Warden's Report for 2018

The Primary Objectives are:

  • To create and improve habitat for breeding waders and waterfowl, particularly Redshank and Shoveler.

  • To create and improve habitat for wintering and passage waterfowl and waders.

The Secondary Objectives are:

  • To increase the biodiversity of the site.

  • To provide public facilities for observation, enjoyment, education and understanding of the site and its wildlife (where they do not compromise the primary objectives).

Management

The Reserve is in its final year of a Higher Level Stewardship scheme and many of the following projects have been done under the scheme’s auspices:

Grazing

Grazing started at low intensity with cattle on Keith’s Field in mid-June.  A good hay crop was taken from the Reserve in mid-July, with aftermath grazing by cattle and sheep through until end November. Primarily, only cattle grazed the Main Lake grassland, with sheep grazing on the middle and northern fields.  

Fencing and Hedging

Selected trimming along roadside stretches of the boundary hedges was undertaken, in accordance with the Hedgerow Management Plan.  Various repairs were undertaken on fencing as the ageing fence posts have started to fail.

Ragwort and alien plant control

Ragwort control was undertaken by the volunteers involving eight man days; the situation remaining stable, with plants restricted to the designated core area, but excluded from all stock areas.  This is accordance with the Reserve’s Ragwort Management Plan/the Ragwort Act (2004), to control and keep in check its presence on the site. It is worth noting that the Reserve hosts a healthy population of the Cinnabar moth, now a ‘Red List’ species, and largely dependent on Ragwort.  The garden plant escape Alchemilla mollis in the Silt Lagoon area was again spot-treated with Round-up, but remains a problem.

Tree and Hedgerow Management

Refer to Management Warden’s Report for details.

Rabbit control

The rabbit population on the Reserve continues to be controlled by trapping and ferreting.

Monitoring and Surveys

The water level was below the minimum until 10th March, it then peaked at 40.59 on 28th April but had fallen below the minimum board level by August, with a two metre fluctuation.

The monthly WeBS counts have continued.

Shooting

Low shooting activities this year on the Reserve, roughly at a similar level to that of previous years - this does have a short-term impact, but there was no noticeable long-term effect.

Visitors

The Reserve continues to attract a wide variety of visitors, from ardent birdwatchers to families who come out to enjoy a day in the countryside.  However, numbers were noticeably diminished, undoubtedly due to the low water levels and relative lack of birds. Six organised groups visited during the year (up to the end of the Stewardship Scheme), a decrease compared with 2017, comprising RSPB groups and various local natural history societies.  The small collection of geo-caches on site continued to prove attractive, bringing other visitors to the site who perhaps wouldn’t otherwise know about the Reserve.

Bio-Blitz

The site held its first of these popular events on 18th/19th July (a trial bio-blitz was held in 2017, recording over 700 species on site) counting the number of species, of all orders, seen during a 24-hour period.  Nosterfield NR was chosen as one of over 50 sites visited by Chris Packham and his team as part of a national UK Bio-blitz Tour, to highlight the importance of less well known nature reserves in providing biodiversity, carry out a national “audit” of the UK’s wildlife, using the strapline of “nature reserves are not enough.”  

Including those who came to record species during the event, over 50 volunteers participated and due to their efforts, 1,111 species overall were recorded – the second-highest count of all the participating sites in the UK!  

Lectures

Illustrated talks about the Reserve were given to various groups during the year.   

Records

Breeding Waders

The wet weather in early spring raised water levels, which had a positive impact on the breeding success of this group of birds!

Seven species of wader bred on the reserve with varying success.  The 29 pairs of Lapwing was a slight increase on 2017. Over ten pairs failed on the first nesting attempt, although most re-laid, from which at least 30 young fledged. There were no more than eight pairs of Redshank, with six broods seen and about eight young fledged.  There were four nesting attempts by Avocet; one pair failed, six young hatched, from which three fledged.  Up to four pairs of Curlew bred, two pairs had three young of which at least two fledged.  A minimum of five pairs of Oystercatcher bred, five young fledged (one female built a nest in the top of a post in the turning circle – and hatched chicks).  Two pairs of Ringed Plover attempted, but failed at the egg stage.

