Sunday, 28 November 2021

Ballachurry Reserve, 28th November, 2021 - incidental report


a somewhat bleak November day at the Reserve

On Friday 26th November the Island was treated to Storm Arwen. Saturday wasn't much better in terms of  gales and wind chill so we cancelled our work party. This morning I was keen to visit the reserve to see if it had suffered any storm damage. It was rather a bleak day with a hint of drizzle as I arrived. I'm pleased to say there were no trees down, although the gales had blown away two out of the three sacks left to protect the freshly laid slabs on Saturday. Even the planks used to weigh down the sacks had blown away! The sacks were in the stream making quite an effective dam. When I removed them a mini tsunami surged downstream! I also had to renew the warning tape on the bridge and collect up other windblown litter. By this time the hint of drizzle had become a steady downpour and I was pleased to seek refuge in the hide. Unfortunately my valiant efforts to tidy up the reserve were not rewarded by amazing sights of water fowl! The pond remained stubbornly empty! Shower over, the sky began to clear and there was even a hint of sun by the time I left. There was very little wildlife about during this 90 minute visit but I enjoyed having the cobwebs blown away after two days spent largely indoors.  Here is what I recorded:

SC209693 Blackbird; Hooded Crow;

SC208694 male Pheasant; Wren; Blackbird; Robin; Magpie.

SC209694 from a distance I saw 4 ducks fly in and land on the pond but they left again almost immediately. I was unable to identify them from that distance, even through binoculars.

I'm sorry there are no  wildlife photos this time, only views of the reserve.

meadow waiting to be raked off when weather improves

sacks blown away by the storm

awaiting the next stage of boardwalk construction

a hint of sunshine on the water

clouds starting to break up

 At midday I headed home for a hot drink!

please click on photos to enlarge them

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ballachurry Reserve, 25th November, 2021 - Work Party

 Today's work party was arranged at short notice in order to rake off the vegetation from the meadow area which had been cut yesterday by Tricia, the MWT Reserves Officer, and some of her mid-week Muckers. We at the Southern Group are very grateful to them for finding the time to fit in this task at Ballachurry amid all the other hard work that they do.

 The reason we rake off the cut vegetation is so that it does not rot down and increase the fertility of the soil. Fertile soil = vigorous grasses and less wild flowers.It will take a long time to "tame" this meadow as it was once an arable field, no doubt with fertiliser added each year. But we shall get there in the end and each year sees an improvement in its biodiversity. 

There was a good forecast today so we literally made hay while the sun shone. The "hay" went to the compost heap where it will rot down over the next 12 months, providing in the process a habitat for many invertebrates and also fungi. Unfortunately not many volunteers were available today at such short notice but four of us worked in relay. As one volunteer had to go home they handed over the baton, or rather the rake, to someone else who was just arriving.  Although the job is not finished we have "broken the back of it " and await another fine day to finish the task. 

a pause in the raking when a frog was discovered!

there were three altogether

so it's good to see them in this area

first of many tote bags of cut vegetation

to be added to the compost heap

 another heading that way too

this is the first year we have a nice wide bridge for this task

rainbow warning us it's time to finish

but just one more bagful!

 We were not the only people on the reserve today. Ian and Peter were also making the most of the fine weather to crack on with the boardwalk preparation.

everything in place

just waiting for the mortar to be mixed

bags protecting the slabs until the mortar is set

The two groups met up at 11.30 for a welcome cuppa and cake. I did take some photos but they seem to be a bit blurry so I've not included them here!

The work party was due to finish at 1 o'clock and right on cue a rainbow warned us that our time was nearly up. We were treated to a short hailstorm no less! It blew over in a couple of minutes and the blue sky returned as we collected up the tools and headed home for lunch.

Many thanks to both groups of volunteers today. Our numbers were few but we achieved a lot!

Each time we emptied a sack or the barrow a number of small creatures  remained behind. They were all  carefully returned either to the meadow or the compost heap, but not before being photographed for identification purposes. 

Rove Beetle ( bottom left) and  Ground Beetle

 caterpillar  of Large Yellow Underwing  Moth and what looks like a weevil

the caterpillar uncurled


a blurry photo - I was chasing the  Pachygnatha spider!

a Wolf Spider

and a Xysticus Crab spider,

some sort of mite I think

and this one is a Harvestman  + a small beetle

White Legged Snake Millipede

and this one is a Pill Millipede

Today's wildlife list: SC208694

Pill millipede x 2

White Legged Snake Millipede x2

 Large Yellow Underwing moth caterpillar.

Oligolophus or Opilio Harvestman,  Xysticus Crab Spider, Pachygnatha spider ( probably clerki), and red mite.

Wolf Spider - several

Several unidentified money spiders

Rove Beetle ( Staphylinidae species) , Weevil and  Ground beetles ( Carabidae species)

Robin taking insects disturbed by raking

3 x Common Frog

Longtail in the stream by the bridge

at the end of the morning the meadow looked like this

still vegetation to be removed

but most of the large hummocks gone

the compost heap shows how hard we worked!

the birds will enjoy picking it over for insects

it will gradually subside in the course of a year

 I had hoped to return to the Reserve after lunch to do a proper recording visit but unfortunately it rained so I had to change my plans. At least the wet afternoon gave me chance to update the Blog!

always nice to end with a rainbow! 

