February 2012


Club members tackling the southern slopes

Club members tackling the southern slopes

 
The Sky Surfing club has a long association with the Country Park and  its members with their hang-gliders and paragliders are a familiar site over Butser Hill. The club operates over Southern Central England, chiefly the South Downs.
As well as the flying activity, the club helps run the annual Festival of Flight in June, and takes part in scrub bashing on the hill in Winter.
 
Brian Parkins, club rep for sites and PR

Brian Parkins, club rep for sites and PR

 
Previous blogs have highlighted the need for active management on the hill with a mixture of mechanised equipment and manpower. In the case of the Sky Surfers, they were working on one of the southern slopes close to a take off and landing site. Here the consequence of too much hawthorn near to fragile  flying canopies adds another reason to help out.  
 
Oak Eggar caterpillar

Oak Eggar caterpillar

  

The cut off date to complete the programme of scrub management is the end of February to keep well clear of the bird nesting season. The only wildlife of note last Saturday was this Oak Eggar moth caterpillar. This locally common species feeds on a variety of plants including hawthorn and ivy.
 
Club members

Club members

 
For more information about the Sky Surfing club go to www.skysurfingclub.co.uk visit the site to see great video clips of flying on Butser Hill in the snow. And finally, have a look on the Park’s Facebook to see footage of a club member flying alongside red Kites. 
Male Frogs

Male Frogs

 
The recent warm weather, with temperatures  of up to 14 degrees celsius, has brought the Park Centre pond to life. By the weekend over 100 frogs were involved in breeding activity. Most of these will have hibernated in the mud at the bottom of the pond and so could all respond at the same time. The breeding season is short and so it does not do to be late.
 
Frogs mating

Frogs mating

 

They prefer the shallower weedier parts of the pond where the water is slightly warmer. The Park pond has a small overflow pool just by the bridge which is always the best spot. Unfortunately this does tend to dry out in early Summer and so over the next few days all the spawn will be moved to the main body of water.
 
Frogspawn

Frogspawn

 
The toads usually arrive a little later and prefer the deeper parts of the pond. Sometimes confusion can arise where the first female toads can be caught by those male frogs which have arrived too late to find their own mate.
The two species cannot interbreed, however this unwanted attention can prove fatal for the unlucky toad.      
 
Female toad and male frogs

Female toad and male frogs

 
The rest of the toads will soon arrive and there should be plenty to see for the next couple of weeks.
The Rangers put on regular pond dipping sessions throughout the season. For more details go to the main web-site www.hants.gov.uk/qecp
For more general information the Hampshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (HARG), which is coordinated by the Hampshire and Isle Of Wight Wildlife Trust, have a good web-site at http://www.hwt.org.uk 

  

Spot the frog-can you see 20?

Spot the frog-can you see 20?

 
Den building activity

Den building activity

 
Over the half term holiday Caterpillar crafts returned to the Park to run an Adventure Day. This involved den building, craft activities and cycling for children and young people with disabilities or additional needs, and their families.
32 kids signed up and enjoyed the day’s programme, supported by Caterpillar staff and the QECP Rangers.
 
Craft activities

Craft activities

 
Caterpillar Crafts have a regular programme of events at the Park and will next return to prepare for Mothers Day.
 
 
For more information about events and activities at the Park go to the main web-site on www.hants.gov.uk/qecp
To find out more about Caterpillar Crafts go to www.caterpillar-crafts.com
Cycle training

Cycle training

 
The Park hosts regular training sessions which use the classroom for cycle theory and the two 3 mile mountain bike trails for the practical elements. During the recent cold weather the severe frosts provided a hard safe surface where the ‘students’ could be suitably challenged.
8 people were taking part in the Mountain Bike Leader Award Scheme. The leader was Phil Quill who also teaches orienteering, sailing and canoeing.
For more information go to www.hantstraining.co.uk 
 
Cycle training

Cycle training

 
For more information about the Park’s novice and advanced mountain bike trails go to http://www3.hants.gov.uk/countryside/qecp/qecp-activities.htm  

Dukes On The Edge South Downs Flyer Jan 2012

Back on the 14th December a post titled ‘Scrub Bash’ highlighted the work carried out by a team from Rother Valley Organics. The guys were working on the northern scarp slope of Butser Hill cutting areas of thorn scrub as part of our Winter work programme.

Now the team has returned to the hill to work for the charity Butterfly Conservation and their ‘Dukes On The Edge Project’. This three-year initiative is targeting the Duke of Burgundy which is one of the UK’s fastest declining butterflies.  Over the last 10 years numbers have dropped by 50%!

Wascombe Valley

Wascombe Valley

 
A key habitat for the DoB is the zone between open woodland and sheltered, scrubby grassland. In the foreground of the above image the cut stumps are all that remain of a thick stand of gorse. In the background, highlighted by the snow you can see the stripes made by the tractor and ‘destroyer’ (see earlier post). Both techniques have their advantages and the hand team, equip with brushcutters and chainsaw, whilst being slower and more costly, can leave a better finish and ensure that all the cut material is cleared and burnt.
 
Little Butser

Little Butser

 

Two priority areas, Wascombe Valley and Little Butser, have been identified and specifically large blocks of thick single aged gorse and thorn. These will not be cleared completely with a proportion left to create a mosaic effect for the future.  
 
Little Butser

Little Butser

 
Access as always on Butser Hill is problematic and that is without the additional problems caused by the recent cold weather . The work site can be spotted by looking for the bonfire on the sky line to the left hand side of this image. 
 
For more information about butterflies in Hampshire go to www.hantsiow-butterflies.org.uk  

 

 

 

Topping on Butser Hill

Topping on Butser Hill

Winter work continues on Butser Hill with yet another machine. Previous blogs have highlighted the work of tractor and ‘destroyer’, and the Aebi Terratrac both of which were brought in to deal with scrub control in the National Nature Reserve.
For the next few days a 150 horse power Fendt tractor and 2.5 metre flail will be topping across several hectares of the Butser Hill Top. The idea is to deal with the areas where coarse grasses dominate the sward, and where young thorn plants sheltered by this thick vegetation are coming up thick and fast. 
 
Topping on Butser

Topping on Butser

 
This machine which is provided by Rother Valley Organics, our Farm Business Tenants, is benefitting from the frozen conditions which will minimise any compaction. The Fentd tractor has computerised traction control which allows the driver to concentrate on the job in hand without having to worry about the sites steep slopes.
 
Before and after

Before and after

 
All the tractor mounted machinery will be off site by the end on February to avoid any possible disturbance for nesting birds.  
For more information about the management of the site there is a section on the web-site at www.hants.gov.uk/qecp  

  

 
 

  

Toasting marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows

 
The new Buriton volunteers met for the second time last weekend to carry out more work in the Chalk Pits Local Nature Reserve. This involved cutting back a lot of  dogwood and ash saplings on an area which was becoming overgrown.
The cut material was used to make deadwood habitat piles and the surplus burnt. The fire proved very welcome on what was a freezing day and the  workers had brought along marshmallows to toast and potatoes to roast.
 
The group at the end of the morning

The group at the end of the morning

 
The group meets on a regular basis to work in the Chalk Pits, and their next date will be Saturday the 3rd of March. The Ranger contact is Abi Peett who is based at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. She can be contacted on 02392 595040 or via abi.peett@hotmail.com
The site will be having an open day on Saturday the 28th April. 
 

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