March in Ron’s words

21 Mar

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It look as though spring has been put on hold this year. An odd day of 14 degrees c but most days having the wind chill of -7. However the signs of springtime are showing. Early flowers are out on the reserve and the birds are pairing up for the breading season. In the odd sheltered pond you can find frogspawn and in the hedgerow the green buds are showing. Work on the site goes on whatever the weather. New hedgerow plants have been in-filled in an existing hedgerow this month, hornbeam, hawthorn, field maple and crab apple among them. Rowan and birch have been added to the woodland and alder to the copses. Phragmites seed has been taken and is due to be sown next month to increase the read beds. All of us look forward to spring and the warmer lighter nights, its not far away. The dawn chorus has already started, open the wind at 4 am its deafening.

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February on Tameside

13 Feb

A belated welcome to 2018 from Tameside. Over the Christmas period the reserve has be flooded a few times not a big surprise we’re predominately a wetlands site this said it hasn’t stopped our work days. This time of year its a lot of tidying and preparation for the coming year. One of the main jobs has been clearing some of the willow from across the site and building some dead hedges. The February work day the group worked close to the sand martin bank. Its important to protect this area so as it doesn’t get disturbed by walkers, a hedge was built but sadly it got damaged, we re-built. It now has a rather large dead hedge wide and high all we need to do now is finish off the gate. The dead hedge provides habitat for lots of wildlife and even before we’d finished it had a number of birds inspecting our work. It’ll be great for mice, voles and hedgehogs so its a win win. The pond in front of the sand martin bank is in need of attention the clay didn’t work we think it needed to be thicker so water didn’t hold very well. We added a liner this doesn’t look good so we need to improve this to complete this area. A lot of the wetlands plants planted last year have started to do well this includes at the edge of river around the re created island its going to look fabulous.

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Above is the channel around Tracey Island leading to the river Tame,  its banks are starting to grown nicely.

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The construction of the dead hedge at different stages, on a very cold day.

You’d think that after eleven years we’d be running out of projects this is never the case with us. Unfortunately these all need funding, things like stream improvements clearing and planting with the aim to create habitat for the water vole or improving the north end wetlands. One thing I’m certain of is we’ll find a way, as always.

 

 

A year in brief

25 Oct

 

The last year has gone fast and has been a very successful for the reserve. The dry weather earlier in the year delayed the new seeds and plug plants on the Peelers Way side of the site, but all have grown fine with a little rain. All the usual plants flowered well, plants like the cuckoo flower, ragged robin, cowslips, knapweed, birds foot trefoil, fleabane, fringed water lily, toadflax and flowering rush. Although we still have many areas across the reserve that we’d like to develop and over the next month or two we will be improving one of our hedgerows, these we work on rota. We’ll cut and infill any spaces and underplant, making it stronger and a move varied habitat.

The black headed gulls that nest on tern island have not done as well this year with around 30 pairs compared with 60 plus in previous years, we’re unsure as to why but will monitor next year. Other birds on site and visitors include heron, little egret, great egret, green and great spotted woodpecker and kingfisher. Some other visitors to join us include the goosanda, teal, shovellor and a fleeting visit from 7 Egyptian geese.

Small mammals (voles, shrews, mice) have been in abundance this has helped with the barn owls and feeding their chicks. We also had tawny owls, kestrels and sparrowhawk.

Butterflies have been slightly down but dragonflies have been good with 9 species counted on the bioblitz day.

One thing the bioblitz highlighted was that the ponds we introduced plants to to increase the verity held much more pond life, so next year we’ll be planting up the other ponds in the hope that they will develop the same.

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We have an amazing bees nest in a wooded area, on a windy day the rotten tree the nest is inside fell apart exposing the nest. We’re concerned about the nest now winter is approaching and unsure of how to help, we are making a box site very close to the nest so if they decide to move they might take up residence in this, its worth a try. Any ideas welcomed.

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In the coming year we’ll be continuing with all our projects hopefully improving our reserve for our lovely wildlife with the ever growing Tameside volunteers who should be very proud of their achievements.

September volunteer work day

10 Sep

There’s lots of jobs to get through on the reserve this time of year so many we could be working every weekend. The weather forecast was bad for this weekend so we thought we might have to leave the clearing of tern island till a later day, luckily we managed to fit it in. Tern island had quite a bit to clear so a small group took the boat over. We normally set up a pulley system to save on the rowing but we had a problem when the rope broke, I would imagine Peters arms will be a bit stiff from rowing tomorrow specially in the wind. The island is once again clear.

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We have a natural bird feeding area made from willow branched twisted together but as you know willow will just grow so we have to keep cutting off the new growth. At least now the birds can see the feeders. We do feed throughout the year but as winter approaches more feed will be put out to help the birds. The area’s by the main gates so it makes it easy and accessible to our visitors we get a variety of birds including the woodpecker so you always get to see something. The hide screens are going to be replaced by a woven dead hedge, the reserve already has one or two of these and they work well creating more habitat and a natural barrier when needed.