My thanks to Ian Scott for the caterpillar identification and Kate Hawkins for the Beetles and Spiders

please click on photos to enlarge them

Ballachurry Reserve, incidental reports 22nd and 24th November 2021.

 I had to call in briefly at the Reserve on Monday so spent a few minutes in the hide and noted the following:


Wren x 2 together

Male Blackbird

 Heron flying over

Hooded Crow x 2 in churchyard trees

 Long tailed tits heard but not seen

I  took this photo of the funnel fungus which is bigger each time I see it!

the pound coin gives some idea of scale

I was also interested to see how the work on the boardwalk preparation was progressing.  Many thanks to all those volunteers who helped Ian and Peter move the hardcore, slabs and timber on Saturday and made a start on the work itself. Especial thanks to Ian and Peter, of course, for all the hours they are putting in on this. 

hardcore in

waiting for concrete next time

 recycled slabs will be used as bases for the oak sleepers

there seemed to be slabs everywhere! Note the uncut meadow


I returned yesterday morning (in the rain) to drop something off at the hide for the Reserves Officer who was hoping to cut the meadow that morning. I risked getting the phone camera wet to take these pictures of the concrete now covering the hardcore.

wooden shuttering in place while the concrete sets

a firm base constructed for those heavy slabs

Ian and Peter will be back on Thursday for the next stage of this job

 Several text messages then flew back and forth between myself and the Reserves Officer, Tricia,  during the course of the morning, updating her on the weather down south. I'm glad to say that the rain eventually stopped and she and some of her "Muckers" were able to cut the meadow.  But more of that in my next post!

 Please click on photos to enlarge them




Sunday, 21 November 2021

Ballachurry Reserve, 18th November, 2021.

 a sunny November Thursday

I was at Ballachurry Reserve on Thursday quite early ( for me!) because I had an appointment at 1 o'clock and needed to have an early lunch first. I didn't start recording straight away though. First I went to look at the muddy area where the boardwalk used to be and mixed up some plaster of Paris to pour into the little footprints which covered the area. That done I had an hour to wait until it was fully set and I could remove the plaster casts as records of those creatures visiting the area when no one was about. I left some pretty hefty wellie prints behind in the mud myself! There was to be preliminary work done in the area next day towards the installation of the  new boardwalk so it seemed likely that the little footprints in the mud would be obliterated by those of the volunteers. It was now or never!

Here is what I recorded while waiting for the plaster to set and later :


 SC209694 Goldcrest taking alder seed; Hooded Crow seen in adjacent field.

SC208694 Great Tit.

and that was it, as far as birds were concerned! The previous Thursday at the same time I had recorded 16 or so species but one week later the reserve was eerily quiet.   The weather was sunnier than the previous week though so I did actually see a few invertebrates as I walked round. 


SC208694 Gorse Shield Bug in gorse

SC209694 7-spot Ladybird in gorse

SC209695 Honey bee in the gorse

SC208694 Funnel fungus still in evidence. Wood Blewits, new this week.  Bracket fungus on rotting plank.

SC209694  unidentified fungi along path to hide

SC208595 unidentified cream fungi under the willow.

SC208694 Hogweed in full flower - this particular plant is late flowering ( or is it early?) every year 

SC209693 ( and elsewhere) Hazel catkins in evidence.

Goldcrest taking alder seed from cones

an acrobatic little bird

Hooded Crow

Honey Bee collecting pollen from gorse flowers

Gorse Shieldbug

7-spot Ladybird

Wood Blewits

they have beautiful lilac gills

 new fungi under the willow

I'm hoping the Fungus Group can ID them for me

the Funnel Fungi are still walking round the compost heap
no social distancing here
These Inkcaps are short lived

they are so delicate and vanish within a day or two

 a bracket fungus ( Blueing bracket?) near the compost heap

growing near the hide, these are being ID'd by the Fungus Group

the usual view of the hide

Hazel catkins

Hogweed in flower still/ already

one solitary apple left under the tree - birds have been feasting

it's amazing what litter can be found on the Reserve - from the Churchyard ?

Willowherb seeds to feed the goldfinches

the light became quite stormy

picking out the tree tops

and the reeds

still some autumn leaves on the trees

this is where I spotted the Goldcrest

a passing seagull? No! Plaster of Paris!

Cast of Hedgehog footprint

and another

several together

lovely little "hands"

they were all over the mud

Peacock cast


I am grateful to Dawn Colley ( MWT Education Officer) & Sue Harvey ( Vetinary Surgeon) for  identifying the casts for me.

I returned to the reserve just before 4 p.m. to drop off something at the hide. Just as I was leaving I heard a rush of wings above me and realised that a mini murmuration of starlings had just flown over my head! I stayed on to watch them and, after circling several times, they eventually came down into the reed bed near the bridge. Here are a few photos of them to round off this Blog post. I did try to photograph them dropping down into the reeds but the picture is completely blurred unfortunately!

can you count them? About 165 , I think.


finally they were in the reed bed and fell silent

an interesting end to my Thursday visits.

please click on photos to enlarge them