Ten wildlife sights you must see in 2010
PUBLISHED: 09:17 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 20 February 2013
Get out of your armchair and discover the county's true nature, says Roger Beck, Chairman of Herefordshire Nature Trust
10 wildlife gems to see this year
Get out of your armchair and discover the countys true nature, says Roger Beck, Chairman of Herefordshire Nature Trust
From the many talks that I give around the county on behalf of Herefordshire Nature Trust, I am frequently asked where, and especially when, can a particular bird, insect or plant be found. The Trusts Reserves Guide provides the answer to many queries, but if you arent a Trust member, or perhaps dont know where to start to investigate Herefordshires wonderful wildlife, I hope this simple guide may just tempt you out into the countryside.
With the miracle of spring now upon us, why not hunt for these 10 gems as a special project for 2010? It will certainly help you explore the county with a new focus, improve your natural history knowledge, and provide you with wildlife memories which will be long remembered because you took part in an active search, rather than relying on a second-hand TV experience.
I must admit, too, there is a strong chance that you may end the project with a better understanding of what the Trust does. If so, I will be extremely happy!
Of course, wildlife sightings can never be 100 per cent guaranteed, but these selections have been compiled with a high success rate in mind if you follow the instructions. I have excluded certain species which are rare, or whose very existence could be jeopardised by too much disturbance. Access to many of the sites is detailed in our Reserves Guide, but if you arent a Trust member, simply visit the Trusts website and search under the Reserves section. I have also given mapping grid references to help pin-point sites more accurately. Good luck, and do let us know how you fared in the search by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be delighted to hear from you.
This dapper little bird is a scarce and declining summer visitor to Herefordshire but can still be located in the Black Mountains. The first individuals return around the third week in April, and males are well-established on territory by mid-May. Like other chats, Whinchats like to be conspicuous, and males are easy to spot perched on the tops of posts or gorse bushes. To find them, from Forest Coal Pit take the road which runs northward along the Grwyne Fawr valley and park at the Forestry Commission site at SO 267252 in the Mynydd Ddu forest. Take the uphill track and climb until you reach the open moorland below the hill of Bal-bach. There are several pairs on this south-facing slope and scanning the tips of heather and gorse for a small, robin-like bird with a white stripe over the eye should quickly bring success. The wheet-chat-chat call is distinctive.
Early Purple Orchid
As the name suggests, this is one of the first orchids to appear in spring. The flowers form a loose spike about 30 cm. tall, and although normally purple, they can be pink or white. The orchid is widespread in ancient woodland in Herefordshire and is best looked for in late April/early May. HNT Lea and Pagets reserve is a reliable site to try; from the entrance take the main track up to a five-ways junction, and take the right hand path. Search among the bluebells to the left and right of this track for the showy spikes of this attractive orchid.
One of the most beautiful damsel-flies, the Banded Demoiselles is well worth searching for in mid-July, when hundreds may be on the wing in their favourite riverine haunts. Males have iridescent blue-green bodies and characteristic central, dark blue bands on each wing, while females have green wings and bodies, and lack the blue band. If you visit the Lugg Meadows stretch of river on a sunny day you are sure to see them, as the males perform their dancing flight over the slow-moving water, or perch on nearby reeds flashing their banded wings at passing females. Park near the Trust HQ at Lower House Farm, Tupsley, Hereford, and take the footpath which crosses the Lugg Rhea and provides a direct route across the Meadow to the bank of the River Lugg.
This is a small red and black dragonfly which is a relative newcomer to Herefordshire. It likes small well-vegetated pools and ditches, where males set up breeding territories, and return repeatedly to favoured perches near the waters edge. This habit often allows close views, when the distinguishing features of a blood-red, waisted abdomen and black legs can be seen. Females have yellowish bodies with black markings and no waist. Try the main pool at the HNT reserve at The Sturts in mid-July, or alternatively, a little further along the same lane, the larger pool at the Waterloo reserve can be very productive.
Once common in many of the countys woods, this butterfly is now confined to only two main strongholds, one of which is Ewyas Harold Common. Here the Nature Trust Community Commons team has been working hard in the last few years to improve the habitat for this very specialised insect. Both the adult and the larva require sunny basking sites and the right mix of violets the food plant and other ground vegetation. Adults fly early, sometimes in April, but are most abundant in early to mid-May.
Their orange/brown colouration makes them easy to spot and identify, but they can be elusive on cool days when the sun is not out. At the Common, park at the track-end at SO 382302 and walk down to the scrub woodland area around SO 384296. Search the glades and rides, but avoid trampling the violets on which the butterflies entirely depend.
Adders Tongue Fern
This strange little fern is a valuable indicator of ancient unimproved grasslands, as it dislikes any disturbance or chemical pollution. At only 5-8 cm. high it merges easily into surrounding herbage and is readily overlooked.
It has two fronds, one shaped like an oval leaf, and the other a slender, unbranched spike which bears the spore-cases when present.
The Trust reserve at Crow Wood and Meadow is my recommended site, and you should make your way from May to August into the western end of Slough Meadow for the best chance of seeing this curious fern species.
You may need to search quite diligently, even on hands and knees, for success with this little plant!
This is an attractive black and white butterfly, which is on the wing in July. It inhabits grassy areas and woodland clearings and, unlike some butterflies, appears to be slowly increasing and locally common in Herefordshire. Adults are quite unmistakable and easily identified as they float over a sunny meadow. Particularly good sites to try in mid-July are the HNT reserves at Nupend Wood near Fownhope, and Woodside on the Great Doward. From the parking area at Nupend, walk up the stony track bordering the wood until the trees on the right thin out; take the entrance path marked on the right and enter a sloping south-facing meadow area. Scan the slopes for flying adults.
Six-spot Burnet Moth
Burnet moths are conspicuous, day-flying moths, typical of old unimproved meadows and pastures. Entirely black, they have vivid red spots on the fore-wings, either five or six spots depending on the species. The red-black pattern warns potential predators that they are very distasteful, and should not be eaten. The warning colours and buzzing flight make six-spots easy to find and identify. HNT Woodside meadow reserve is particularly recommended for this species, and the best time to look is mid-July on a warm sunny day. Follow the Reserves Guide directions for access; it is best to park at Miners Rest reserve and walk from there.
This large and attractive, fish-eating duck has become more widespread in recent years and is now a regular breeder in the Welsh Marches.You could start your list with this species which frequents the River Wye between October and early April. A reliable site is the stretch of river at Ross-on-Wye between Wilton Bridge and Ross Rowing Club boathouse. Look for groups of Goosander fishing in mid-river or tucked into the north bank under overhanging willows. The males are very showy with black heads, very white/grey bodies, and with a lovely salmon-pink wash on the breast in spring. If you have no luck here, try the HNT reserve of Titley Pool north-east of Kington directions on the Trust website. Goosanders are regular here every winter and can be seen from the poolside hide.
The last species is a beautiful bulbous Colchicum which produces rosy-mauve, crocus-like flowers in early autumn. The plant is not popular with farmers, however, as the long, strap-like leaves are poisonous to livestock, so colonies in fields are often grubbed out. White Rocks HNT reserve is a good place to look for it from mid-August onwards.Park at the entrance and walk along the stony track past the open area to the left. At the end, walk through into a small, enclosed clearing and look for the bright rosy goblet-like flowers around the edges.
Good luck with your search