Students taking part in expeditions to gain their Duke of Edinburgh scheme qualifications have been working on the Etton Maxey nature reserve.
The youngsters, from Stamford Endowed Schools, have been using their half-term break to work towards either their Silver or Gold standard awards – taking part in a series of hikes and volunteer work programmes.
Around 120 teenagers, carrying heavy back packs full of clothing and camping gear, have been walking from a drop-off point at Greatford across country to the Etton High Meadow barn before carrying out work tasks on the Etton Maxey site.
Usually the pupils would be carrying out the expeditions in the Lake District, but Coronavirus restrictions have meant that this year activities have been curtailed.
And so after conversations with Langdyke trustee David Alvey part of the programme this year has involved working with Langdyke on a variety of reserve tasks.
These have included cutting down willow, removing hawthorn and digging layers of crassula. The youngsters have been overseen by teachers and parents working to tasks set by Langdyke volunteers including David Alvey, David Cowcill, Richard Astle and David Rowell.
David Alvey said: “It’s been a great opportunity to open up our reserves to a new younger group of people. They have set about their tasks with a great degree of determination and have done a really good job. They have also been able to learn about the nature on the reserves at the same time and ask questions of our volunteers.”
A small mammal survey on two Langdyke reserves at Etton and Maxey came up with a surprise find.
Steve and Liz Lonsdale, who are licensed to carry out the surveys found two house mice – not the type of mouse normal found outside – alongside the allotment area at Etton’s High Meadow.
A number of wood mice were found at both reserves as well – including the one in the main picture above.
Steve explained: “The House Mice were unexpected – nowadays they are only found near grain stores or chicken farms.
“It is possible that they have been introduced into the allotment area as part of a chicken manure or other delivery.”
The surveys were conducted at High Meadow and in North Wood at Etton Maxey Pits – the first time this area has been surveyed.
At High Meadow 42 Longworth ‘live traps’ were set on the evening of Saturday August 22, and checked at 12 hourly intervals until the morning of Monday August 24.
32 of the traps were set in pairs around the edge of the north-eastern meadow, and the remaining 10 in pairs around the barn and allotment. There was a reasonable capture rate of a variety of species: wood mice, field voles and common shrew but Bank voles proved elusive.
Results: Sunday Morning:10 Wood Mice; 1 Bank Vole
Sunday Evening: 1 Field Vole; 6 Common Shrews; 1 Pygmy Shrew
Monday Morning: 12 Wood Mice (including 2 recaptures); 2 House Mice; 12 Common Shrews (including 3 recaptures).
The high catch rates and low recapture rates indicate a good population of Wood Mice and Common Shrews.
Etton-Maxey – Saturday August29 to Monday August 31
14 Longworth ‘live traps’ were set on the Saturday , and a further 28 on that evening.The traps were checked at 12 hourly intervals until the morning of Monday August 31. The traps were set in three groups in north meadow.
Results: Saturday Evening:2 Field Voles;
Sunday Morning: 5 Field Voles (inc 2 recaptures); 1 Common Shrew; 9 Wood Mice
Sunday Evening 4 Field Voles (inc 3 recaptures); 3 Common Shrews (inc 1 recapture); 2 Wood Mice (inc 1 recapture);
Monday Morning: 3 Field Voles (inc 1 recapture); 6 Common Shrews (inc 1 recapture); 6 Wood Mice (inc 3 recaptures); Catch rates were marginally higher than expected, which would indicate good populations of small mammals.
Steve and Liz have been surveying for mammals (and small mammals in particular) for more than 30 years, starting in Derbyshire, where they had significant input into the Derbyshire Mammal Atlas, and for the last five years around here since we moved to Maxey.
Steve said: “Most of the surveys we do are in sites chosen by us where we think it would be productive /useful to have some idea of the species present, sometimes as part of national surveys, sometimes as part of local surveys or for local groups, and sometimes on our own to generate useful records.
“Where appropriate we approach the landowner / wildlife group (in this case Langdyke CT) for permission to survey, but the responsibility for the session lies with us. All our records (not just specific survey records) are fed into (what is now), iRecord, where they are visible to all iRecord users, and also to the local wildlife group / landowner as appropriate.
“In order to survey using live traps for small mammals, including shrews, we have to hold a licence. Where others are present who do not have a licence we are responsible for the welfare of the animals being surveyed for.
“Live trapping can be done at any time of year, and indeed some groups do so throughout the year. However, our methodology is to check the traps every 12 hours, and to do so in daylight we only trap between April and September.”
Most of the live traps they use (‘Longworths’) are made of aluminium and so, even while bedding and food are supplied within them, they can be cold overnight in winter.
“Our methodology is to set traps in an evening session, and check them the following morning, evening, and again the following morning (ie 1 session to set and 3 to check).
“Small mammals vary in their habits, and so we expect different species in the morning and evening sessions; some animals are ‘trap-shy’, so they take longer to catch, hence the 3 checking sessions rather than 1.
It’s official – Spring 2020 was the hottest and driest on record.
And – coupled with the Coronavirus lockdown – it has meant that our members have been out and about in nature, practising social distancing and enjoying the countryside at the same time.
It helps if you get up at the crack of dawn and an early morning visit to Etton Maxey Pits paid off for Angela Trotter who took this great shot of a Roe Deer in the distance. We’re making it our image of the month for May.
Each month we select photographs taken by our Facebook members. They might not be technically perfect – but they sum up the events of that month. Here are some other images from May.
Everyone loves the Wren and this little thing was seen alongside the Maxey Cut by Liam Boyle.
It is good to see the Turtle Doves are back along the Maxey Cut and making use of the special feeding operation mounted by Langdyke volunteers at the Etton Maxey nature reserve car park. Kevin Eldred took this shot.
It is interesting to view our nature reserves at different times of the year. Here are three May shots of Swaddywell, Etton Maxey and Castor Hanglands.
The Covid-19 lockdown has meant that Langdyke has been unable to hold working parties. One of the casualties of that is that no tern rafts were launched on to the water at Etton Maxey to attract breeding birds this year.
All the same it was good to see that this Common Tern made it’s way to the site in May and was photographed by Steve Zealand.
Other images captured during the month prove what a diverse range of species our reserves attract.
And finally. Just to prove that you don’t have to go outside to view nature. Sue Welchdiscovered this Brimstone Moth had been trapped in her kitchen overnight. After a quick photo it was released back into nature.
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