New volunteer Rowena and I saw a kingfisher sitting on a post in the pond this morning, first time I've seen one at Coombes! We must have disturbed it as there was suddenly a flash of electric blue and it had gone.
Visitors (and staff!) may not appreciate the rain but the pond and brook are filling up nicely. Its great to hear the sound of running water through the valley.
Today I took a walk. Climbing the steep stairs winding through the woodland, soaking in the fresh smell of damp ground and hearing just the occasional breeze rustling through the trees. Bad weather the night before and this overcast morning will mean few, if any, visitors expected today. Thinking the woodland to be all quiet I stop, breathing it all in.
Suddenly, an outpouring of alarm calls. The sharp ‘chik’ of a woodpecker, the metallic clicking of a wren, the rattling of a great tit and others I didn‘t recognise. Nonetheless, sounds unmistakably filled with fear and alarm.
Standing completely still, thinking this would calm the noise, I listen. Yet it continues in its high pitched repetitiveness. The noise is accompanied by panicked fluttering around me. I take a step forward and the noise intensifies. The chiks, clicks and rattles put me on edge. It's a shame the birds are unaware of my peaceful intentions.
Ignoring them for a moment, my eyes are drawn to movement up above. A nuthatch and then a tree creeper spiralling up the thick trunk of an oak, unperturbed by the mayhem going on around them, concentrating solely on digging out insects from the damp bark.
Feeling like an intruder, I slope off, treading lightly on the dry holly leaves underfoot. Gradually the woodland behind me returns to quiet, apart from the gentle rattle of an overly-cautious great tit. Leaving them to their woodland world I continue with my walk.
Throughout the school summer holidays at Coombes Valley we will take you to explore our lush meadows full of flowers and butterflies and to the pond to discover the fascinating creatures hiding beneath the surface. We will also have a number of fun and exciting activities, games and crafts. Whilst sun cannot be guaranteed, fun most definitely is!
The events will run from 9.30am – 12.30pm on the following dates:
3, 5, 9, 10, 17, 18, 19, 24, 26 August
£5 per child, accompanying adults free of charge
Booking is essential so please phone or email to avoid disappointment:
RSPB Coombes Valley nature reserve, Six Oaks Farm, Bradnop, Leek, ST13 7EU
office: 01538 384017 or email: email@example.com
They searched high…they searched low. They wondered if they’d ever find it! However, two of the Coombes Valley team, Becky and Kerry, are now celebrating after finally catching sight of the nationally scarce Argent and Sable moth.
The volunteers had already spent a good 30 hours searching for signs of the moth, walking a set route on the reserve on sunny days, with no luck. Then they struck gold, seeing the delicate black and white Argent and Sable moth flitting from leaf to leaf.
Here is the photo Kerry took at the time. As she was scrambling over brambles we can forgive her for the lack of focus!
The moth, which flies during the day, is a priority species in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan as it is nationally scarce.
Its larvae feed on birch tree saplings. They are very fussy and don’t like birch any higher than 3m. The lack of woodland management including less coppicing, is one of the reason for it’s decline. However, thanks to several years of funding from DEFRA’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund which is managed by Staffordshire County Council, we've been able to carry out coppicing work. This involves cutting down an area of trees to create open space within the woodland. The new tree shoots that came up created the perfect habitat for the Argent and Sable moth as well as other creatures like insects and butterflies.
The moth sighting is a real biodiversity success story for the RSPB in Staffordshire, highlighting the importance of careful habitat management. We will continue cutting on a rotational basis and which will hopefully mean lots more Argent and Sable moths on the reserve in future.
Well done to Kerry and Becky and all other volunteers involved in the surveying and coppicing work!