Bob Gibbons will be with us at the Victoria Hall, Tisbury at 7:30 to give a talk on "Why is the Isle of Purbeck so special?".
If you haven't already signed up to the talk and want to come, please let us know via the Contact form. We can also send out Zoom links for those who prefer to stay at home. Guests welcome for £2 per ticket.
On a foggy day on 19th December, 25 willing volunteers with spades assembled in the Parish Meadow to plant 105 tree ‘whips’ (plants about 10” high) provided for free by the Woodland Trust to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne under the title ’The Queen’s Green Canopy’.
These consist of Crab Apple, Downy Birch, Goat Willow, Hazel and Hawthorn all of which will provide food and habitat for birds and insects in years to come. We also added self seeded trees from our gardens including Oak, Hornbeam, one Walnut, Beech and an Elm.
They have been planted to extend the existing copse at the bottom of the field below the skate park and Nadder Centre. This field has been given to the Parish Council on a long lease by the Fonthill Estate in compensation for the development of 90 houses on the other side of the Nadder Centre off Hindon Lane.
The baby trees have been protected with plastic guards which will be removed when the trees are established and the guards will be re-used. We also took the opportunity to do some maintenance work on other young trees which had been planted nearby in recent years.
Following the planting we all celebrated with mulled homemade plum wine and mince pies.
Winter can be a tough time for wildlife and while a number of mammal species will hibernate, many birds deal with poor weather by moving to lower ground or even to a different country. The storms and snowfall of December got many thrushes on the move, and in the weeks following there appeared to be many more blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares in the local fields and hedgerows. It is not just the cold temperatures that they are escaping; a blanket of snow will make food inaccessible forcing them to move to clearer land to feed. Redwings and fieldfares will already have travelled from Scandinavia and Russia to find a milder winter and will keep moving to keep clear of the worst conditions. Similarly, there are increased numbers of coots, mallards, and tufted ducks on Fonthill Lake, where they will spend the winter.
This is all normal but what makes things interesting is when there is real dearth of food for birds in their normal wintering areas. This might be because the food crop (for example acorns, beech mast or fruits and berries) has failed or a species has had a population boom after a good breeding season. This is when an irruption can occur, and huge numbers of birds move to parts of Europe where they are not normally seen. A recent example of this was during the winter of 2017/18 when unusually large numbers of hawfinches were seen throughout the UK. They made a rare sight in the beeches around Fonthill Lake and even popped up in Tisbury gardens. This year it seems to be the turn of the brambling to visit us in large numbers, presumably because of a failure of the beech mast crop on the continent. After reaching the east coast in late September, they had soon spread across the whole country and by the end of November seemed to outnumber the chaffinches in some local beech woods. (You can see this movement graphically on eurobirdportal.org).
It has been a particularly poor year for acorns which will hit jays which favour this as their winter food, normally burying thousands in the autumn for later retrieval. They may travel several kilometres from their home range looking for acorns and will be more visible than usual as they do so. But if the acorn supply is exhausted, they too will be on the move. The classic irruptive species is the waxwing, a bird rarely seen in the UK apart from during one of their irruptions which only occur once every 10 years or so when flocks of a hundred or more may be seen. Who knows what this winter will bring?
by Andrew Graham
We are keen to find out whether there would be sufficient interest among our members and others in and around Tisbury for a series of large screen showings of films on nature and environmental topics.
We are thinking of taking advantage of the recently installed projection equipment in the Victoria Hall.
Please tell us if you would be interested in attending by taking a short survey (link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/YXC36XN).
Survey closes 15th January 2022.
Robin Walter came to give our last talk of 2021 and we had a mix of people listening in the Victoria Hall and on Zoom. Robin shared photos from his new book “Living with trees” and his experience over the last 30 years of working for organisations dedicated to the conservation of trees and biodiversity.
A striking statistic was that 13% of the UK now has forest cover, compared to 40% average coverage across countries in Europe, with Finland being a stand-out at 70%. Of course, many countries in Europe cover large areas, with differing population densities and we are a small island with an historic industrial growth, but it strikes home how much we differ.
It is estimated that during the Roman period we were at 20% and our lowest point was after the First World War. The Forestry Commission was then set up in 1919 to address the parlous state of our 4.7% forest cover. A particular strategy after WW2 was to put in conifer plantations on old woodland sites so that they could hold both deciduous and spruce. For instance, at Kingsettle Wood near Shaftesbury, the pines can now gradually be removed to let in more light around the ash and the ground cover can expand.
Robin is a member of the Shaftesbury Tree Group which prepared The Town Tree Plan for 2020-25. It is active in educating the community about their glorious trees and created a map so that people can self-navigate or go on arranged walking tours. 60 people turned up for their inaugural walk! The striking Swedish whitebeam opposite the Abbey on Park Walk draws a lot of attention.
The government has set a target to reach 19% UK woodland cover by 2050. As Robin encouraged, it is up to whole communities to get together and talk about what they want and work with local landowners and councils to come to agreement on plans for the future. We were pleased to share the news that this Sunday, Debbie Carter was organising a group of volunteers to plant trees from the Woodland Trust, as part of Tisbury’s contribution to the ‘treebilee’, the Queen’s Green Canopy planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
Join us in the Tisbury Parish Meadow on Sunday 19th December at 10 am to help plant more than 100 trees received from the Woodland Trust (Downy Birch, Crab Apple, Hazel, Goat Willow and Hawthorn) together, with some disease-resistant elms.
The trees are merely whips at this stage, so the planting won’t take long, but you need to bring a spade with you.
Debbie and Andrew Carter have kindly offered to organise mulled plum wine and mince pies for anyone who comes to help. To give them an idea of how many to cater for, if you’re planning to come along, please let us know.
Join us in the Victoria Hall, Tisbury for Robin Walter's talk about his work over the last 30 years with trees; planting and nurturing them, managing woodlands for private clients, large estates and woodland trusts, as an auditor for the soil association, working on deforestation and desertification.
Robin will be including excerpts from his new book Living with Trees which "guides and encourages people to reconnect with the trees and woods in their community."
We can also send out Zoom links for those who prefer to stay at home. Guests welcome for £2 per ticket.
As Christmas approaches, thoughts turn to decorating our homes for the festive season. Along with spruce trees and mistletoe, the plants I most associate with Christmas are the holly and the ivy. As well as providing decoration and being easy to identify, these common plants are important for our wildlife. Although hollies can live for up to 300 years, they rarely attain a large size. As they often grow in the understorey of woodlands, they can develop quite a straggly form as they seek whatever light they can reach. This slow growth makes the white wood very dense and good for a number of uses as well as the traditional walking stick.
Male and female flowers occur on different trees and are white with four petals. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for pollinating insects as well as a food source for holly blue butterfly caterpillars. These feed on the flowers of holly in spring while those emerging from the eggs laid in summer predominantly feed on ivy flowers.
Younger trees have spiky leaves, but as trees grow and age, the leaves are more likely to be smooth, especially in the upper branches. Unless a female plant has a male sufficiently close by, its flowers may not be pollinated and will not develop the bright scarlet berries that look so attractive against the glossy leaves. These berries are a vital source of food for birds in winter, and small mammals, such as wood mice and dormice and this helps to spread the seeds.
In the autumn and early winter, the fruits are hard and apparently unpalatable. But after being frozen or frosted several times, the fruits soften, and become milder in taste. At this point, favoured trees can be stripped by groups of thrushes which may noisily dispute possession of this food source.
Berries of ivy are also in demand as winter food for birds. They are black and are held in clusters on mature plants which are the only ones to produce the yellowish-green flowers. These bloom in small clusters in late summer when most other countryside flowers are over and so attract many bees and late flying butterflies such as the red admiral.
Ivy is a woody stemmed, self-clinging climber but can also grow as a trailing plant which roots at many points as it spreads. Ivies have enormous value to wildlife, providing all-important year-round shelter and nesting sites for huge numbers of creatures including birds, small mammals and invertebrates. Ivy has long been accused of strangling trees, but it does not harm the tree at all simply using it for support as it climbs towards the light.
As well as its association with Christmas the ivy has a number of symbolic connections. A wreath around the head was thought to prevent drunkenness and it was also thought to be a symbol of fidelity. Newly married couples used to be presented with an ivy wreath and an ivy frond remains a part of many a bridal bouquet today.
by Andrew Graham
Come and support Young Nature Watch who will have a stand at the LEAF and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust fair at Langford Lakes this weekend - Hanging Langford, Salisbury, SP3 4PA [free entry].
Their wildlife inspired gifts are being made specially for the event and all proceeds for the Tisbury Natural History Society will be used to fund more activities, workshops and events to engage more young people with nature!
We still have a few places in the Victoria Hall, Tisbury for you to come in person to hear Ian Dunn, the Chief Executive of Plantlife. It will be a fascinating opportunity to hear him talk and ask him questions. We can also send out Zoom links for those who prefer to stay at home. Guests welcome for £2 per ticket.
Ian will give us his vision for the future and describe the challenges and opportunities that Plantlife’s conservation experts grapple with across Great Britain, working with landowners, businesses, other conservation organisations, community groups and governments, to save our rarest flora and ensure familiar flowers and plants continue to thrive.
Bee landing on echium vulgare © Abby Eaton
The pages now display photos of live moths taken by Andrew Graham. This one, the Puss Moth, looks very soft and cuddly.