Monday, 30 April 2018

Natterjack Toad Night Walk at Sandscale Haws.

Sandscale Haws, near Barrow in Furness, is an important site for the nationally scarce Natterjack Toad.
 On the 27th of April at 8 pm I went on an organised 'Natterjack Toad Walk,' here, led by two National Trust rangers, Neil and Adam.
One of the board walks at Sandscale Haws Nature Reserve.
A sand dune breached by a storm. The landscape is very dynamic. The dunes are often shifting and changing shape.
Natterjack toads are nocturnal and have evolved to breed in transitory water bodies. 
The name 'natterjack' is derived from the loud mating calls made by the males. The jack (or toad) that chatters!
Sandscale Haws.
One of the pools at Sandscale Haws where the toads were in fine voice. The males' mating calls can be heard up to a mile away on a still night!
Searching the area by torchlight for toads...
...Success! A young male is seen. Note the distinctive yellow stripe running down the centre of its back. 
I enjoyed my experience at Sandscale Haws and this was in no small part due to the knowledge and enthusiasm displayed by the two N.T rangers, Neil and Adam, who led the walk.

I also learnt that a gathering of toads is known as a knot of toads, whereas a gathering of frogs is referred to as an army of  frogs.

Posted by R. Wicksteed.


Sandscale Haws website

Below is an impressive video of a Natterjack in full cry!

Natterjack Calling

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Let Battle Commence....(the ongoing work to eradicate Himalayan Balsam.)

At Millerground, nationally scarce native Touch-Me-Not Balsam seedlings are starting to appear. 

Unfortunately, seeds washed down-steam last Autumn have allowed non-native invasive Himalayan Balsam seedlings to be  present as well... encroaching on Touch-Me-Not. (see image below taken April 4th.)
The cotyledon, the embryonic leaves in seed bearing plants (see above) are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed..

Even at this very early stage it is possible to spot which are the native plants and which are invasive!
To give the Touch-Me-Not seedlings their best chance the Himalayan balsam seedlings have been pulled up..Hard to believe that in a few short months these seedlings would have had the ability to grow upwards of 10 feet tall with one plant producing approximately 800 seeds!

 Himalayan Balsam is by far the tallest annual plant in the UK and will easily out-compete Touch-Me-Not, and indeed, other annual plants...
Above is an image of Himalayan Balsam taken in late June; this large woodland stand has become a mono-culture in that no other plants can grow such is its dominance.
Early to mid Summer is the usual time to start control work before the plants have a chance to set seed.
Strimming can be highly effective.
In this image the Himalayan Balsam has been pulled up by hand and then snapped below the bottom node. 

If  left on on the ground intact Himalayan Balsam can sprout new roots and survive very easily.
The image above is of Touch-Me-Not balsam also taken in late June. Under the right circumstances it too can form a mono-culture but in much smaller stands than its invasive cousin.
As mentioned in previous posts Touch-Me-Not Balsam is the food plant for the rare 
Netted Carpet moths' caterpillars.
Finally here is an image of a Netted Carpet Moth on Touch-Me-Not Balsam.