Bird Ringing

The Conservation Group is pleased to announce that the Northumbria Bird Ringing Group will be visiting the Reserve on the first Saturday of each month from November 2018  until April 2019 inclusive. They will be catching birds in both feeding stations but will be ringing the birds in the Woodland hide.

They will be ringing from 8 a.m. until around noon, please note that the Alex West hide will be closed during these times. 

This is important scientific work which helps us understand, for example, how populations of birds change, their migration patterns, breeding success or failure. If you want to find out more and see birds very close up, go along to the Woodland hide and talk to the ringers, you will be very welcome. 

The first ringing session will be on Saturday, November 3 rd . If it is raining or very windy the session may not take place.

For more information on bird ringing, visit The British Trust for Ornithology

 Yellowhammer ringed in Clara Vale

A Yellowhammer ringed in Clara Vale

Where have all the birds gone?

There have been a number of critical comments in the bird hide log book about the state of the nature reserve this summer.  The absence of birds, particularly kingfishers, seems to be of concern.  We would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns. 

The management of the Reserve this summer has been the same as in previous summers. It is perhaps worth noting that this year bird migration has been poor across the UK.

The hide overlooks a winter feeding station. Winter is when you will see plenty of birds.  In summer we stop providing food, as has been the case for many years, therefore the birds go elsewhere, feeding on natural resources in and around the Reserve. We resume feeding mid October.  Artificial feeding brings in artificial concentrations of birds. When we stop feeding, a more natural habitat returns and more normal bird numbers are seen along with other wildlife like dragonflies, butterflies and other insects. The hides are therefore much quieter. If you leave the hide, a walk around the Reserve will reveal good populations of a variety of birds but they will be harder to see so greater effort is needed.  We have, for example, one of the best breeding populations of tree sparrows (a Red Data Book species) in the North East.

The absence this summer of the kingfisher is not something we have much control over. The kingfishers have decided to go elsewhere or have died of natural causes or have been killed. They’ll probably return, there’s plenty of food for them in the pond. But we can’t force them! Mallards have not bred this year either but moorhens have had three broods.

There have also been complaints about overgrown vegetation. We do cut this back, usually twice during the summer, to give a better view of the pond. The absence of the kingfishers has meant we’ve cut it less vigorously this year. “Overgrown” vegetation provides an important habitat and food source for many invertebrates. Which in turn provide food for birds. Cutting it too much can be counterproductive and is not conservation best-practice. Over two hundred species of flowering plants have been recorded in the Reserve. (Along with twenty species of butterfly, thirteen different dragonflies and many moths. Hardly “sterile” as one comment suggested).  Managing the Reserve is very much focussed on retaining, and hopefully increasing, this biodiversity.

Finally we must emphasise this is a nature reserve, not specifically a bird reserve. We are providing a range of habitats and a refuge for wildlife unable to use the intensively farmed fields surrounding the Reserve. We manage it for all wildlife.  We do urge visitors to the hide to look around and enjoy the rest of the Reserve. There’s a lot to see.

Editor’s note – we would also like to remind all visitors that the Reserve is managed entirely by volunteers who give up their time for the enjoyment of all – if you enjoy this space, why not consider taking part in looking after it too – we’re a friendly and easy-going bunch! Just message us here, or call 07977 350757. 

 

Parents & Toddlers Summer Stroll

The Clara Vale parent and toddler group took advantage of the sunshine and spent a morning in the nature reserve in late June.

We all enjoyed songs, stories, a visit to the bird hide and a bear hunt through the woods.  We tested out the new dipping platform for size and look forward to coming back when the plants and animal life are established in the pond.

Special Family Entertainment Event: Gone Cuckoo 24th May 2018

The Clara Vale Conservation Group are delighted to present father and son duo Malcolm and Joshua Green, who bring their delightful and thought provoking tour performance to Clara Vale. Collaborating together with music and stories Malcolm and Joshua tell the Cuckoo’s tale of a fascinating journey across Europe, the Sahara and subtropical Africa.

Click here for full information and ticket options for this one-off family entertainment evening.

