A talk about the Seabirds of Skokholm on Thursday 9th November at Froyle Village Hall.
The island of Skokholm off the south west coast of Wales is of international importance for its breeding seabirds including Manx shearwater, storm petrel and puffin. Local enthusiast Alan Wynde will entertain us with a talk entitled ‘Skokholm: Men, Goats and Birds, but mainly Birds’.
Starting at 7.30pm, doors open from 7pm, entrance fee £2 members £3 non members, all welcome.
Join us for our brief AGM at 7pm followed by a talk entitled ‘The Harvest Mouse around Selborne –in search of an iconic farmland species’. There will also be a display showing some of the local wildlife seen in Froyle and an update of this year’s events. All welcome and drinks and nibbles will be available during the evening.
Our interesting speaker Dr Francesca Pella aims to help the conservation of Harvest Mice, a species first described by Gilbert White. Francesca will tell the story of how the Selborne Farm Cluster set about surveying for this tiny and seldom seen mammal (Europe’s smallest rodent) with only one official record in Hampshire in 1999 to go on. Do come along and find out what happened next …
The talk will start at 7.30pm and Froyle Village Hall doors open from 6:30pm, entrance fee £2 members £3 non members, raffle, refreshments available.
Background about the talk: In 2014 the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) arranged an initial meeting in Selborne with a small group of key stakeholders, in order to discuss the creation of a farmer cluster. Soon this initiative incorporated other local stakeholders and the group was named the “Selborne Landscape Partnership”. The Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus, Pallas 1771) Monitoring Initiative is one of the first outcomes of this partnership, which involves local farmers, the South Downs National Park, the GWCT, the Wildlife Trust, volunteers and others. Before the survey began, only one old record (1999) was known in the Hampshire records centre. Since 2014, 28 squares of the 91 square-km around Selborne have been surveyed and over 400 Harvest Mouse nests have been found.
The aim is to survey the majority of squares and to continue to collect habitat data that is suitable for publication and the creation of improved habitat management plans for the better conservation of the Harvest Mouse, which started its scientific beginnings with its first description by Gilbert White in Selborne.
The nests of Harvest Mouse have also been found in Froyle in November 2016 along grassy field margins between the hedgerow and crop.
Update after the talk: 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 in 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. They have a reddish-brown coat, a white underside, short hairy ears and a much blunter nose than other mice. They are active day and night and they do not hibernate, but spend much of the Winter underground to keep warm and dry. Despite this Winter mortality is thought to be as high as 90%. Their life span is typically 6 months, the oldest having been recorded at 18 months. Their range is about 400sq m and the adults are seldom seen.
Harvest mice appear to be residents of Froyle. In a small survey last year 9 harvest mouse nests were found in one area, and 15 in another. This does not necessarily suggest a sizeable population as a single mouse can create 4 or 5 ‘resting’ nests.
Family fun –join us for a 1h dipping session on Sunday 20th August to see what underwater creatures we can find in the new wildlife pond near Gid Lane, Froyle (see plan). Children will need to be accompanied by a responsible adult. All equipment will be provided and numbers are limited so it is essential to book by emailing email@example.com., stating preference for 1.30pm or 2.30pm session.
Dragonflies have already found the new habitat as well as pond skaters, water boatmen and whirligig beetles. 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.
Update: Some photos taken on the day and how it all went well.
On a breezy but sunny August day 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.’
It was a wonderfully fun and educational day and hopefully the first of many that Froyle Wildlife will hold in the future. Special thanks should go to the Froyle Parish Council who kindly paid for the pond dipping equipment.
After visiting the new wildlife pond near Gid Lane in Froyle, one of our junior members William sent in photos of dragonflies and damselflies seen. A mating pair of blue-tailed damselflies settled on his sister’s hand just perfectly for the camera. The freshly emerged common darter has yet to develop it’s full adult colours.
Do contact us if you can help with ongoing maintenance of the pond and meadow or if you want to tell us your sightings.
Join us for a leisurely stroll (about 1 mile) around Bentley Station Meadow, 10.30am-12.00 on Saturday 29th July 2017. This SSSI is owned and managed by Butterfly Conservation and borders Alice Holt Forest – a large Ancient Semi Natural Woodland so many woodland species can be seen on the reserve. We expect to see the large and graceful Silver-washed Fritillary whose caterpillar foodplant is Common Dog-violet growing in shady or semi-shady positions.
Meet at the reserve entrance 10.30am or share lifts from Froyle Village Hall leaving at 10.15am. Please note that the date may be postponed at short notice if the weather forecast is unfavourable. Parking at Bentley Station, cross the railway line and walk 100m along the tarmac path to the reserve entrance.
