11 Aug Winchcombe Nature Notes
Winchcombe Nature Notes
It’s now August and this month will see our local swifts depart for their winter quarters. They arrive at the end of April or early May so they are only around for about 3 – 4 months. Their numbers locally seem lower than ever and for most of May and June I never saw more than about five or six together.
Numbers increased in July with young birds fledging and joining their parents on the wing. They particularly like the older part of Winchcombe as they can squeeze under old roof slates to nest more easily than with modern houses.
Swifts are beautifully adapted to a life in the sky. Slender bodies, scimitar shaped wings and boundless energy. They are strong fliers, never still; goodness knows how many miles they must cover each day. I like swifts and I’ll miss them when they’ve migrated but will keenly anticipate their return next year.
Meadowsweet – (Filipendula ulmaria)
I’ve noticed recently that meadowsweet has come into flower. It’s a plant that prefers dampness so is usually found in ditches, alongside streams or in wet meadows. The plant can be seen alongside the Isbourne, on the riverside footpath, with its very distinctive creamy-white, rather frothy, flower heads made up of myriad tiny flowers. Much loved by insects, it also has culinary and medicinal uses, perhaps not so much now as before and it adds a welcome splash of colour to the locality.
Holly Blue Butterfly
In mid July I saw my first second-brood holly blue butterfly in the garden. This is the blue butterfly most likely to be seen in your garden where the larvae feed on the flowers of holly and ivy. The first- brood adults appear in April & May. Their offspring form the second brood, which appears in July & August. The holly blues are quite small and only rarely touchdown in my garden. I suspect that these are mainly males in search of a female. Most butterflies are relatively short-lived, perhaps 2-3 weeks at most and time is clearly at a premium for the male to find a receptive mate.
Recently, I had a most unusual experience with a hedgehog. Some general garden waste was left in a tote bag on the garage floor for a few days pending dumping. Unbeknown to me a hedgehog had entered through the open garage door and decided the tote bag was a great place to settle down. Of course, once the garage door was closed our prickly friend was trapped. Having been aware that there was an intruder in the garage, because floor- standing items were being knocked over or disturbed, my money was on a large rat! Clearly it was coming out at night to look for food but couldn’t escape its ‘prison’.
The Great Escape!
Upon emptying the bag at the tip, I discovered the hedgehog on the ledge of the garden waste skip and managed to gather it up before it fell in. I quickly popped it back into the tote bag saving it from what would undoubtedly have been a grisly end.
Having brought it back home and placed it in a cardboard box in the cool of the garage, I scrounged
some dog food from my neighbour (thanks Sue) for an overdue meal. A small dish of water was added for good measure. Come evening I released it in the garden where it will hopefully repay me by keeping down the slug population.
I see that a ‘Leaky Dam’ is to be constructed at Waterhatch, as part of a series of 9 dams, to provide
natural water storage areas upstream of Winchcombe to reduce the risk of serious flooding. It will be
constructed of locally felled timber, laid in a lattice pattern across the Beesmoor Brook and will thus work with nature by allowing river wildlife to pass safely through. Additionally, the felling of some bankside trees should open up the area to more sunlight. It will be really interesting to follow developments and see the effect on wildlife.