Back in April last year, I wrote about efforts and progress in documenting the biodiversity at South Milton Ley. This partnership working continues, with many gaps still to fill, but has confirmed the presence of hundreds of species of flies, moths, beetles, fish, reptiles, mammals and, of course, birds many either threatened or of conservation concern. It has also significantly increased the number and scope of individuals and organisations likely to spring to the reserve’s defence if the habitat were threatened in the future.
There have been a few small gains since last April but mainly as additions to groups that were already well studied. Yesterday I photographed a fungus growing on the trunk of a small, dead Elm. With the aid of Google, I was able to make an educated guess as Dryad’s Saddle, Cerioporus squamosus. This was subsequently confirmed on Twitter by Dr. Richard Broughton, an ecologist at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. This brings the fungal species list for the reserve up to the grand total of three!
The only other fungal species I have identified are Blushing Bracket, Daedaleopsis confragosa and Stump Puffball, Lycoperdon pyriforme. So, if there’s anyone out there from south Devon with an interest in mycology, who’d be prepared to have a look around the 18.2 hectares of the reserve, please get in touch. In reality, most of the reserve is reedbed so I would expect that the much smaller areas of damp woodland around the margins would be the most productive.
On a similar note, we currently have no information on lichens or mosses within the reserve and, on the zoological side, non of the invertebrate phyla, apart from Arthropods, have been studied. If you, or anyone you know could help with these (or other, even-more specialised areas of biodiversity) get in touch and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
No time for photos today. A steady flow of birds throughout the six hours the nets were open kept me busy. Luckily, given the temperatures in recent days, a layer of cloud in the morning kept things civilised. Nevertheless, it was like sitting in a sauna by midday and the 90 minutes it takes me to take down all ten nets seemed like an eternity. 84 birds of 14 species were trapped, including the first Willow Warbler and Whitethroat of the autumn.
A hot and humid slog of a day. It started at 05:30 with extensive hacking back of vegetation to clear the net rides. At this time of year, the Hemlock Water Dropwort is dying back and unable to support its own weight. A bit of wind or heavy rain and the whole lot collapses into the reedbed rides. The drying seed heads on this umbellifer could have been designed to snag mist nets and must be removed carefully to avoid damage. My rechargeable hedge trimmer makes the work easier but it still takes time to clear all 50 metres. To add insult to injury, one of the willows beside the ride had put on a spurt of growth and the weight of the new leaves and branches was causing them to sag below the level of the top shelves, also risking entanglement and damage to the nets. After a 400m round trip back to the car to collect a set of extendable loppers, the problem was resolved (at least until next year).
The net rides outside of the reedbed required minimal maintenance but it was still about 07:30 before all the nets were up. I had opened 156m, just about the max I can safely manage alone. If it were to get too busy, I always have the option of furling some of them. It may not sound a lot but, when I’m operating on my own, which is the norm for me, 70+ birds in the six hours I have the nets open represents one bird extracted and processed every 5 minutes. Today a 75 birds were trapped: 2 Blackbird, 12 Blackcap, 3 Blue Tit, 3 Cetti’s Warbler, 21 Chiffchaff, 1 Dunnock, 2 Great Tit, 10 Reed Warbler, 7 Robin, 2 Sedge Warbler, 12 Wren.
I finished off by confirming breeding of Common Blue Damselfly, the 13th species of Odonata to be identified in the reserve.