Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Keeping meadows in mind – and why they matter. Free online talk bu author Stephen Moss on the importance of wildflower meadows

Best-selling nature writer and broadcaster Stephen Moss is giving a free online talk to illustrate why creating wildflower meadows is important for turning around wildlife declines and helping to tackle climate change.

The 'Why meadows matter' talk, on Wednesday 3rd February at 7:30pm, focuses on a key habitat for the subject of Stephen Moss's latest book, The Swallow: A Biography. Wildflower-rich meadows are home to a diverse array of insects. That means they are important places not only for bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinators, but also for the smaller prey species hunted by insect-eating birds such as swallows.

This online event has been organised by Dartmoor-based Moor Meadows, a community wildflower and wildlife conservation group. Open to everyone, the event is free but you must register.  CLICK HERE TO REGISTER YOUR PLACE

Traditional wildflower meadows have disappeared from most of the English countryside, largely due to changes in agriculture during the 20th century. With the loss of diverse wild plants came an associated loss of insects and other wildlife.

But in recent years, techniques have been perfected to re-create wildflower-rich grasslands. As groups such as Moor Meadows have shown, wildflower 'meadows' can be restored or created on farmland, in gardens and churchyards, and on roadside verges.

Event organizer and Moor Meadows co-founder Donna Cox of Buckfastleigh said: "Wildflower meadows are among the most important wildlife habitats, as they support disproportionately high numbers of plant and animal species. Yet 97% of Britain's wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Meadows have a fascinating history and are a wonderful wildlife spectacle in the present – but they are important for the future of both wildlife and people."

The free talk on 'Why meadows matter' will include a Question and Answer session so attendees can quiz Stephen Moss about the wildlife to be found in meadows and the importance of wildflower-rich grasslands for reducing pollution in our waterways, storing carbon from the atmosphere, reversing the declines in pollinating insects, helping to improve people's mental health and more.

Stephen Moss said: "Wildflower meadows have such a central importance not only for wildlife, but also in our history, literature and culture. They have all but disappeared in recent decades, but Moor Meadows is now helping to bring them back."

In addition to the general Q&A session the free event will also include a conversation between Stephen Moss and Dartmoor-based RSPB Chairman Kevin Cox.

Stephen Moss - Author of  'The Swallow: A Biography'.Stephen Moss - Author of  'The Swallow: A Biography'
People enjoying Brimpts meadow, near Dartmeet. Photo copyright Wendy Searle (All ighs Reserved)People enjoying Brimpts meadow, near Dartmeet. Photo credit Wendy Searle
Meadow brown butterfly.  Photo copyright Robbie Phillips All Rights Reserved)Meadow brown butterfly Photo credit Robbie Phillips

"Keeping meadows in mind – and why they matter"
Free online talk on the importance of wildflower meadows organised by More Meadows – Wednesday 3rd February at 7:30pm
Places on the free online talk by Stephen Moss - CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Monday, 1 February 2021

More Meadow-makers plan to get Torridge blooming and buzzing

A new community group for West Devon and Torridge aims to support landowners, farmers and gardeners keen to restore or create wildflower meadows.

More Meadows West Devon & Torridge is based on the successful Moor Meadows Dartmoor community, which since its founding in 2015 has grown to include more than 800 meadow-makers, managing more than 1,000 acres of wildflower meadow to benefit wild plants and wildlife on Dartmoor and beyond.

Thanks to funding from the Devon Environment Foundation, the More Meadows concept is an attempt to replicate the original Moor Meadows group's success by supporting new networks of meadow-makers across Devon.

The new More Meadows West Devon & Torridge group has been founded by local nature enthusiasts concerned about ongoing wildlife declines but inspired by efforts to create more wildlife-friendly habitats.

Although lost from much of the countryside due to changes in agriculture during the 20th century, traditional wildflower-rich grassland can be maintained, restored or created on farmland, in gardens and churchyards, and on road verges.

This conservation work can play a crucial role in turning around the fortunes of threatened bees, butterflies and other pollinators as well as the birds and mammals that rely on insects for food.

Co-founder of the new group Jon Valters, who manages a small nature reserve near St Giles on the Heath, said: "The idea is that people in West Devon and Torridge will be able to provide each other with support and advice on how to create or restore wildflower-rich grasslands with the aim of substantially increasing the number of wildflower meadows in this part of Devon."

He continued: "Some members of the new group have already come forward with projects including a proposal to create wildflower verges in their village. We are also keen to help people who wish to create smaller areas of wildflower grasslands in their gardens or local churchyard."

The original Moor Meadows Dartmoor group has held scything workshops so meadow-makers can master this traditional grassland management technique and also very popular Open Meadow events, with invitations to view wildflower meadows on private land, chat to the owner and be inspired by what can be achieved. The West Devon & Torridge hub hopes to organise similar events and workshops in future.

