The monthly volunteers at Allens Field sowed some yellow rattle in a grassy area of the field in order to weaken the grass through its parasitic action and give the native wild flowers a better chance of spreading here.
However, most of the time was spent planting around 40 hawthorn and 100 alder buckthorn whips in two areas on the edge of the field.
The intent is to create areas with flowering bushes for pollinators that have berries in autumn for birds and also provide potential nesting sites and shelter for birds and small mammals.
Alder buckthorn is also the preferred food plant of Brimstone butterfly caterpillars.
An intrepid group of 8 volunteers turned out on a wintry Saturday morning with rain threatening to work on a range of tasks around Blackmoor pond in North Ascot. Everyone worked hard for the two hours, keeping warm and achieving a lot in the time. The work had been approved by our BFC ranger.
A pair of volunteers donned waders and crossed to the island to cut back the rhododendron and another group worked on the stream into the pond cutting back the sedge and clearing debris from under the bridge. We were delighted to have conservation volunteers from Binfield and Sunningdale working with us. We are very grateful to BFC Councillor Dorothy Hayes MBE who spread the word which encouraged BFC Councillor Nigel Atkinson to join us and help remove saplings that had become very large along the margin of the pond where the marsh marigolds, purple loosestrife and reeds were planted. Despite her need of a walking stick, Councillor Dorothy Hayes came and carried out a litter pick as well as providing welcome moral support.
The monthly group of volunteers at Allens Field Local Wildlife Site have completed the work that can be done this year on the pond in the woodland as it is now full of water. The team worked to build a holly hedge between the pond and the path. It was lovely to talk about local wildlife and have supportive comments from passers-by including dog owners appreciating the barrier between their dog and the muddy water.
The last tree recording session of the year was carried out along part of our green corridor in Silwood where we found probably our largest range of species in one afternoon including an old walnut and a very tall willow (see photo). This recording group has recorded another 81 mature trees this year taking our total to 371 since we started in 2017.
26th / 27th September
We had two pairs over two days taking part in the FreshWater Watch Thames WaterBlitz taking and analysing samples of water from our local waterways along our green corridors which flow into the River Thames. We have been doing this for several years now along with many other citizen scientists across the Thames catchment. This builds a large dataset which provides information on changes in water quality and highlights areas which need improvement. Our samples were all low in the monitored nitrates and phosphates which indicates a good ecological status.
South Ascot Bog Stream
A group of volunteers worked on the pond we are making in the woodland at Allens Field Local Wildlife Site. This is part of the plan to improve habitats to support more wildlife here. RBWM have agreed to allow more scrub to grow around the field and the mowing regime is designed to increase native flowers in the grassland.
The working group meets monthly led by and with tools from Groundwork. The ground was much drier this month and as the pond deepened the water table was found. Rain since then has filled the hole. We hope this new habitat will be useful for more aquatic and amphibian creatures. Work continues.
Pond working party on 11th September
Pond location before work started in June
Pond on 23rd September when tree recorders visited
We were very pleased to have a table at Silwood's Bugs, Birds and Beasts Day. Lots of families came and enjoyed pond dipping, bug hunting and a bird of prey display as well as visiting us and other groups in the marquee. We had many children colouring in wildlife drawings and lots of interesting conversations about local wildlife as well as purchases of our new booklets.
7th July 2021
A 4th visit to see what is flowering in the corner of the racecourse. It is very interesting to see the changes over the weeks as different flowers become dominant.
From the white of the ox-eye daises it is now mostly yellow with a profusion of agrimony, ladies bedstraw, st. john's wort and still the bird's-foot trefoil flowers well.
The orchids are receding though there are still quite a few in flower including one pure white one.
The few bee orchids spotted in mid-June just outside our monitoring area are finished.
Our 4th tree recording walk this year and at our second visit we completed recording mature tree habitat along the public footpath from Ascot Heath School along the Drive to Mill Ride Golf Club to Forest Road. Many mature oaks and some impressive multi-stem sweet chestnut with a few beech at the Forest Road end.
