2013 - May

Chilbolton & Wherwell Wildlife

The prolonged spell of north-easterly winds in March, had a major impact on the timing of bird migration. Even in the second week of April, there were still lots of winter visitors to be seen. There were many Fieldfare around Newton Stacey, and I saw a big flock of Redwing in the meadows between Chilbolton and Wherwell. Wintering Snipe and Teal were still enjoying the wet conditions in the less-disturbed flooded corner of the Common, and a several wintering Blackcaps were still scoffing apple and fat-cake in my garden. And of course, our summer visitors were being very slow to arrive. Chiffchaffs are normally singing everywhere by early-April, but this year there were just ones and twos. Those that were around, could invariably be seen low down in sheltered bushes next to water, frantically seeking out the few insects that were on the wing. In recent years, the first Swallow has often been seen in our villages at the beginning of April – but not so this year. It’s not so much cold weather that has held up these migrant birds, but much more the strength and direction of the wind. Migrant birds (and indeed, migrant butterflies, moths, and other insects) are adept at selecting the best conditions for making their long journeys; they won’t set off unless conditions are just right.    

Some of you may have noticed that a small strip of scrub was recently cleared from near one of the springs on the Common. The purpose of this work, was to allow the sunlight to once again reach the marshy margins of the stream and allow the special flora to thrive. People often ask me why scrub has to be managed in this way; why can’t nature be left to its own devices? What is often forgotten, is that if left to its own devices, the whole of Southern England would be nothing but scrubby woodland; that is its natural state!  The majority of our lowland special habitats (meadows, chalk downland, wetlands) are simply a result of a few thousand years of man's intervention - which is of course why continued intervention is necessary for small fragments of those habitats to be retained. Grazing by stock is of course the most important thing on both Chilbolton Common and West Down. But the cattle, sheep, and ponies, do sometimes need a bit of help, especially when grazing has been neglected in the past.


West Down

A reminder: Sunday 19th May, a leisurely walk to look at butterflies - meet mid-day at the top car-park.

A new date: Friday 21st June, our annual glow-worm hunt – meet 21:30 (sunset) at the top car-park.

Glynne Evans (hantsbto@hotmail.com)

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