All welcome on Sunday 25th June, 3-5pm to an opening event for the new wildlife pond and meadow near Gid Lane, Froyle. If arriving by car (see map), please park at Froyle Park which is about 400m from the pond.
Enjoy some refreshments courtesy of Froyle Park after 3pm and view information displays about the importance of fresh water habitats. Then walk down the Lime Avenue to the pond for the ‘ribbon cutting’ event at 4pm. See the wildflower meadow that surrounds ‘Froyle Park Pond’ and linger to observe what’s flying and flowering. Dragonflies have already found the new habitat and the wildflower seed sown last year is blooming. The pond area will then be open at all times to members of Froyle Wildlife and can also be seen from the adjacent public footpath. This project was funded by developer contributions through East Hampshire District Council and completed with the kind permission of Froyle Park Ltd.
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.
For the past two years I have been monitoring a colony of House Martins in Lower Froyle as part of the British Trust for Ornithology’s House Martin survey. The aim is to shed light on how the UK population is faring and what might be affecting them. Over a thousand people across the country are taking part in the BTO survey, submitting records from over 4,600 nests. The Froyle site – our house – has over 20 nests, putting it in the top 3% of all sites being surveyed based purely on nest numbers.
Considering House Martins nest under the eaves of many houses across the country, relatively little is known about them. We know something about their numbers, a little about their diet, but hardly anything about their social life. Precise locations where they winter in Africa are not clear, largely because tracking devices are not yet available that can be carried by such a little bird. Some birds have been ringed but only a few have been recovered in Winter, all in Africa. The oldest recorded bird is 15 years.
My first House Martin sighting in 2017 came on 16th April with the first arrivals after their long trip from Africa. Around 20 birds returned to the Froyle site this year. Numbers have gradually decreased in the 13 years we have lived here. In mid-May we had some rain following a lengthy dry spell for this time of year. This signalled the start of repairs to nests weather damaged during Winter and three new nests were started. A thousand beak sized mud pellets are needed to construct a complete nest. Less than 50% of the Froyle nests were occupied at the time, so the need for additional nests is not clear.
House Martins have 2 or 3 broods during their time in the UK between April and September. One of my challenges doing the survey is trying to differentiate the young from the adults as they fly from and to nests. All the birds are black on top while the youngsters have brownish grey rather than white underneath, but they are so small and move at such speed that a clear identification is often tricky! I hope my observation skills will prove better tuned this year.
The House Martins are active much of the day, but the best times to see them are early mornings and in the evenings when they appear particularly active at varying heights catching insects. Also between May and August we are fortunate to be able to see (and hear) Swifts chasing around the sky. The sight of House Martins and Swifts sharing the sky on a warm sunny evening is one of Froyle’s finest wildlife spectacles during the Summer months.
A talk on “Wildlife of the River Wey” by Glen Skelton, Thursday 27th April 2017, 7.30pm Froyle Village Hall.
Our rivers have been called ‘Nature’s Super Highway’. The talk will cover the North Wey describing the ingredients for a healthy river ecosystem. The wildlife species present on our local river depend on habitats including instream and the flood-plain. Current impacts such as pollution and invasive species can be partly offset by river restoration techniques. Glen Skelton has the experience of being involved with the Wey Landscape Partnership and Surrey Wildlife Trust.
Do come along and find out more about our river in Froyle and its wildlife, all welcome. Doors open at 7pm for 7.30pm start, entrance £2, non members £3, children free, refreshments.
Update after the talk:-
Glen Skelton, from the Surrey Wildlife Trust, gave an interesting talk about rivers being ‘Nature’s Super Highways’ at the end of April. 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.
A meandering river, as Nature intended, is an ideal situation. Where rivers are artificially straightened this effectively turns them into fast flowing drains with minimal wildlife opportunity. Some areas of the Wey, such as near Kings Pond, have had diverters placed to create meanders, allowing varying river water flow rates. A meander allows fish fry to develop at the slow inner bend, and fish such as Pike to live at the faster outer bend.
Well vegetated banks are used by small mammals, butterflies and damselflies for shelter and basking. Channels provide fish, such as the Bullhead or Miller’s Thumb, (a fish of international importance for conservation), with shelter from predators. Bank restoration has been carried out upstream from the watercress beds in Alton, removing trees and shrubs allowing light in, enabling the bankside vegetation to improve. In other areas bankside trees provide valuable perches for Kingfishers looking out for their next meal of fish or aquatic insect. In addition, caterpillars falling from tree leaves into the water provide food for fish.
