Woodcote Correspondent 2007

January 2007 (This special report was written by Karen Woolley.)
Well, after 2 years of taking rainfall readings, compiling data from bore-holes and frantic fundraising, we are finally starting work on Phase 1 of the Restoration of the Lower Greenmoor Pond. Contractors are installing a collection chamber and drain, which will siphon water from the aquifer and enable it to run through the drain into the pond. The aquifer runs directly beneath the clay layer, along a seam of silver sand, which is located about 2 ½ to 3 metres below the surface of the ground.
  Phase 2 of the project will commence on Monday 4th Dec – weather permitting! During this phase, two trenches will be installed and lined with a clay and bentonite ‘mat’, with the intention of forming a barrier to water from an area of the aquifer which has been escaping down through the woodland for the past 6 years.
  Phase 3 will be undertaken in January, when a number of trees will be removed, coppiced or pollarded around the periphery of the pond. This will help to stabilise the bank and reduce the canopy over the water, thereby letting in more light.
  Phase 4 will commence in February or early March and will be the final re-structuring of the pond banks, to create shallows and marshy areas, which will support a wide and diverse range of species.
  The Greenmoor Ponds is an area of registered Common Land and owned by Woodcote Parish Council. This project – and the site – is managed by The Woodcote Conservation Group. 
  Thanks for funding the Restoration work must go to The Trust for Oxfordshire Environment (TOE), South Oxfordshire District Council and the Woodcote Parish Council.

February 2007
We have more water in the Greenmore lower pond at last and it seems the work has, so far, been successful – fingers crossed! The next phase is to re-profile some of the banks to encourage different types of habitat and make the area more attractive to look at as it matures. This will need some tree work done to open up the tree canopy and allow some light into the pond. By the time you read this, the work may already be in progress. At our next working party on Saturday 10 February (at 2.00pm) we will be doing some of the more manageable bits for the project.  Please come along and help.
  Our website has been updated with new pictures, including a great aerial view of the village. New information includes the results of the garden pond survey and a report on the English Heritage listed buildings in our village. Our ‘webmaster’, John Sandford, has been inundated with ‘machines’ wanting to become forum members for advertising purposes so we have changed the process for becoming a forum contributor. Everyone can view the comments on the forum but if you want to write to the forum or add new topics you need to register. To do this please email John via info@woodcotecg.org.uk.
  This year’s membership of Woodcote Conservation Group starts from 1 February. Individual membership for 2007/2008 is held at £3, but we have introduced a household subscription so, for one fee of £5, everyone in the family can become members.
  The success of the Chiltern Red Kite introduction programme cannot be doubted. These magnificent birds are a common sight over our village. They feed on carrion which contains a lot of natural roughage (skin, hair, bone, etc) and they, especially the growing chicks, need this for a healthy diet. Many people, with the best intentions, are feeding them from their gardens. We must be careful that they don’t become dependent on this source of food. It is best not to feed Kites in your garden but, if you do, please don’t feed cooked meat scraps. It is much better to use road kills or similar food to ensure the birds stay healthy. Please be careful that such food, especially dead rats and mice, has not been killed by poison.
  The unseasonably warm winter to January, may mean early arrival and emergence of wildlife from their winter quarters. Please let us know about the earliest records you may make of things such as breeding frogs, the first cuckoos, 7-spot ladybirds, wild primroses, wild snowdrops etc, as this information is very valuable to those assessing the effects of climate change.

woodcote snowdrops

February brings drifts of snowdrops to the woods by the village

(March 2007: No report)

