Meet at the Nadder Centre car park on Sat 3rd June at 10.30am or approximately 1 hour 15 minutes later at the Westhay Moor Reserve BA6 9TX. The car park is at OS ST 456 437, just north of the junction between Westhay Moor Drove and Dagg’s Lane Drove, between the villages of Westhay and Godney.
Distance, Difficulty and Footwear: Approximately 5 km/3 miles on flat gravel paths which may be a bit muddy if there has been recent rain. Good stout shoes should suffice rather than wellingtons. Bring a packed lunch and refreshments.
This Field Trip has limited numbers. There may still be places if you've not yet signed up and want to come. Equally please let us know if you're on the list, but can no longer make the date. We are now using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org for organising lists for events, so please contact us there.
Meanderings on beetles
The committee have been enjoying a conflab on beetles. Dick found an interesting looking beetle near his house in bright sunshine, about 30mm long with a distinctive scaly pattern on its back and he sent an email around for suggestions on its species. And then did manage to track it down himself on the internet as the meloe proscerabaeus (Black Oil Beetle). Peter then passed on Tracy Adams’ nugget which she’d given to the Nadder Valley Cluster Group that “Black Oil Beetles have a fascinating but slightly gruesome life cycle which involves the larvae or the bizarrely named 'triungulins'. They climb up onto flowers & hitch a ride on the back of a solitary mining bee who take them into the nest & where they eat all the bee's eggs & pollen & nectar stores. The larvae develop in the burrows & emerge in spring as an oil beetle ready to mate & start the cycle again. They are a declining species so it is important to submit any records.”
Andrew remarked “I get Oil Beetles on the wild bank in my garden and have been advised that you need to get a good look at the shape of the thorax to separate out the Black from the Violet Oil Beetle. I can't make the shape out from the pic and though there is certainly some violet there and the antennae are a bit bent both are features of both a Violet and a Black Oil Beetle. The Violets have a western distribution so it could be.
I haven't seen any in my garden yet this year but saw one walking down Weaveland Road on Monday - well I was walking down the road, the beetle was walking down the pavement...”
Andrew has added a photo of his own and finds it hard to decide whether his was a Black or a Violet. A green poo pellet graced the photo too, so we have further natural history findings to pass on! Andrew has also shared a useful factsheet link from BugLife about Oil Beetles.
Our AGM will start at 7.00pm for a brief run through of the minutes of last year’s meeting and the 2022 accounts. We urge as many members as possible to come along. The hall should be open half an hour before we start, so this year you can even enjoy the proceedings with a glass of wine in hand.
The talk will start at 7:30pm and we shall hear from Sarah Barnsley on 'Why hedgerows matter'. Sarah is Hedgerow Officer for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, and a huge hedgerow enthusiast, working to promote these humble countryside heroes.
Hedgerows form a key component of our natural heritage and provide many vital ecosystem services and functions. They connect up our countryside and provide essential food and shelter for much of our wildlife. From nesting birds to hibernating hedgehogs, well-managed hedges can provide abundant resources for animals, birds and all manner of insects. Yet, to maintain a healthy hedgerow network into the future, we need to manage hedgerows according to their natural lifecycle.
Talk notes: Managing the NT hillforts and chalk grasslands for both archaeology and nature conservation
Clive Whitbourn, National Trust Ranger, started his talk with a focus on Hambledon Hill, the 47 hectare hillfort which came to the National Trust in 2014. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a photo from 1940 showed how bare the hillfort was 80 years ago. Now the hillfort is managed lightly, with scrub kept low and any erosion kept at bay with terrace reshaping to preserve the profile of the ramparts.
Clive showed us the methods they use with wooden frameworks buried deep to support hessian bags full of chalk, which bulk out any damaged areas, with turf from the ditch placed on top. The chalkland grasses grow through and thrive. He mentioned that the south and south-west ramparts of Hambledon Hill are best for butterflies.
Cattle scraping for minerals – they can go on binges to self-medicate - and visitors wearing down paths, all play their part in erosion. Roboflail, a mechanical AI cutter, is being used on some of the NT sites to great effect to keep the scrub low and save the man hours for other tasks. The NT relies on volunteer help on many of their conservation projects.
