Monday, 30 November 2020

Ballachurry Reserve: Work Party, 28th November 2020

 Saturday was rather overcast  but it stayed dry for our work party at Ballachurry. No less than 16 volunteers arrived at 10 o'clock armed with secateurs, loppers and shears for our annual attack on the  brambles which would completely take over the reserve if we left them to their own devices. While one team went down along the boundary ditch another liberated struggling Hazel bushes and a third team was along the edge of the damp meadow. We also managed to put up the new "No dogs" notice and lay the willows next to the hide to turn them into a hedge. So busy were we that I almost forgot to take some photos and remembered just in time before we took our well earned tea break. 

There was a special cake with a candle today among the usual  selection but the recipient prefers to remain anonymous! 15 people singing Happy Birthday amounts to a choir, I reckon, even if we didn't exactly sound like one! After the break we started all over again to get the job done. We have decided to make this the last work party of the year as the first two Saturdays of December are taken up with other Wildlife Trust events and after that volunteers are busy with Christmas and New Year celebrations. So January 2021 will be our next reunion.

loppers at the ready

getting down to work

 some very busy ladies

a bin full of brambles already

 freeing up the Hazels


 meanwhile at the other side of the reserve....

they were down in the ditch

hacking their way through 12 months' growth

all very busy

 Happy in her work!

 along the gorse boundary the brambles are taking over

good teamwork

 a new technique!

don't worry, the barrow is on its way

 final tug before tea

 some very special cake today

a welcome sit down

and lots to chat about

a happy bunch

 and another
the hedge-to-be

By almost cutting through the willow trunks - but not quite- the sapling can be laid down to the ground. New growth should come up vertically in the spring and if the process is repeated each year we'll soon have a hedge.

smart new sign

For those of you who live elsewhere I should perhaps explain that although sadly the Island suffered 24 deaths from Covid-19 earlier in the year the virus was successfully eradicated for all of 107 days and social distancing and the wearing masks etc. became no longer necessary. Hence our rather friendly looking work parties. Unfortunately more recently there have been a few cases as a result of people having to travel off-island for various authorised reasons. Our stringent rules about self-isolation on return have to date kept it out of the community and the Isle of Man remains officially Covid-free at present. Our borders remain closed to try to maintain this status and relatives from off the Island are unable to join us for Christmas this year. Like all people around the globe our hopes are pinned on an effective vaccine to make 2021 a much happier year for us all.

To end on a more cheerful note:  wildlife seen during work party: Robin  and Kestrel SC209694

Please click on the photos to enlarge them

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Ballachurry Reserve, 25th November, 2020.

Sunny winter morning

   Whilst eating my breakfast on Thursday I noticed a lot of bird activity in my own garden and thought perhaps it might be a good day for visiting the Reserve, and so it proved to be. I had a few chores to dispatch first but was down there shortly after 10 and spotted a Rook on the grass by the noticeboard before I was even through the gate. It was a lovely sunny morning with only a light breeze and very much a welcome contrast to the overcast weather we have been having recently. Here is the report:


SC210694 Rook

SC209694 Blackbird,Chaffinch; Wren; 2 x Mallard;  Water Rail ( possibly 2 ?) heard not seen

SC209693 Water Rail heard not seen; Robin;

SC209695  2 x Magpie; 2 x Song Thrush; 2 x Blue Tit;  Robin

SC208694 Chough heard not seen; Dunnock; 3 x Lesser Redpoll feeding on Alder cone seeds; Blue Tit; Robin; 2 x unidentified winter thrushes flying over; Goldcrest; Wren.


SC209694  7-spot that I have been reporting each week still hibernating in the gorse

SC209695 7-spot on Cushag ( Ragwort)

SC208694 7-spot with Gorse Shieldbug in the gorse

SC208695 7-spot enjoying the winter sun in the brambles


SC209694 Candlesnuff fungi on log near path junction

SC208694 Unidentified Crust fungus on rotting plank. (I thought at first I had identified this but then discovered it's extremely rare and only found in Scotland, so my identification is extremely unlikely!)

SC208694 Unidentified toadstools under willows


SC209694 tiny fly near the Hide in brambles. Other unidentified flies on the hide itself.

SC209694 Wolf Spider on hide + Money Spider species, possibly Microlinyphia pulsilla

SC209694 3 probable Money Spider species on the Loosestrife seedheads in front of the hide

SC208694 probable Money Spider  species in gorse bush

SC208694 Gorse Shieldbug

SC208694 Hogweed in flower

SC208694 Hemlock Water Dropwort already coming through

SC208695 Hoverfly on Cushag ( Ragwort) 

SC208694 Giant Willow Aphids

Giant Willow Aphids

 Close-up of Giant Willow Aphids

Male Blackbird

Busy Blue Tit

Can you spot the Goldcrest?

 Blurry picture of Redpoll - camera deceived by intermediate branches

 I didn't dare move closer

another record shot of the Lesser Redpoll

Bird hide on a sunny day

 all quiet on the pond....

till out swam the Mallards and the Water Rail was heard

distant shot of hide roof to see how the plants are doing

 flies enjoying the warmth of the tool shed roof

and the walls too

 they kept flying in and out of the hide too which was rather annoying

 this was a tiny fly on a bramble leaf outside the hide

can you see the tiny white fungi on this log?

 a closer examination shows it is Candlesnuff fungus

hard to photograph because very small

 some sort of Crust fungus

close up showing the pores

 unidentified fungi under the willows

 7-spot Ladybird

this one has been hibernating in the same spot for some weeks now

 7-spot Ladybird with Gorse Shieldbug

There were at least 3 Money Spiders in this Loosestrife seedhead

 this larger Money Spider  was on the hide

 "I'm Walking in the Air...."

another Money Spider species suspended in mid air

 and a Wolf Spider on the hide

 Money Spider species in the gorse

 Dropwort coming through for next year already

 Hogweed still in flower in places

 a view of the hide that can't be seen in summer

Hoverfly on Cushag ( Ragwort)

 puddles at the path junction

 some cloud bubbling up for the afternoon

a sunny spot on the Reserve

 and a few leaves still clinging on despite recent gales

I  enjoyed my relaxing morning walking round the Reserve.
(With thanks to Kate Hawkins for Spider identification)

My next post will be of Saturday's Work Party.
Please click on photos to enlarge them