Babies at Bateswood

Yesterday’s volunteering took me to another nature reserve I hadn’t visited before; Bateswood. The reserve is relatively new as it didn’t exist ten years ago and is part of a former opencast mine working. Due to what we were doing I only saw a very small part of the reserve but I think it would definitely be worth another visit especially at the right time of year. The centre of the reserve is a large plateau with several large ponds. At the right time of year both lapwings and skylarks can be found breeding here. Public access to the plateau is not allowed but there is a path that runs the whole way round the edge of it and plenty of places that allow a clear view across. The rest of the reserve is a mix of scrub, grassland and woodland with a marshy area as well so there is a whole range of animals and plants found there.

Up on the plateau
Up on the plateau

Our task for the day was cutting the grass. The grass is cut as the area is good for wild flowers. By raking up the cuttings and removing them it helps keep the fertility of the soil low which is ideal for wildflower meadows as in higher quality soils other plants will grow to quickly and smother the wildflowers. As I wasn’t quite brave enough to have a go with the grass cutter (I was offered a chance) that meant lots of raking and then moving the cut grass. It was a lot easier then when we did it at Loynton Moss as it was mostly just grass and not lots of annoying hogsweed. With the warm sun and the lovely smell of cut grass in the air it was a nice way to spend the day.

Busy raking
Busy raking
One bit done
One bit done

I was slightly disappointed in the lack of wildlife that I spotted. Normally there are lots of invertebrates around and when we cut the grass before we had to stay alert for frogs and toads. Even creepy crawlies seemed a bit thin on the ground yesterday. It may just have been because of the activity we were doing meant that I wasn’t getting so close to plants to notice them. We spotted a kestrel hovering as we were walking down to where we were working and a horsefly decided I was tasty on our tea break. Towards the end of the day I went with Greg for a quick look up on the plateau and there was a bit more to see up there. Lots of dragonflies were darting about, too quickly for me to notice any distinguishing feature other then their colour, and butterflies were floating around. I’ve been working on my butterfly identification recently as I’ve seen so many different species whilst volunteering and they’re normally quite obliging in letting me take a photograph. Yesterday I managed to get my first photo of a Blue. I hadn’t realised that they could be so quite so tricky to identify! After consulting my books I’ve hesitantly settled on a female Common Blue and someone on Twitter seems to think the same so I’m going to go with that.

Caterpillar on my rake
Caterpillar on my rake
Female Common Blue
Female Common Blue

I did manage one rather unusual sighting. I was raking some cuttings into a pile when I noticed a dull pink something in a little dip in the ground. Due to the colour and shape my first thought was a baby bird so I dropped my rake to investigate. It wasn’t a bird. It was these two little creatures.

Look at their tiny ears!
Look at their tiny ears!

I thought at first they were dead but then one of them wiggled it’s tiny foot. There was a bit of discussion about what to do with them as we couldn’t leave them where I’d found them as there was a high chance of the being stepped on. In the end we made them a little nest a couple of meters away from where they’d been found, in the grass that wasn’t being cut. I like to think that once we’d moved away mum was able to find them and take them off to somewhere safer. It was fascinating to see the tiny little things up close. Their eyes were still closed but they had tiny perfectly formed feet and a sprinkling of hairs growing on their snouts. Plus their teeny ears were one of the most adorable things I think I’ve ever seen.

I think my luck with the weather whilst volunteering is going to run out pretty soon. So far every time I’ve been out it’s been warm and sunny but there are definitely hints of autumn in the air (not that I mind that as I love autumn). I wouldn’t be that surprised if next time it’s wellies and waterproof weather. With the change of season will come a change in tasks we have to do whilst out volunteering  which will be interesting and should give me lots more to write about.

Beth x

PS as I wrote this I got an email saying that the general consensus from Staffs Wildlife Trust is that the butterfly is a female Common Blue so I was right 🙂

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