Hod Hill is Dorset’s largest Iron Age hillfort and is unusual because it has a Roman fort nestled within, built at a time when the invaders needed to defend their capture of this Durotriges stronghold. Clive showed us how the framework and hessian bag method was also used to repair a bridleway here.
In terms of nature conservation, Texel sheep are good grazers and White Park cattle are brilliant for rough pastures. Yellow Rattle, which suppresses coarse grass growth, is doing well at Winn Green and there are plans this year to brush-harvest the seed from there and broadcast it to the newly purchased Clubmen’s Down, a 30 acre piece of arable.
Across Clive’s patch and the various Downs and hillforts, uncommon species are being noted: Bee and the Great Butterfly orchids, and the unusual Autumn Lady’s Tresses; Waxcap fungi; Marsh, Silver-spotted and Danville Fritillaries, Grizzled Skippers, Small Blue and Adonis Blue butterflies; Great Green Bush-crickets and Glow worms.
Clive’s talk gave us plenty of inspiration for visiting these places, particularly in the spring and summer!
Non-native flatworm in the Erigeron
A cutting of Erigeron daisies taken from my courtyard released a curious flatworm later in the day at its new home. Thankfully it was spotted and isolated, while the two thin red stripes and features were pored over. The RHS later had to come to our rescue with the identification (thank you, Lynne, for your help with this) and this is what they said. It's worth knowing about in case other people make similar discoveries, because these flatworms should be destroyed.
"I think that it is likely that the flatworm you have found is Kontikia ventrolineata. This is a non-native flatworm, with origins probably to Australia and/or New Zealand, whilst some records indicate also the Indo-Pacific region. It is a small flatworm with a dark coloured body. This flatworm species is thought to have been introduced in 1840 and has several UK records. It can feed on small invertebrates that it can catch, including small snails but it also appears to be a scavenger.
Once it has arrived in a garden there is really nothing effective that can be done to reduce their numbers. Destroying any that you find hiding underneath pots or stones will remove a few, but this is likely to be only a small proportion of the population in your garden. There are no pesticides available that will control flatworms.
Kontikia ventrolineata, is listed under Schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with respect to England and Wales and it is an offence to release it or allow its escape to the wild. You should endeavour to avoid spreading the flatworm to new areas that are as yet free of flatworms. They spread to new areas through the movement of growing plants, compost or soil, so you should be careful about giving growing plants to other gardeners.
More information about flatworms can be found at https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=975 "
Talk notes: Gardening for wild pollinators
Rebecca Twigg started her talk last week by stressing the relative unimportance of honey bees compared with wild pollinators such as solitary bees, bumblebees, moths, butterflies, hoverflies and beetles. She gave several examples of solitary bee species that are commonly found in gardens such as the Ashy and Tawny mining bees, as well as the recently arrived Ivy bees, and explained interesting details about their lifecycles and habitat requirements. Later, she gave us examples of the best garden flowers for pollinators, natives as well as exotics.
She stressed the importance of having flowers blooming all year round, with Heathers from late winter, Lungwort in early spring and continuing right through to early winter with Mahonia, for example. Rebecca explained how she restocks her garden by swapping plants, growing from cuttings and collecting seeds rather than buying from
Rebecca pointed out how planting in drifts is so important, so the bees don’t have to waste energy flying between individual flowers, making sure there’s a variety of flower types, e.g., Foxgloves for long-tongued bumblebees and daisies for short-tongued hover-flies.
Rebecca then spoke about creating different habitats in gardens, to provide for the diverse requirements of different pollinators. Drilling holes between 5 and 8mm and pencil length into wooden panels, logs or posts placed in warm, sunny situations can provide valuable nesting sites for solitary bees. The importance of having areas of short and longer (flower rich) grass in a lawn to cater for mining bees, which need warm soil to complete their lifecycle, was emphasised.
We recommend walking the Salisbury Bee Trail which Rebecca is responsible for laying out and for which she won an award.
by Peter Shallcross
This month we welcome Rebecca Twigg, founder of Salisbury's Secret Garden.
Rebecca is an organic gardener with a passion for the natural world who received a DEFRA award for the Salisbury Bee Trail project. She has now started a new community garden at the Five Rivers Health and Well-being Centre and an additional ‘green space kick start’ scheme for those wanting to take on a patch of ground themselves.
“Exploration outside is absolutely in my heart, there is something magical about immersing yourself in nature …these interactions shape our values and abilities to manage in an ever-changing world too.”
