you feel better. They are now proved to increase the number of NK cells in your blood, the ones that fight off disease and infection. So, it seems that walking in your local wood or out on the country paths around Edgmond really is good for you. Check out a more detailed explanation if you don’t believe me!

 

Effect of Phytoncide from Trees on Human Natural Killer Cell Function (sagepub.com)

 

Jonathan Lloyd