A busy weekend , Sat 16 June we were at Ben Rhydding Fete, where we promoted the reserve to the local community, alongside the great work of WNS, hedgehog records and woolly bear caterpillars! Am sure we will get a few more visitors especially as its peak orchid time, and may be a few more volunteers ? Thanks to Debbie, Dave, Catherine, Phil and Karen.
Sunday 17 June, we welcomed a visit by 24 walkers from Burley Walking Group organised by David Asher . We timed the walk to coincide with peak orchid time and they didn’t disappoint. Around 10 or so of the walkers hadn’t visited the site before so it was great to introduce some new people.Whilst there was no kingfisher, there weer 10 or sand martins and a female goosander and 3 young on the river gravels. There were good numbers of damsels, a couple of speckled woods and a dingy? skipper
This female pheasant was spotted on the reserve on the 31 May, its a white bird – not albino ( as can be seen but its normal coloured iris). These birds are believed to be “genetic throwbacks” – although some folk believe they are “marker” birds used by gamekeepers to locate flocks. The bird was covering 2 chicks before I inadvertently disturbed it. My initial view was that it had done well to survive to breed, but then again given its size its only likely to be predated by a fox!
A brief afternoon visit produced a good variety of birds including 3 goosander and a pair of oystercatcher on the fence posts on the opposite bank. With a singing chiffchaff and the lambs bleeting in the field opposite it definitely felt like spring. On the reserve the primroses on the bank were coming into flower and kingcup in the ditch were just coming into bud.
A new year and and a resolution to post news more frequently!
Very few birds on the reserve, today, we had hoped for some winter thrushes but with few hawthorn berries it was perhaps no surprise. However what we lacked in quantity we made with quality. Checking out the effectiveness of some of the glade creation we did about 4yrs ago I flushed out a woodcock from the woods. The bird flew fast and silent out of the trees in a NE direction. BRGP isn’t a site you would anticipate seeing a woodcock, but this small woodland is reasonably wet and there are other woods in the vicinity. Our native birds are also joined by large numbers from Russia and Finland so increasing the odds of disturbing a bird. I believe this is a first for the reserve!
We were delighted for our first view of little egret for the year. The bird was initially 200 m distant at first – in the vicinity of the small beck that runs into the river about half way along the reserve. Fortunately for us it was disturbed by 1 of 3 red kites which kept harassing it for about 5 minutes drawing it until eventually flew along the river. I mentioned the sighting to a dog walker, who visits the reserve frequently – usually in the evening. He remarked that he had seen the egret roosting in a tree over the lagoon on a few occasions- something I will definitely follow up in particularly when the evenings start getting a bit lighter
The other notable sighting was a weasel which ran along the riverside path ( I have seen them before up near the entrance
Sand martins now number over 50, the best we have had for many years. The blackcaps and chiff chaffs have now been joined by willow warblers. With the river being so low the gravels and muddy banks have attracted a pair of redshank and a pair of common sandpiper. A female sparrowhawk was around I assume targeting the blue, great and long tailed tits and dunnocks ,, since we don’t have any sparrows! A young duckling was calling from the top of the bank between the river and pond, hopefully it was located by its mother before being spotted by the sparrowhawk. Steve
35 plus sand martins pairing up and exploring nest holes were the highlight of our saturday work group. Other birds included singing blackcap and chiffchaff and pair of kingfishers. A newly emerged orange tip was joined by over wintering brimstone, comma, peacock and small copper butterflies
The last week or so has seen the arrival of quite a few Comma butterflies at the reserve. These are the autumn generation and are looking very fresh, (see featured image, taken October 1st 2016 ) leading you to believe they have not been around long.
The life cycle of these butterflies is quite interesting: they emerge from hibernation in March giving rise to a summer generation, which can breed rapidly, leading to an autumn generation usually around September. At the Gravel Pits, however, the autumn generation has only been noticeable the last few weeks which may be typical for more northerly regions. Looking at butterfly records for previous years, the autumn generation also seems to be the more abundant of the two, with considerably more sighted than in the summer months. If you take a trip down the reserve, in the next few weeks, keep your eyes peeled when passing many of our bramble bushes.
It has been a disappointing year for butterflies so far, but there have been a few encouraging signs. Despite their low numbers, a male and female Large skipper were seen on the South Lawn on 18th June and a Common blue (see featured image) was found by Phil Reed on 19th June. There used to be a healthy colony of Common blues at the Gravel Pits, so this was particularly pleasing, after one was spotted last year.
Both the Gravel Pits and Sun Lane had established colonies but both seemed to die out quite suddenly. Birdsfoot trefoil (often known as ‘eggs and bacon’) is their foodplant and their absence was made doubly disappointing since Sun Lane has had this in abundance in recent years. The Gravel Pits can’t boast the same quantities, but there are now several good patches.
After a bit of exploring a small colony of Common blue was discovered just over the road from the Gravel Pits and, last year, one individual was spotted on the South lawn on several occasions – a small nick in its wings making it identifiable as the same butterfly. So if you visit either of the reserves any sightings will be gratefully received since the hope is they will re-establish themselves again.
Thank you to all those that came to the walk tonight. The weather was kind to us and there was even a bit of sun at one stage. We hope everyone enjoyed the orchids. It was good to have some extra eyes to spot things we often miss. One example was a Snout moth (see featured image) – a nice find by one of our party. It looks like we have Common Spotted orchids as well.
2016 has to be one of the best years for orchids at the Gravel Pits for a very long time. Quite what the count is is hard to determine since there are that many (see the featured image for just one example). They are largely on the South Lawn but there are also a few on the North Lawn which is encouraging. Most look to be Southern Marsh Orchids although some are likely to be hybrids.