Tuesday, 21 January 2014

@WiltsWildlife - Winter Scrub Clearance in Morgan's Hill Quarry

This winter has, so far, been relatively mild, but there is still an awful lot of work to do up on the reserve. Because of the difficulty in getting cattle there has been substantial under-grazing over the last few years. Thankfully this autumn saw 30 Aberdeen Angus cattle on the reserve which has gone some way to redressing the balance. We are not where we want to be just yet, but there has been an improvement. Therefore any scrub clearance work carried out this winter will help matters even further.

The main area that I want to concentrate on this year is the quarry area in the east compartment. This is a very species rich area that is under threat from not only under-grazing but also ash sapling growth from Horsecombe Bottom wood.

In this seemingly unending task of removing ash saplings, clearing bramble, and cutting down some of the hawthorn, I have been helped by the Wellbeing group. They carried out one task day earlier on in the autumn and are due to carry out another task day in February. I am very grateful for the help, without them I am working pretty much single-handed.

I have broken down the compartment into smaller sub-sections and I'm now working through each section, dealing with one, then moving on to another. There is a lot of work to do and I'm unsure if I will get it all done this winter. If that happens then I will move everything on to next winter, along with most of the work that needs doing in the west compartment.

One of the tasks to be done involves clearing any unwanted material from the chalk scrape that was created last winter.

That's all for now, but I leave you with a photo of some of the Trust's Herwick sheep that have just been moved onto the reserve to graze for the rest of the winter.

Herdwick sheep in the Barrow Field, Baltic Farm

Saturday, 16 November 2013

@WiltsWildlife - Morgan's Hill - Winter is on the way!

With the slight hint of colder weather coming up in the next few weeks, now might be a good time to look at the photos I took at Morgan's Hill over the winter of 2012 - 2013. MH is such an exposed site that it's always cold and windy over winter, but at points it can become downright inhospitable. I remember one time whilst scrub clearing with Stephen Honeychurch where we were working in a blizzard. It's wasn't nice. However, at other times, if you can brave the cold, you will be treated to some absolutely spectacular landscapes and views.

Photo taken mid-day 2nd February 2013
Entrance to Wansdyke from Mast Field. A great place for butterflies in the summer!
The North Wessex Downs AONB. Bleak and dreary, yet  beautiful, in winter.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

@WiltsWildlife - Morgan's Hill from Penn Wood Reserve, Calne

View of Morgan's Hill from the new Penn Wood reserve on the outskirts of Calne. This reserve, which is well worth a visit, has stunning views of the surrounding area. It has large areas of newly established woodland with scrub areas, and has a fishing lake. The area is surrounded by the great North Wiltshire countryside and has access to it via a good network of footpaths and bridleways. Get on over there and have a look.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

@WiltsWildlife - Meadow Pipit @ Morgan's Hill, July 2013

Yet again I haven't blogged for a long old while. However, with the best intentions, I'm aiming for this time to be different. Hopefully I can find the time to get in at least one, possibly more,  posts a week. Let's see how I go. I shall start by posting some of the things that I have seen and done on the reserve over the summer months.

First up is a great little meadow pipit. Picture taken in July by my good friend and personal photography expert, Stephen Lord.

Meadow pipit, Stephen Lord, 16th July 2013

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Morgan's Hill Reserve 360 Degree Virtual Tour

I freely admit that I haven't blogged for a while, but this little beauty is definitely worth the wait. Morgan's Hill is within Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's New Life for Chalk Grassland scheme, which itself is part of the larger Wildlife Trust's Living Landscapes scheme. Whilst browsing the Living Landscapes web pages today I came across this gem of a virtual tour which shows Morgan's Hill in all its glory. Check out the New Life for Chalk Grassland info page and tour here, or bask in the beauty of the full-on, full-page version here. Once you've done that get yourself up the North Wessex Downs, if you can, and enjoy it for real. However, some words of advice; winter might be over, but give it a month or so, everything is behind schedule this year.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

@WiltsWildlife - Morgan's Hill on a gloomy winter's day

I took this photo yesterday on my mobile phone, using the 'vintage' setting. Thus the dark corners. I think it really captures the dull, dark, dreary winter's day exactly how I was trying to portray it. What do you think?

Morgan's Hill vintage style, looking west, on a dark and dreary winter's day.

Monday, 7 January 2013

@PatchBirding - First two patch visits of the year

This is the report that I emailed into Patchwork Challenge Send us Some Content. It details my first two patch visits of 2013.