Breeding Wildfowl

As with the waders, water levels had a significant impact on the breeding success of some species within this group.

Up to seven pairs of Shoveler were present - with broods of eleven, ten, six and two, from which 21 fledged. Of the nine pairs of Gadwall, six hatched young and at least 50 fledged.  Just two broods of Tufted Duck were located, but none fledged.  Six pairs of Shelduck had young, of which 28 fledged. Two pairs of Great-crested Grebes bred, one of which hatched young, but failed to fledge. There were at least three breeding pairs of Little Grebes, but only two young fledged. Eleven nesting attempts were made by Coot, although most failed but about a dozen young fledged.  There were six nesting attempts by Moorhen, five pairs hatched young, from which eight young fledged.

Other Bird Species

At least two pairs of Linnet bred.  Only three pairs of Sedge Warblers were present, with evidence of at least one brood in the Silt Lagoons; three singing Lesser Whitethroat were present in early spring and two pairs had three young. However, it was another poor year for hedgerow species – just one brood of Tree Sparrows (in a nestbox) failed at the chick stage.  Large numbers of Skylark were present, well into double figure counts of territorial pairs, although breeding was difficult to prove, but it appeared to be a relatively successful year.

The low water levels allowed Black-headed Gulls to nest on Cobble Island (Main Lake) with 94 nests counted - many failed but double figures fledged!

A total of 140 bird species was recorded, well below normal, with one new species recorded on the Reserve - an immature Red-footed Falcon on 16th September. In addition, there were several notable records, including Slavonian and Black-necked Grebes in spring and an adult male Montagu’s Harrier flew through the Reserve on 26th May.  In autumn, an adult White-tailed Eagle caused much interest but proved to be an escape, whilst a Great White Egret was present until the year-end.  In the Flasks/Kiln Lakes area, a Smew was found in February, three Mealy Redpoll in March, with the welcome return of a Cetti’s Warbler in the reedbed area in the second half of the year.

Wigeon numbers in the first quarter reached 362, whilst the last quarter only reached 152, the low counts due to the excessively low water levels.

Butterflies and Dragonflies

A slight improvement on the Reserve for both these groups - 24 species of butterfly were recorded, highlights including Common Blue and Holly Blue, whilst counts of the Elm-dependant White-letter Hairstreak reached four on several dates. Purple Hairstreak was recorded for the second consecutive year and Dingy Skipper were seen from early May to early June, with a maximum count of five. In contrast, there was just a single record of Gatekeeper and three records of the migrant species Painted Lady.  The Wall, a nationally decreasing butterfly and of conservation concern, had counts of six in spring and six in August. There were several records of Brown Argus in spring and again during the second brood in late summer.

Twelve species of dragonfly were noted, including several records of Emperor Dragonfly (maximum count of six), whilst Four spotted Chaser counts peaked at just six, but over 50 Black-tailed Skimmers were present.   A single male Broad-Bodied Chaser was found on 14th June. The Reserve’s first Emerald Damselfly occurred during the Bio-blitz in July, whilst the second record of Golden-ringed Dragonfly occurred on 31st July.  The new fen area at Flasks Lake attracted Broad-bodied Chaser and Ruddy Darter two additional species to those seen at the Reserve, increasing the species count to 14.

Other insect orders

Moths

During the Bio-blitz held in mid-July, nine MV traps were set up on both the Reserve and on the Quarry, the results astounding those doing the checking - 214 species were recorded, which was a Yorkshire record for the most species caught on one night anywhere in the county – ever!  The highlights included Blue-bordered Carpet, Dark Spinach and Dark Umber and 30 new species for the SE28 square.

