Monday, 27 January 2020

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020


On the 26th January, the doors of the Rushy Common bird hide were once again opened to the public as we took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. A mix of new and old faces took their places on the benches around the hide to count the birds across the reserve.



For an hour, the 20 participants noted the maximum number of each bird species, feeding back to their results to the coordinators who kept a record of what was being seen. This year was more challenging than previous ones, as many of the waterfowl on the lake had positioned themselves right at the far end of the reserves – fortunately we had some scopes on hand to spot the distant ducks.



The results are shown below, compared to the previous years;

Species2018 Count2019 Count2020 Count
Blackbird  1
Black-headed Gull 4 
Black Swan 1 
Blue tit333
Buzzard 1 
Canada goose266
Carrion crow214
Chaffinch 1 
Coal tit1  
Coot388531
Cormorant143112
Dunnock1 1
Gadwall488
Goldeneye2  
Goldcrest  1
Great crested grebe444
Great tit452
Grey Heron  1
Herring Gull 1 
Greylag goose2 1
Lesser black-backed gull8  
Kestrel  1
Lapwing  45
Long-tailed tit4  
Magpie315
Mallard 10112
Moorhen 1 
Pochard  8
Red-crested Pochard 52
Redwing 1 
Roe Deer 1 
Robin221
Shoveler 1913
Stock Dove 2 
Teal 1 
Tufted duck13516
Wigeon50443
Woodpigeon  2
Wren 1 
Total167195223
Species count192624

Although there were several species that we didn’t see from previous years, we saw several new birds including a blackbird and goldcrest on the feeders, and lapwing and pochard. Interesting no gulls were seen on the lake as with previous years, and the coot numbers were also significantly lower than those seen in 2019.

Our results have been submitted to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch database – the results of this nationwide survey can be seen later this year on the RSPB website - https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/. Many thanks to volunteers from the RSPB for helping us run the event.

Friday, 13 December 2019

LWVP Events in 2020

2019 has been as busy as ever for the Lower Windrush Valley Project, and we're already looking forward to next year's events!

Winter Wildlife Talks

We're delighted to be joined by three wildlife experts in the early months of next year



RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch - Sunday 26th January, 12-1.30pm
Come and join us as we throw open the doors of the hide at Rushy Common nature reserve to participate in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch. For one hour we’ll count the total number of each species we see. The data will help identify not only the species using the site but will help establish trends and determine just how the birds and wildlife are doing.

You’ll also be able to learn more about the Lower Windrush Valley Project and how we look after the nature reserve. New and inexperienced birders especially welcome. Be part of the world’s largest wildlife survey and help count the wildlife that’s counting on us!

Getting here: The Rushy Common car park is on Cogges Lane, a single-track road that runs from Cogges to Stanton Harcourt. The Ordnance Survey grid reference is SP 381 074 and the nearest post code is OX29 6UJ.


https://www.facebook.com/events/457533748481459/




More events to come later in the year...

We will also be running our popular Gill Mill Quarry tour later in the year, so look out for emails with information on signing up in the spring, as well as other events that we'll be putting on later in the year!

Friday, 29 November 2019

LWVP Forum 2019 - Roman settlements and little mammoths

We had a fantastic turn out for our annual forum event, which took place at Standlake Village Hall on 25th November. 

We started by giving an overview of what’s been going on with the Lower Windrush Valley Project in 2019, giving updates on improved signage at the reserves and paths, wildlife surveys for water voles, reptiles, birds, events we've put on and attended, and what we’ve got planned for 2020. We also displayed the maps created by the Thames Valley Environmental Record Centre which show all of the habitats across our project area.

 

This year we had a local history theme to the forum – gravel extraction works have given researchers a unique opportunity to reveal some fascinating secrets of what used to happen in the project area.

Paul Smith, the recently retired director of Oxford Archaeology first talked about the settlements uncovered at Dix Pit. As well as Iron Age ring barrows, both early Roman and middle Roman features have been discovered, with a road running though the site. The settlement is thought to have had an unusual focus on raising cattle - this is suggested based on the layout of the road and buildings, with only a few domestic buildings present and the presences of artefacts such as the spoke of a wheel that cattle would likely have pulled. Various other small objects have also been found during the dig, including shrines, carved figures, gemstones and over a thousand coins.

Dr Kate Scott from the University of Oxford then spoke about the prehistoric mammals that used to roam across Oxfordshire. Excavations at Stanton Harcourt revealed that a previous course of the River Thames flowed through the area several thousand years ago. Over a thousand bones from mammals that were drawn to the river, including lions, bears, wolves and mammoth, have been found, as well as well preserved vegetation and molluscs. Mammoths made up the majority of the finds, with over 50 tusks excavated, many of which were complete – interestingly these are not the larger woolly mammoths that were adapted to cold environments, but instead are smaller steppe mammoths that were found on grassy plains.  

Many thanks to our speakers for such fascinating talks.

We are so grateful for the continued support from our volunteers, whether coming to our work parties, helping out at our events, surveying for wildlife or doing admin and research at our office. We hope 2020 will be an even bigger year for our project, and we look forward to seeing you all then!

