Society News from September 2015

The Challenges around Thurlestone - Report on Plymouth Meeting14 Sept

Posted September 22nd, 2015 at 2:04 pm by George & Julia Harris

What is needed to create a successful habitat for wildlife on two South Devon coastal reserves?  Nick Townsend described the efforts required each year in his excellent talk ‘South Milton Ley and South Huish Marsh - The work and Rewards of a South Devon Reserves Officer’.

The two reserves are very different. South Milton Ley, owned by Devon Birds, has a  large reedbed with surrounding footpaths. One hectare of the reeds need cutting every year, along with regular grass cutting and fence repairing. Photographs of the planting of hedges and trees showed that the latter have now grown well and a new boardwalk  constructed.

Nick stated that South Huish is meadowland and comprised of three scrapes. Though  owned by the National Trust, it is managed by Devon Birds. Water levels  need to be regulated and ditches cleared. All the work on both sites is acheived with his dedicated team of volunteers, help from local farmers and use of mechanical equipment. Control of the vegetation is helped during the summer by Highland cattle and Dartmoor ponies introduced to South Huish, as they will devour anything.

The work is compounded by the need to remove debris after winter storms. Excellent video showed the ferocity of the sea  in 2013/2014 eroding the beach with the result that huge wooden poles protecting the beach were thrust into the Ley.  Breeching of the water of the Ley through the sand bar into the sea was also shown well.

So what are the rewards? These can be measured by the number of species seen on the reserves and off the nearby coast. Over 200 have been reported over the years and many have been ringed.   Rarities such as Squacco Heron, Little Bunting and Bearded Tit have been spotted. This proves that the work acheived in this area offers several rich and diverse habitats for wildlife.

What further plans could improve these sites? A possible hide and a gravel island on South Huish are being discussed.             Liz Harris


Request for Owl Pellets - can you help?

Posted September 21st, 2015 at 9:01 pm by George & Julia Harris

Andrew Griffiths, a new lecturer at the University of Exeter has asked for our help in providing owl pellets for his students, as one of the first practical classes for budding new biology students is the classic dissection of owl pellets.  They use keys to identify the contents of the pellets, especially the jawbones of small mammals to reconstruct the diet of the owls.

Andrew says "It is a practical love giving first years as they learn some important skills; ID keys, biological drawing and even try to make some ecological inference about difference in diet from owls in different habitats. But we have 200 students, so working in pairs that means 100 pellets, it has been very difficult trying to find so many. We'd really appreciate your members help!"

If any member has Owls roosting nearby and can collect up pellets please either email Andrew direct or contact me, Julia Harris 01822 853785 and I can pass the message on.


Bowling Green Marsh visit

Posted September 13th, 2015 at 2:11 pm by George & Julia Harris

The Plymouth group had a successful meeting on Tuesday 8th September at Topsham. We begun by looking from the Quay at the waders on the estuary and were rewarded by seeing a Whimbrel next to a Curlew, great for comparison. A stroll along the Goat Walk revealed a Sandwich Tern perched on a buoy, plenty of Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Avocets. A visit to the hide is always rewarding, and as the tide rose, we had good views of three Spotted Redshank among the Greenshank, a Ruff and large numbers of the usual waders and Teal. six Pintail were unexpected.

Doug showed us the new cycle path to Goose moor, where Martin spotted a Common Sandpiper, Faye spotted a Peregrine and a Chiffchaff was heard as we made our way back to the car park. A good day, but as Chris said we could have a list of birds we just missed - seen the day before or the next. That's birding!

Lesley Goonesekera


Plymouth Branch 14 Sept - Nick Townsend on South Milton Ley and South Huish

Posted September 12th, 2015 at 11:54 pm by George & Julia Harris

This Monday 14 September Nick Townsend with be telling us about the Work and Rewards of a Devon Birds Reserve Officer at South Milton Ley and South Huish. 
Come along and join us at Spurgeon Hall, Mutley Baptist Church, Mutley Plain, Plymouth PL4 6LB at 7.30pm.and learn all about these interesting reserves.
Refreshments provided.

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