In addition, Green Tiger Beetle again frequented the tracks above the East Silt Lagoon and to the North Hide, whilst Bloody-nosed Beetles were again present along the eastern boundary, particularly in early spring.

Plants

There were good numbers of Northern Marsh Orchid spikes and Bee Orchids, many hundreds of Common-spotted Orchid spikes and high numbers of Common Twayblade, but strangely only a handful of Pyramidal Orchids.  In autumn, four spikes of Autumn Ladies Tresses were found on the Silt Lagoons for the third successive year.

Also notable was the presence of Otters, particularly in the reed bed, but also at Flasks and Lingham Lakes - these enigmatic mustelids have become a regular attraction, with a female and two well grown cubs almost seen daily and occasionally a large male.

Conclusions

A small improvement in the year for many orders due to the slightly increased water levels during the breeding season, the Reserve continues to deliver its ecological and community objectives.  

Stephen Worwood

LUCT Warden

March 2019


Work begins on the reedbed

Back when Nosterfield’s reedbed was first established, the worry was whether or not the reeds would establish at all. Now, some twelve years later, the reeds have done far too well and it is time to prune them back! The reeds have encroached on the maze of waterways, creating a thick thatch where once there was open water. These waterways are key to the success of the reedbed as they provide corridors of open water - a habitat for fish which, in turn, provide food for many birds.

We have already installed a new sluice gate to allow better control of the water levels in the reedbed and now, after dropping the level, we have begun work cutting and removing the reeds. This project has been timed to coincide with our Heritage Lottery Funded Well Wetlands Project, which sees our volunteer team expanding and developing the plant nursery. Many of the plants raised in the wetbeds of the nursery will go into planting new habitats created as we re-landscape the areas around the reedbed into high value habitats.

If you are a birder, we appreciate your patience as we work on improvements. However, if you can lend a hand with one of the largest projects at Nosterfield in a decade, let us know through the ‘volunteer’ tab.

Weekend Working? Yes please!

An enormous thank you to the 14 enthusiastic souls who came to our Sunday volunteers’ work “taster day” and made it such a success.

Zoe hard at work

Zoe hard at work

We spent the time clearing an area of overgrown vegetation at the south-west corner of Flasks Lake.  Hard, honest endeavour which was certainly appreciated by LUCT as we seek to re-introduce bog-loving plants which were once common to the area.

What was especially pleasing was the number of new faces who appeared ....and younger ones too!   People like Kerry and Guy who travelled from Easingwold for the day.   They love wildlife, have been to Nosterfield before to appreciate our 250-acre reserve and this was their opportunity to give something back. 

During a break from pulling up dead stalks of rose bay willow herb, Kerry said she delighted in being outdoors on what was a cracking day weather-wise; far better than a windowless laboratory where she spends her time Monday to Friday. 

Others came from Ripon, Brompton, Wensleydale and Swaledale.  We have a hard core of volunteers who turn up on Tuesdays and Fridays, but this was an opportunity for people who work full-time on those days to lend a hand, when they have time to do so.

We will organise further weekend volunteer working days in 2018 and what we will try to do is to invite the same group back when it comes to planting up the area they helped clear on the last Sunday in October.  What could be better than to enjoy the positive, constructive side of conservation work and not just the initial clearing of an area?  

Many thanks, once again,  to all of you who turned up.   

Launching our Muck In Days

We get about 15,000 visitors a year at Nosterfield.   

Birds are the biggest attraction but don't ignore the nine species of orchid, or our very own bloody-nosed beetle, or the 25-odd species of butterfly that are seen each year.   They have a growing number of admirers too.

Whatever your interest, however, your experience will be enhanced because of the year-round work of our volunteers.  

Vegetation has to be cut back, our hides cleaned and refurbished, fencing maintained and improved and areas to be given a new lease of life for the benefit of the more than eleven hundred species of flora and fauna that make Nosterfield their home or visit us each year.  All these essential activities are carried out by people prepared to give their time and energy to ensure that Nosterfield thrives.