April 2007
The heavy work at Greenmore ponds was finished just in time for the frogs, toads and newts to arrive.  We need to let the banks and paths around the pond settle down (and dry out!) over the summer. The work was done both carefully and professionally to provide a variety of bank slopes, deep water and shallows. We have left logs and tree stumps around the pond to provide a few places for people to sit.  There will be planting of native pond-side vegetation next winter. Thanks are due to Karen Woolley for making this project a success.
  We have two events planned for April. On the 14th at 10.00 am at the Community Centre we will be working on the small pond. Please come along and talk about the work while you enjoy refreshments from the Coffee shop. 
  We have arranged a second guided tour of the Withymead Nature Reserve (by the Thames near Goring) on Sunday, 22 April at 2.00 pm, meeting at the Reserve car park. There is always a lot to see there, but this should be the best time of year to see the spectacular display of about two million Lodden Lilies (or ‘Summer Snowflake’) for which Withymead is famous. Please see the WCG website for more information on all our events.
  What about future events? On 17th May we have organised an interesting talk about ‘Plants on the Move’; how they arrive in the UK and get around the country. Then, on 1st June, starting at 8.15 p.m. there will be a guided ‘Woodcote Woodcock Walk’ (try saying it quickly!) to view the impressive birds doing their late evening displays in woodland glades. For pictures of Woodcock go to the RSPB images website, http://www.rspb-images.com/.  In July there will be an opportunity to attend a Moth Evening with a local expert setting up a light trap.

Greenmoor Lower Pond, March 2007

Success! By mid-March the Lower Pond was already looking impressively full

May 2007
Anyone going up to the Greenmore ponds will have seen that the water level is now high and the water is beginning to clear. The heavy work at the lower pond was finished just in time for the amphibians to return to the water to spawn. We saw a good volume of both frog spawn and toad spawn on about the 10th March.  There was a pair of Mallard ducks on the pond. These are capable of hoovering up lots of tadpoles so we have to wait and see how well the tadpoles survive.  The water was quite silted, so they would have had a good opportunity of hiding in the murk.
  On Thursday, 17th May we have organised an illustrated talk by Frances Watkins entitled ‘Plants on the move’, about how wild plants get introduced into the UK, and how they manage to ‘move around’ the country.  The talk will be in the Community Centre at 7:30 p.m.  You don’t have to be a WCG member; entry will be £3; £2 for members and £1 for under-16s.  Tea and coffee will be available.
  Another date to put in your diary is the ‘Woodcote Woodcock Walk’, arranged for 1st June. This is an evening, woodland walk to experience the distinctive territorial flight of this mysterious bird that takes place at dusk in the woods outside the village. Meet at the entrance to Greenmore Ponds at 8:15 p.m. (For pictures of Woodcock on the RSPB website see http://www.rspb-images.com/)
  For more information about all our events please see the WCG website. What about future events?  In July there will be an opportunity to attend a Moth Evening with a local expert setting up a light trap.  More details next time.

June 2007
If you get this copy of the Correspondent before the beginning of June you will not have missed the opportunity to come on our ‘Woodcote Woodcock Walk’. This is an evening woodland walk on the 1st June to experience the distinctive dusk-time territorial flight and ‘grunting’ call of this mysterious bird. Meet at the Greenmore Ponds at 8.15 p.m. For pictures of Woodcock visit the RSPB website www.rspb-images.com
  Our next working party will be on 23 June at 2.00 p.m. up at Greenmore Ponds. Come along and help do some conservation work to follow up the engineering work on the lower pond – you will be most welcome.
  We are running our first 2007 coffee morning on 16th June at the Community Centre – come along for some refreshments and take the opportunity to chat to us about what you want to see done for conservation in our village.
  On a sadder note, there is a growing problem of motorised vehicles, mainly bikes and quads, using local woodlands to drive around. You may have experienced the disturbance yourself. It would be great if these people had somewhere provided, so that they could do their sport without destroying our important woodland habitats.
  What about future events? On 13th July we have organised a moth identification evening in the village. This will be restricted to a small number of people, so please see the website for more details and contact us if you would like to attend.
  On 11th August we will be doing our lunchtime summer footpath walk to a local hostelry.

