Lots of activity today on the feeders at Binn Green which was incredibly noisy with some big groups of Siskin and Goldfinch. Also a good number of Greenfinch around with plenty of Coal, Blue and Great tit as well. Also at Binn Green today we've had sightings of two Treecreepers, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush. Update on elsewhere around the reserve coming up later this week.
Also just a quick mention of the Reed Buntings which I overlooked adding to our sightings over the weekend. More soon...
The brooks are really full since yesterday's snow melt and the Dove Stone is visible on the horizon once more ! A quick update of sightings this weekend. Starting with Binn Green, lots of activity on the feeders with Lesser Redpoll, Coal, Blue and Great Tit and Siskin. Also around Binn Green sightings of Wren, Bullfinch and Treecreeper. Seems to be a bit quiet on the Sparrowhawk front, which until recently was being seen regularly.
Elsewhere around Dove Stone, sightings of three Ravens ( two seen looking like they were prospecting for a potential nesting site ), two Peregrines ( male and female displaying ) and a Kestrel. Nuthatch and Greenfinch down at the feeders by the main car park and Pied Wagtail on the reservoir wall. Plenty of Black Headed Gulls on the main Dove Stone reservoir. Lapwing in the fields adjacent to the main car park too. Along with Bullfinch and Pied Wagtail, Lapwing is the latest addition to the 2013 Dove Stone bird list ( arriving in timely fashion for the Big Garden Birdwatch ) which brings our reserve total for this year so far to a mighty35 !
The Kestrel that was seen over the weekend was actually feeding on a Woodcock. We've had Woodcock recorded on the reserve prior to this and obviously a Kestrel feeding on a Woodcock is an unusual situation. We don't know the circumstances behind this. Kestrel's aren't known for feeding on carrion if this bird had been killed by something else so the only conclusion is that it was taken by a Kestrel.
A quick update from Dove Stone with recent sightings. Starting up at Binn Green the feeding station has had good numbers of Siskins. As well as our regular Coal, Blue and Great Tit and Goldfinches there has been Lesser Redpoll. Also around at Binn Green look out for Great Spotted Woodpeckers as well as Treecreeper. Looking over to Alderman's Brow there have been recent sightings of Raven ( also heard cronking from elsewhere around Dove Stone ), seen flying over towards Dove Stone rocks. Also around Alderman's Brow there have been sightings from Binn Green of two Kestrels.
Over on Yeoman Hey there's been a Cormorant whilst Peregrine have been seen in various locations around the estate.. Nuthatch have been seen on the feeders by the main car park and around the main trail there have been sightings of Stonechat, which still remains the latest addition to the Dove Stone bird list 2013 with our total currently standing at 32. Roll on spring !
On the non-bird front, there have been a couple of sightings of Mountain Hare - not quite as easy to see with the snow now ! And if you're heading up the Chew track there are some great icicle formations to look out for - particularly at the old, small quarry about two-thirds of the way up and on the other side of Chew Brook. Worth having a look up at Birchen Clough at the end of Greenfield res. too. When the snow passes the snow melt will again bring up the levels of Chew Brook which will be quite exciting.
It's the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, of course, so if you're up at Dove Stone why not stop and take part in our very own Big Dove Stone Birdwatch. Join us at Binn Green car park ( currently closed to cars due to the snow but accessible on foot ) anytime between 12 and 2pm or at the RSPB information point at the main car park where we'll be recording all the birds seen during this time. Also happening this weekend is a chance to have a go at some tree planting - just follow the signs from Chew Brook or ask for directions from our information point at the main car park.