There are many ‘riffle’ areas on the River Wey, where the water flows over the rough surface of a gravel bed. This enables oxygenation of the water, allowing fish eggs to develop and provides good habitat for aquatic invertebrates. This equates to the ‘larder’ of the river. Invertebrates include Freshwater shrimps, Banded damselfly and Dragonflies. Clean gravel beds also allow marginal plants to establish, which are important as cover for small fish, invertebrates and birds such as coots and moorhen.
Otters, the apex predators of the river, are tentatively recolonising our rivers, having died out in the 1970s through sheep dip pollution in rivers. However, the last sighting on the River Wey was 2 years ago near Frensham. Unfortunately, water voles are also currently not seen on the Wey, through habitat fragmentation and mink invasion. On a more positive note, harvest mice, that like wetlands, have been found near the Wey source at Alton.
There are opportunities for volunteer river conservation work through Glen, involving mapping, monitoring for possible water vole return, and restoration.
Butterflies not only brighten our gardens with movement and colour but also, along with moths, provide vital food supplies for other species especially birds and bats. We can help by providing nectar for adults and in some cases food plants for the larvae. To see notes from a Froyle garden click on the link ‘On the wild side, A flutter-by summer’.
NECTAR PLANTS (a selection of garden and wild flowers)- Primrose, Chionodoxa, Pussy Willow, Bluebell, Aubrietia, Hyacinth, Cuckoo Flower, Forget-me-not, Perennial Wallflower – Bowles Mauve, Honesty, Sweet Rocket – Hesperis matronalis, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lavender, Marjoram, Bramble, Mint, Hyssop, Perennial Pea – Lathyrus latifolius, Hebe, Buddleia, Verbena bonariensis, Field Scabious , Hemp Agrimony, Teasel, Phlox, Ice plant- Sedum spectabile, Cone Flower, Inula hookeri, Michaelmas Daisy. Annuals include Candytuft, Tithonia, and Single dahlias. Flowering Ivy is an important late season nectar source for many insects including the Red Admiral. It’s a larval food plant of the Holly Blue butterfly and the Brimstone will hibernate in it. Birds find shelter, build nests amongst it and eat the berries in winter. The juice from rotting windfall fruit is often a magnet for Comma and Red Admiral.
Aim to provide a continuous source of nectar from early spring to late autumn. Butterflies seek out warmth so try and position your nectar plants in sunny areas sheltered from the wind. Many of the plants will also attract other invertebrates including Moths, Honey Bees, Bumble Bees, Solitary Bees and Hoverflies.
LARVAL FOOD PLANTS – The adult female must search for the right food plants to lay her eggs. The Peacock seeks out Nettle, the only plant her caterpillars (larva) will eat. Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Red Admiral are the other nettle feeders. Cabbage Whites, can be tempted away from our brassicas by planting Nasturtiums. The Holly Blue lays on Holly in the spring and Ivy in the autumn and the Orange tip on Sweet Rocket, Honesty, Ladies Smock and Garlic Mustard –Brimstone larvae will only eat Buckthorn or Alder Buckthorn. Again these plants need to be in sunny sheltered areas and of course chemicals should be avoided.
SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR IN OUR GARDENS – Brimstone, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Red Admiral, are the first species on the wing in spring having hibernated as adults. By May Holly Blue, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Small Copper, Speckled Wood, Large and Small White (collectively known as Cabbage Whites) will be flying and perhaps the migrant Painted Lady. Others to watch for during the year are Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Large and Small Skipper, Gatekeeper and Ringlet. These are the most likely species to turn up in our Froyle gardens but others could make an appearance. A list of the 35 species recorded in the Parish can be seen here.
BRITISH BUTTERFLIES – There are 59 species of butterfly found in Britain, 46 in Hampshire, most require exacting habitat conditions to exist which includes an abundance of the larval food plant. These food plants differ from species to species and comprise specific native flowers, grasses trees and shrubs. Nectar is also required for the adults giving them vital energy to fly and breed. Some of the richest habitats are traditionally managed woodlands, chalk downlands, meadows and heathlands but vast areas have been lost in the past 60 years with agricultural intensification and habitat destruction taking their toll. Consequently invertebrates dependant on these plant communities are seeing worrying declines which include three quarters of UK butterfly species. Some butterflies are less particular in their requirements – hedgerows, copses, flowery field margins, track and roadside verges all play an important role in their survival but wild flowers have declined here too. For more information see Butterfly Conservation.