Blossom and Leaf in May around Froyle

What a beautiful time of year to walk around the village! And much of the charm comes from the blossom and fresh green leaves of the trees and shrubs in our hedgerows and copses. Here is a closer look at a few of the trees flowering around Froyle in May. These are all native varieties, which thrive on our chalky soil, and are excellent choices if you are looking to ‘wild’ a section of your garden.

Elder grows as a shrub or small tree, with flat-topped heads of sweetly scented creamy flowerets: many pollinators are attracted to the flowers, and dormice and bank voles will snack on them too, while moth caterpillars such as the white-spotted pug, swallowtail, dot moth and buff ermine eat the new leaves.
In folklore, elders were believed to protect farm buildings from malicious spirits, witches, and lightning, provided that the resident ‘Elder Mother’ was treated with respect! Bad luck to anyone who did not ask permission to harvest the flowers and fruit, or damaged the tree. The flowers can be used to make wine, cordial or tea, or fried to make fritters.

Hawthorn in flower is sure sign that summer is on the way; the white or pale pink blossoms are almond scented, and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The dense, thorny shrubs provide excellent nesting shelter for many varieties of bird, and the leaves are food for caterpillars of the hawthorn moth, the orchard ermine, and the light emerald moth.

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has ancient associations with May Day. A hawthorn tree was the ancestor of the Maypole, set up on the village green and decorated with ribbons, to preside over the festival fun and dancing. The leaves and blossom were also gathered on May Eve to be used in May Day garlands, which were carried in procession through the countryside. The young leaves, flowers and flowerbuds can all be eaten in salads, and a tea brewed from hawthorn leaves is believed to be good for the circulation.

Whitebeam: There are several of these lovely graceful trees growing around the lanes and gardens of Froyle, and they are at their most beautiful in May, with the pale silvery undersides of their newly emerged leaves, and heads of creamy, sweet scented blossom, beloved by the bees. The leaves are a valuable source of food for the caterpillars of such moths as the bordered pearl and the short-cloaked moth.
The hard, fine grain of whitebeam wood made it a popular building material in Anglo Saxon times, and traces have been found in the doorpost holes at roundhouse sites. Along with elm, it appears to have been used as a ‘boundary tree’ planted at the edges of villages and estates.

Guelder Rose is a large shrub, rather than a tree. It has deeply lobed leaves and denser clusters of pink/white flowers, rather like a lacecap hydrangea, and grows in shady and damp conditions. Guelder rose is an ancient-woodland indicator species. If you spot it while you’re out exploring, it could be a sign you’re standing in a rare and special habitat. The flowers are visited by several pollinating species, especially hoverflies, and is the food plant for such moths as the privet hawkmoth and common quaker. Low and dense shrubs such as the guelder rose form prime nesting sites for many of our visiting warbler species.
A tea made of the bark is believed to relieve muscle cramp. Finally, guelder rose is one of the national symbols of Ukraine, and is mentioned in many folk songs and featured in traditional art and embroidery, which alone is an excellent reason for planting one at the back of your garden!

Sue Lelliott, Froyle Tree Warden

Hedgerows are important for Nature

So why do organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, the Tree Council, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB all extoll the importance of hedgrows in our landscape?  Hedges are more than an essential refuge for wildlife. Small but mighty, they also clean our air, capture carbon, reduce flooding and give clues to historic land management. In Froyle most rural hedgerows follow the field boundaries shown on the 1847 Tithe Map and are likely to have been hedges for hundreds of years.

Upper Froyle view winter (above)             Lower Froyle view autumn (below)

There are an estimated 500,000 miles of hedgerow in Britain which could be looked on as our largest nature reserve. Hedges come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can include many different species. Rural hedges are often a mix of shrub and tree species, such as hawthorn, blackthorn, spindle, hazel, ash and oak. In more urban and landscaped settings, they are likely to include species like box, yew, privet and holly.

They provide wildlife corridors through a farmed landscape to connect habitat areas. 130 nationally rare species are closely associated with hedges including lichens, fungi and reptiles. Many more use them for food and shelter during some of their lifecycle. Bank vole, harvest mouse and hedgehog all nest and feed in hedgerows as well as birds, while bats use them as ‘commuter routes’ for foraging and roosting.

Some species of birds depend on hedgerows for their survival. At least 30 species nest in hedgerows. According to the RSPB several of these, such as bullfinches and turtle doves, prefer hedgerows more than 4m tall, with lots of trees, whereas whitethroats, linnets and yellowhammers favour shorter hedgerows (2–3m) with fewer trees. Dunnocks, lesser whitethroats and willow warblers prefer medium or tall hedgerows with few trees.