As last month, the Victoria Hall bar will be open from 7:00PM to serve wine, beer and soft drinks before the meeting.
We plan, as usual now, to live-stream Rebecca’s presentation over Zoom for anyone not able to attend in person; I’ll send out the Zoom link to members a few days before.
Attending our meetings is free for members and anyone under 21; adult visitors are asked for a £2 contribution. If you are not a member but would like to come along, please get in touch via the contact form. The Victoria Hall is on the High St, Tisbury, opposite the garage.
Peter Shallcross will be leading a river walk from Wylye to Fisherton de la Mere this coming Thursday, starting at 7pm. The distance along the footpath beside the river is around a mile each way, pretty flat and sound along its length, so not particularly onerous.
Members don't need to register but if you'd like to come as a guest please let us know via the contact form.
To share car spaces and conserve fuel, meet at the Nadder Centre car park at 6:30PM or alternatively make your own way to Wylye for 7:00PM.
The rendezvous point is a layby immediately after the river bridge on the main road north of Wylye, after passing the Bell pub on your right: see https://goo.gl/maps/9jAP7xYZqvhWn3Qp6
And you may care to bring with you a picnic to enjoy in the churchyard before heading home again.
Call for volunteers on wildlife survey
The following request has been submitted by Jessica Perry of the RSPB Volunteer Monitoring Farm Wildlife project.
"The RSPB Volunteer Monitoring Farm Wildlife (VMFW) project aims to provide a match up service for volunteer surveyors and farmers. The project objectives are to provide a wildlife surveying service to farms, offer opportunities for people to get out into nature and use the collected data to create useful outputs that will help farmers to adapt to nature friendly farming practices.
This is currently a pilot project so many aspects are in development. The taxa surveys taking place in Wiltshire this year are pollinators, butterflies, and bumblebees. We hope to take up more taxa in future years, such as birds and plants. The surveying methods are all citizen science based, so are easy to learn and conduct, but with practice can become a valuable skill.
We try to match volunteer surveyors to farms within a reasonable travelling distance. We may be able to reimburse some travel expenses. Once a match is agreed we send the surveyor the contact details to get in touch with the farmer.
First there is a 'Meet & Greet' session where you agree with the farmer where and what to survey and do a risk assessment. Then surveys are conducted throughout the spring and summer. Results are submitted online by the surveyor. At the end of the year, we will turn those results into useful outputs for the farmers.
It is completely up to you, which taxa to survey, although sometimes a farm might express an interest in a specific type. You can do more than one taxa if you wish and you can do more than one farm if you wish. We cannot always guarantee that a farm is nearby, however we do occasionally run training sessions and encourage our volunteers without farms to practice their skills at their local green space.
The surveys differ a little in how often they are done, bumblebees can be monthly or 3 surveys throughout the surveying season (now until Oct), pollinators are monthly (now until Sept) and butterflies are fortnightly (now until Sept).
Bumblebee transects are 1-2km. For butterflies you select up to 5 areas to survey and pace evenly through that area for 15 minutes recording species. For pollinator surveys the surveyor observes an area of target flowers e.g. clover, for 10 minutes, recording the pollinating insects that visit the flowers.
We currently have several farms in south Wiltshire who need volunteer surveyors. There are two farms in the Tisbury area, one in the Semley area and one east of Gillingham. If anyone is interested in being involved in the project or to help us cover these farms please contact me at email@example.com"
This striking photograph of a Dark-edged Bee-fly was taken recently by Dick Budden, as it rested on a clothes peg of his washing line. The Dark-edged Bee-fly is the most common of the bee-fly species and can be seen mainly in April and May as it feeds with its long straight proboscis on the nectar from spring flowers in gardens and hedgerows.
It is parasitic in behaviour. The female deposits her eggs into mining bee nesting areas by hovering a few inches above, then giving a sharp twist of her body as she flicks her eggs out with a covering of dust that she’s collected specially for the eggs’ protection. Upon hatching, her larvae will then burrow down and lie in wait to feed on the host bee’s larvae when they mature.
You can contribute to Bee-fly Watch on the Dipterists Forum of the Biological Records Centre, where they would welcome accounts of your sightings.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
The headers display photos taken by our members. Do get in touch via the Contact Form if you'd like to submit a photo for selection.