Sunday, 30 June 2013

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bracken and Bilberry

The disappointment of the thrushes who regularly picnic on the bilberries at the end of June is down to their delayed ripening. Invisible is not exactly accurate but few people notice them in their green state.

Some can be found beginning to blush but not enough yet to persuade anyone to bring along their jam jars.

SWT who are always looking for a justification for their management have claimed that their ineffective and ultimately ineffectual actions against bracken are to conserve the bilberries. In some 12 years of management it can hardly be said that this is working the way they claim. Bracken has been occasionally slashed and pulled and at other times sprayed with weedkiller in attempts to halt a natural progression which would itself lead to bracken control through more tree cover.

Bracken is often portrayed as a villain. Yet rarely do we hear voices raised in its defence. After all it's a native plant and not its fault that managers have removed the other native vegetations that would balance or hold back its presence through competition. Other ferns have elegant croziers at their growing tips while bracken does things differently. These mostly symmetrical motifs are often strikingly dramatic.

Bracken is also home to a number of animals and insects and even other plants, not well known.

Deer relish the cover it provides.

A delightful small climbing plant, Climbing Corydalis, has become well established in a bracken bed in one part of Blacka.

Other creatures make use of it too.

Housing on the Moors - Dyson's ?

The previous post was serious. It was making a point that should be developed further, i.e. that landscape that has no obvious attractions is likely to be considered for development.

This threat may be more immediate. Dyson's Ceramics on the Baslow Road directly adjoining the Totley Moor is being prepared for development by a development firm, St Modwen. There will be consultation events - anyway one. For those unfamiliar with the form a 'consultation event' is something that is held in July or August when many people are known to be on holiday. Sheffield Council are past masters of this so will not be in a position to complain (see current library situation).

If this is developed for housing it will eventually mean a green light for all sorts of later infilling. Definitely to be resisted. The consultation event will be on 11th July.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Late Bluebells

Nearly July and still lots of them on Blacka.

Late, also are the first bilberries. They're usually visible around now though the season goes on for several months. The thrushes and blackbirds are already out with their families looking for a fruity feed but so far with few if any rewards.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

New Housing Development for Burbage and Eastern Moors?

Will Barratt, Bellway, Bovis, Redrow and Persimmon be planning to put housing on the moors?
Not as fanciful as might be thought. According to a government minister they may shortly be targeting boring countryside:

Well the empire builders are already there so a precedent's been set. Maybe they will put a fun fair on it to keep the developers at bay. Or there's scope for a muddy pop festival surely?
Wind turbines painted in psychedelic colours as a project for disaffected youth?
Nothing would surprise me.  Leave it to the managers.

Now see this.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Family Resemblances

Walking along reflecting that it's the surprise encounters that are the joys of wilder land as opposed to rigidly controlled expanses of heather. Bracken provides opportunities for many surprises.

Up pops a head. This looks like our handsome young stag now approaching his first birthday. A confident chap who knows his rights.

But as other heads appear the question arises which is his mother - the one that has been so devoted over the last months?

Well not this hind; she has her youngster alongside. Such a mild maternal face.

In fact the one we're looking for is still in supervising mode. The expression on the face gives it  away. That sense of indignation. This is our home. Mind your manners.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Making Nature Do As It Is Told.

From the new book by George Monbiot.

Conservationists sometimes resemble gamekeepers. They regard some of our native species as good and worthy of preservation, others as bad and in need of control. Unlike gamekeepers, they don't use the word 'vermin' to describe our native wildlife. Instead they say 'unwanted , invasive species'. They seek to suppress nature, to prevent successional processes from occurring, to keep ecosystems in a state of arrested development. Nothing is allowed to change: nature must do as it is told to the nearest percentage point. They have retained an old testament view of the world: it must be disciplined and trained, for fear its wild instincts might otherwise surface.The result is back-to-front conservation.
I actually believe the links between conservationists and gamekeepers are very strong. All starts from the top in this industry and who do you find when you look for the person in government responsible for what they call 'wildlife conservation'?  A grouse moor owner and employer of gamekeepers!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Management Industry

There has been no Blacka Moor Advisory Group meeting since October and no message to those on their advisory group mailing list. There has been no word about their new management plan nor their Higher Level Stewardship. Cattle grazing, their daft fixation was expected to continue from Spring but so far no cows – and how thankful we are for that! Where are the managers? What are they scheming? Important consultations were supposed to happen last year and half way through this year have still not been mentioned. Flags should not be waved yet nor street parties planned. Any idea that they may have decamped like an itinerant community are sure to be just wishful thinking.