Wrens, robins, dunnocks and whitethroats usually nest low down, but song thrushes, blackbirds, chaffinches and greenfinches nest well above the ground level. Grey partridges use grass cover at the hedge bottom to nest. It is therefore important to manage for a range of hedge heights and tree densities and to maintain a grassy verge at the base of the hedge.

Redwing (photo right) in a Froyle hedgerow
Grassy hedge bottoms and field margins provide nesting material and insect larvae for chicks to feed on. Wild flowers and grasses growing up into a hedge also help to conceal nests from predators. In winter, hedgerows can be feeding and roosting sites for resident birds and winter visitors such as fieldfares and redwings.  Conservation organisations say that no cutting should take place during peak bird nesting season, which runs from March to September. Where possible, delay any maintenance work until January or February, as hedgerow berries provide a valuable autumn and winter food source for birds.

The Wildlife Trusts advise that rural hedges should not be cut every year, as flower buds often form on second-year growth. Trimming hedges on a two or three year rotation, targeting different sections each year, will make sure there are always flowers for pollinators in spring and berries for birds in autumn. Hedges cut every three years can produce two and a half times as much blossom as those cut annually. Rotational cutting can also save time and money that would be invested in annual cutting. The main message for hedges in the landscape is that ‘Big and Blousy’ is better for wildlife than ‘Neat and Tidy’.

Acknowledgment: Some of the text above was copied from information sources.

How do butterflies survive the winter?

When the weather turns cold, you may wonder what happens to these insects. Winter poses a problem for butterflies as they cannot get warm enough to become active.  They enter a dormant phase either as an egg, larva, pupa or adult insect, dependent upon species.  This isn’t simply a random choice but is a way of ensuring that the insect’s awakening the following year corresponds with the peak availability of its main food source.  Amazingly the Painted Lady avoids winter conditions completely by migrating long distances to regions in North Africa and the Middle East.

Eggs, larvae and pupae tend to be hidden away, though you may find Large White pupae attached to the walls of your house.  Those species that overwinter as dormant adults include Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma.  The Red Admiral, which has become a common sight in British winters of late, doesn’t enter a proper dormancy but can become active on any suitable sunny days.

The Comma has its name written on the underside in the only white marking, which resembles a comma. When resting with wings closed this butterfly has excellent camouflage, the jagged outline of the wings giving the appearance of a withered leaf, making the butterfly inconspicuous when resting on a tree trunk or when dormant in winter.

The sea urchin-shaped eggs of the Brown Hairstreak are laid singly on the bark of blackthorn, typically on one- or two-year old growth that is in a sheltered area exposed to the sun.  Within the 1mm pin-head sized egg, the larva partially develops before entering hibernation for the winter.  Overwintering eggs are particularly vulnerable to hedge-trimming since they are laid on the youngest growth of the foodplant.

The Orange Tip pupa (or chrysalis) is formed on an upright plant stem that provides a suitable overwintering site, attached by a silk thread girdle.  Green when first formed, the pupa turns light brown to more-closely match its surroundings.  Several crucifers are used as foodplants, especially Cuckooflower in damp meadows and Garlic Mustard along road verges.  It also lays its eggs on Honesty and Sweet Rocket in gardens. The chrysalis will not survive winter if the plant stems are cut down before the adult butterfly emerges in spring.  Leaving part of your garden naturally unkempt helps to benefit other wildlife aswell.

Barry C.

The Holly and the Ivy, December 2021

The Holly and the Ivy are words of this traditional Christmas carol, thought to have Pagan origins and could date back over 1000 years. Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ivy (Hedera helix) were taken indoors during the winter, the hope being that the occupants would endure the cold season just as these hardy plants do.  In addition, they are both brilliant for wildlife, their flowers benefit pollinators and their berries are eaten by birds.

Stroll past any ivy clad wall or tree on a sunny day in late summer and early autumn and you will see a myriad of bees, flies, wasps and butterflies attracted to the rich nectar and pollen offering. A study by Sussex University demonstrated how significant ivy’s presence is to insects. During September and October they showed that the majority of pollen pellets collected by honey bees were from ivy. Hoverflies were also observed to be particularly frequent visitors. Ivy even has its own specialists, including the Ivy Bee (Colletes hedera).

The Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) generally has two generations each year the first in early spring emerging well before other blue butterflies. It tends to fly high around bushes and trees, whereas other grassland blues usually stay near ground level.  It is by far the commonest blue butterfly to found in gardens with a second generation flying July to September.  The larvae feed predominantly on the flower buds, berries and terminal leaves of Holly in the spring generation, and on Ivy in the summer generation.

Although holly berries are often ripe by autumn, birds such as song thrushes, blackbirds, fieldfares and redwings don’t usually feed on them until late winter. The dry pith of ivy berries contains nearly as many calories, weight for weight as Mars bars! In most cases, while the bird digests the pith and juice, the seeds travel undamaged through the bird’s gut, and may be dropped many miles from the parent plant.

Look out for Hedgehogs in Froyle

Are you fortunate to have a hedgehog in your garden? Having been several years since seeing any in our garden, we were delighted recently to see the little black ‘calling cards’ that are evidence a hedgehog has spent some time visiting ours. I’m sure many of you will be aware of the severe decline in hedgehog numbers across the UK, including in the countryside. With this in mind there are several things we can do to help them.

They start to hibernate in October. However, if they are underweight they won’t survive over the Winter. Therefore, if you see a small hedgehog at the moment, this will be a young hedgehog, also called a hoglet, please contact Hart Wildlife Rescue– www.hartwildlife.org.uk – who should be able to take the hoglet and build it up, so it can be safely released next Spring.

Also please be very careful with strimming.  Sadly hedgehogs are often seen injured post strimming and the damage inflicted is usually too severe for them to survive. If you are going to be building bonfires, please bear in mind a hedgehog will think this is a great place to rest in, and so please check them carefully before lighting, or ideally light them straight after building them.

There are other things that will help to make your garden hedgehog friendly including:

•           ensuring a pond has a ramp for them to use

•           creating a wild corner

•           stopping using chemicals

•           putting out food and water

If you are interested to find out further information about how you can help hedgehogs, the people’s trust for endangered species (ptes) has initiated Hedgehog Street, a joint campaign in conjunction with the Hedgehog Preservation Society. Further details can be found at www.ptes.org.

Jayne Fisher

Swifts need your help, Froyle August 2021

Swifts, the iconic ‘birds of Summer’, are in trouble. These beautiful and charismatic birds have declined across Hampshire and the UK by more than 50% over the last 23 years, see www.swift-conservation.org/.  The plummeting in their numbers is believed to be due to a big reduction in available nesting sites. However, it has been shown that if nesting places are once again provided, with either nest boxes or swift bricks, this can significantly boost local swift populations.

By mid-August the swifts that we all enjoyed over Froyle this Summer with their aerial displays will be heading back to their African wintering skies. Amazingly an adult swift can fly 7500km in just 5 days!  However, we can think ahead for next year, when the swifts return in late April/early May, aiming to maximise the number of swift nest sites that are ready and available to them, thus helping to boost swift numbers in future years.

Tim Norris from Hampshire Swifts www.hampshireswifts.co.uk/ is happy to check your house to see whether you have a suitable site for a nest box.  He and a colleague can then provide and fit a nest box for you. There is a small charge for this. Tim has fitted some nest boxes in Lower Froyle this Summer, and these have already attracted visits from swifts – please see photo on left. This bodes well for their intended use next year.

If you are interested, and would like to see whether you might be able to help with siting of swift nest boxes around Froyle, please contact info@www.froylewildlife.co.uk.

Jayne Fisher

‘Drop-in’ at Froyle wildlife pond 10th and 17th July 2021

Update: The weather last Saturday 10th at the original ‘drop-in’ was wet in the morning and cool overcast in the afternoon. So although the wildflowers were splendid, most of the dragonflies, butterflies and bees stayed hidden in the vegetation. The weather forecast is hot and sunny for this Saturday 17th July, so come along anytime 10am to 4pm at an additional ‘drop-in’ to see what’s flying and flowering.

Call in anytime between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 10th July 2021 to visit the wildlife pond and meadow, near Gid Lane, Upper Froyle (see plan). There should be plenty to see especially if it’s a sunny day. No need to book, anyone can just pop in to see what you can spot. Please ensure social distancing during your visit.
Members of Froyle Wildlife will be on hand to assist with identification of wildflowers, dragonflies and butterflies. Wildflower species to look out for include; knapweed, lady’s bedstraw, sainfoin, self heal, purple loosestrife, water figwort and bird’s-foot trefoil. Last year were 14 species of butterfly, 6 species of dragonfly/damselfly, ladybirds, hoverflies, bees and grasshoppers were noted on the July ‘drop-in’ day.

