Banbury Community Action Group

April wildlife update

For some, COVID-19 has brought a huge increase in workload, and we thank the key workers who are putting in so many hours to help combat the virus. Many of us, though, instead remain in lockdown, waiting for infection levels in the community to fall. During this time of suspended animation, a host of activities remain off-limits. A trip out into the fresh air for exercise, however, is being positively encouraged, and that offers a perfect opportunity to reconnect with nature. This newsletter brings links to the Wildlife world hoping this will add an extra dimension to your local forays to the outdoors, and to your time enjoying your garden should you be fortunate enough to have one.

First, though, a reminder:Banbury CAG virtual AGM, 5 May
This year our AGM will be a virtual meeting, 7pm, Tuesday 5 May, hosted on Zoom. The details will be sent out in a separate e-mail to all those on the mailing list for this Newsletter.You can attend digitally via a web browser, smart phone or tablet, or by phone. Additional guests are welcome and should e-mail, requesting an invitation to the meeting.We look forward to ‘seeing’ as many of you as can make it.Banbury CAG e-mail
Spring is here!Easter Saturday on the Oxford Canal saw the first brood of ducklings chasing petals and willow-down. The swallows are back, arriving a week earlier than usual on a stiff southerly breeze, and the welcome party is on stand-by for the swifts’ return. Chiff-chaffs, too, have returned (tell them from willow warblers by their call). Hooded spathes of Lords and Ladies lurk pale green in shady places, and ancient woods are filled with the scent of bluebells. The towpath is open still, but please limit use and be thoughtful of other users, distancing appropriately. Do you have your own interesting observations of the natural world? Let us know!!  Willow warbler and Chiff-chaff song Lords and LadiesBluebells – English or Spanish?Photo by Sean McGee on Unsplash
Wild BanburySadly, Wild Banbury has gone to roost for the time being: it will be wonderful when the time comes for the work parties to resume their task of improving the habitats for wildlife in and around the town. It might seem logic to presume that leaving the natural world to fend for itself will bring nothing but benefits to both flora and fauna. In fact, in crowded and agricultural England, this tends not to be so: many of our most treasured habitats are the result of traditional methods of management which result in special balances of species. Management and maintenance keeps on top of strong growing species such as brambles which otherwise out-compete less tough ones, and keeps areas free of encroaching scrub. It can also preserve variety within an area so benefitting a wider range of species. That means that the work of the Wild Banbury volunteers, and many others like them across the country, will be mounting up. When the time is right, and we can get back together again, why not consider joining in with such groups to help keep our wild spaces in good health.The Wildlife Trusts are experiencing a dramatic loss of income from the closure of visitor centres, cancelled events and training sessions and a decrease in donations and membership. Wild Banbury’s project lead has been placed on furlough but, still wanting to help our wildlife, has set up this fundraiser on Just Giving to raise some money for BBOWT. She plans to complete the three peaks challenge at home on her stairs! Good luck, Tara – go safely!Support Tara’s trek on Just GivingPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
BBOWT – Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife TrustThe present constraints have meant that some of us are actually seeing more of the natural world than we usually do. For those becalmed at home, there has been time to look out of the window, spend moments in the garden (lucky those who have one), or to exercise out in the open. Have you, as a result, noticed wildlife you have never spotted before? Twenty frogs in the canal chirping; a grass snake sunbathing in the sunshine; bats at dusk; a bee-fly on the pulmonaria? Why not take the BBOWT as your nature guide? More about the bee-flyUsually an organisation focused on being out and about, BBOWT has turned its attention to bringing nature into the home. They have a really informative newsletter now full of lots of things to do indoors, to learn about and listen to. Much of the content is perfect for those with school-aged children. Think about signing up; they are also sharing the sights and sounds of spring on social media.BBOWT website BBOWT FacebookBBOWT Instagram BBWOT Twitter30 Days Wild is the Trusts’ annual challenge to get us all doing something ‘wild’ every day in June. Signing up brings you a pack with loads of nature-themed ideas.Sign-up for BBOWT 30 Days WildIf the sun continues to shine and you want to enhance your garden as a nature reserve, pluck some ideas from the Wildlife Trusts on just this subject.  Various garden centres and nurseries are offering delivery and call-and-collect services, some DIY stores have re-opened, and there’s plenty of online options for purchasing plants and seeds (admittedly with some delivery delays).Gardening with the Wildlife TrustsA packet of Nasturtium seeds is a good addition to any seed list. The seeds are nice and big so easy to sow, especially for children. A soak overnight in warm water the night before sowing helps soften their tough seed coat. Make 2 cm deep holes with a pencil in pots of compost and drop a seed in each.  Cover, water, keep damp but not wet, somewhere warm, and their growing tips should start poking up in a week or so. Nasturtiums are food for the caterpillars of Large White butterflies (tasty treats for bluetits), and the flowers are full of nectar for long-tongued bees.How to identify Large White butterfliesPhoto by Samuel Giacomelli on Unsplash
