Reasons to be cheerful in 2019
Get out and about at MNR
It`s not been the worst of winters this past few months and indeed the half-term heatwave may have been a bonus for families wanting to get out and about. But this short period of warm weather may have longer term consequences for flora and fauna. Though let’s not dwell on that for now and look forward to what will hopefully be a good year for nature at MNR.
Flowers seemed to be out a little on the early side this year, with some snowdrops that herald the coming of spring, making an appearance in January and one early cherry flowering in late February. Its white cup shaped flowers bear five petals, making it stand out against the relatively dark north facing bank at No Mans Land. Coincidentally, I used to monitor a similar very early blossoming cherry at another reserve and it regularly flowered each year at least three or four weeks before any other.
The bank in the Education Garden is resplendent with daffodils as I write and a few primrose are making an appearance. The resident population of cowslips will also be flowering shortly. (The name refers to the shape of a cow’s lips when mooing. Have a look and see if you can see the similarity). An early flowering plant like this is important for wildlife, providing nectar for various insects, such as bees, beetles and butterflies like the brimstone, which appeared as usual around the Quarry Trail in mid February this year.
Cowslip is also a food plant for other butterflies. Look out for the marbled white in June and July. There is a good population at MNR and they are quite distinctive with their black and white chequered markings and floppy flight, close to the ground. We have counted 26 different species of butterflies in a single summer in years gone by, which is about half of the national species population. You need to keep a keen look out for some of the more elusive ones. There are some free butterfly spotter sheets in the visitor centre if you want some help and additional identification sheets for birds, orchids, grassland plants, minibeasts and lots more – just ask at reception.
Birds and other wildlife began preparing for the coming season in late February and volunteers have put additional bird boxes onsite in the hope they will be occupied quite quickly by the mainly great tits and blue tits that are on the lookout for a nice cosy home. Given our quite large and very friendly robin population, one or two open fronted boxes which they prefer have also been put up. One of which is on the side if the Field Study Centre (FSC) adjacent to the disabled car park. So keep an eye on that one!
The kestrels are busy as usual and the population seems to be thriving. You can often see them flying along the clifftop or face on the south facing side of the reserve. Ask to borrow binoculars or a magnifying glass at reception, if you want a closer look.
Lots to see, and you can now have a nice cup of tea or coffee in the Cabin after your walk. So, get out there with the family and introduce the kids to a whole new world!
Dave Edgar – Conservation Manager