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Other work completed this work day included water testing and litter picking. The group now do regular water testing so each month we have a record of the water quality in the river Tame, the lake and stream, the results are then entered on the environmental agency we site, it helps to pick up any problems quickly, natural or man mad pollution.

The fashion statement of the day goes to Ron Timms who had different coloured wellies on, when asked why ……. he had a hole in one of each pairs luckily the good ones made a pair even if different colours.

Its our eleventh AGM next month so I look forward to giving you a review of all things Tameside, this will I’m sure include a review on David’s break time biscuits.

Seven months on Tameside

6 Sep

Our volunteers have had an exciting year with phase two of our profiling work completed, the island in the river Tame created and lots of new planting done. We now have to play the waiting game to see just how fantastic its going to look, going on the early signs its going to be great. One of the new additions is the sand martin bank we hope this will have nesting birds next year, we always jokingly say build it and they will come and so far we haven’t done to bad. This year our owl box had a nesting barn owl this being one of our target birds, success was rearing three chicks.
In august we held our first bioblitz the lists are still being compiled but we are already in the hundreds not to bad considering the number taking part, personally I enjoyed the pond dipping.
We are building a good picture of what we have on site now and can see how the work done over the last 11 years has improved the reserve. What next ?

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Above is the completed Tracey Island re created in the river Tame. The ground has already started to green up, next year we hope that all the new planting will look great. This is going to be an asset for the reserve creating even more habitat.

We’ve also added to the boardwalk along side of the lake and continue to improve the bird feeding area.

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August work day really wasn’t work. Over two days we held our first BioBlitz. Night one we set mammal traps,  looked for bats and moths. I will add a bit more on this when the lists have been collated by group members we already have hundreds.

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Mammal trapping above and below at the Tamefest event showing off our fab reserve.

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Below the Tameside team working on the new sand martin bank, many hands make light work.

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Tameside’rs hard at work

13 Mar

Thanks go out to all the Tameside volunteers who’ve been coming to our work days over the past few months. On our February work day we actually got around to building our Ivy hedge fence, we all know the benefits of ivy but it also has a few downs when it smothers our trees and hedgerows. With this new hedgerow we’ll have no problem with it running wild giving the wildlife it important ivy, whilst on other hedgerows we’ll be able to control ivy so it doesn’t kill off the trees.This we hope will give the site the best of both world.

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The floods have been with us on and off since the new year with this we get rubbish following the flood level , it takes the group one or two work days to catch up but we do always clearing to make the site safe and clean.

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Swan island was cleared this month a job postponed from last month because of high water levels its now ready for the nesting swans. We had two pairs on the lake today, the graceful male swan becomes a fighting demon when it comes to his territory sometime fighting to the death, thankfully not today. Last year sadly this wasn’t the case when we found two entwined having died fighting.

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The willows have started to be cut back around the lake always done on a rota at this time of year, and our water testing team was able to get to all the set test points on site. Water testing is done to monitor any changes in the water in the hope that we can be one step of any problems.

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Stream clearing has been done and re sitting bulrush reeds out of two ponds,these have been added to the lake.

The reserve is very muddy at the moment but it’ll soon be full of flower and birds. The great crested grebes are back and the kingfishers are flying along the river and on site so we’re of to a good start. Its a big year for Tameside with the back channel work that will be started in August, plus it our groups ten year birthday so we are planning quite a few events walks, talks and surveys all to come later in the year. Hope to report the progress soon.

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October and November on the reserve

27 Nov

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Thanks to all the Tameside volunteers that have been on the reserve working hard.  Lots of jobs have been done on site the main one being the clearing of tern island in preparation for the nesting birds next year.  This is always a hard but a rewarding task, this year we cleared; re gravelled and added a few chick shelters for the first time.  We’ve had a few more trees to plant and have been continuing our hedgerow work, both the new wood and the hedgerows are taking shape.

It was our AGM last month and Ian our records person gave us a useful summery of all things Tameside so I have included this below for all who are interested.  NOVEMBER 008

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Tameside Nature Reserve – sightings 2015
Introduction
A relatively quiet year as the reserve settles down after a number of years where the extent & periods of flooding have been well above normal. The following list is not exhaustive & reflects the observations of volunteers & visitors to the site during the year.
Birds
The resident duck species, gadwall, tufted duck & mallard all bred well & were joined in the winter by teal, goosanders & occasional shelduck. Coot bred well taking up residence in the stream, a couple of the ponds & the lake to the possible detriment of moorhen which do not appear to have had a good year. Great crested grebe were present on & off throughout the year, but although showed signs of wanting to breed, rather frustratingly, they once again failed. The level of the lake during the summer has been fairly stable so successful breeding would seem to have been possible. Additional small rafts might be the answer. Little grebes also made the odd appearance.
Black headed gulls bred on the tern island, but in much reduced numbers, about 40 pairs, down from 80. This is possibly due to disturbance by a dog swimming to the big island in spring, disturbing birds that appeared to be preparing for breeding. Disappointingly, no common terns bred this year, although they were seen feeding on the lake & river from time to time.The oystercatchers successfully raised one chick. A small flock of lapwing wintered as usually. Three resident birds stayed throughout the year, but no evidence of breeding.
Snipe were present in the winter. Kingfishers were regular seen with evidence of breeding just off the reserve. Little egret & heron were seen on & off throughout the year & belatedly a great white egret ( new species for reserve)
Warbler numbers were strong. Willow, reed, sedge,grasshopper warblers,,chiffcaff,blackcap,whitethroat & cettis warbler ( a new species for the reseve)
Raptors were represented by regular sparrow hawk & buzzard, infrequent kestrel & occasional hobby. A tawny owl was spotted in the owl box in the wooded area by the canal, but did not stay ( probably disturbed) It was heard from to time hooting so probably bred close by. Only one barn owl sighting, although they have been seen close by so we are hopeful they will return on regular basis shortly.
Both great spotted & green woodpeckers were recorded along with treecreeper.
Another good spot were six spotted flycatchers close to the aqueduct in late summer. It is possible they nested on site. A wheatear made a brief appearance on the bare earth section on passage in May.
Fieldfare, mistle thrush & redwings visited during the winter. Long tailed tits bred well ( over 30 birds seen in one flock) as did blue & great tits.

Butterflies, moths & dragonflies.
The reserve took part in the ‘Big Butterfly Watch’ during the summer. It was a reasonable year with the following species recorded;- Orange tip, large,small & green veined white, meadow brown, gatekeeper, ringlet, small copper, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, small & large skipper, common blue(good numbers),peacock, speckled wood, brimstone & clouded yellow. Caterpillars were seen for small tortoiseshell & brimstone(feeding on recently planted alder buckthorn by feeding station)
Angle shade, pink barred & elephant hawk moths were seen along with several dragonfly species including migrant hawker, ruddy darter,banded demoiselle & common blue damsel fly. Both of these species types are under recorded. Suggest we do surveys next year.

Mammals
A very successful mammal survey revealed three species, wood(field) mouse, common shrew & short tailed vole. Other mammals included weasel, mole, red fox ,muntjac deer & brown rat. The variety & number of mammals caught during the survey is positive in that we should see kestrel & barn owl return to hunt as it is likely mammal numbers were adversely affected by previous years flooding.
A bat walk organised by the Canal & Rivers trust along the canal towpath to the aqueduct revealed at least four confirmed species for the reserve ( daubentons, noctule, soprano pipestrelle & common pipestrelle). We await a full list from the ‘The Batman’ who took away recordings from the evening for analysis.
Reptiles, amphibians & fish
Common & marsh frogs recorded. No snake sightings, although likely to still be present. Difficult to know the numbers & variety of fish although shoals of small fish, probably fry were observed hiding under the dipping platform & in the link. There were good numbers of probably chubb close to the aqueduct & pike have been spotted in the lake & the stream. A heron was photographed catching a perch. Again, it would be useful if we could somehow undertake a fish survey.

Plants
The ‘new’ meadow on the upper east side of the reserve has done exceptionally well considering it is only it’s second year. Notable species were red campion, musk mallow, kidney vetch & vipers bugloss.
The areas adjacent to the stream continue to be wetter during the year than previously. As such damp loving plants continue to thrive ( meadowsweet, ragged robin, marsh valerian, bur-marigold, marigold, purple loosestrife,fleabane, forget-me –not, gypsywort & angelica). Water plantain, arrowhead, flowering rush & water mint present in the stream. Frogbit is doing well in the fringed water lily pond.
The meadow areas around the lake continue to thrive with knapweed, ribbed meliot, tufted vetch, cuckoo flower, cowslips & toadflax.
The second annual plant survey in May showed a small increase in the percentage number of plants included in the survey (cuckoo flower, ribbed plantain, red clover & selfheal) confirming that the quality of the meadow is improving.
The newly planted trees & shrubs continue to develop & some ( although not as many as expected ) have fruited well, particularly the guelder rose, dogwood & rowan. I’m optimistic of a good fruiting year next year. It was pleasing to observe brimstone caterpillars on one of the newly planted alder buckthorn as they were planted in part to encourage this species.

Although a relatively quiet year, there were still a number of highlights ( 2 new species , the mammal survey, the new meadow, the increased number of damp loving plants & breeding success of kingfisher & oystercatcher) aswell as the inevitable set backs ( great crested grebes failing to breed, the non return of the common terns & the lack of barn owl & kestrel).
The recent years of excessive flooding have impacted on the dynamics of the reserve so it has been difficult for the reserve to establish any level of consistency, with some winners & some losers. There is obviously little we can do to influence this.
In addition, some bird species that might have stayed on Tameside, may have been attracted to Middleton lakes as the RSPB reserve there settles down( e.g lapwing, common tern & wintering ducks) . This could well be a double edged sword though as in due course we are likely to see some overspill of their species to us. ( Avocets & cuckoo would be nice for starters!)

All in all we should be very pleased that all of our hard work is paying dividends. I’m sure 2016 will be a good year for us. Thanks everyone.

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