Our wildlife sightings post for April-June 2021 includes news about butterflies and bats in Tideswell Dale, celebrating the success of `No Mow May’, and a host of orchids in our limestone dales. As usual, I’ll add all the additional species spotted in this quarter in the list alongside. The species we saw in the first three months of 2021 can be found here – Winter 2021
Please keep sharing your wildlife sightings, on our group Facebook page and on our web site , or you can just email me (email@example.com), and I will try to summarise our sightings every quarter and post them on the web site (previous wildlife sightings posts can be seen here).
Whilst March was unusually warm and sunny, April was very different. Winter returned, with very cold temperatures and frosty mornings. Spring seemed to be ‘on hold’. But eventually the weather warmed up and we really felt spring was in the air.
Our swifts returned in mid May, and some house martins and swallows – although seemingly much reduced in numbers this year. A particularly exciting spot from our garden, was the sight of a red kite soaring overhead in June. These wonderful birds seem to be spreading up from the south of the country, and some have been seen over at Wheston as well. A marvellous sight.
We saw some big changes in our local Tideswell Dale in the early spring. The lower half of the dale is owned by the National Trust, and they decided that some major tree work was required due to the terrible ash dieback disease. Diseased trees close to public footpaths had to be removed, for safety reasons. This has certainly changed the nature of a much loved area, and many local people were rightly concerned. Because dead and decaying wood is such an important resource in the ecosystem – essential for the healthy cycle of all life – the National Trust left a lot of the felled timber on site, to rot down. This creates new habitats and also returns nutrients to the soil. The National Trust is trying to achieve the best for wildlife and for people’s enjoyment of the area – it is a tricky balance.
But landscapes do change and evolve. The newly opened areas may allow different wildflowers and butterflies to thrive. So TDEG’s Wildlife Group contacted the East Midlands Butterfly Conservation group, to see if we could establish a regular survey of the dale in order to monitor butterfly species and abundance.
This account is from one of our eight person team, Adam Saunders –
“At the beginning of April, we began our butterfly transect in Tideswell Dale with the results being fed back directly to East Midlands Butterfly Conservation.
As you can probably imagine, the weather at that time of the year was not the best, and the numbers of butterflies seen were low. As we approached May the weather if anything got worse, with regular rain forecasted. Still, our intrepid band of volunteers have been keeping our regular trips to the dale over the last three months. The transect rota is split into five, with each participant or pair of participants doing a single hour long walk in their designated week. The transect itself is split into ten sections, covering a wide variety of habitats between them. Within the ten sections participants must walk through at a steady pace making note of any butterflies or day flying moths seen within 2.5 metres of each side and overhead.
Despite the slow start we have been regularly recording good numbers of butterflies with a nice variety of species too including Small Heath, Comma, Brown Argus, Large Skipper and Dark Green fritillary. Some of the Butterflies seen so far are pictured below.”
As the weather warms up, we hope the transect team will see more species and higher numbers. And it will be interesting to also monitor if greater numbers are now attracted to the more open areas over the coming years. Because of the dedicated work of the team, we have an increasing number of butterfly sightings in our species list this quarter.
Adam has also been down the dale late in the evening, to experiment with his new bat detector. Initial results are really encouraging, with possibly four different species of bats heard – common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, serotine and noctule bats. We are still hoping to arrange a bat walk, open to all, in September. Watch this space!
Again whilst walking down Tideswell Dale and Millers Dale, Adam was delighted to capture a photo of one of our elusive water voles. Water voles are becoming increasingly rare in Derbyshire. The much loved ‘Ratty’ of ‘Wind in the Willows’ is one of the reasons dog lovers are asked to keep their dogs on a lead in the dales – as they can be easily disturbed by our canine friends, particularly if they splash about in our rivers. You can often hear water voles, before you see them. They `plop` into the water, and then swim away across the surface, like small clockwork toys!