Wild OxfordshireWorking with over 60 organisations, this local charity provides support and encourages environmental organisations and volunteers to work together. Instead of their ongoing programme of events, Wild Oxfordshire have bumped up their online resources and have loads of good stuff in their monthly bulletins. Wild OxfordshirePhoto by Harald Arlander on Unsplash
Naturehood (Earthwatch Europe)Also busy in Oxfordshire is Naturehood – a community wildlife project focused on reversing wildlife decline. Naturehood enables you to join in with scientific research, and to act for wildlife, without leaving your own ‘Naturespace’ be that garden, balcony, allotment, or window box. So, although their community events are, of course, on hold at present, now could be the perfect time for you to check in and see if you are interested in getting involved with what they do. Their Spring Newsletter is out now, and take a look at their resources for home and school.Naturehood resources Naturehood spring newsletterNaturehood’ is part of Earthwatch Europe which has as its mission, “working together to live within our means and in balance with nature”. Eathwatch Europe has just launched Wild Days, a new indoor/outdoor learning service for families in lockdown. Available at a modest cost, provides a daily edition of science and outdoor learning inspired videos, activities and games covering the themes of wildlife, food water, soil, climate and shelter.Earthwatch Europe Wild DaysPhoto by Max Letek on Unsplash
Garden wildingInformed management can help biodiversity, yes, and precious habitats are currently at risk from neglect. Not so our gardens! With so much of our country intensively farmed, and open ground increasingly developed, our garden spaces are increasingly vital as havens for wildlife. ‘Lockdown’ is bringing with it time to tidy: time to tidy the house, and time to tidy the garden. Over-tidying a garden greatly reduces its value as a home for others: it is best for wildlife if we leave a wild patch: many insects and other invertebrates thrive in log piles, long grass, piles of leaves and compost heaps. These small creatures help to pollinate the flowers including fruit trees and bushes, and are the foodstuff of choice for hedgehogs and a variety of birds. Caterpillars of our best-loved butterflies amongst others live on various ‘weed’ species, including nettles – Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock. So why not – instead of filling the green bin with trimming and cutting, mowing, raking and edging – take time instead to observe, enjoy and learn about the wide range of plants and animals that will flourish in a wild corner or two put aside for their use. Give yourself a purpose for garden wilding by getting involved in the Garden Butterfly Survey.Garden butterfly surveyInsect populations are in desperate need of help. More than 40% of insect species are in decline, a third are endangered and rates of extinction are alarmingly high. If we don’t do something about it, it will be us who is in need of the help, for insects are essential for the proper functioning of ecosystems: as a food source for so many other creatures, as pollinators vital for the continuation of plant species, and as recyclers of nutrients. Prof Dave Goulson’s report Insect declines and why they matter, commissioned by the South West Wildlife Trusts, explains more. Insect declines and why they matterTo follow up on the study, the Wildlife Trusts working with Garden Organic have put together a guide to Taking Action for Insects. Download your copy now and be inspired to do your bit. See the Wildlife Trusts insect-friendly gardening and Garden Organic for more tips on insect-friendly plants to grow.Taking Action for Insects Wildlife Trusts insect-friendly gardeningGarden OrganicTo home in on more specific needs for bees – there are more than 250 species of bee native to England – visit the Bumblebee Conservation Trust site. Learn how to identify those you spot on your daily perambulations; contribute to their conservation by joining in with ongoing surveys either there or at the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society where there’s excellent help with identification, and lots of amazing information.Bumblebee Conservation TrustBees, Wasps & Ants Recording SocietyPhoto by Piotr Łaskawski on Unsplash
And finally…If you’re feeling that, for today, you know everything there is to know about your own little corner of wilderness, then feet up and drop in on someone else’s, courtesy of one of the webcams from Wildlife Trusts around the country – try, perhaps,Maya the osprey incubating a full clutch of eggs on her nest at Rutland WaterA pair of Dorset barn owls with the female sitting on a brood of five eggPuffins on AlderneySoprano pipistrelle bat maternity roost in a purpose-built box at Hanningfield Reservoir, EssexWildlife Trusts webcamsThe effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are devastating and far-reaching. A fragment of good can perhaps be found in it, if we come out of it feeling a greater connection with the natural world that surrounds us.Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash