A little bit late with our summary of all your sightings – but there has been a lot going on. Some really controversial issues, and many lovely sightings on some special group walks, as well as those sightings posted by individuals on our Facebook page or emailed directly to us. As ever, I’m just adding species to the list on the right (or below – if you are on your phone!), so it’s an accumulated list of all species seen so far in 2022, in roughly a five mile area from Tideswell. And it’s looking quite impressive.
In our part of the world, spring really wakes up in April and May. We perhaps see the greatest diversity of birds and flowers in the later spring months. Many of us enjoyed some fabulous walks in our dales and across the farmed White Peak plateau, searching for flora and fauna freshly grown or newly arrived.
We were lucky to see Pied Wagtails, Curlew, Wheatears and Meadow Pipits on a good walk across Tideswell Moor and down Tideslow Rake in April. The first flowers of spring included Marsh Marigolds, Mountain Pansies and Violets.
At the beginning of the year, TDEG were invited to participate in a new project – the Owl-Kestrel Connect Project. This project aims to provide free nest boxes to farmers and small holders to create a network of new nesting opportunities for Barn Owls and Kestrels along the Hope Valley, up through Bradwell and Tideswell, and over to Taddington and Buxton. We have been successful in obtaining a large grant from the Farming in Protected Landscapes fund, and over fifty boxes have already been fixed this year. We will be monitoring breeding success next year. Several boxes have been fixed near to existing sites, which meant we had some good sightings of existing nesting pairs and their young in the local area.
Other local people also captured wonderful images of birds this summer. This Kingfisher was seen near Cressbrook Mill by Stephen Morrison. Sadly, these beautiful birds are increasingly rare in the Peak District.
Ben Twelves reported seeing a Goldcrest in his garden for the first time – another lovely, but quite elusive bird, as it hides in vegetation out of sight.
As spring turned to summer. we were hoping for news about our Swift boxes.
We were thrilled when we became aware of a bird clearly nesting in our own Swift box, But it soon became apparent that we had a family of Great Tits – still lovely to watch them feeding their youngsters.
Excitingly, we had our first news of Swifts in our newly fixed boxes from Brushfield, where local resident, Julie Mullan, had two pairs nesting this year. It takes three years, at least, for young Swifts to settle in new boxes – so fingers crossed for next year for the rest of us!
May and June must be the best months for many of our wildflowers. TDEG have been pleased to support the local Cressbrook villagers’ group, who are aiming to prevent a camp site being created in Cressbrook Dale (read more about their campaign here), as well as preventing the destruction of important grassland. TDEG Wildlife Group helped the local residents to undertake an ecological survey. On a lovely summer’s day, we identified around 60 different wildflower and grass species in the area known at Litton Frith Meadows. I’ve included the full list in our list of species. Extraordinary!
Also great to hear from some of our TDEG members that their activities to help nature recover are paying off. Helen Salmon reported on a successful year on her limestone slopes above Litton, with Yellow Rattle now established. This species is really important when trying to establish flower rich meadows. It is parasitic on the more robust grass species, so helps the more fragile wildflowers to flourish.
TDEG and the 1st Tideswell Scouts planted more Yellow Rattle, along with other wildflowers up at the Tideswell Community Park this summer as well. We should be able to see how successful we’ve been next spring.
We know how valuable the previously uncultivated grassland in our dales is for biodiversity. The thin, limestone soils are perfect for a wide range of wildflowers. We added even more to our list during one of our TDEG Summer Walks, when an enthusiastic group went looking for orchids and other wildflowers in Millers Dale. We were delighted to find four different species of orchid, along with another 29 species.
We also had other group events in our Summer Walks programme. The ever popular Bat Walk identified four species of bats in Tideswell Dale and Millers Dale again.
We also had a fabulous butterfly walk with local experts, Gordon and Alison Rooke along Tansley Dale and Cressbrook Dale. This walk was right at the very end of an extremely hot season, but we were still delighted to see 14 different species of butterfly, including Dark Green Fritillaries and a Wall Brown butterfly near Litton.
Gordon and Alison often undertake this transect for the East Midland Butterfly Conservation group. At one high point, they spotted 191 butterflies from 17 different species – an amazing total. Our own TDEG butterfly team continue to monitor butterfly numbers in Tideswell Dale – although we’re yet to see the sheer abundance of butterflies seen in the former areas. Gordon and Alison have also spotted some real rarities in their area, including White Letter Hairstreak and Green Hairstreak butterflies (both species underlining the importance of the Litton Frith Meadows in Cressbrook Dale).
Other TDEG members have sent us images of some of the curious beetles and other insects they have spotted in their gardens or elsewhere. Esther Weir saw a Nettle Weevil and Soldier Beetle in Tideswell Dale. Ruth Shaw also sent us a picture of a Carrion Beetle, covered in these tiny orange mites – which apparently are just `hitching a lift` until they find their next food source. Isn’t nature wonderful!
Whilst we are talking about beetles, we could not pass this item without a mention of our much-missed Thomas Eccles. Thomas was our `go to` expert on all things related to beetles and other insects, and he also led a wonderful `bug hunt` last year in our local community wood. He sadly passed away this summer – a brilliant artist and incredible enthusiast. Our thoughts and all good wishes go to his family.
We should also mention another very controversial topic. Sadly, despite much campaigning by many different groups and individuals, the badger cull was extended to our part of Derbyshire this summer. Many of us enjoy seeing badgers in our gardens or in the surrounding dales. But I wonder for how much longer?
Much has been said on Facebook and elsewhere about this very divisive government policy. The current position is that some landowners in our area have been licensed to kill badgers to attempt to reduce the risk of Bovine TB infecting cattle. These licences last for four years. So unless government policy changes, we are likely to see around 70% of our badgers killed before 2025 (this is the government target).
If you are interested in reading more about why some of us are so against the badger cull – here are some web sites which might be of interest.
Sadly, it is also an extremely divisive policy in any rural community. We need to work with our local farmers and landowners if we are to achieve nature’s recovery (indeed, we are working closely with many of them already). Most of us don’t blame our local farmers – we believe they have been misled by a government who is taking the easiest and cheapest option to pretend they are dealing with Bovine TB, based on unsubstantiated evidence. Bovine TB is a terrible disease, but it must be dealt with by better support to our farmers and better management of the national cattle herd.
Also controversially perhaps, TDEG took the unprecedented step this month of asking our members to contact our local MP and the leader of Derbyshire County Council, to express our concerns about a wide range of attacks on wildlife laws and targets to address climate change. You can read our open letter here. It is still not too late to contact decision makers to emphasise how much we all value the natural world, both for its intrinsic value and because everything we do depends on a healthy environment.
Some of you may remember a sort of Venn diagram which overlapped the three circles of social, economic and environmental factors, to highlight the aim to achieve ‘sustainable growth’ in the centre? I think it is well understood that this is no longer a good model of our planet’s limited resources. A more realistic version is this model. We really cannot achieve any economic growth or social stability, unless our environment is adequately protected.
If only our politicians understood this as well!
Hairy St. John’s-wort
Greater bird’s-foot trefoil
Early purple orchid
Common Spotted orchid
Marsh Fragrant orchid
Grasses and Sedges
Sweet vernal grass
False oat grass
Perennial rye grass
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
Dark Green Fritillary
Silver Washed Fritillary
White Letter Hairstreak
Double-striped Pug moth
Soprano Pippistrelle bat
Frogs (with spawn)