Nowhere has their work been more obvious over the past 12 months than at our plant nursery. With a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dave, Laurie, John, Pandora, Charlie, Joy, Gareth, Mike, Jane and the rest of the gang have built a poly-tunnel, erected irrigation systems and nurtured  a few thousand native bog-loving plants. Eventually these plants will find a permanent home in the lakes, ponds, shallows and wet grassland that make Nosterfield so special, enriching the landscape and providing new homes for our wildlife.

There is always work to do and now that the Lower Ure Conservation Trust has taken over the management of a further 100-acres at Nosterfield Quarry, we believe that the time is right to try to expand the number of our volunteers.

With this in mind, we are organising a special volunteer “taster” day on October 28th.   It will run from 10 – 2 and provide an opportunity to those anxious to give something back to nature to come along, try out one or two essential tasks that are needed on the reserve, meet our existing volunteers and to see for yourselves whether you would like to join us here at Nosterfield on a more regular basis.   Come and give it a try; there is no obligation.

250 acres of nature reserve need looking after if they are to remain special.   You could be part of that.

Keep up to date about the arrangements for the day on our Twitter (@NosterfieldLNR) or facebook (www.facebook.com/NosterfieldNatureReserve)


Rewilding with Chris Packham

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Earlier this week, representing LUCT, I attended a conference hosted by Climate Change North-east, to hear the guest speaker, Chris Packham speak firstly about the state of the UK’s wildlife and secondly, about what we can all do to reverse the current situation.

Some facts which he quoted (based on scientific study) were frightening; for example, the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.  Out of 218 countries assessed for their “biodiversity intactness”, the UK came 189th – much closer to the bottom than the top!

The UK has lost 44 million birds since the 1960s (a very short space of time in biological terms) and even more startling, we have lost 97% of our hedgehogs – a greater percentage than the decline of the Turtle Dove, which has been so widely publicised.

We have so accurately measured the declines of all these species (bird, insect and mammal) but failed to address these declines!  Our statutory agencies have suffered over 50% cuts in funding – we must start reinvesting in them.

Many nature reserves have become isolated and populations of key species have become fragmented.  Our national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are a very different “model” compared with their equivalents abroad.  For example, none of our national parks have wilderness areas, unlike in North America or Europe.

In France, following studies on 900 different farms, there is a deliberate policy of reducing the application of herbicides by up to 50%, because there has been no appreciable decline in crop yield - the French have acted on their findings almost immediately.

In the UK, only 1-2% of land is under nature conservation, compared with over 70% for agriculture.  What about a “nature friendly farming network”? There should be a bridge between farming and conservation - we have the capacity for change – a key phrase to take from the morning!

‘Rewilding’ is a word which alarms some – as a consequence, it has been misunderstood.  Rewilding can take place on a small, as well as landscape scale, approach. For example, in your own garden, allotment or park.  

One much lauded example, the Knepp Estate in Sussex, was intensively farmed for 60 years, without thought for the future.  Now it is a fantastic example of what can be achieved in a relatively short time frame.

Click through to manifesto

Click through to manifesto

Together with 17 acknowledged experts from the worlds of science and conservation, Chris has drafted The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife”, launched on Wednesday this week, which can be downloaded from his website.  Together with a walk starting in Hyde Park tomorrow, “Walk for Wildlife” we must “catch up” with the rest of Europe, by embracing our wildlife, much of which has featured in our culture and heritage for centuries.

None of us will agree with everything suggested in the Manifesto, but there will be many aspects that we all hopefully do agree about.  One idea is linking all primary schools with a local farm, to understand how our food is produced. The document is a draft, open for comment but nonetheless it is a valuable starting point for discussion.  Our neighbours in Europe have already begun to reverse the decline in their wildlife.  A healthier landscape means a healthier lifestyle, of benefit to us all!

Also see rewildingeurope.com.

