Saturday, 27 August 2011

Local Patch Protection?

Earlier this week I guided someone from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust round my local patch in the hope that its potential for being an educational natural history site will be recognised some time in the future. We started with the cemetery itself, and I tried to point out some of the 30+ species of tree found there. One unusual species locally is a single Walnut Tree, which used to bear indifferent fruit until the invasion of the Grey Squirrels in the 1990s. This tree is no longer alone, as recently the council have planted some more Walnut trees nearby. We have a single mature Wych Elm opposite some much younger saplings of English Elm - the latter seem to be thriving after its parent tree was a victim to Dutch Elm disease in the 1980s, as were more than 10 beautiful mature Elms. Another local rarity is the single specimen of Mistletoe growing on a Lime Tree. Mistletoe is much more common in the moist climate of the West Midlands & SW Britain. This was spotted in the 1980s & has continued to grow slowly each year, and even flowered last December. Unfortunately, one sprig appears to have succumbed to the dry summer, and has turned brown and seems to have died.

The cemetery is not negligible from an historic point of view. Just over 100 years ago the custom-built chapel was the UK's first local authority municipal crematorium, and is now a Grade II-listed building. The unique columbarium holds several historic plaques including one put up by her family to commemorate the flying pioneer and local success story, Amy Johnson.

During the walk I also tried to remember & relate the birds we have breeding here, plus the one-off appearances by birds such as the Ring Ouzel this April and the bizarre record of the scalped Hawfinch which hit our kitchen window on the morning of the 12th April 1998. Other single instances include the influx of Wheatears one migration time, and the single breeding attempt by Skylark in 1979. Unfortunately, we have lost Spotted Flycatchers as a breeding species since 1980, and Lesser Redpolls no longer fly over on a daily basis as they did in the 1970s & most of the 1980s, although they do sometimes still occur in the winter. Although many birds have declined since 1970, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are now permanent fixtures since the 1st instance on 18th September 1978, and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Goldfinches, Blackcaps and Chaffinches are more numerous than in the late 1960s. Woodcock are an annual visitor, and as long as the Lime suckers aren't cut back too severely may now stay several weeks, rather than days, as the fallen leaves are allowed to remain undisturbed much long today than they were a decade ago.

The abandoned maternity home grounds were also surveyed, and several species of mature tree were discovered, as well as a riot of uncontrolled wildflowers and bramble. This site was earmarked for a retail park, which has been put on hold since the recession, but it would be great if this could be added to the area to be conserved, as part of it has great potential as a wildflower meadow! Tarmac paths still exist, which could be utilised by any future visitors.

We walked along part of the Holderness Drain, which provides a haven for Goosanders in winter when the nearby East Park freezes over. Kingfishers have been recorded here, as have Moorhen, and in summer its scrubby banks provide the perfect habitat for both Common & Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, and Sedge Warblers, but also several resident species. A little further along the drain intersects with the old Hull-to-Withernsea railway line, and in a fringe of reeds near here a few Reed Warblers were singing when I participated in the BTO's atlas scheme a couple of years ago.

We explored the very overgrown old railway line area, where several fruit trees were laden with apples or pears. The old birch scrub has gone to be replaced with a few mature trees, but plenty of tangled bramble. This is where the Lesser Redpoll used to breed, but is now home to decreasing numbers of Willow Warbler, but Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff and Bullfinches continue to thrive.

In all the tour lasted nearly 2 hours, and now the YWT representative has to work on her application for a lottery bid, while I keep my fingers-crossed!

April's Ring Ouzel - stayed for nearly a week
Goldfinch - latest window fatality
Beech Leaves & Beechmast
Black Nightshade
Black Nightshade
Wych Elm
English Elm
Walnut bark
False Acacia Leaves
False Acacia bark
Main Rosebed with Trees beyond
Thick scrubland with HMP extension on right
Memorial to the Cemetery's History

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