On 19th April 2018 we had an enjoyable and informal evening when John Buckley enlightened us with tips on how to identify our native species of ‘Hampshire’s Amphibians and Reptiles‘ concentrating on the Smooth, Palmate and Great Crested Newts, Common Frog, Common Toad, Common Lizard, Slow-worm, Grass Snake and Adder – all found locally. We also learnt something of their habitats, enjoyed a picture quiz and had the opportunity to examine live newts closely.
We were encouraged to record sightings of these creatures (in our gardens or elsewhere in Hampshire) on ‘Living Record’. Alternatively records can be sent to Hampshire Wildlife Trust, thereby contributing towards an Atlas of Hampshire’s amphibians and reptiles to be published in 2020. Data collected from such surveys inform conservationists which species are doing well and which are in decline.
Wildlife author Dominic Couzens took us on an entertaining journey on 8th March 2018 through the year he spent trying to show his children 50 British mammals. He wasn’t at all sure his little 3 and 5 year olds would make it! They travelled to the Ardnamurchan peninsula which holds the daily record mammal count (26 if you want to know): the children were asleep in the back of the car when a wildcat crossed their path, so that could not be counted! Another time the family went to Brownsea Island to see red squirrels – and eventually found one in the café. He was full of anecdotes about his year of creating memories for his family.
Local wildlife enthusiast Alan Wynde gave an informative talk on 9th November 2017 about the ‘Seabirds of Skokholm’. The island lies off the south-west coast of Pembrokeshire and despite being only 240 acres it is an internationally important breeding site for many seabirds. It holds 52,000 pairs of Manx Shearwaters and 20% of Europe’s population of Storm Petrels.
Some 40 years ago, Alan had helped to remove a herd of goats which were destroying shearwater burrows and stunting vegetation. The pioneering work of Ronald Lockley started the first bird observatory and ringing of shearwaters. It was explained that shearwaters use the position of the sun as a means of orientation and how their highly developed sense of smell enables them to have an olfactory map of the oceans. Various aspects of the biology of puffins, razorbills, guillemots and gannets were described. Gannets use Grassholm another nearby island as a breeding site, holding 35000 pairs.
In October 2017 we held the first AGM of Froyle Wildlife since becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Members had been sent the Trustees Report and Barry Clark reviewed the year’s events (see slides shown). The new wildlife pond and surrounding wildflower meadow has added an astonishing increase in local biodiversity; including 22 butterfly species, 13 dragonfly species, 2 amphibian species and 86 species of flowering plants (see list). After thanking the volunteers and members for their support, six trustees were elected unanimously by about 40 members present.
Harvest Mouse talk 19th October 2017. Zoologist Dr Francesca Pella gave an enthusiastic talk about her work on Harvest Mice in Selborne. First recorded by Gilbert White in 1767, the good news is that 11 local farmers around Selborne covering 10,000 acres are now working to improve habitats for key species including the harvest mouse. The concern is that harvest mice numbers are declining nationally and the species is considered rare. Fortunately n the recent Selborne study over 400 nests were recorded in the two years 2014/5.
Their latin name is micromys minutus, or ‘smallest mouse’, which is apt as it is the smallest rodent in Europe, with a head and body length of 5-8cm and typically weighing 4-6g. It is the only British mammal to have a prehensile tail able to grasp plant stems as they move through long vegetation. The nests of Harvest Mouse have also been found in Froyle at two locations; one of these was along grassy field margins between the hedgerow and crop.
On a breezy but sunny day 20th August 2017, the new wildlife pond welcomed 19 children with their accompanying parents and grandparents. It was perfect weather for pond dipping and children and adults had lots of fun finding and identifying many interesting inhabitants of the pond. These included greater and lesser boatmen, juvenile ramshorn snails, damselfly nymphs and at least three different species of dragonfly nymph.
Sam, aged 3 remarked, ‘I liked catching all the different creatures’. And Joe, aged 6 said, ‘My favourite thing was catching a massive dragonfly nymph’. Frankie aged 6 said he absolutely loved it. Bea aged 11 said she thought it would be babyish but it wasn’t and she loved looking at the really tiny creatures under the microscope. Eryka said, ‘I’ve never been pond dipping before, it was so cool! I caught a waterboatman. I would like to do it again.’
The sun shone at the start of our leisurely stroll around Bentley Station Meadow on 29th July 2017. The abundant nectar of the Water Mint as we went in was clearly a favourite with the Silver-washed Fritillaries, not often you get such good views of so many at once.
