Blog, News, Water Meadows Chronicles

The Water Meadows Chronicles, part 27

Last Friday (24/02/2023) was an important day in the Bury Water Meadows Group calendar. It was AGM day and the meeting was held at the Quaker Meeting House. The meeting room was full by the start time and many others joined by Zoom. The business was dealt with efficiently, the Accounts were approved and the three trustees required by the regulations to stand down were duly re-elected by a majority show of hands.

As the trustee with responsibility to organise the biodiversity survey, I presented an overview of the work we have done over the year of 2022. To read the full report and to see our month by month records, please refer to the BWMG website where they will be found under the Biodiversity Surveying heading, (click here).

Our team increased from three members to twelve following an advertising effort in the local free press. This gave us at least two opportunities. Firstly, we could incorporate and benefit from the experience and know how of our new colleagues. Each brings specialist knowledge which strengthens the team overall. Secondly, the increased number of observer volunteers has enabled us to increase our ground coverage. While our survey area  covered Ram Meadow, the Lark path through to the Abbey Gardens, the North and South Crankles and No Mans Meadow, we have extended our range to cover Ram Meadow East, the Abbey Gardens, the Great Churchyard, the Lark Path south to the A134, the Saxon Gate Nature Reserve, Friars Lane and York Bridge, the Butts and Harp Meadow, as well.

We have a year round population of birds including robins, wrens, blackbirds and , of course, mallards and pigeons. We are delighted to report that we were visited by swallows and swifts during the summer months. Although we have not seen a sign of nesting we also saw a good selection of raptors, including buzzards, kestrels, sparrowhawks and red kites. It may be that a sparrowhawk nests at the south end of No Mans Meadow but no fledglings have been seen. We had hoped to see fledgling Barn Owl and Kestrel following the siting of four nest boxes in No Mans Meadow. Perhaps next year.

Our monthly total of bird sightings peaked in April and August with 46 different species. 

Our sighting of butterflies and moths was down in 2022 compared with 2022. While we saw lots of red admirals and whites, other species were down in numbers and types.

Mammal sightings were limited. Voles, moles and brown rats sightings were recorded. However, muntjac deer numbers have increased and they are becoming a problem since their appetite leads to them eating vegetation in the Water Meadows and vegetables and plants in neighbouring gardens and allotments. 

We record plants in flower each month. Our learning curve in identifying plants has increased dramatically and we were delighted to be able to record 176 different species in August. 

We started to survey insects in the second half of the year. Our decision was influenced by the enthusiasm exhibited by participants in the Bioblitz held in May. Our peak was in August when we identified 52 different types of insect. For us it was a success but we are mindful that the Collins Complete Guide states that there are more than 20,000 species of insect in the UK. Our learning curve remains very steep. 

Similarly, we started to record fungi during the second half of 2022. We recorded 25 different types. The Collins Guide tells us that there are more than 15,000 types of fungi in the UK. As above, our learning curve will remain steep for some time.

We are hoping to start bat surveying during 2023. 

There were some disappointments during the year. The bird boxes were mounted early in the year and there was some initial interest from a barn owl. No fledging has been reported. Similarly, the kestrel boxes were unoccupied. It may be that the presence of large numbers of corvids has been a disincentive. Certainly mobbing of kestrels has been observed in No Mans Meadow. 

Finally, a submission under the umbrella of Bury in Bloom was made in the Anglia in Bloom competition. In the category of Wildlife and Conservation, the Bury Water Meadows Group was delighted to win the Gold Award and Trophy. 

Iain Carruthers-Jones.