Water pocket in root
A second visit to the same spot for wildflowers shows the changes that happen rapidly at this time of year. The orchids, twayblades and ox-eye daisies are now in bloom with much more comfrey, bird's-foot trefoil and ragged robin. There were no cuckoo flowers and less ground ivy flowers. Below is the list of flowers in bloom in this small area:
The pond dipping group visited Englemere Pond to check water quality and pond life.
Photos below of a backswimmer and right a common newt eft.
A new group started today intent on learning about wildflowers in our area. 11 of us met at the corner of the racecourse and looked at all the wildflowers in bloom there and identfied them using knowledge in the group and the App: Seek by iNaturalist as well as checking online and in books. We will revisit in a couple of weeks to see what has changed, recording the flowers in bloom again.
We were able to find the following flowers although the ragged robin was only just flowering.
Common Speedwell (also known as Heath Speedwell)
Common Mouse-ear Chickweed
Cuckoo Flower (also known as Milkmaids & Lady's Smock)
14th and 21st May plus 16th July
A group of volunteers worked on Ascot Heath Infant School's wildlife garden as it has become very neglected again. Brambles were removed from some areas, an area cleared and prepared for a story circle and paths were cleared so that children can get around. The pond is was very overgrown, almost invisible and forgotten. This was cleared of grass but limited work done due to time of year. Future work may try to reinstate it if the liner is not damaged. A stag beetle loggery was created - see picture.
15th April and 12th May
The pond dipping group visited Blackmoor Pond to check water quality and pond life.
Photos of a 3-spined stickleback with a frog tadpole and with a mayfly larva.
The first Tree recording session of the year took place along the Public Footpath from the top of Watersplash Lane into Sunninghill Park. The leaves seem to be a bit later than last year as we struggled to identify trees from their bark when the canopy was too high to see the twigs and buds. We realised how dependent we are on the leaves and it was good for us to have to consider other characteristics. We recorded Alder, Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Beech and Sycamore which was a good range of trees as sometimes it's only Oaks! The picture is of a lovely wood sorel we found growing at the base of a tree.
Our second online talk was held on Google Meet on the subject of "Climate Change, extreme weather and UK wildlife". We were grateful to Dr Pete Inness, Lecturer in the Meteorology Departmentof Reading University and author of “Teach yourself Weather” for giving us this insight into Metreorology and the effects of global warming on our weather. It was fascinating to hear that our cold snaps ("Beasts from the East") in Spring have been found to be caused by sudden warming in the stratosphere which accurs due to weather on the other side of the world. Pete showed us that these extreme weather events, inluding heat waves in the summer, are becoming more frequent. He also shared with us some work by one of his Masters students on how some UK wildlife is affected by average temperatures in Spring months. For example Blue tit nesting and the emergence from hibernation of orange-tip butterflies. Migrants arriving in the UK are most likely to be impacted by an increase in extreme weather events as they set off to come here not knowing if we're having a delayed spring or not.
29th and 30th March
Volunteers carried out the annual maintenance on our 2 wildflower beds in the recreation areas at South Ascot and Victory Field. Grass was removed, dead stalks cut and more seeds sown. Thanks to additional support at Victory Field this year and the good progress of the bed there we were able to add an additional patch of wildflowers (hopefully!).
21st January 2021
Online Talk - Dr Pat Morris gave us our first online talk on badgers over Zoom. With a further lockdown we decided that the time had come for us to try running talks online and we were pleased to have an audience of around 30. Pat gave a thought provoking talk about badgers, legislation protecting them, the history of bTB in cows and the role of and impact on badgers and badger numbers in the UK over time and how their high numbers may have contributed to the decline in hedgehogs. The talk showed us how ecological systems are complex and care needs to be taken in human intervention to achieve the desired outcome without unwanted effects.
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