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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wed 13th Aug 2014 - Barncourt Farm, Wroxall.

Carrie's Photographs.

Sue's Photographs.

Although the title for this week looks new, it is a continuation of the Himalayan Balsam (HB) pulling work we have been doing at the IoW Donkey Sanctuary. Having made good inroads in eliminating this pesky plant in the fields by the DS, it was time to move upstream and tackle the plants that would "seed" the stream and then undo all our good work! The farmer at Barncourt Farm was kind enough to open up one of his fields for us to park in although several GG members seemed to have problems finding Red Hill Lane, let alone the actual field...! With everyone assembled in the car park, it was just a case of getting safely past the council workers who were rebuilding the foot path bridge and then get stuck-in. Initially the area in front of us looked reasonably clear of HB but the further we worked up stream, the worse the situation became. The plan was that we would clear the HB from along the banks of the stream first (to reduce the chance of seeds getting swept down stream) then work outwards. By the end of the session we were working line abreast across the field pulling out clumps of the pesky plant by the handful. Needless to say, we didn't clear the complete area but there was a whole lot less to re-seed by the time we had finished! Mark ASSURES us that that will be the last HB session of the year, so a big Hooorrraayyyyy..... it is all over and done with (for this year).

Carrie's Nature Natter for August.

August, hopefully the height of summer, and hot weather can make our countryside look parched and tired with brown grass and wilting tree leaves. Our hedgerows start to show ripening blackberries together with elderberries, which provide a tasty feast for hungry blackbirds and starlings.  Other ripening berries are hawthorn, sloes and rose hips, which provide food for many species into the harsh winter months.  On sunny days you may also hear the restful sound of grasshoppers calling, and other insects on the wing include small skipper, large whites, meadow brown and near hedgerows the especially beautiful orange and brown of the gatekeeper.

If you come across grassland that is allowed to grow unchecked due to late grazing, flowering species such as marjoram, lady’s bedstraw, black knapweed, harebells and field scabious are able to thrive.  Devil’s bit scabious, unusual in that its roots stop very abruptly, is also flowering. This plant acquired its name as the result of a folk tale, which tells how the devil in a fit of pique at finding the plant flowering with such beauty and so prolifically late in the year, bit off the bases of the roots from below.

Bats can often be spotted from bridges at night, flying over water whilst on the hunt for insects.  They are likely to be the fairly common Daubenton’s bat, and can be lured to fly close and investigate you if you flutter a paper hanky in the air above your head - just give it a try – they won’t hit you!

Finally emerging from their mud cup nests are house martins, whose parents provide encouragement by swooping and chattering around them. Large flocks of martins and swallows can be seen across the fields, and swallows can often be seen lined up together having a wash and brush up on telegraph wires.  August sees many birds in the middle of their moult, making them look quite down at heel, and their feathers are replaced gradually so as not to ground the bird.  This month also sees the majority of swifts departing our shores, their short stay reminding us just how fleeting summer can be, although most of our migrant birds will be with us for a while yet. Woodpigeons, however, may still be sitting on another brood of eggs, calling with their five note song as they swoop down through the air with several wing claps displaying and defending their territory.  Starlings, jackdaws and house sparrows may also be seen tending to nests of young, with the starlings chattering and whistling at each other from roof eaves and other high places.  They are amazing mimics, can often be mistaken for other birds, and sometimes will emulate man made sounds.  In the very warm weather, it is very helpful for our garden birds to regularly put out lots of fresh water.

Photographs supplied by Sue and Carrie and the Nature Natter by Carrie -  many thanks to both!

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