Gone Cuckoo family entertainment event at Clara Vale Village Hall 24th May 2018

 

 

Early Spring Roundup

The weather hasn’t been so kind to us over the last few weeks, but that hasn’t deterred volunteers from getting together for tasks in the Reserve. First up, earlier in February, work started on the dipping platform for the new pond. This will create a great spot for youngsters to observe and enjoy pondlife. It will give a great focal point and work station station for educational events that we may hold in the future:

In early March some coppicing of hazel was done beyond the bottom pond, before it gets too overgrown and stops light getting to ground plants. It was stacked up to be kept and possibly used in the charcoal burner later in the year:

Whilst coppicing there was an interesting find – orange ladybirds. The orange ladybird is commoner in the south but is increasing nationally. A nice find. It feeds on mildew. Also called 16-spot orange ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata:

Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 – Result and pictures

We were delighted with the turnout for this community event in the nature reserve on Sunday 28th January.

Conservation Group members set up a stall in the Reserve, offering free refreshments, cake and biscuits, which seemed to be a good incentive for visitors to come and take part in observing the birds in the reserve at both the hides.  There was a steady stream of families, and children enjoyed making their own bird feeders using very sticky lard and peanut butter, mmmm…. (see images below).  There was some storytelling too.

Despite the blustery conditions, there was a good bird count, the highlight being a group of 11 Yellowhammers who swooped down to feed in front of the Woodland hide.

Full results for the RSPB one hour bird count are below and have been submitted to their database. But first, take a look at a few of the images from a super community morning gathering, click on any image to enlarge and scroll:

 

 

Final count for the Big Garden Birdwatch, Clara Vale Nature Reserve:

Tree sparrow – 15
Blue tit – 5
Great tit – 3
Long tailed tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Robin – 3
Blackbird 2
Bullfinch – 2
Chaffinch – 6
Pheasant – 6
Mallard – 7
Nuthatch – 2
Magpie – 1
Moorhen – 3
Kingfisher – 1
Yellowhammer – 11
Wren – 1
Dunnock – 2

These are combined for the 2 hides with the maximum numbers taken  so we’ve not double counted.   Also 3 roe deer seen.

We’d also like to thank those people who donated a total of £16.60 to our funds.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2018

Join in with us at the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, as once again  we take part in the this national birdwatching event on Sunday 28th January 2018 between 10:30am and 12:00 noon.

The idea is to count the maximum number of each species seen in exactly one hour and submit the results to the RSPB. This helps them build a national picture of trends in the UK bird population. More information about what they do with the data here.

  • We will be offering free refreshments in the bird hides for those interested in taking part, come along and help us record the number of birds seen;
  • Learn more about the birds you see, with help from birdwatchers and guides;
  • Free children’s activities based on birds and pondlife in the Reserve.

 

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Moth Collection Success

Thanks to Brian Pollinger and Gordon Pollinger the event was successful, with a great turnout to the event. The 125mv lamp was used to lure the moths into the trap, to be examined the next morning and released again (no moths were harmed!)

The thriving moth population in Clara Vale is shown with a total of 91 moths being collected overnight, with in these results were a range of 43 species. This is a great result for our community, as the growth in moth population and the species within shows a growing diversity in Clara Vale, which will hopefully continue to grow in the future.

Some images of the moth trapping results are below, as well as the table of results. Desrciption of the moths in the photographs are below:

1+4.Poplar Hawk Moth

2.’Woody’ the moth who has adapted itself over time to survive by disguising into woody environments, such as the nature reserve

3. Peppered moth, which has also adapted throughout time to disguise into the cloudy environment (eg- it darked through the industrial period, but is now adapting back to being more cream)

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Moth Trapping 23/24th June

Come along to 13, Edington Gardens at around 9pm to find out how moths are caught for identification. A powerful lamp attracts the moths to the trap. It is left on overnight and the catch is examined in the morning. So if you can’t come along on Friday night come along at around 9 am on Saturday morning to see what we’ve caught. Unless it rains or blows a gale there should be some of these beautiful insects for you to look at at.

Will the swifts return?

The swift boxes on the Village Hall have been opened up (we closed them to prevent sparrows taking them over) and are waiting for the first swifts to take up residence.  If you’ve passed the Village Hall you will have heard the calls of swifts and thought “They’re here!” Not yet. To encourage passing swifts to stay a while and view their possible new homes, we have rigged up a speaker that broadcasts swift calls throughout the day. So far not many swifts have passed by. This year swifts have trickled into the country from sub-Saharan Africa and so far not many reaching the north east. A couple were seen flying around the village recently but did not stay. So keep a watch on the boxes. We’ll be broadcasting the calls for a couple more weeks. Lets hope they find the new homes irresistible.

Did you know?….. a swift spends almost all its life in the air, only landing to breed. they sleep and even mate on the wing. A young swift, having left the nest, will stay in the air for up to three years before making a nest and breeding.