Thursday, 1 May 2014

April Summary

The trend is broken and my monthly summaries are now going over into next month (it was never going to last!). Ah well, here is what we have been up to in April...

The clearing by the Hornbeam in Lower Picketts Wood

Our habitat management has quietened down for spring, so now is the time for wildlife walks and educational talks. Last weekend, Tom S. led a guided walk in the Land East of the Railway Line, looking at the results of our winter works and the flourishing wildlife there. 

The footpath through Horleyland Wood

The woodland groundflora looks fantastic right now and the clearings are busy with foraging flies and bees. Tom knows a whole lot about woodlands because of his background in forestry, so even the tough questions get an answer!
   While out and about in these areas, I have been collecting a small number of Cuckoo Bees (Nomada spp.) for further identification. To dispatch them humanely, I put them in the freezer for several days...

'Zom-bee'

Then after just a few minutes under the warm microscope, this little Nomada jerked back into life and was off to freedom! Somewhere in the Portacabin at least.

Close up of a Cuckoo Bee head under the microscope (x10)

The malaise trap is back up, this time in the North West Zone. I have mixed feelings about this as I still have a massive backlog of last year's insect samples to sort... All the same, many thanks to Tom S. and assistant Lewis.

Malaise trap: flying insects hit a panel inside then try to fly upwards,
 eventually falling into the collecting pot at the apex

We had an interesting and vibrant River Mole Catchment Partnership meeting, with both Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency hosting. The talks were well illustrated, to the point and particularly interesting were some statistics for the recent flooding around the airport; the floodplain of the diverted section of river was praised!

The illustrious Jim Jones, Surrey Wildlife Trust's Wetlands Officer, giving a talk on recent conservation works and techniques to improve river channels. His ever-changing hair style keeps audiences rapt

 A felt 'Ketso' board - an interactive way of sharing and noting down ideas of how we can improve the river system. This was fun, but we're gonna need a bigger board!

We have completed a full check of all Gatwick's Dormouse boxes, both old and new. Finding over 100 boxes in one afternoon is no mean feat (it sucks), so I was massively grateful to be accompanied by Mum plus one of my sisters, Evie.


Also very helpful was Evie's iPhone, since I lost all my pens somewhere among those pesky Bluebells. The results are in; sadly no Dormice, but we do have around 40 nesting Blue Tits and Great Tits, plus two Yellow-necked Mice.

Newly hatched Blue Tit chicks

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis)

Here are some other wee beasties you might have seen out and about this past month:

One of Tom Simpson's Honeybees, drinking out of a puddle. Some bees have no standards

Grass Snake in a brash pile, Goat Meadow

Dark-bordered Beefly (Bombylius major)

Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). My first of the year

Green-veined White Butterfly (Pieris napi). Lots of these about at the moment

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This is probably a queen

This large jumping spider is sometimes called the Fencepost Jumper (Marpissa muscosa). It is fairly common to South East but scarce in other parts of the UK

An oak apple gall, caused by a Gall Wasp. Possibly Biorhiza pallida

Finally, we got results from the infrared trail camera; sadly no Badger as of yet. I had been spending quite a lot of time watching through the video clips with absolutely nothing on them, so the very end of this video made me jump...