Monday, 30 November 2015

We're Back Again

It’s good to be back. It’s been a poor summer, and something of a disrupted one for this blogger. Not only has there been no Blog, but the usual weekly survey and recording of Gibside’s wildlife was limited to a few days. At least the grass snake sites had their monthly visit – not that there were any snakes at home when we called.

Autumn Mist

Misty Pond

Autumn Colours

Grass snakes, in one way or another, have been the focus of much of the Wednesday Conservation Team’s work over the last few years: creating a suitable environment generally and eight areas of specific habitat around the Estate intended to encourage nesting and basking, and to make it easier for us to spot them. Except that we haven’t spotted any. Maybe that’s because there aren’t any to be spotted. Still, our work also helps other fauna and flora: toads and voles are often in residence under the corrugated iron sheets.
One of the corrugated iron sheets
A Common Toad found under one of the sheets
A spider with egg-sac on top of one of the sheets
Grass Snake heap covered with tarpaulin

Agapanthia villosoviridescens

Today, we were cutting back cherry laurel from around the overgrown Quarry Pond, letting in more light for a healthier pond. Grass snakes like to hunt in water – especially if there is something there worth eating, and native plants will have the opportunity to thrive now that they are free of the invasive, colonizing laurel. The laurel is now tucked away in the woods in neat piles where it will offer nooks and crannies for woodland creatures, and slowly decay with the help of fungi and other plants and animals.

Mike cutting back cherry laurel

For seven out of the last eight years, Wednesdays could be relied upon to be fine and bright, even in the depths of winter. That certainly hasn’t been the case this year, but today was a good one, just as it should be. We had both our coffee break and lunch in the sunshine, sitting on the ha-ha in a nearby field. Not even Rangers Phil and Liam chain-sawing trees nearby troubled our leisure. And, at the end of a hard day’s work, we took the rare opportunity to rest on our laurels.

The Team resting on their laurels

The Quarry Pond cleared of laurels

Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne