Thursday, 31 October 2013

October Summary

River Mole grasslands

The hysteria breaking out over the False Widow Spider was like watching the inevitable conveyor-belt-of-death scene in a Bond movie. Not everyone can be expected to know about individual spider species, but when something supposedly concerns public health then journalism should be better researched, factual and responsible. This very exaggerated and misleading press was damaging to arachnophobes and spiders alike! The truth about these False Widows is that they can nip, but then so do ants, bees, wasps and household pets. This article from Buglife concisely puts the record straight: Falsehoods about False Widows.
   Spiders play an important role in our ecosystems by keeping other invertebrates in check. Only since attempting to identify some out in the field, have I come to really appreciate the beauty and diversity in their colour, patterning and textures. I believe that the tabloids should be made to apologise to all UK spiders in person.
Walnut Orb-Weaver (Nuctenea umbratica), bedded down in the moss of a dormouse box

In more local news, Gatwick Greenspace Partnership (GGP) have a new team member in the form of Tom Simpson - a skilled countryside ranger and volunteer co-ordinator. This is fantastic news for our habitat management plan as there is a lot to be done and Tom is already on the case! He joins the GGP team consisting of Pete, Kev and Tom Forward who are based over at Tilgate in Crawley.

Tom Simpson - Assistant People and Wildlife Officer

This month has been the biggest so far in terms of our habitat management, with coppicing works on the River Mole in the North West Zone and thinning the young woodland in the Land East of the Railway Line. GGP led two departments from the airport, picking up the work at Goat Meadow which had been started several years ago; it is great to see it back underway. Two teams - BT Openreach and the BDO of City Place - were led by West Sussex County Council Volunteering, focusing on opening up the ride into Upper Picketts Wood and creating a dead-hedge. This makes a real difference through creating structural diversity, allowing more light to hit the ground and increasing the floral diversity. A massive thank you to all!

BT Openreach team building - Ashley's Field

GAL Planning and Development Team - Goat Meadow

GAL Communications Team and Corporate Sustainability and Affairs - Goat Meadow

Dead-hedge running along the footpath at Upper Picketts Wood, creating
 shelter for a variety of invertebrates, small mammals and birds

BDO Tax Team - Upper Picketts Wood

Recently, while collecting invertebrates from our Malaise trap, a local couple stopped to chat to me and were carrying with them this awesome gadget... a remote control helicopter with GPS tracker and high resolution camera mounted underneath for taking low-height aerial photos, picking up all the detail in the landscape. This could make my job somewhat easier! I want one.

Helicamera, aka my Ecology Drone

And finally... after discovering a population of Harvest Mice in the North West Zone, we will be carrying out nest searches and contributing to a study by the Sussex Mammal Group. Also, looking ahead to November we have a Fungi survey (not foraging for the cooking pot, but instead learning about the diversity of species) and a Winter Thrushes survey, supporting research by the British Trust for Ornithology. Seeing the Fieldfares and Redwings arriving will be a welcome reminder that life is still out there in the colder darker seasons.

Juvenile Harvest Mouse - River Mole Grasslands