2014 - April

Chilbolton & Wherwell Wildlife - April 2014

As everyone is only too aware, this last winter has been unusually wet – perhaps the wettest on record. It’s also been unusually mild, with very few frosts locally, and no prolonged cold periods. Weather patterns of course have an impact on wildlife. We’ve seen fewer of the birds that are normally displaced from further afield – no big movements of birds such as Lapwing, that usually move to us from the north and east, when ground there is frozen or snow-covered. There’ve also been very few wildfowl on the river; there’s been no need for them to move on from ice-free lakes and reservoirs, and they’ve had plenty of additional choice provided by flooded fields. And now we’re moving into spring, some insects are appearing unusually early. In earl-April, I trapped two moth species that we usually don’t see until May. It will be interesting to see how other species compare during coming weeks.

West Down: The tenancy agreement for West Down Nature Reserve, was finally signed on 1st April; Chilbolton Parish Council now has responsibility for management of the site. And our first big job, of flailing and mulching the sycamore and bramble re-growth within the fenced compartment, was completed by 3rd April. The result is perhaps unsightly in the short term, but the work should have been done by HCC a couple of years earlier, and was essential in beginning to establish the planned “wood pasture” habitat agreed with Natural England (NE). The other piece of work that was completed recently, was HCC’s clearing of the tree-line next to the recycling bins. This work was also prescribed by NE, and funded through the Environmental Stewardship agreement. The purpose was to reduce the shade on the important south-facing slope, where there is a colony of the rare Chalkhill Blue butterfly. The Chalkhill Blue numbers have declined as the trees have grown, and it’s hoped that restoring the warm sunny bank will help the colony recover to former health. As the fence-line shrubs re-grow, the intention is to maintain a low thick hedgerow that provides some wind shelter, and at same time allows full sun on the slope.

Next West Down events: Next is International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 4th May - meet at the top car-park at 05:00 am! The birds will already have been singing for half-hour or more, but 05:00 is early enough for me (!), and we’ll still be in time to see the sun rise at about 05:30.

The next working-party will then be on the following Sunday 11th May, at the more civilized hour of 10:00 am, when we’ll be joined by Andover Conservation Volunteers. Do come along to either of these events.

Finally, as I said last month, do let me know if you have ideas about work that should be done on West Down, or ways in which we can make better use of this lovely area that’s on our doorstep.    

Glynne Evans (hantsbto@hotmail.com)

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