July 2007
We had a successful Woodcote Woodcock Walk on the 1st of June – the male woodcock gave us a good view of his aerial flight during several passes across the woodland glade in Common Wood.  You can find out more about Woodcock on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website at http://www.rspb.co.uk/wildlife/birdguide.
The Greenmore lower pond is looking good and is teeming with life. Newts were seen (by torchlight) in the pond  in early June and there are plenty of tadpoles still surviving from the frog and toad spawn seen there in April.
  On Friday 13th July we have organised a moth identification evening in the village in a local back garden using a light trap. There will be an expert on hand to identify and explain more about the moths we attract.  This event will be restricted to a limited number of people so please see the website for more details and contact us if you would like to attend. 
  What about future events?  On 11th August we will be doing our lunchtime, summer footpath walk to a local hostelry.  This was very popular last year!

August 2007
I’m writing this at the beginning of July and I’m not impressed with the weather so far this summer.  Neither is the wildlife.  How many swifts, swallows and house martins have we had in the village this year – I’ve only seen a few.  In Germany and France there seem to be hundreds of them.  Perhaps the poor weather over the UK, with incessant south-westerly weather fronts, has forced them to stay on the continent.  All these birds that catch insects on the wing will be having problems. The wet weather has really limited the variety of insect available to them.  You may think the lack of those annoying insects is a bonus; but remember this is great weather for mosquitoes!
 There is a bright side.  Spring was early and we had glorious weather and many garden birds bred early. Species such as blackbirds that have several families a year, managed two or three broods before the bad weather started in late May.  At least the rain has filled up the Greenmore ponds!  I hope that when you read this we will have had a sunny and hot July to set everything straight and ‘even out’ those beloved statistics for rainfall and temperature.
 On Saturday, August 11th we are having our summer ‘Walking Party’ when we will investigate the footpaths on the route to and from the Black Horse Public House in Checkendon.  Last year it was a most convivial event and well attended.  Please join us in the Village Hall car park at 11.50 am. We will leave promptly at noon.

September 2007
We had a very successful evening ‘moth watching’ on Friday 13 July. While we huddled near the bright mercury-vapour lamp in the light rain, the moths seemed to be much less concerned about the weather than we were. They were not distracted by the bright lights from the fairground at Woodcote Rally either.
 The highlight of the evening was the arrival of a privet hawk moth (Sphinx ligustri). This moth has a wingspan of 9 to 12 cm. and is very fast flying, up to 30 mph. Over thirty species of other larger moths were recorded for adding to our database of Woodcote wildlife.
 Our next events are in October, so I will expand on the details in the next issue of the Correspondent. One to put down in your diary is a talk by Road d’Ayala on fungi on Thursday 18 October in the Community Centre. To put the theory from that evening into practice, Rod will lead a ‘Fungus Foray’ on Saturday 20 October. More details next time.

October 2007
Our Annual Woodcote Walk to the Black Horse pub was attended by a dozen or so thirsty people. A good time was had by all. One person had come over from the United States, but not necessarily just for the walk!
 October is a busy month for us. On 6th October in the Village hall there is a public display of the Woodcote Parish Plan (WPP) proposals and one of the displays will be by the WPP Natural Environment Group.  This means the Conservation Group working party, proposed for that day, will be curtailed to a 3.30pm meeting at Greenmore ponds to decide which pathways need ‘bark’ surfacing.  If you have time please come and give your views at either, or both, of these events.
 On 9th October, in the Village Hall, the subject of the Eighth Lidiard Memorial Lecture will be the successful restoration of the lower Greenmore Pond.   The loss of water from the pond was a big talking point in the village.  This is your chance to hear the technical experts explain their role in the whole process and to find out more about it.
 The Community Centre coffee morning on the 13th October will be run by the WCG; please come along and talk to us over tea or coffee and cake.
 The 18th October at 7.30, in the Community Centre, is the date for a talk on the Fungi we find in the woodlands around Woodcote. This will be followed on 20th October by a guided ‘fungal foray’ in Common Wood to see what fungi we can find.  Please meet where the footpaths cross Long Toll (down by the road-gravel store) at 2.00 pm.
 After eight years of steadfast work our secretary, Jane Sinden, has decided that other pressures take priority and will be resigning at the AGM on Thursday, 8th November.  Along with the job of Secretary there are three other vacancies on the steering group, so if you can spare an evening every two months and would be willing to make a practical contribution to the group (without having to get wet and muddy), please let us know; you will be warmly welcomed.