Jill Warwick


Records tumble during Packham visit

For the second year running, LUCT participated in the national BioBlitz campaign to assess the state of the nation's wildlife. Over 100 volunteers and naturalists joined presenter Chris Packham to "Blitz" the Reserve and Quarry to record as many species as possible in just 24 hours.

Hopes were high that last year's record of 726 species would be broken.  However, few anticipated that nearly 850 species would be recorded on the day including the highest recorded number of species of moth caught during one night in Yorkshire. With many insect species yet to be identified, the total tally could be nearer to 1000 species. 

During his visit, Chris talked to many Nosterfield volunteers, as well as members of the public, to highlight the plight of the UK's wildlife which, in many cases, is confined to nature reserves like Nosterfield due to habitat degradation, pollution and climate change. Chris titled the campaign "Nature reserves are not enough". 

Chris praised the work of dedicated volunteers saying, "the enthusiasm on the site is palpable and everyone has put in a sterling effort but what we need to do now is see the bigger picture. What is going on 'over the fence' is disastrous, even with all the skills here we cannot put our finger in the dyke to stop the decline. However, we have the toolkit, the armoury, the passion, enthusiasm and knowledge to save our wildlife. From the punk rock generation, we can't leave it to other people - we need to do it ourselves." 

Our thanks go to all those who helped spread the word, raise the profile, make the tea, sandwiches and buns, run bat walks, man stalls, wear polycotton polo shirts in tropical temperatures, count moths, birds, flies, dragonflies, insects, pond life, bats, make bacon sandwiches, give directions, input data, put up signs or point out parking.

We couldn't have done it without you. 

Thanks to Stuart Roebuck and Lucy White for the photographs. 

 

A bigger home for the region's wildlife announced

Reedbed in foreground with Flasks and Kiln lakes behind

Reedbed in foreground with Flasks and Kiln lakes behind

Volunteers hard at work

Volunteers hard at work

Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve is set to expand with a further 100 acres being dedicated to wildlife conservation.  

The award-winning reserve in the Hambleton district will grow to more than 250 acres and will include two new lakes, a reed bed, magnesian limestone grassland and woodland area.  

The site is managed by the Lower Ure Conservation Trust (LUCT), a group of hard working volunteers with a track record for producing valuable habitats for wetland species.   

Simon Warwick, Director of LUCT, said: “Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers we have enjoyed great success in attracting wildlife to Nosterfield.  I’m certain we can continue to provide fantastic wetland habitats for some of our most cherished species which are often sadly in decline.”

Since the Trust was formed in 1997, it has prided themselves on attracting important breeding populations such as Lapwing, Redshank, Curlew and Shoveler, and Nosterfield was first place in North Yorkshire to host breeding Avocets.

Plans for the new area are ambitious, with a priority to rejuvenate the reed bed to bring Bitterns back to the reserve to breed once again.  In addition, there are already plans in place to further increase the area of shallow water and re-establish richer wetland habitats to benefit birds and other wildlife.

The reserve at Nosterfield used to form part of the neighbouring sand and gravel quarry, operated by Tarmac.  Over time Tarmac have worked with the LUCT to restore the area to a place for wildlife conservation.

Alan Coe, Production Manager for Tarmac said; “We are proud of the work we have done in collaboration with the LUCT to restore the previously quarried area.

“We hope that the ambitious plan the LUCT have for the extension of the reserve will attract many more species to the area and we look forward to working with them to achieve this.”

If you want to find out more about the work of the Lower Ure Conservation Trust, please see luct.org.uk.

Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve - Warden's Report for 2017

Nosterfield Local Nature Reserve - Warden's Report for 2017

An overview of a year on Nosterfield Reserve, as described by LUCT's Warden, Steve Worwood at the Nosterfield Liaison Meeting. 

It has been a difficult year for Nosterfield with very variable water levels with repercussions for wading birds. However, we are still delivering many of our targets and we have high hopes for 2018. 

Get in touch with us if you have any questions.