Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Winter valley bird watch 2nd February

Well I did well with the weather; I managed to supply a beautiful bright winter's day, but failed to produce the marsh harrier-will try harder next time. We covered ten different sites across the valley and recorded 67 different species within 273 separate records. My favourites of the morning were the goldeneye at Hardwick Parks  and goldcrest which I guess are always around if you are looking carefully, but I am usually galloping along on one mission or another, so miss these tiny secretive birds. Gill and I were surprised not to have seen a chaffinch all morning then, as we stopped to ponder on the flood of water rushing down the Windrush, we saw not only chaffinch but also a kingfisher. This is probably not the one we saw but it is a great photo that Graham Lenton gave me and is a local bird.

Photo Copyright Graham Lenton
I suppose that is why bird watching is always so tantalising, you never quite know what you are going to see. We all met up for lunch in the hide to share bird stories and tease Keith  and Jon who got the largest list by far as usual, not that we are competitive. The conversation is always far ranging and we covered the delights of the wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria which Graham had just seen on a successful birding trip in France. When I looked it up I realised that I too had seen these amazing birds when I was in the Pyrenees a couple of years ago.
There were good numbers and a wide variety of ducks with pochard, red crested pochard, gadwall, teal, wigeon, shoveler and pintail across the main pits. Some interesting records were a grey partridge by Barry and Ian at Rushy Common and the flock of 50 pied wagtail plus chiffchaff by Keith and Jon at Witney Lakes.
 Shy bullfinch and photo inside the hide to prove it was sunny.

Anthony told us about the pintail and shoveler numbers at Dix Pit so Gill and I stopped off for another beautiful sight of more than 200 shovelers and 60 pintail in the late afternoon sun, a delightful end to an excellent bird watching day.
We will run another valley birdwatch in May so if you would like to join us please let me know on lwvp@oxfordshire.gov.uk


Friday, 7 February 2014

Tree planting

It made a really nice change to plant some trees this week as it is not something we get to do very often. The students from Abingdon and Witney College worked as a happy gang as usual and replaced some trees around the site at Rushy Common.

Then the Thursday team, also a happy gang, put in four native black poplars round Tar Lakes. We put them in near to three old ash trees are looking as if they have not got long left. It will be very satisfying if the black poplars can take over their place as imposing and beautiful trees.
The cuttings were sourced from Aylesbury Vale District Council which, with 50% of the remaining national stock of these very endangered trees, co-ordinates the National Black Poplar Conservation Group. Hopefully, they will successfully add another location for the conservation of these amazingly beautiful trees.


Part of the Bigger Picture

The Lower Windrush Valley Project has been instrumental in many environmental initiatives in the valley over the last twelve years. But this is a time of great change in local and national government policies and administration so it seems like the right time to examine the role of the project now and into the future. The valley is rich in habitat types and wildlife and has great potential for further improvements if there is the interest and the will of local people.
 It might be that the decision is to carry on as before which will work fine until the project funding runs out. But there may be more interest from people who can see the potential for a wider remit that will involve more people in the running and operations of the project.

 The next two LWVP talks are aimed at generating as many ideas and suggestions as possible about the future of the project from people who live or work in the area or who have a specific interest e.g as a walker, bird watcher, angler etc. The two talks are focussed on stimulating the debate about the role of the Lower Windrush Valley and the Project in contributing to The Bigger Picture of the county, the country and even the world. I hope that as many people as possible will come to join in with what I am sure will be lively discussions and then to attend a public consultation meeting in May(more details to follow) where we will seek to collate and coordinate views about the future direction of the project.
Please pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested so that we can get as wide a representation of ideas as possible.

Wednesday 26th February 7.30 pm at Northmoor village hall

Poul Christensen CBE

Local dairy farmer, President of the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs and former Chairman of Natural England. Poul will be setting out his view of national trends in environmental issues and management and leading a discussion on how the Lower Windrush Valley may be affected in the future and how we might best work together to face the challenges.


Thursday 27th March 7.30 pm at South Leigh village hall

Dr Carolyn Jewell

Manager of the Nature After Minerals programme. Carolyn will talk about some of the restored mineral extraction sites that are providing valuable habitat for rare and endangered species in the UK and Europe. She will also be covering examples of restoration that we have here in the valley and how they contribute now and may contribute in the future to the Bigger Picture of environmental restoration.

Everyone welcome. For more information about these talks and the consultation please email: Jane Bowley at lwvp@oxfordshire.gov.uk or call on 01865 815426