November 2007

A few years ago we had hard evidence of the Common Dormouse in our village hedgerows.  They were reported from Green Lane and Dean Lane.  In the UK, this animal has ‘endangered’ status and is protected by law.  This well known, but secretive rodent has soft, orange-brown fur and a long furry tail.  Its main food is hazelnuts.  As dormice are almost entirely nocturnal they present us with a challenge when trying to spot them.  The main chance of seeing dormice is at twilight, when they become active, but it is easier to check for them by examining opened hazelnut shells.  Dormice leave a characteristic, neat, smooth, circular cut to the inside of the opening and tiny radiating teeth marks on the outside.  Wood mice eat them in a similar way but the inside of the shell cut is not smooth because wood mice gnaw across the cut and leave it uneven. Squirrels just crack the nuts open with their powerful jaws.  If you find evidence of dormice in Woodcote please get in touch with us.

Hazelnut gnawed by dormouse

 Dormice rarely come down to the ground so they need a patch of tall, interconnected hazel trees to provide enough food.  This is why tall hazel hedges are so important to them.  The American grey squirrel causes the biggest problem for dormice because they strip hazelnut trees before the nuts are fully ripe.  This reduces or removes the food available for the native dormice just when they need to ‘fatten-up’ for hibernation.  At time of writing, the Oxfordshire group that study this animal have arranged to come to Woodcote in October to investigate whether dormice are still here and put up some dormouse boxes if appropriate.  Details to follow.
 At our December working party (meeting at 10.00 a.m. on December 8th at Greenmore Ponds) we will be spreading bark chippings on some of the footpaths around the ponds and doing some tree management.  If you can bring a shovel, rake or particularly a wheelbarrow, it would be most welcome
 Please come along to our Annual General Meeting on the 8th November – 7.30 in the Community Centre.  We always welcome ‘new blood’ on the committee.  Younger people are most welcome – bring some fresh ideas about the conservation of our village environment.  There are details of all our events on the WCG website and an opportunity to join in with the discussions on the forum where you can have your say about conservation-related village activities.

December 2007
The investigation by the dormouse expert from the Oxfordshire Small Mammals group went ahead as planned.  He found positive evidence that dormice are still active in the woodland around the Greenmore ponds. The proposal is to put up about 50 nesting and hibernating boxes into the area; but more on that in the New Year.
 Following the successful Thursday-evening talk on fungi on 18 October, the Saturday ‘Fungus Foray’ took place two days later near Long Toll.  More than 30 villagers tramped around the woods searching for fungi.  The children in the party had the advantage: not only were they much nearer the ground but their eyesight was a deal sharper for spotting the well-camouflaged fungi.  We found over 30 species for Rod D’Ayala to identify.  Rod made interesting listening as he enthused over Candle snuffs, Blushers and Deceivers. It was getting dark by the time the last of us trudged our way home.

Rod d'Ayala identifying fungi

 For our December working party (meeting at 10.00am on December 8th at Greenmore ponds) we want to spread bark chippings on some of the footpaths near the ponds to improve access. We also want to do some tree management.  If you can bring a shovel, rake or particularly a wheelbarrow, it will be most welcome!
 If you are awake during those spare moments between the Queen’s Speech and the turkey sandwiches have a look at our website. There you’ll find a list of the ‘Fungus Foray’ findings when they are available and details of all our events. There is also the opportunity to join in with the discussions on conservation-related village activities.
 By the time this is in your letterbox, we will have had our Annual General Meeting and the committee will be fully refreshed and ready for another hectic year for the group.  All that remains is for us to wish you a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

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