Wednesday, 4 December 2013

November Summary

Judge Dredge: Our digger driver Scott re-profiling a small channel of the River Mole

November has been as wonderfully wet and variable as was predicted (and still we moan and groan). The beginning of the month saw Winter Thrushes and Fungi surveys, with some ace discoveries such as the entire skeleton of a Grass Snake and a sneaky Woodcock in the wet woodlands. Also, Redwing and Fieldfare can be heard in the hedgerows and surreptitious fungi found in almost every nook and cranny.

Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica), on a log pile in the North West Zone

I've had a busy time at my desk writing up this Summer's work - entering data, updating task trackers, two Biodiversity Action Plans and preparing for a Bio Benchmark internal audit. Karen from Gatwick's Environment Team visited our sites in the North West Zone, taking a close look at our protected species habitat works. This has resulted in some revised habitat targets for this winter and some exciting new surveys planned for the spring!

Bat roosting box 1: Outskirts of Brockley Wood, North West Zone

In terms of habitat conservation, JS Agriculture recently opened up a side channel on River Mole which had become obstructed with woody debris. Clearing this channel has allowed faster flow around the willow scrub, reducing the effects of over-silting.
   Gatwick Greenspace Ranger Tom Simpson has had a busy couple of weeks with various meetings and courses; when you coop-up a ranger it inevitably results in pent-up energy and zeal to get out for heavy duty works! He put me and our volunteer Josie to work, removing large and sickly Birch trees in Upper Picketts Wood and opening up an area to reinstate a traditional Hazel coppicing regime.

Josie from External Security demonstrates a 'gob cut' on a Birch tree. Or a 'face cut'. Or is it a 'bird's mouth'? Basically it's a wedge of wood.

She finishes the job with a 'felling cut'

Birch tree smack-down

Ex-Birch is now a habitat pile in Upper Picketts Wood

Just last week, I travelled many, many meters to Mickleham in Surrey for some RiverSearch training with Surrey Wildlife Trust volunteers. This brilliant initiative is being rolled out to encourage people to champion their own section of a local rivers. It enables them to record habitat features, recognise problems such as invasive plant species and identify where intervention might be needed. Surrey Wildlife Trust is working with the Environment Agency on initiatives such as RiverSearch to improve the health of the county's freshwater habitats. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in with surveying Gatwick's main waterways.

Volunteers from Surrey Wildlife Trust being watched by a nosy young bullock.
Luckily no one was wearing red so we - oh wait...

As I am going to be spending a bit more time indoors, I'll be sharing a few of my desk-top discoveries. After trawling through some arachnid photos from over the summer, I found this prettily-patterned specimen, belonging to the jumping spider family (Salticidae). I had unknowingly snapped the notable spider Marpissa muscosa; a rather scarce species throughout Britain, although it may be fairly common to this locality.

 Marpissa muscosa - Not the best picture as I only had my camera phone on this day

Finally, here's something particularly awesome - the dried specimen of a captive-reared Death's-head Hawkmoth (Acherontia atropos). This is not something you get to see often in the wilds of Britain... although it just so happens I was lucky enough to see a live one with Tom Forward in 2012! You can read about our star find here: http://biodiversitygatwick.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/death-on-swift-wings.html

Views of Acherontia atropos - This is a couple of years old so missing a few limbs

Many thanks to Paul who gave this to my mum at the Royal Oak Pub (she was pleased by the way!) I have now passed it on to my fella who teaches a class of Year 4 students; wish I could be a fly on the wall when the class sees this!
   Coming up in December: Harvest Mouse nest searches, hard-core Winter Bird surveys and more conservation works, this time focusing in the North West Zone.