Image gallery: A selection of photos taken on the drop-in days sent in by members (Kelvin, Carol, Geoff, Gillian, Barry, Sue and Jim) are shown below. Click on the thumbnail image for a larger view.

 

Froyle Wildlife pond ‘an absolute pleasure’ 3rd June 2021

Carol sent us photos and wrote about their visit to Froyle …

I am a newish member having joined in 2020 to watch a Froyle Wildlife talk last November, and I’d been meaning since then to venture out from Alton to have a look at the pond on Gid Lane.  So when the Orchid walk in North Warnborough Greens was cancelled this week, myself and my husband decided it would be a good opportunity to do something ‘Froyle Wildlife’ connected and visit the pond!

What an absolute pleasure it was.  So beautifully peaceful while seated on a tree stump and surrounded by yellow and pink – a froth of Buttercups, and patches of Ragged Robin.  The pond resplendent with swathes of Water Crowfoot on either side.

Walking round the mown paths I came across new discoveries for me – subsequently identified as a Common Carpet moth, Azure Damselflies, a Large Red Damselfly and some Bladder Campion.   In the pond itself I saw a tiny Ramshorn Snail, and a Greater Water Boatman. Finally, seated again, I spotted what turned out to be a Thick-legged Flower Beetle on a nearby buttercup.  Previously seen once before in Devon, a few years ago.

What a joyful experience in a delightful sanctuary of wildlife and flowers.

 

Nesting birds around Froyle in March 2021

March –‘In like a lion out like a lamb’
The gradual transformation from winter to spring

Many birds will begin nesting this month however Long-tailed Tits will have started nest construction in February; this is because it takes so long to create their cosy, stretchy, feather lined nests. They are made from moss, hair and cobwebs and then covered with lichens for camouflage. Other early nesters include Rook, Heron and Raven.
Three favourite species of farmland ground nesting birds which I look forward to seeing on walks in Lower Froyle are Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer.

  • Skylark – Males seemingly deliver their liquid nonstop song with effortless ease whilst hovering, sometimes so high up they are hard to spot. On the ground these brown birds are equally hard to see. Their diet consists of invertebrates, weed seeds and leaves and grain.
  • Lapwing – also known as Peewits due to their call, appear black and white in flight however their backs take on an iridescent greeny purple in sunlight; hence Green Plover is yet another name for them. Males perform spectacular diving, tumbling and swooping aerial displays in the spring. One pair is able to raise one brood of up to 4 chicks a year. The chicks can walk and feed themselves within hours of hatching, the parent birds, ever vigilant, will mob predators but this isn’t guaranteed to keep them away. Lapwings prefer damp fields to breed on with ruts or depressions holding water. They feed on invertebrates in or on the ground. Later in the year quite large feeding flocks can be sometimes be seen in Froyle.
  • Yellowhammer – males are an easily recognised and their ‘Little bit of bread and no cheese’ song sung from hedgerows is a giveaway. They prefer to nest on the ground under or low down in thick hedgerows adjacent to damp/watery ditches. The nature Poet John Clare writing in the 19th century described this in his poem ‘The Yellowhammer’s Nest’. Mainly seed eaters, these birds can be found in winter stubbles, wild bird cover and anywhere with spilt grain. Chicks of this species must have a good supple of insect food and adults also benefit from this additional fare during the breeding season. Wide Native grass and wildflower margins can provide this. In Lower Froyle last year it was fantastic to see butterflies and bees where this had been created.

Skylark, Lapwing and Yellowhammer are included on the UK ‘Red List’ for birds, meaning they are in need of urgent conservation action having suffered major population declines. Sixty seven species – one in 4 of UK birds are now on the Red List.

White-tailed eagle visits Froyle October 2020

A number of white-tailed eagles were released on the Isle of Wight in August 2020 (having been born in Scotland) as part of a reintroduction program under license from Natural England. We received an exciting report that one of these white-tailed eagles had roosted overnight in woods at Upper Froyle during the first week of October 2020.

The next morning Keith Betton (Hampshire County Bird Recorder) took photos of it being mobbed by crows before it flew to a wood in Lower Froyle. Its GPS tracker showed that later it had flown towards London, before returning to the Isle of Wight via Sussex.

The reintroduction program only takes a chick when there are two in the nest – because usually one dies in that situation.

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