I know a Blog is meant to be up to the minute information, however I thought it would be useful to have a brief summary of recent sightings here at the reserve.
Starting with our Lapwings, 54 nesting pairs this year, now dispersing around the lowland areas of the reserve.
In addition a week or so ago we were visited by a pair of Great White Egrets which stayed for a few days.
At present there is a rich diversity of wildlife, birds and plants to be seen, including Redshank,Sedge Warbler, Weasel,Thrift, Grass Snake,Spotted Flycatcher, Four Spotted Chaser Dragonfly, Yellow Flag Iris, Redpoll, Kingfisher, Whitethroat, Cotton Grass, False Bullrush, Brimstone Butterfly, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Wood Warbler, Reed Bunting, Common Toad, (hundreds if not thousands of little toadlets!) and Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly.
Last weekend a visitor to the reserve set a moth trap and was able to identify over 70 species of moth.
So you can see a great diversity, so come and visit us soon!
Some of Britain’s most spectacular flyers are also our most obscure: moths. Over 2,500 species of moth live in the UK, and over 30 of them have been seen at Ynys-hir over the past few days.
On Sunday we ran a moth trap event for visitors, and set one up again today for a group of 6th formers visiting the reserve. Perhaps the most common night-time visitor was the Mottled Beauty, which comes in all sorts of patterns and shades of grey, brown, cream and black. Some of the more exciting looking finds included the Garden Tiger (whose caterpillars are known as ‘woolly bears’), the Buff-tip (which looks like a bit of broken Birch twig when resting), and the Coxcomb Prominent, which pretends to be dead if you hold it. We also caught several shimmery Light Emeralds, and a sleepy Lobster Moth that was supremely indifferent to being disturbed.
Garden Tiger Adult
Garden Tiger Larva
We also caught several Peppered moths, a beautiful speckled moth well-known in biology circles as an interesting example of natural selection. During the Industrial Revolution, coal pollution blanketed the birch trees and killed the lichens on which the Peppered moth lives. This meant that the whiter moths died, but the few all-black moths were well camouflaged against the coal dust, and became dominant within the species. Thankfully today air quality has improved, so Peppered moths are back to their original mottled white-and-black.
Like most of the UK’s wildlife, moths are still under threat today from things like habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. However, it’s easy to help give moths a home by changing the way you garden. And if you’re keen, try setting out your own moth trap to see why hidden beauties live near you!
What did we find?
Imagine you are a ground nesting bird, looking for that safe, hidden nook to make your nest and raise your chicks. Would you tuck yourself away in some long grass or reeds, so no one could find you? Would you flee when a predator came, or would you defend your eggs?
Now imagine you’re three or four years old trying to think like a bird, and you’ll have an example of what education can look like at Ynys-hir. Field Teachers Monica Lloyd-Williams and Jenny Dingle work with children and young people of all ages, helping them understand how nature works by getting hands-on experience with plants and animals. When you’re three you might call birds ‘fluffy’ instead of ‘ground nesting’, but having an exciting adventure in the outdoors is the first step towards a deeper knowledge of the natural world.
“I’ve learned that small children are very interested in slugs!” says Jenny, “As adults we might think newts are more exotic, but they don’t care what animal it is as long as they’ve found it themselves.”
Certainly the three and four year-olds that visited in June got very attached to the nests they’d made for their three wooden eggs. One child refused point-blank to leave her nest later in the role-play, when the other kids were roaming around to try to find each other’s nesting spots.
Older children tend to be more cynical or self-conscious about being obviously enthusiastic about the natural world, but being at Ynys-hir can still spark that same excitement. After spending the morning with three- and four-year-olds Wednesday, Monica and Jenny ran an afternoon of activities with a group of 6th formers.
“They were also very exciting about finding the toadlets that have been migrating around the reserve,” Jenny recounts, “and it’s quite interesting to see how similar the 6th formers and the play group responded to a little animal hopping across their path. The teenagers are usually just a little toned down.
“We had a group of 9 and 10-year-olds here a week ago, and they kept exclaiming ‘I’ve got an actual fish!’ or ‘Wow, that’s an actual frog!’ It shows what a difference there is between watching the telly or learning in a classroom and actually being out in nature.
“It’s remarkable how truly universal that fascination is. To us, perhaps, Ynys-hir may not be truly ‘wild’, but to a small child making a nest in a meadow where the buttercups are up to their shoulders, that’s wilderness.”
That universal fascination is at the heart of why Monica and Jenny are so dedicated to teaching at Ynys-hir. All children can get excited about being in nature, but not all children get the chance. Jenny believes this is simply not fair.
“Some kids get taken to wonderful places like Ynys-hir, but there are all these kids whose families aren’t interested, or who the free time or find it difficult to get to these places. So what we really love about school visits is that it’s offering that experience to every child in that school. We’re giving children the space to explore, to look under rocks and dip in the mucky ditch, and to be in a semi-wild place.
"There’s nothing quite like walking alongside a child who says ‘I’ve never been in the woods before!’ and feeling their sense of awe and excitement, or seeing a self-conscious, 'cool' teenager relax and really get in to being out on the reserve."