The butterflies we saw:- Silver-washed Fritillary, Green-veined White, Large White, Small Copper, Comma, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Common Blue, Small Skipper. We also saw Golden-ringed Dragonfly, Banded Demoiselle male, Beautiful Demoiselle male and Shaded Broad-bar moth. Plants included:- Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Sneezewort Agrimony, Betony, Hedge Bedstaw, Tormentil, Tufted Vetch, Wild Angelica, Lesser Burdock. Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) was also seen further up the meadow just as the rain started.
The new wildlife pond and surrounding wildflower meadow was opened on 25th June 2017. After enjoying refreshments at Froyle Park we walked to the pond area near Gid Lane where Glynis Watts from East Hampshire District Council cut the ribbon. The wildflower meadow that surrounds ‘Froyle Park Pond’ looked superb and we lingered to observe what was flying over the pond. Dragonflies have already found the new habitat as well as pond skaters, water boatmen and whirligig beetles.
This successful project was lead by volunteers from Froyle Wildlife and there is now permitted access for members. Conditions of our access licence include visitors using only the stile for entry/exit (see plan) and no fires, BBQs or picnics. Advice from wildlife pond experts is to let the pond colonise naturally over time. So please do not introduce any fish, aquatic species or pond plants because this could bring in diseases or potentially invasive non-native species.
The sun shone at Noar Hill on 10th May 2017 for a really enjoyable afternoon’s walk at short notice. We saw Duke of Burgundy and the not so Dingy Skippers but think the Green Hairstreaks may have stolen the limelight!
9 butterfly species seen – Holly Blue, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Small Heath, Duke of Burgundy, Dingy Skipper, Green Hairstreak, Large White, Red Admiral. 2 Brimstone eggs (on Purging Buckthorn). Early Purple and Twayblade orchids, Milkwort, Salad Burnet, Germander Speedwell (bird’s-eye) Adder’s-tongue Fern. Birds seen/heard Whitethroat, Yellow Hammer, Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker, Blackcap. For more information see a list of British Butterfly books and websites.
Wildlife of the River Wey – Glen Skelton, from the Surrey Wildlife Trust, gave an interesting talk about rivers being ‘Nature’s Super Highways’ on 27th April 2017.
After rising from a chalk aquafer in Alton, the Northern branch of the River Wey flows through Upper Froyle, and Farnham before joining the South Wey at Tilford, and ultimately joins the River Thames. This chalk stream is an approximately 80km wildlife corridor. There are only around 200 chalk streams in the world and 85% of these are found in England, so we are fortunate to have the River Wey in Froyle. Coming from groundwater aquafers, the water is of high clarity and good chemical quality, making it precious for certain wildlife species, potentially supporting a rich flora and fauna. However, unfortunately man’s activities are having a detrimental effect on rivers including the Wey. Consequently volunteers, including those led by Glen, do restoration work with the aim of improving the biodiversity and health of the river, to enable them to function naturally.
Apparently there are 500,000 miles of hedgerow in Britain which could be looked on as our largest nature reserve. 130 nationally rare species live in hedgerow but sadly 88 of these are rapidly declining, this is due to several factors, and one such is the close annual cutting that some hedgerows undergo. Jon explained that moving the hedge cutter just four inches back from the usual cutting position produces flowering and fruiting on second year wood. This in turn provides food for many species including insects, mammals and farmland birds. Employing this method of management each year then cutting back to the original size in the 5th year would dramatically improve biodiversity. Information on maintaining hedgerows http://hedgelink.org.uk/index.php and on Seasonal berries, nuts and apples www.hedgerowharvest.org.uk/
On 23rd February 2017 we welcomed Dr. Andy Barker of the charity Butterfly Conservation to speak about the Butterflies of Hampshire. We learnt there are 46 species of butterfly that breed in the county with most of the scarcer species relying on special habitats such as deciduous woodland, chalk downland and heathland. This is due to the exacting habitat requirements of many species including the presence of specific larval foodplants. Richly illustrated with photographs and graphs, the latter showed the serious declines over a number of years of many of these beautiful insects with the Pearl-bordered Fritillary nearly extinct in Hampshire due to loss of coppiced habitat. Success stories include the recreation of wild flower chalk grassland at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester.
Gardening for butterflies – Plenty of ideas for nectar and larval food plants to grow for butterflies. Garden Butterfly Survey – Make your garden butterfly sightings count by noting what you see each month online, something for the whole family.
