Posted by: lensweb | July 11, 2017

Sunning at Skylarks

Skylarks Nature Reserve is a wetland nature reserve owned by Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. It is specifically designed for disabled access. In 2014 a further 36ha of land and water to the south of Adbolton Lane, known as Blott’s Pit was purchased creating the largest nature reserve in Rushcliffe.

We were impressed by the car park which had giant mullein, nodding thistle, red and white campion, musk mallow and many other colourful flowers, all buzzing with bumble bees.

Our leader for the day was Tom Shields, a volunteer Reserve Warden at Skylarks who has led many working parties since the reserve opened in 1982 and runs a group which conducts on-site bird ringing.

Tom led us across the road to the old reserve and to our surprise we found that the Nottinghamshire County Council Community Archaeology Team have built Grubenhauser at the Nature Reserve. These are small sunken floored, timber framed buildings, which were typical buildings of the Anglo-Saxon and Viking ages. These buildings were constructed using traditional techniques and are part of a 3 year project which is exploring the human and natural heritage of the area. What makes this project more exciting is that a REAL Grubenhaus was discovered on the nature reserve when the site was a commercial sand and gravel quarry.

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The sandy ground nearby had an interesting plant community which included common cudweed and blue fleabane, these are not plants we see every day.

We decided to go dragonfly spotting and saw common blue, blue tailed and red-eyed damselflies from a viewing platform, over Old Skylarks Lake. We watched swans with their cygnets dabbling among the reedmace. Common spotted and a single pyramidal orchid were flowering, the bee orchids having finished. The tangerine tang of sweet flag is unmistakeable and there was a lot of this among the more usual branched bur-reed. Looking like an iris or flag, this is distinguished from similar plants, by the unusual crimped edges of the sword shaped leaves. It rarely flowers but we were lucky to see solid, cylindrical, spadix densely crowded with tiny greenish-yellow flowers arranged in diamond-shaped pattern. Brown darter and black tailed skimmed across the water’s surface, and soared through the surrounding reeds.

We made our way back to the new part of the reserve. Centaury and St John’s Wort, Skylarks is definitely the Ragwort capital of the world. So many six spot burnet moths and butterflies nectaring, and orange and black cinnabar moth caterpillars munching on the ‘so called’ noxious weed. A flat meadow, prosaically called ‘the Dog Walkers Field’ was covered with the seed heads of silver hair grass, leading to Single Swan Pond, which speaks for itself. The inestimable value of local knowledge!

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Now it was ‘Watch the Birdie’ at Blott’s Pitt which is part-owned by the Trust. A long central ridge shows the line of a former road through the site which has been extensively engineered to suit the birds and the viewing of the birds. Godwit, oyster catcher, peewit, little ring plover, pochard and sometimes smew. Tom had thoughtfully brought his telescope, even though we did not walk around the Lake it seemed we were close to the birds. Time had run out so we chased the meadow browns, the ringlets and gatekeeper butterflies all the way back to the car park.

Marion Bryce 11 July 2017


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