This weekend we'll be saying 't'ra duck' to Assistant Warden Kerry as she moves onto the RSPB's Leighton Moss reserve near Lancaster. Here she sums up her 7 months at Coombes Valley...
In my role of assistant warden this summer, I have had a fantastic time here at Coombes Valley. Although I have been involved in lots of different aspects of running the reserve from visitor welcoming, events and practical work with our wonderful day volunteers, it has been the ecological survey and monitoring work that has been my favourite part and so I have taken on the responsibility for many of the projects.
Weasel by Kerry Leslie
It started in April when I realised I was going to be dropped in the deep end and had to learn my bird song in order to be able to do the bird monitoring on the reserve. Luckily there were only a handful of species we were targeting, that I had to know back to front and from a distance. These included, pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers. That did not mean that I got out of learning my other bird songs though – the site manager put us through our paces with spot tests at regular intervals!
Longhorn micromoth, Nemophora degeerella. Photo by Kerry Leslie
The highlight of the monitoring this year has been getting records of the nationally scarce day flying moth, Argent and Sable. I spent many hours walking up and down the transect looking for a small black and white moth on hot sunny days this summer. Eventually we struck gold and I managed to get photographic evidence (see below!) of the moth on the reserve. Even better, a couple of months later I was out surveying again, this time for the caterpillars and we actually managed to find two. This was great news for the reserve as it means that they are breeding on site and the hard work that has been put in over recent years to maintain a suitable habitat by coppicing the birch has been worthwhile.
Argent and Sable moth by Kerry Leslie
I have also been involved with monitoring greater butterfly orchids, assisting with the butterfly transect, monitoring white-clawed crayfish populations and doing vegetation surveys. Oh the fun of sitting in a meadow trying to identify all the different types of grasses around you!
That is just a taste of some of the things I have been up to this summer from an ecological perspective. I now move on to Leighton Moss and hopefully the adventure will continue.
Good luck Kerry from all the Coombes Valley team!
First frost of the autumn/winter season this morning! For once, I'll let these beautiful photographs by volunteer Becky do the talking...
We've also had a few good sightings of winter migrants today. Volunteers Adam and Becky spotted about 30 fieldfare fly over the reserve and smaller flocks along the main trails, and around 6 redpolls feeding on the birch near the picnic area. Here are some images of these migrants so you know what to look for. Hopefully we'll get some good photographs of them soon (a challenge to all budding photographers visiting Coombes at the weekend!)
Over the coming chillier months we’ll be showcasing some fantastic macro photographs taken by volunteer Stephen Barlow at Coombes Valley in May. We’re really grateful to Stephen for these images which I think you’ll agree are absolutely stunning!
Ever wondered what’s lurking deep down in the valley? Ever imagined the lives of those tiny creatures hiding in the grass?
From the deepest darkest depths of Coombes Valley come the never before told tales of the undergrowth.
Introducing the St Mark’s fly (or March fly as it is also known)...
Life. It‘s all about strategy. There are no easy games, so you’ve got to have a plan. I’ll tell you ours, the St. Mark’s fly of the Bibionidae family, but keep it on the down low, yeah?
They call us the St. Mark’s fly as you can mostly see us around April 25th, St Marks day. That’s part of the plan, we come out very early in spring, early doors, before most of our predators like swallows, dragonflies and the like are about. Clever, eh?
We all emerge at the same time, en masse if you will, so as we can stick together and confuse the opposition with our swarming flight. Strategy and evolution at work that is, right there.
We get everything done, mating in the air, our girls get their eggs laid underground and then it’s game over…we kick the bucket before any competition really gets going.
We look pretty scary, flying slowly with our legs dangling below and especially us males up close…with our hairy, bulbous eyes. Didn’t seem to bother the photographer though...
Underneath this tough exterior, us Bibio marci are just peaceful herbivores. Believe it or not, we don’t sting and only feed on nectar and aphid honeydew from leaves. Our youngsters feast on decaying plants and roots.
But all this yeah, is top secret information, so just keep it to yourself, OK? Can’t have everyone knowing the Bibio marci family secrets can we?!