The Meadow-Makers' Forum, launched online last month, encourages the creation and spread of new More Meadows groups. The West Devon & Torridge group is the first new one to form and details of the group can be found in the Local Groups section at http://forum.moremeadows.org.uk/

Supporting this process for More Meadows is Devon ecologist Tracey Hamston, who said: "New groups of local meadow enthusiasts are being formed as individuals reach out to other wildlife-friendly landowners in their area. The online forum is providing a network for people to find others living nearby, organise getting together and planning how to move forward, with the aim of creating and restoring as much species-rich meadow as possible and connecting to like-minded folk in the process."

Joining the online forum is free and offers resources and advice on managing a meadow - including where to source wildflower seeds or seed-rich 'green hay' – while forum members can help identify the wild plants and creatures in field or garden meadows.

The West Devon & Torridge More Meadows group is in the process of setting up a small steering group and is particularly keen to recruit a volunteer with IT skills.

For more information see the More Meadows forum at http://forum.moremeadows.org.uk/ or for anyone without easy internet access, co-founder Jon Valters can be contacted on 01566 784196.
Marbled white butterfly. Photo copyright Mike Symes (Al Rights Reserved)
Marbled white butterfly. Photo credit Mike Symes
Jon Valters of More Meadows West Devon & Torridge group
Jon Valters of More Meadows West Devon & Torridge group
Traditional haymeadow. Photo copyright Jon Valters (All Rights Reserved)
Traditional haymeadow. Photo credit Jon Valters
·        ------------------------------------------------------- 
More Meadows West Devon & Torridge group: The new group has been formed by wildflower meadow and wildlife enthusiasts in the local area, aiming to build on the success of the Moor Meadows Dartmoor group, using the group model known as More Meadows.
Moor Meadows Dartmoor: Moor Meadows Dartmoor is a community group established in 2015, whose aim is to help each other in conserving, restoring and creating wildflower meadows, on any scale, in the landscape of Dartmoor. Moor Meadows Dartmoor have set up the online Meadow Makers' Forum to help with the formation of new groups across Devon
More Meadows: More Meadows is an umbrella name for the network of new meadows groups being established in different parts of Devon, all sharing information via the new Meadow Makers' Forum. Establishment of the Forum has been made possible by a grant from the Devon Environment Foundation.
Devon Environment Foundation: The Devon Environment Foundation aims to protect and restore Devon's natural beauty by funding local nature regeneration projects.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

North Devon Wildlife through the window. Seasonal photos of the birds in my garden

Well what a year. Stormy times, supermoons, lockdowns and Covid19 restrictions meant that I didn’t get to visit some of our favourite locations and all the events were cancelled for the year. Luckily for me I love my small messy garden and the bees, birds and butterflies love it too. 

The natural world did not take a break and continued as usual with the regular birds on and below the feeder. For the first time I enjoyed watching a couple of Siskins which stayed in the garden for a couple of months, I do hope they return and nest here. January 20/21 2020 a fleeting visit from some Long Tail Tits and wonder of wonders they returned with a flurry of snow on 23rd January 2021. 

I had started putting out Niger Seed for the Goldfinches, which they enjoyed, I then added Sunflower Hearts to the menu, they loved those even more and continue to devour messily on a daily basis.  They have dominated the feeders throughout the year and it looks as though this year will be the same, I counted 11 yesterday, I am hoping they stay around for the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. The Sunflower Hearts are popular with most of the birds and probably why the Siskins visited. 

As usual the Swifts and Swallows arrived in the Spring, spotted the first Swallow flying aloft 17th April, watched them gather on the wire above the garden on the 17th September, the next day they were gone. Finally snatched a shot of the elusive Great Spotted Woodpecker in June, they are regulars in the garden but pretty much peck and go a bit like the Wrens. Sadly I only saw one Greenfinch a juvenile, I miss the House Martins that once used to build their nests in the corners of the windows beneath the roof.

I have watched as usual as the birds sing out, nest and raise their fledglings. Here are just some of the photos from 2020.

North Devon Focus. Great Spotted Woodpecker Photo copyright Pat Adams (All Rights Reserved)
Great Spotted Woodpecker Photo credit Pat Adams
North Devon Focus. Sparrow Fledglings - Photo copyright Pat Adams (All Rights Reserved)
 Sparrow Fledglings - Photo credit Pat Adams
North Devon Birdwatching through the window. Male and Female Siskin Photo copyright Pat Adams (North Devon Focus) All Rights Reserved
Male and Female Siskin. Photo credit Pat Adams
North Devon Birdwatching through the window. Photo copyright Pat Adams (North Devon Focus) All Rights Reserved
North Devon Birdwatching through the window. Photo credit Pat Adams
Birds in my garden 2020
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Wood Pigeon
Pat Adams' North Devon Focus. A North Devon Coast & Country Chronical
Explore the Coast and' Country' side of  Bideford Bay and Beyond