At Coombes Valley we maintain and create habitats for all sorts of wildlife. You can see lots of different habitats here including woodland, 'unimproved' grassland that historically has had no fertilisers or pesticides used on it, standing and moving water and hedgerows. We manage these in a variety of different ways to maximise their benefit to creatures great and small. Some of our management includes:
(Image copyright of David Tomlinson)
This week Rob and I have been learning the basics of stone walling from day volunteer Paul, rebuilding and extending a secton of wall down the main visitor trail. Stone walls are another great habitat for wildlife providing nesting places and shelter for birds, small mammals and reptiles. It's something I've always wanted to try and it was really enjoyable, if tiring! Just like a big stone jigsaw puzzle. Fortunately (!) the part Rob and I worked on won't be visible after a while as the vegetation will grow back and cover it but the wall will still provide a good place to live, shelter or nest for Redstarts, voles, mice, spiders, Blue and great tits, mosses... all sorts!
Assistant Warden Rob and I enjoying doing some stone walling with volunteer Paul.
On an overcast and drizzly day like today there isn't much butterfly activity, but the glorious sunshine of the past few days has brought out allsorts feeding off the nectar rich flowers. We've seen Dingy Skippers, which are in decline and therefore a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and Speckled Wood (see photo below taken by Assistant Warden Kerry).
Daytime flying tiny black moths, fittingly known as Chimney Sweepers, can be seen in our top field. They like damp grassy meadows and their larva are found on the white pignut flowers of which we have lots!
Speaking of moths, we've had some amazing ones in the trap recently thanks to the warm evenings. Spectacular pink and yellow Elephant Hawk moths are regular visitors and we had a Polar Hawk moth too which a teacher likened to a flying mouse as it is remarkably furry. I showed them to some high school students who were on a visit and they were amazed at the size and colour of the things, who said moths were boring?! The Elephant Hawk moth feeds on the plant Rosebay Willowherb, of which we now have quite a bit following the fire a couple of months ago. It's often one of the first plants to come up after a fire and is sometimes called 'fireweed'.
Around the education pond there are lots of Azure damselflies...see the photo below of a mating pair taken by Kerry. The green ones are female whilst the males are bright blue. Large red damselflies are around too...making the pond a really colourful and buzzing place at the moment. I've just learnt how to tell dragonflies and damselflies apart. The former rest with their wings out sideways whereas the latter, as well as being generally smaller and slimmer than dragonflies, rest with their wings held together over their bodies.
The bluebells have mostly died away now but foxgloves have popped up. Still lots of swallows around the car park, one almost flew into me yesterday as I was opening up the visitor centre - possibly a young one getting to grips with its wings?!
Do you enjoy reading about Coombes Valley, have some time to spare and would like to get more involved on the reserve? If so, read on!
We are currently looking for volunteers to fill a range of roles including:
However, this is not an exhaustive list!
If you feel you have other skills to offer, whether they be creative or practical, administrative or mechanical, then we'd love to hear from you as there's always lots to do on the reserve. No prior knowledge of the valley or its wildlife is needed, just lots of enthusiasm to get involved and make a difference!
For more information about volunteering at Coombes contact us on email@example.com or (01538) 384017
Thanks again to our star volunteers who were out shaking buckets in Leek town centre last weekend for Love Nature week. In total we raised £114.67 for the RSPB! Thanks also to the generous people of Leek. The nationwide total will be announced shortly.
Look what Kerry and I came across during our early morning surveying recently! This spongey brightly coloured fungus is known as Chicken of the Woods.