Name: Wildlife Project
Summary: Built up Areas
Nearly a fifth of the three parishes are covered with houses and other buildings, gardens, farmyards and storage areas, motorway, railway and roads. Older buildings provide shelter, nesting and breeding sites for birds such as swallows, swifts and martins, and for bats. Many people feed birds, put up nest boxes and build ponds in their gardens. The contribution made by those people in the area who manage their land with an eye to wildlife must be immense. Churchyards too make a contribution, and motorway, road and railway verges provide strips of rough grassland where interesting plants such as pyramidal orchid and scurvey grass can be found.
Most local grassland has been improved in one way or another over the last hundred years or so to provide high quality grass for silage and hay. A few fields still contain wild flowers and meadow plants, which have long since disappeared from elsewhere. Alongside the river on the flood plain, we can still find lady’s smock, ragged robin, wild grasses and sedges. On some drier slopes centaury, selfheal, knapweed and stemless thistle provide colour and a source of nectar for butterflies and other insects.
Trees, Hedges and Lanes
Since losing our magnificent elm trees, much of the landscape is dominated by willows on the flood plain giving way to ash and oak along the valley sides. Two very special trees in our area are the rare black poplars with their magnificent red catkins in early spring, and the equally interesting wild service trees, a handful of which grow along one or two older parish boundary hedges. Stretches of blackthorn hedge, away from the flail, support small colonies of the scarce brown hairstreak butterfly. The closely related purple hairstreak is found associated with large, old oak trees. Some stretches of more ancient hedges, particularly those on the parish boundaries, contain fourteen or more woody shrub and tree species.
Nearly thirty different butterflies are found in the three parishes. The brimstone, the small tortoishell, orange tip and holly blue are usually the first to appear in the spring. Later, alongside our hedges and amongst trees hedge browns, speckled woods and ringlets seek out the sunshine and dappled shade. In gardens, large and small whites, peacocks, red admirals and commas are commonly seen. The scarce brown hairstreak is occasionally encountered near blackthorn, whilst you need to look carefully towards the tops of oak trees to see the closely related, more common purple hairstreak. Later in the year we may be visited by clouded yellows and painted ladies both of which come from the continent and are unable to survive out cold, wet winters. One of our largest and most spectacular butterflies – the silver-washed fritillary is only rarely seen in sunny glades in scrub and woodland where its food-plant, violet grows.
Birds are to be seen almost everywhere. Common birds in gardens include robin, blackbird, house sparrow, blue and great tits, greenfinches and chaffinches.
Along the river and the canal moorhens, mallard, mute swans and kingfishers are regularly seen. Look for common sandpipers in the early spring and autumn when they pass through on migration and keep your eyes open for water rails creeping through bankside vegetation in the winter months. Buzzards and kestrels are often seen soaring and hovering overhead. Crows, rooks, magpies, jays and the occasional raven search fields, hedgerows and copses for food. Chiffchaffs and will warblers are our two commonest summer visiting warblers. Skylarks and yellowhammers are declining but the nightingale can still be heard on a quiet night if you are lucky. The Barn Owl is only rarely seen nowadays but the more common little owl and the better-known tawny owl nest here. They are occasionally seen at dusk and are frequently heard calling at night.
Phone Number: 01234 567890