Morgan's Hill, North Wessex Downs - Nick Self
The morning of 3rd January 2013 dawned to reveal Morgan's Hill resplendent in the glory of murk, low cloud and light rain. It was not what I had been hoping for, but I was fairly certain that this was what I was going to get. Most winter days on the Downs are like this. Everyone knows that birding on the Downs during winter is hit and miss, however, I wasn't going to let a little light murk put pay to proceedings. Off I went to explore my favourite nooks and crannies, confident that I could turn up some good birds despite the weather.

This year I will be concentrating on the farmland bird '10 most wanted' (as I do every year); grey partridge; lapwing; tree sparrow; corn bunting; yellowhammer; linnet; turtle dove; yellow wagtail; skylark and reed bunting. To be honest I'm not worried about finding rare birds and I've never, ever, been twitching. I rarely go birding outside of Wiltshire and that's the way I like it. I guess I just love my home to much.

Anyways, on to the birds. I have also made a patch visit on 7th January and between the first two visits I totaled 41 species for 42 points. I am reasonably happy with this given the awful weather. The two point bird was a female merlin, which was pleasing. All the others were 'common' but included some that made me personally happy. I made the first 2013 sightings of tree sparrow, grey partridge, corn bunting, skylark, linnet and yellowhammer. The latter being quite numerous. I also struck a little piece of #patchgold, but before I name the species I would like to refer back to a previous post where someone said that they had seen golden eagle and hen harrier, but hadn't seen anything unusual and that they were going to look for an elusive blue tit. It just goes to show how different places have such different birds and the amazing diversity of our great country.

I expect that you are itching to know my #patchgold species? Ok, here goes........................little grebe.

And last year I spotted a cormorant. How amazing is that?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

@WiltsWildlife - Give as you Live

Today I have signed up to Give as you Live. This site is a great idea; put simply, you spend money on the internet and a percentage is given to the charity of your choice. It's win-win for everybody; doesn't cost anything to use and your charity gets extra cash. The charity I have chosen is Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and my first donation should be going through shortly. I encourage everybody to give it a go, you only need to sign-up, then download a little app, everything else is done for you. Simple, great, and helps out the Trust.

Monday, 17 December 2012

@PatchBirding - Morgan's Hill - Wiltshire Chalk Downland

I have now completed the map of my patch and present it here in all its glory.

Morgan's Hill - Patchwork Challenge Map - Centred on SU0267 Wiltshire
I've been able to enlarge my usual route to include a small village, Calstone Wellington; a small lake, chalk stream and sewage treatment works; a couple of patches of woodland; a golf course; and of course more chalk downland.

This should enable me to up my count by a reasonable amount by including any water, woodland and village birds that I find in the northern section. There is also much more unimproved downland and arable land that is observable, up and down slope, from within the patch boundaries, which should enable me to get a few more sightings that I otherwise wouldn't. In this category will go most raptors, owls and the farmland wading birds. Plus hopefully a few rarities.

I'm all ready. Can't wait for 1st January now. Let's get this on!

Friday, 14 December 2012

@PatchBirding Morgan's Hill - Patchwork Challenge

Morgan's Hill is nationally important for the quality of its chalk grassland and the diversity of fauna and butterflies. However, Morgan's Hill (and the North Wessex Downs in general) is not widely appreciated for its avifauna. 

I intend to show that this is a misconception and that, in fact, the North Wessex Downs is a great place to go birding, and maybe (with a little luck) see something unusual. 

To this end, I have taken up the Patchwork Challenge. Essentially I will record all the birds that I see in an area of 3 OS grid squares roughly centred on Morgan's Hill Reserve (SU0267). A score will be given, based on each species rarity, and then a yearly total is established. Highest yearly total, of all competitors, is the winner.

Now, when you compare my area with some of the other entrants, you can see that there is a high chance of coming last. I'm not going to be seeing many water birds; I'm not going to be seeing many waders; I'm not going to be seeing many sea birds; in fact I may not see anything particularly 'rare' at all. What I will be seeing is mainly farmland birds and birds of open country.

All the birds on the Farmland Bird Index are present, including tree sparrow, corn bunting and turtle dove. Then there will be species such as tree pipit, raven, stonechat, ring ouzel, redstart and cuckoo that turn up at various times. Raptors are in abundance; peregrine, merlin, hobby, red kite have all been seen. Owls; short-eared, barn, tawny. Then you have the 'hit the jackpot' types such as great grey shrike and dotterel. I'll be breaking out the bubbly if I see any of them though.

Have a look at 11. Marlborough Downs for a little more in-depth look at the wider area. The link takes you to the Wiltshire Ornithological Society website, which is well worth perusing.

As usual I will be uploading all my records to BirdTrack and WSBRC .

So, there you have it. Check out the Patchwork Challenge blog, to see what I'm up against (gulp). I will shortly be providing a map of my patch area. This shows the area around the reserve, from which I will make my patch of roughly 3 grid squares.