On 20th October 2016 our AGM and Red Kite talk was well attended. It was a joy to welcome new members to Froyle Wildllife and have a chance to chat with existing members. Attendees were shown pictures from our main project this year, the wildlife pond and seeds from our wildflower meadow on the Recreation Ground in Lower Froyle were available (free with membership).
Following delicious drinks and nibbles, Keith Betton began his fascinating talk about Red Kites. We learnt that Kites were actually recorded as extinct in Hampshire in 1864, but thanks to a government scheme their population has been partially restored. In the 1960s kite numbers had dropped to just 40 breeding pairs in Wales. The scheme introduced 2500 breeding pairs from Spain in the late 1980s. The Kites we see flying in the skies above Froyle today are likely descendants of those reintroductions.
We enjoyed a lovely late summers evening on 8th September 2016 for our walk and talk at Mill Farm Organic, bordering Froyle and Isington. The farm extends to around 600 acres and has been managed organically for over 16 years, certified by the Soil Association. The main enterprises are a herd of South Devon and Aberdeen Angus beef cows, a flock of Black Welsh Mountain and Easycare sheep and a herd of traditional breed pigs. These all produce meat which is sold at the farm shop and at local Farmers Markets. Thanks to Nick Shaylor for an inspiration evening.
On the 23rd July 2016, Mike Edwards enthused us about “The Magic of Bees” while we walked to see what was buzzing in Froyle. We visited the wildflower area on the rec and two nearby gardens. Compared to honey bees, the solitary and bumble bees are better pollinators flying at lower temperatures and distributing dry pollen.
Volunteers did the first cut of the wildflower area on Froyle recreation ground on 30th/31st July 2016. Many people have enjoyed seeing the wildflowers from May to July (link to photos). Although it seemed a shame to cut the cornfield annuals while still flowering, it will allow more growing room for the perennials to thrive in subsequent years. After scything, the cutting were raked up and removed next day.
On 18th June 2016 we walked to a wildlife pond in Lower Froyle, where Bill Wain spotted over 20 exuvia (empty skins) of Emperor Dragonfly that had recently emerged. A Common Blue Damselfly allowed close views while stationary and an emerging dragonfly on the flag iris leaves was probably a Four-spot Chaser. The absence of any sunshine meant that none were flying.
Edward Mayer delighted over 50 people on 12th May 2016 with his enthusiastic and inspirational talk on swifts (and a little on swallows). As well as bringing that uplifting sound of summer, these amazing birds are superbly skilful flyers and they drink, feed and even mate in flight!
Swift bricks & nest boxes are relatively inexpensive and can be fitted to new builds and during any renovation work to roofs, soffits and guttering. The ‘Hampshire Swifts’ website link takes you to the swift survey page. Please record any 2016 sightings you make so that Hampshire’s swift records are up to date and accurate.
Thanks to the invitation from Froyle Estate, 30 Froyle residents were able to enjoy walks in Hawkins Wood to see the carpets of bluebells, amongst other plants, on two occasions in April 2016. Sue C led the walks with great enthusiasm and knowledge, click on link for more information.
As well as the glorious bluebells, other ancient woodland plant indicators that were seen on the walk included Yellow Archangel, Wood Anemone, Barren Strawberry, Early Dog-violet, Primrose, Wood Sorrel, the imaginatively named Townhall Clock with delicate flowers facing in 4 directions, and Toothwort, again appropriately named for its tooth like appearance, a plant that is parasitic on tree roots.
Dr Bill Wain gave us a fascinating insight into the world of dragonflies on the 15th March 2016. Various freshwater habitats from lakes, rivers and canals to small boggy pools and garden ponds are used for egg-laying. Dragonflies are carnivorous as larvae and adults, the underwater larval stage typically lasts 2 years but it’s the adults that catch the eye with their vibrant aerobatics. Threats include rivers drying out, canalised rivers with no bank-side vegetation, boat traffic churning up silt and pollution from industry and agri-chemicals.
Garden ponds can aid these insects, make them shallow-edged and fish free with submerged and marginal plant life. Look out for Azure, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damselflies and Southern Hawker, Emperor, Broad-bodied Chaser and Common Darter dragonflies. There is more information from the British Dragonfly Society and last year’s sightings in Froyle.
On 30th October 2015, Monica Johnson from the Hawk and Owl Trust talked about one of Britain’s best known but little seen birds. Barn Owls are birds of farmland requiring rough grasslands and tussocky field margins, hedgerows and riverbanks, areas where their chief prey – field voles (and other small mammals) thrive. Once known as the ‘Farmer’s Friend’ ‘Owl holes’ were often built in the gable end of barns to encourage them to keep rat and mice numbers in check.