Management relies on keeping key information close to its chest. So the rule is: don’t tell the public until  ready. Speculation is pretty pointless but happens anyway. Are there serious staffing problems? Has the funding dried up? Has word gone out from those higher up that the whole strategy must be revised? Are they scared that they have been rumbled? Has the rising tide of national questioning led to a secret defensive manoeuvre being hatched. Would any of these surprise us?

We’ve mentioned here - many times - the activities of the wildlife conservation industry with varying levels of bewilderment, annoyance and even amusement. But maybe we should see it less as a 'Conservation Industry' than as a Management Industry much as it is across the rest of national life and the economy. It’s hardly at all about conservation less still about wildlife but a hell of a lot about management. That is the only way to understand what we’re up against. 

Management is their job, managing is their business: managing public perception, damage limitation, financial matters and all that goes with it. They are a group apart from the particular niche they are working in separable from what we might think as the ‘core business’. It’s a desk job with a primary focus on public relations run by people whose mission is to control everything but most of all to control what the public thinks of them, hence the need to control the flow of information.

Morning Entertainment

Flight Times

Walking in the woods can be noisy. Though it's at its best when no aircraft are overhead. Sod's Law makes that the best singing is at the same time each morning just when the planes are going over.

These woods can be dark in places but are always interesting.

Young oaks are growing under the pines and there is also holly and occasionally yew or smaller rowan with some rhododendron. Fallen branches need to be negotiated and the floor is occupied with abundant bilberry and ferns.

Bilberry here is a resilient shrub hitching a lift sometimes high up on alders in epiphyte behaviour. Other wood floor plants can be seen copying this.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Herd and Solitary

Red Deer are sometimes referred to as herd deer as compared with Roe Deer which are territorial. Both are genuine native animals. It's true that the red are often found in larger groups but experience on Blacka has demonstrated that they are quite as likely to wander round in small groups of two or three and even completely solitary.

This time of year hinds may be heavy with young and often you may see just one solitary animal. Three times this morning a single hind was seen. As to whether this was three different deer or one or two seen in different places, I pass.

Even now there are still a few signs of the winter coat clinging on as the seasonal red colouring takes over.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Wilder Appeal

When land begins to rewild all sorts of delights happen. It’s not easy to predict.  And what you see now you may not see 5 years hence. The unpredictable is a large part of its appeal even if some of the impacts are temporarily disappointing. Management by contrast is frequently disappointing.

Here we have an exploited shooting estate for the privileged finally given the chance to express its character and do so naturally and freely. No wonder we return here so often when other nearby places have been rigidly and clumsily managed, often badly but successful only in taking away the magic.

Today the cotton grass shimmers like a covering of snow in the sunlight. This part of the moors has had no management input, no farm livestock for as long as we can remember apart from occasional escaped sheep. The bilberry bulges, a few trees are establishing themselves, and there are patches of bracken and a small rhododendron. Deer hide away in the deeper shrub layer when they want to get away from the people and cattle. This is not going to stay exactly like this forever. It is a process and there will be many surprises and delights for the observer along the way. 

Meanwhile another area is to be seen on the other side of the main road, at the same level, different only in that it has been managed with sheep, a process overseen by Natural England and Sheffield City Council at considerable cost to the public purse. Does anything else need to be said?

Earlier in the day, a grey morning tempted us to look for the crepuscular. Sure enough roe deer were there. Two does one much larger, the smaller one possibly a fawn from last year. 

Given the recent discussions about a nationwide deer cull it’s worth reading the contribution of one experienced observer here.
Roe Deer do not seem to live in large groups in this country. I'd say the typical group is 3, and the biggest group I've seen is 5. The does are often accompanied by a buck, and they are territorial.However it is the grazing pattern that is the most significant factor, and why this stuff about Roe Deer overgrazing is complete nonsense from people that have never observed Roe Deer feeding, and who have poor field skills. How Roe Deer browse is like this. They will only take a few bits off each plant, and then they move. They simply never stay in one spot and heavily graze one area. They constantly walk around in a patch carefully selecting a few bits here and there. I'm not exactly sure why they do this. Whether it is to prevent over-grazing, whether it is for nutritionally based reasons, or an anti-predator adapation. Even with quite small plants, they will never eat the whole plant, and it the plant regrows its lost bits. Their territorial behaviour means it is impossible for them to overgraze. There are a lot of Roe Deer in my area, and it must be close to carrying capacity, and I have never seen overgrazing of the type you get with rabbits and herd deer. 

