Earlier this week the 1st Yapton & Ford Scout Group HQ was transformed into a wildlife detectives lab where Yapton Cubs were set the challenge to find out what our Northwood barn owls like to eat.
To do this they simply needed an owl pellet to dissect. Ranger Hannah was at hand to assist as she’d been out earlier that day to collect some. Pellets were handed out and the cubs got to work.
If you didn’t already know, pellets are the undigested parts of a bird’s food, such as hair or bones, which are regurgitated (coughed up through the beak). During the session, several rodent skulls were carefully removed and the group could identify that field vole and common were the most popular meal for our active barn owls.
Not only owls produce pellets, kestrel and sparrowhawk do too, even crows and sparrows. Although the pellet will look very different depending on what the bird eats. To find out more about barn owls and their pellets go to the Barn Owl Trust website: http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-facts/barn-owl-pellet-analysis/
The South Downs National Park Volunteers were out in Northwood last Friday, having a break from tree planting and tree guard construction and trying their hand at widening one of Northwoods bridlepath verges.
Before work commenced, there was a bramble hedge looming over the bridleway, stopping light from reaching the once grassy verge. Our task was to cut back the bramble to where an old stock fence was hiding, remove the fencing and then roll back any off the remaining bramble over to the other side of the hedge. By widening this verge, we are creating more open ground habitat.
Sounds easy eh….well that’s what we though before we started but as we soon discovered, the bramble was very spikey and so was the barbed wire fencing hidden in the middle. Not to mention the mass of stock fencing buried in the ground. But we ploughed on through and got it done.
We didn’t want to remove the entire line of bramble as it provides cover and shelter for nesting birds and protection for small mammals (such as harvest mice) from predators. As well as a food supply in late summer and autumn with their juicy blackberries. Did you know that bramble is the food plant to over 60 moths!
After a few grass verge cuts and some raking off, a strip of grassland will gradually appear and in time we will hopefully see a range of sun loving plants and insects benefiting from this new habitat. Thanks to the South Downs National Park Friday team for all their help.
For our first volunteer task day of 2017, we headed out to finish the last of the ‘beating up’ in the Northwood planted area (War. Ag Field 3). The tree growth within the deer fence fared well throughout 2016 so we decided to plant just 10% of the original number of trees that were planted back in winter 2014/15. This totaled to about 1,500 trees. Despite a little bit of rabbit damage around the perimeter, the rest of the trees looked pretty healthy before autumn stripped them of their leaves. Those trees closest to the fence perimeter may just need a bit more tender loving care in the form of plastic spiral guards.
Towards the end of the volunteer task day, we were encouraged to speed up the last of our planting when we looked up and saw the colour of the sky!
We still need to plant 1000 saplings in other areas of the project site but no need to worry as we have Yapton Primary School, Year 4 and 5 coming out to help us in February/March. Last year they joined us and planted about 200 saplings and are very keen to beat their last total, we’ll let you know how they get on!
If you would like to join us for our monthly task days please get in touch. We’ll be meeting again on Wednesday 15th February.
Now the temperature has dropped and the leaves have fallen, we can finally start this seasons tree planting in Northwood.
[[Our target this winter will be to plant 2,500 tree saplings and we’re already getting stuck in. Last weekend we had the Crawley Scouts and Chichester Conservation Volunteers join us for the day to give a helping hand. The ground was a little frosty to start with but it thawed out quickly and we got about 500 saplings heeled into the ground before the day was over.
Our NT Northwood volunteers have also been out a couple of times to help. Yesterday between 6 of us, we managed to plant 170 trees. The mince pies and mini chocolate yule logs certainly kept the energy levels up!
Amongst the trees planted were whitebeam, field maple and small-leaved lime. We were also planting scrubby species such as hawthorn and spindle.
Most of the trees have come from Mill Farm Tree Nursery in Bury, the rest came from our own tree nursery in Northwood. We’ve been growing trees from seed but have also been taking unwanted saplings from the Slindon Village area. Slindon CoE Primary School had a mini invasion of hawthorn and spindle in their Wildlife Garden a couple of years ago so we moved then over to our tree nursery. This week we finally planted them in their new Northwood home to grow with the rest of the young woodland.
Keep an eye on the blog as we’ll be putting up our 2017 task dates and tree planting sessions very soon.
Whist waiting for the tree planting season to really kick in (hopefully by December!), we’ve been keeping ourselves busy in Northwood with seed collecting, tree guard construction and guarding up of natural regeneration.
The Northwood Volunteers have been giving their best squirrel impersonations by searching through surrounding trees and shrubs such as oak, beech and hawthorn for nuts and berries. Not to hide and forget about, but to scatter in designated areas of Northwood. This direct seeding can help create a woodland with a more natural appearance with a variety of spacing between the tree species. It also allows the seeds to reach a further distances from the tree they came from, that’s if the voles don’t get to them first! Some seeds were saved and taken back to our tree nursery for some extra tender loving care. Once they have germinated and grown on a bit, they’ll be taken out to join the rest of the growing woodland.
Leading on from this, we’ve been out looking for those saplings that have germinated through natural seed dispersal. Then placing a tree guard over them once we’ve spotted one amongst the grasses. By doing this, we’re protecting them from grazing animals such as deer and rabbit. Once the trees are established, the guards will be removed.
The South Downs National Park Volunteers also joined us for a day to construct one of our 5ft chestnut tree guards as part of our wood pasture creation. When we arrived on site, we were very grateful to find that the 1st Air South Bersted Scouts had already dug the four 2ft holes for us from a previous task day, giving us more time to finish some other jobs afterwards– thanks guys!
The mornings are feeling crisp and the days are getting shorter – autumn is finally here!
It’s been such a warm summer and all the leaves on the trees have been holding on tightly to their branches. It’s only been in the last couple of weeks that I’ve just started to notice the change in leaf colour, with some starting to litter the ground in Northwood.
We have about 2000 young trees (saplings) to plant this season but have to hold on a little longer until the leaves have shed and the temperature drops a bit more. Planting is best done at this stage because the trees will require minimal attention. Those planted will use the dormant winter season to establish new roots without having to feed their leaves. Their water requirements will also be much lower without leaves, plus roots grow best in cooler soils. If the temperature remains low we hope to start planting by late November….
Species will include English oak, beech, field maple and hawthorn. All our planting will be carried out by the community including local schools, after school clubs, voluntary organisations and National Trust volunteers. Last year we had help from a variety of groups including the South Downs National Park Volunteer Rangers, Chichester Conservation Volunteers, Body Shop International and National Trust Volunteers. Even the entire Year 5 of Yapton Primary School came out to help with the planting back in March/April and did a cracking job, putting in nearly 200 trees!
If you fancy helping with the planting this autumn/winter please get in touch for more details.
It’s been almost three years since the ‘Rise of Northwood’ project began on the Slindon Estate. To celebrate we’ll be holding our annual Anniversary Guided Walk on Saturday 24th September. See the poster below for details of the event and I hope to see you there….there’ll also be cake at the end.