Nature Blog Network

End of an era?


land sale copy

Having not blogged about the lane for some time (due to my FTP problems) it is sad to recommence with the possible end of the field as we know it, but it appears that the council are minded to sell the field for development. Granted, this has been on the cards for some time but it will be a shame.

The land in question was marked as a paddock on deed maps so was probably used by Patrick for his horses. The flora would support that, with the healthy nettle crop suggesting a nitrogen-rich environment. Whilst there are few rare species there, it does host colonies of bees, butterflies and ladybirds which are becoming declining nationally.

Ragwort

A new sighting on the lane and I have no idea where it has arrived from. There is, and has been for a long while, plenty of ragwort along the path leading from Balladen Brook up to Meadowhead (despite the best efforts of horse riders to get rid of it) but that is a good quarter mile plus from Springhill. It is said not to be well dispersed by wind. It is also said to need a bare patch in order to germinate, and there is little of that on the lane. Yet there it is, in full flower and all its glory, on the south east verge of the lane. It is said to prefer cool areas with high rainfall so that fits then.

The walk up past Balladen Brook to Meadowhead and on up to Saunder Height has been a regular stroll for many years. Up to five or so years ago the ragwort was covered by the black and yellow caterpillars of the cinnabar moth, said to be its only source of food. In the last few years however the ragwort has remained but the cinnabar caterpillars have become scarce. No idea why, as I haven't seen any data on declining numbers nationally.

Apparently over 70 insects feed on ragwort, for about 30 of them this is the sole source of food. Have to get out with a magnifying glass…

I have no idea why it is sometimes called 'Stinking Willie', a name I've never heard for it around here.

lapwings

No, I have never seen lapwings on the lane, but there are plenty on Saunder Height. Or at least there were. 50+ of them, regularly, year after year.

Not this year. This year they are down to single figures. And I've no idea why. There has been no apparent change in the field and or the number of predators that I'm aware of

There is usually a large colony at Knuzden Brook, just outside Blackburn. That is still there, but the numbers are well down.

A few weeks ago we were at Leighton Moss RSPB and there were thousands of them, pee-witting all over the place. I was talking to one of the wardens at Martin Mere yesterday and he said there were plenty there as well.

So why have they all gone to the seaside (well, Burscough!)?

bluebells

There are three types of bluebell common in Britain: the native British bluebell, the Spanish bluebell common in gardens and hybrids between the two other species. Native bluebells are common in deciduous woodlands, with apparently half of all the world's bluebells being in the UK. Unfortunately the incidence of Spanish bluebells in woods is increasing to the decrement of the native species, with hybrids adding to the picture. This, together with habitat decline, is leading to a decrease in the native bluebell population.

According to Plantlife, native bluebells have:

- narrower leaves than the Spanish variety
- deep blue, narrow, tube-like flowers with the tips curled back. White or pink variants are rare.
- flowers predominantly on one side of the stem with a drooping appearance
- cream anthers

whereas the Spanish variety have:

- broader leaves, often over 3 cm wide
- paler blue, white or pink flowers
- upright stem with flowers all around
- no or little scent
- blue anthers

Whilst beautiful to look at, the bluebells in Springhill Lane and the Paddock are of the Spanish variety, possibly escapes from our garden although before our time here. The lovely bluebell wood isn't in Deadwenclough (actually on Bury Road)


bluebells lane 200 bluebells native 200

Big Garden Bird Watch results

The RSPB has announced the results of the Big Garden Bird Watch. Their top 10:

  • House Sparrow - average of 4 per garden
  • Starling
  • Blue Tit
  • Blackbird - seen in 88% of gardens but total numbers are dropping.
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Goldfinch
  • Chaffinch
  • Great Tit
  • Robin
  • Long Tailed Tit - new entry!

The RSPB suggest that the mild winter has led to an increased number of small garden birds surviving the winter.

Our top 10?

  • House sparrow
  • Common Gull
  • Dunnock
  • Blackbird
  • Wood pigeon
  • Magpie
  • Carrion Crow
  • Great Tit
  • Robin
  • Chaffinch