It’s worth noting that there are people around the local moors here who mention culling of deer almost as soon as you talk with them. That’s a measure of the success the manager/cullers have had with their propaganda. It does not seem to occur to people until you mention it that the whole idea of culling is utterly perverse in the context of so much farm livestock on the moors. But then who said it’s compulsory to think before you speak?

Once the expensively subsidised farm livestock are removed and deer have expanded to a greater extent then it will be time to consider introducing predators. This will never appeal to the managers who want a quiet life and steady role for themselves. Time to start the debate now.

Curlews are making a great deal of noise on the higher parts at the moment. They are certainly privileged to have these open spaces mostly to themselves apart from sheep.

This is one place which desperately needs to have some rewilding. The grass cropping of the sheep with their ‘crop&crap’ management must be one of the most dreary things ‘management man’ has ever come up with.

The ungrazed verges are approaching their best with some wonderful accidental juxtapositions of wild plants often those you don’t want in your garden but grand when they have the freedom to find their own way.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Rewilding, George Monbiot and Action for Involvement in Sheffield

George Monbiot, author of new book from Penguin Books 'Feral' and Guardian journalist

will be at this event in Sheffield on 27th June and will talk about his belief that Britain and the world needs to see more rewilding and less management of our natural environment.

Also involved are Dr Mark Fisher and representatives of the local conservation organisations - see below.

There's a link below to booking information. Note Booking only for 50 people.

Dawn Movements

Taking advantage of good June mornings:

At 6 am the sun had only touched the higher parts of the trees in the woods near Shorts Lane leaving the bluebells in the shade.

Further up the lane and past the stables, where building improvements have been started, the lane is lined with cow parsley.

A fox was out on his dawn patrol in the buttercup pasture but soon scuttled off.

Up on the higher parts all was fairly still until a roebuck suddenly appeared then raced off quickly clearing the barbed wire by several feet.

After that calm returned apart from twitchy pipits and the persistent cuckoo The other deer might be expected to be lying down invisibly, soaking up the June sun probably not far away. But a hind popped up perhaps scenting a dog on the path.

Next to her the calf born last year rose from the deep heather and bilberry. He now looks older and more spruce with a reddish coat and two neat bumps on his head.

All was now action. He turned his head sharply looking to where another (the same?) buck had poked his head. He too shot off at great speed and with superior jumping.

A moment later and three stags appeared close by the stream, one of them quite laid back, consistent with his senior status. He stayed long enough to express mild disapproval.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Red Then Green

Small oak trees are delightful. Another sign that nature is winning.

Leaves start off bronze or even red then as they reach out and the sun gets to them turn a lovely shade of green. A native green.

Snow in June

Hardly a day goes by without being thankful for the way the moor has rewilded over much of the last century. Yes, occasional battles are fought and even won by the managers and their well-funded, government-supported, anti-nature campaigns. But at some times of year and in some parts of Blacka nature is regularly winning the fightback. That's what drew us here in the first place and that is what keeps bringing us back.*

Like the left-over snow drifts of winter spotting the moors, cotton grass brings well needed relief to the otherwise drab areas dominated by heather.

* We should never forget the amazing words of the Natural England officer who said Blacka Moor is nothing without conservation!!! Nature has some fight on its hands when dealing with bureaucracy.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cuckoo !!

Not yet heard a female but as usual on Blacka at the end of May it's easy to find  a male cuckoo. Not so easy to photograph.

2nd June

Still playing hard to snap! This one caused me to jump by suddenly calling only a few feet above my head. He still declined to pose for a proper portrait.

I've still not beaten the pictures taken on St George's Day 2011.

Music and Backing

The best time to see the waterfalls is after a rainy spell with the sun high early in the day.

For much of the year this spot gets little sun.

This morning the sound of the water stimulated some really good singing from the local robin. This fellow was quite creative with some excellent phrases and a better and fuller tone than usual in robins. Maybe he's been listening to the warblers.

Closer to the road the backing is more likely to be traffic. Not much of that at this time but aircraft are rarely absent.