A possibly even more elusive mammal was spotted by several people around Litton and Tideswell in May. We have records of various different species of deer in Derbyshire – red deer on the Eastern Moors, and fallow deer and roe deer further south around Chatsworth. Elsewhere in the UK we also see some `exotic` species, such as Muntjac. But after some considerable debate, we think the small, shy deer seen in local fields are roe deer. This image is from a video, captured by Andrew Aitchinson, near Litton. If anyone manages to capture further photos – please let us know.
Other deer may also be in our area – we had a recent sighting of a possible red deer on the Monsal trail (from Pete Hawkins) – so do keep watching, particularly if you are out in the early morning or evening.
As spring continues to warm, we see an explosion of wild flowers in our limestone dales. Early in May, Hay Dale (near Wheston) seemed to be awash in meadow saxifrage and early purple orchids.
As we drift into summer in June, the orchids really start to impress, along with other wonderful wild flowers, such as Jacob’s ladder and all the cranesbills. These photos were all taken in Millers Dale. But we were also thrilled to hear about some twayblades (another orchid species) appearing in a local garden in Tideswell.
But not all our wildflowers are doing so well. Our hay meadows are in catastrophic decline. The national charity, Plantlife, estimate that we have lost 97% of our traditional hay meadows and permanent pasture in less than a century. Agricultural intensification (at the behest of government policy and our need for cheaper food) has led to radical changes in grassland management. Along with the terrible loss of floral diversity, we are seeing consequent declines in insects and bird life.
One of the proposals from Plantlife to address these declines is to try to do more with other green spaces – including our gardens and roadside verges. So we are delighted that both Derbyshire Dales District Council and Tideswell Parish Council are considering what they can do to better manage their public places in order to help nature recover.
In Tideswell, the Parish Council have trialled three ‘no mow’ areas this year – along Whitecross Road, on Gordon Road, and up at the Townhead recreation area. Unmown strips have been left to flourish and bloom until August, when the areas will be mown and cuttings collected (to reduce fertility).
We are pleased that the majority of people appear delighted with the results, with many positive comments about the wildflowers. Cuckoo flower, lesser stitchwort, ox eye daisy, and field wood rush, have all been recorded, alongside the more common buttercups and clover.
Flowering grasses are also important for many invertebrates. We have people keeping a look out for butterflies in the trial areas, and a ringlet butterfly was seen recently alongside Whitecross Road.
A close mown edge to some of these areas seems to work particularly well, reassuring people that highways safety is a priority and that the areas remain looked after.
TDEG’s Wildlife Group shared the aims of the `No Mow` project with Tideswell 1st Cubs group in May, and the cubs produced some posters to help explain the benefits to passers-by. We hope that the Parish Council feels the trials were a success and that further areas are included in this approach next year.
As well as public spaces, we’ve also been trying to encourage people to think about how to help nature recover in their own gardens. The new TDEG “Going Wildlife” initiative is growing steadily. People can sign up to the project here, and receive information about small steps to encourage wildlife. In this way, we hope to show how we can create a network of wildlife friendly spaces across our whole communities.
Many local people also signed up to Plantlife’s `No Mow May` campaign – leaving small areas of their lawns uncut during May. We’ve had some great photos of the results (and we are sorry we couldn’t include all of them). Hopefully , this will become an annual project for many people. You can read more about the benefits of these initatives for wildlife here.
All these projects show that there are many things we can do to help wildlife. As well as observing, enjoying and recording what we see, there are small practical steps we can all take to help nature recover.
Rue leaved saxifrage
Early purple orchid
Common spotted orchid
Mouse ear hawkweed
Birds foot trefoil
Biting stone crop
Forget me not
Ox eye daisies
Field wood rush
Common pipistrelle bat
Soprano pipistrelle bat
Common blue butterfly
Brown argus butterfly
Speckled wood butterfly
Small heath butterfly
Orange tip butterfly
Large white butterfly
Green-veined white butterfly
Red admiral butterfly
Small tortoiseshell butterfly