Fritillary Watch - Thursday 28th May 2015
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) © John Barratt
The Snakes Head Fritillaries have finished flowering for this year. North Meadow has something to offer almost all year round. Three easy relatively level walks will take you where you may glimpse the tiny adder’s tongue fern or hear the chatter of the reed bunting, in June the meadow bursts into colour displaying the rich purples of greater burnet and common knapweed, yellows of meadow buttercup and yellow rattle, while the rest of the meadow is filled with ox-eye daisies, meadow rue and meadow sweet, mixed with some striking wild grasses.
Adder’s tongue fern
This extraordinary small native fern can be seen along the sides of the path at the north western end of the meadow. Although a spore bearing fern, adder’s tongue spreads largely by rhizomes, and is an indicator of ancient un-improved grassland.
It’s easy to spot this tall clump forming plant with fern-like leaves; when crushed it gives off a slight cucumber aroma. The flowers have no petals it is the bracts that provide the deep crimson colour to the large oblong flower heads. Look out for common blue damselflies resting on the flower tips.
Frequently seen flying into a hedge or the top of a reed clump along the river Churn, and in summer feeding on seed heads before the hay is cut. Like the skylark they are ground nesting birds making a rather untidy, yet snug cup of coarse grass, lined with old reed tops.
Among the many ground nesting birds that can be heard in the spring and summer months is the Skylark, renowned for its song and flight. The male bird rises vertically from the ground high in to the air where it remains stationary for several minutes on fluttering wings before parachuting back down to the ground. All the time it is in the air the bird continuously sings its liquid warbling song.
Where and when do Skylarks build their nests? They nest in North Meadow from April to July on the ground in the dense meadow vegetation and can have up to three broods in a breeding season. In winter it prefers stubble fields, root crops and young pasture.
Are they under threat? The numbers of Skylarks in Wiltshire (as in the rest of Britain) have been declining, so that today the population is about one-third what it was 30 years ago. The decline is most likely caused by the move to winter sowing of cereals, which deters late-season nesting attempts and may reduce winter survival because there is less stubble, such as barley and wheat, and also the use of pesticides, which kills the insects needed to feed the young. Consequently, it is on the Red List as a bird of high conservation concern.
Are they protected? The Skylark is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981).
Where will I be allowed to walk on North Meadow?
To continue to conserve these nationally scarce wild flowers we ask that you please to stay on the marked paths.
Currently ground conditions are good, but the paths are still a little uneven; stout shoes are advised for your visit.
Please help Natural England, Local Farmers and Cricklade Manorial Court, who all work in partnership, to conserve this important ancient hay meadow and it’s wildlife by keeping to the marked paths.
Can I bring my dog?
Yes, but please note that dogs must be kept on a lead March to July. If you visit the meadow with your dog please keep it on a lead during March to July (see advice for dog walkers). Skylarks and Reed Buntings both declining protected species will now be nesting on the ground in the grass and will be disturbed from their nests by dogs which are not on a lead.
Why is North Meadow protected?
North meadow has a great variety of wildflowers and is of international importance as one of the finest examples of lowland hay meadow in Europe. It is protected as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as well as being a National Nature Reserve. (Scientific research)
For further information please contact Reserve Manager Anita Barratt
Tel 07795316191 email firstname.lastname@example.org