The Park is Good for our Health

by David Feather

Did you know that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week? I didn’t until recently. You might well ask how it connects with the Park?

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Pesticides and soil biodiversity

 A meta-analysis of nearly 400 research studies has shown that pesticides are damaging the soil’s vitally important ecosystems. Researchers have warned that we must be more careful about considering the organisms that live in  the soil when we assess the environmental impact of pesticides. A UN report published in December 2020 found that, without urgent action to halt degradation, the future of our soils looks bleak: it takes thousands of years for new soils to form.

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It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week

During this year’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society is asking people to turn their gardens into safe havens for hedgehogs. Our gardens are a stronghold for hedgehogs, perhaps the key to their survival as a species, and we can make their lives so much easier with just a little effort.

SMMS Guru Source: Saving Britain’s Hedgehogs | Athena Films | Channel 5

Wildlife watching requires patience

by Simon Knight

One of the special features about the park – or any wild place – is that if you go there at the correct time and have the patience to stay still, be quiet and just really look and listen, you will find that there is life all around you.

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Red dead nettle

This is a red dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), the commonest of weeds. It flowers for most of the year in untidy vegetable plots, roadside verges and, in this case, nature reserve car parks. Nobody gives it a second glance but its flowers, hidden among its topmost purple leaves, are extraordinarily beautiful.

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Broad bodied chasers

Dragonflies were among the first winged insects to evolve, around 300 million years ago, long before there were dinosaurs. Back then oxygen levels in our atmosphere were much higher than they are now, and dragonflies evolved into giants with wingspans like eagles. Now, the emperor dragonfly, the largest of Britain’s 36 dragonfly species, has a wingspan of a mere 11cm.

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Bird table ID

The header picture is a male chaffinch (CC0).

Bluebells

Simon Knight has sent us pictures of bluebells and says that this weekend, they will be at their best. Come and see.

Seven facts about seven spot ladybirds

ONE: There are about 5,000 different species of ladybirds in the world but only 47 of them can be found in the British Isles and the seven spot ladybird is the most common of them and one of the biggest.

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Bullfinch

Bullfinches are regular visitors to the park. Despite the male’s glorious colouring, they are quiet, retiring types, rarely seen; this picture was taken early one Saturday morning when the park was pretty much empty of visitors.

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There is a pair of spotted flycatchers hunting from the hollow oak tree in the corner of the little triangular field between Simpsons and Fiveways. Keep an eye out for them; they are an increasingly rare sight.

Spotted flycatchers are on the RSPB’s Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern

Primrose surprise

In 2019, SSE cleared the trees and understorey from beneath their power lines where they crossed the park. It made a bit of a mess, particularly in the area of the blackthorn tunnel, but there have been advantages, too.

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Red kites again

Message from Ian, Sunday April 18th:

A Red Kite appeared over Sleepers Field and settled briefly on top of the Oak in the hedge between Sleepers and Cornfield before continuing towards Lambrok Meadow. I spoke with a nearby walker who said it joined up with another over Kestrel Field; we seem to have a pair that have included the park in their territory!

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