Today their UK population is declining partly due to loss of habitat and suitable nesting places but also from roadside casualties and consumption of poisoned rodents. Positive steps that could be taken include retaining and recreating rough grassland, retaining traditional roosting and nesting places and creating new ones in suitable areas preferably at least 2km from a main road. Also leave old or dead trees with cavities standing wherever possible. For more information including best designs for nest boxes see Barn Owl Trust.
A new wildflower area on the northern edge of Froyle recreation ground was sown with native seeds in 2015. A meadow mixture of Spring/summer flowering perennials will germinate with cornfield annuals included to provide a display in 2016 and act as a nurse crop for the perennials that take longer to establish. Thanks to Froyle Parish Council for purchasing the seed.
Work started in July with a turf cutter to remove the top layer and leave bare soil. Thanks to the 10 helpers who rolled and lifted the 3 tons of turves then stacked them into two habitat piles. In August we removed deep rooted weeds such as dandelions and started to hoe. Then volunteers lightly forked over part of the area and weeded again. The loan of a vintage ‘Merry Tiller’ the following week proved invaluable to cultivate the whole area. On 20th September we raked and levelled the soil to produce a good tilth, then broadcast sowed the seed.
Our ‘Two Mills walk’ on Saturday 30th May 2015 starting at Froyle village hall took a leisurely 2.5 mile stroll following footpaths and quiet lanes taking in Isington and Froyle Mills. Some 65 plant species were noted in flower, along with 21 bird and 3 butterfly species. See link for the full list. Tea and cakes welcomed the end of our walk at Mill Farm Organics Shop.
On Friday 12th May 2015, we went on an evening walk with bat detectors that Nik Knight and Phil from the Hampshire Bat Group kindly supplied for our use. After a lovely Spring day, the evening soon turned cool but not before we had good soundings and sightings of Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, and Daubenton’s bats by the Wey River bridge at Bentley. Returning to the Village Hall, we heard the echo location calls of Common Pipistrelle bats in Well Lane, then Park Lane and Husseys Lane. See link for details of the recorded sightings and to hear samples of bat echolocation calls.
The weather certainly did us proud on Sunday April 12th 2015 for our bird walk led by Keith Betton. We were able to see and/or hear 36 different species with Keith helping us to identify those more unfamiliar to some of us. Seven of these; House Sparrow, Linnet, Marsh Tit, Skylark, Song Thrush, Starling and Yellowhammer, are on the BTO Red list meaning they have declined severely (at least 50%) in UK breeding population. This shows how fortunate we are in Froyle to still have these species, and how important it is to preserve the environment so that they continue to delight us.
On March 9th 2015 at 7.30 in the Village Hall, Geoff Hawkins gave one of his amusing, informative talks about the wild flowers we might see around Froyle. Hairy violet is pictured and click on link to download a list of plant species in Froyle Parish.
A moth evening was held on Saturday August 30th 2014 at Copse Hill Farm, Lower Froyle. Two lamps were operated from 8pm by Nigel Peace, link to see what moths are ‘flying tonight’.
98 moths were recorded for 11 species:- Orange Swift, Light-brown Apple Moth, Double-striped Pug, Brimstone, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Flame Shoulder, Large Yellow Underwing, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Square-spot Rustic, Common Rustic agg, Straw Dot.
Our butterfly walk on Sat 26th July 2014 visited Magdalen Hill Down, a superb chalk grassland nature reserve managed by the Hampshire branch of Butterfly Conservation. As well as grassland with wild flowers, we went to an area of chalk scrape that had been created specifically for Small Blue.
With sunny weather conditions we identified 15 butterfly species; Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Peacock, Small Tortoishell, Brimstone, Common Blue, Brown Argus, Chalkhill Blue, Small Blue, Large White, Small White, Small Copper. Also seen; day flying moth ‘six spot burnet’ and caterpillars of the cinnabar moth.
Some of the plants we saw included; common knapweed, marjoram, wild basil, lady’s bedstraw, field and small scabious, sainfoin, salad burnet, harebell, wild carrot, bird’s-foot trefoil, kidney vetch, horseshoe vetch, common rockrose, tufted vetch.
We were lucky to see a mature male Adder and the rare Smooth Snake in addition to some Slow-worms. Also we found an Emperor Moth in the process of egg laying and had glimpses of tree pipits and heard wood lark.