Time for a volunteer update on the conservation work that's been happening around Dove Stone over the last few weeks:
'We've been doing some meadow improvement on the east bank of Dove Stone reservoir, below the footpath. Historically this meadow has been grazed by sheep and as a result there is high fertility but low biodiversity due to grass out-competing other species which would otherwise grow there. The objective of our work is to reduce the fertility and then sow wildflower seeds of species which would naturally occur on open land in this locality. A wider diversity of plant life will attract more insects and more insects means more birds. We created pilot plots using a quad bike pulling a flail which chopped the vegetation close to the ground. We used garden rakes to put grass into piles, loaded it into large sacks which we dragged across the meadow and pulled over the fence to be emptied in the plantation. Removing the cut vegetation will reduce fertility to more tolerable levels, if left in place it would decompose and return nutrients to the plot. We also rotavated some plots of around 10 square metres within the cut areas and sowed them with Common Sorrel, Autumn Hawkbit, Bird's Foot Trefoil, Devil's Bit Scabious, Black Knapweed, Betony, Yarrow, Great Burnet, Tufted Vetch and Sneezewort.
We also continued work on restoring the blanket bog, installing heather bale dams on the site north of Chew reservoir. The work's been very variable due to the changing weather conditions, sometimes you lost your wellies in the peat, other times it was drying out so much that there was some wind erosion as the surface of the bare patches blew away. We've made good progress though, despite hail showers and times when the temperature was barely above zero. It's a forty minute walk over rough moorland, so it's quite tiring just getting there ! It seems even longer when you're carrying poles, ropes and tarpaulin for a temporary windbreak. We're trialling this to try and get some shelter for the all important tea breaks ! Once you stand still on the moor in the cold and wet then it's not long before you're also really cold and wet ! Anyway, whilst most of the volunteers got on with the real work, a team of four of us constructed the windbreak although unfortunately our tarp was a bit small and we were blown off-balance a number of times by the strong gusts, which made a very tiring job even harder. Whilst we were on route we walked past some of the bales that we dug in last year and they're looking very impressive. There's water and peat retained behind most of the bales and many have new Cotton Grass growth. Some also have worm casts in the peat. There are only several hundred more bales to install now !
We've spent a day and a half planting Sphagnum moss. Sphagnum moss is still found growing around Dove Stone but it's not nearly as common as it should be in a healthy blanket bog. The area chosen for planting is near the bale installation site that we worked on in 2011 to the north of Chew reservoir. We planted an area of about 150 square metres, so we'll see how it goes. On the way out we came across a large low lying Rhodedendron, which are non-native invasive plants, so we dug out on the way off the moor despite the roots being well developed, thick and woody - like underground branches. Anyway, we managed to eventually get it out.
We've also been continuing work managing Dove Stone's woodlands in Lower Hollins plantation above the east bank of Dove Stone reservoir and in the plantation under Dean Rocks. Our aim is to reduce the population of conifers. We've been working in this area for some time and there's a lot of open space and much more light now which will help existing broadleaf trees. There's a difference in the areas north and south of the track to Dean Rocks with trees on the north side being much taller than those on the south side. Woodland work always throws up its challenges. We've had quite a few trees "hang up" in neighbouring trees during felling as they were too tall to fall into the few small gaps that there were initially but there's a way to safely untangle the felled trees from the surrounding ones and once you've established a few clearings to fell into it's less of a problem. There also appears to be (so far) fewer broadleaf trees in this part of the plantation - so lot's more planting to be done here in the open areas created by the felling. When we work in the woods we don't remove the felled timber, instead piling it up to provide a habitat for wildlife. And we're taking the opportunity to creating nesting opportunities using tree stumps in a new design of 'natural nestboxes'. More on this soon. Then there's ponds to put in once we've cleared some space so there's lots going on in managing the woodlands for wildlife'.
Thanks to John for the update - always interesting to read what goes on in our work parties. More soon with an update on latest sightings and the Dove Stone bird list.
A quick update with what's around today. Dippers seen at both Chew Brook and on the main Dove Stone reservoir. From Binn Green good views of two Peregrines, a Raven heard cronking and then seen flying over Alderman's Brow and two Kestrel. Around the feeding station Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Greenfinch as well as plenty of other regulars: Blue, Great and Coal Tit and Chaffinch. Elsewhere around Dove Stone a Peregrine was also seen flying across Dove Stone rocks and a Grey Heron on Yeoman Hey reservoir. Also seen today were four Stonechats, making this our bird of the day and as the latest addition to the Dove Stone bird list, this brings us to 32 . More soon...