Monday, 4 November 2019

Building a Bug B&B at Rushy Common


Families and volunteers gathered this week to help build a bug ‘B&B’ at Rushy Common. Habitats like this are important for overwintering insects such as woodlice, ladybirds, beetles and bees which hibernate in sheltered places. Tree holes, leaf litter, and under logs and rocks are common lodgings for overwintering adult insects.

Pallets were sourced free from a local garden centre, which acted as the frame and structure for the B&B. The pallets were stacked underneath the bird feeders next to the bird hide, and bricks were placed in between to give height to the gaps for materials. 
Building up the first few layers
Volunteers Denis and Chris put their conservation work party skills to good use by sawing up deadwood and trees blown over by recent winds to create logs and branches that were placed in the bug hotel by the children. Families also brought their own branches from their garden, and broken pottery bits to give some colour and solid shelter to the B&B’s gaps. Chris also brought along logs from his garden that already had some holes filled by nesting solitary bees.


Sawing up a fallen tree
Adding branches and logs with solitary bees
Filling the top layers

Moss was gathered from the gravel shore of the lake, to stuff gaps in the logs and branches. Bamboo canes were also cut up and placed between the pallets. As deadwood was collected from the surrounding scrub habitat, unsuspecting worms and woodlice were ‘moved in’ to the hotel as its first residents!

The B&B was finished off with a Lower Windrush Valley Project sign. Visit the Rushy Common bird hide to have a look at our new habitat feature



 Mini bee hotels were also created by the children to take home and put in their gardens. This is a great way of recycling plastic bottles, whilst creating homes for beetles and solitary bees. For more information on how to create a bug B&B, visit the RSPB’s website - https://www.rspb.org.uk/globalassets/downloads/kids--schools/teaching-resources/make-a-bee-house.pdf

 
How can you help insects in your garden?

  • Make a bug hotel using bamboo canes – these are easy to make using a plastic bottle, milk carton or pot
  • Plant wildflowers, or spread wildflower seeds for our native pollinators
  • Create a pond – even a small pond made from a washing up bowl can help insects, as a whole new ecosystem is created for them to forage in and drink from
  • Stop using pesticides on your plants – these don’t just cause damage to garden pests, but insects that aren’t the targets such as bees are also affected
  • Keep your garden ‘untidy’ – leaving grass to grow a little longer and allowing flowers such as daisies and dandelions to grow create small stepping stones that pollinators can forage on – and it’s a great excuse for not mowing the lawn

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Bats of Tar Lakes


On the 16th September, a bat walk was held at Tar Lakes, with a great turnout of people keen to see what wildlife the night sky had to offer. 14 of the UK’s 18 bat species can be found in Oxfordshire – the county’s woodland and hedgerow habitats make it a great place to see a range of different species. The group hoped to collect information on what sort of bats are using the lakes and their surrounding habitats, and find out a bit more about these elusive nocturnal creatures. Using bat detectors that lower the bat’s ultrasonic calls to the range of human hearing, the participants listened in on a number of different bat species as they made their way around the lake complex. Here is what we saw;



Common and soprano pipistrelles

Common pipistrelles Pipistrellus pipistrellus were the most frequently heard bat on the walk. This small species can be found in woodland and urban habitats, making use of holes in trees and buildings to roost in. Their calls sound like fast slaps as they pass by, at a frequency around 45kHz.

A soprano pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus was first bat species spotted on the walk, foraging over a patch of scrub habitat. This species looks and sounds similar to the common pipistrelle, however their calls are pitches higher at 55kHz – as their name would suggest!

Both of these bats were seen flying over scrub and hedgerow habitats, where their insect prey was most abundant – ‘feeding buzzes’ were heard on the detectors as the bats honed in on their prey. Hedgerows are incredibly important for bats, due to their use as navigational tools as they commute from roosting to foraging grounds.


Common Pipistrelle in flight
A common pipistrelle bat © Paul van Hoof


Noctule

Noctules Nyctalus noctula are one of the larger bats we have in Oxfordshire – they are associated with woodland habitat, and can occasionally be heard without detectors by children and adults with good hearing, due to their calls sometimes being just low enough for humans to hear at around 20kHz. Noctules were heard several times on the walk, but despite their large size, the group could not spot them in the air as they few rapidly around!
 
Image result for Noctule
Noctule © Branko Karapandza

Daubenton’s bat

A bat that is commonly associated with water habitats is the Daubenton’s bat Myotis daubentonii – this species is seen trawling across rivers and lake with its large hairy feet, catching the midges that hover above the surface. Using high-powered torches, we were treated to a few sightings of this bat foraging across the lake.

Daubenton's bat © Paul van Hoof


Mystery myotids

Bats that are part of the Myotid genus, such as Natterer's bats and Bechstein's bats, are very hard to tell apart using only a bat detector due to their similar sounding calls – they can even be challenging to identify when in the hand! Their rattling call was heard a few times briefly above the hedgerows bordering the lakes, perhaps commuting between roosting and foraging sites.

Other nightlife

The group also spotted some other wildlife whilst on the walk – several common newts and toads were encountered on the northern path around the lake, which narrowly avoided being trodden on at times! A surprisingly large number of devil's coach horse beetle were also seen, with their long black bodies and scorpion-like poses spotted in the grass.

Many thanks to the Oxford Bat Group for lending us their bat detectors for the evening – for more information on the work they’re doing across the county, visit their website - http://www.oxfordshirebats.org/