The Stiperstones are not actually in our parish but they can be seen from many parts of it and are close to the hearts of many local people.
The hill has been alive with hirundines (swallows and house martins) and the similar but unrelated swift, over the last month as they feed up before flying south for the winter. We had well over a hundred house martins feeding on insects over us the other day when we were cutting rushes on the Gatten. This is one of the wider benefits of nature reserves, as they not only provide homes for their resident wildlife, but their natural habitats also provide plentiful food for other species that may only use the reserve temporarily. The hirundines can often be found feeding at the top of slopes where the up-draught of air brings the insects up to them, however in the instance of the house martins on the Gatten, it was the insects flying around the wet flushes that they were feeding upon. Many of these wet areas have been lost in the wider countryside through drainage, and along with them have gone the very insects that birds like house martins need to survive. Both the swift and house martin are on the orange list of birds of conservation concern, due to falling populations.
In these hard financial times, Natural England are continuously looking of ways to generate income to allow them to continue to manage their National Nature Reserves like the Stiperstones to the same standard. In order to continue to manage the habitats, the access paths and carpark on the reserve we have been considering the introduction of car park charges at our Knolls car park. However instead of compulsory charging we are looking to introduce a voluntary car parking charge at this car park using a cashless car parking system, with payment being made by phone or via an app using a credit or debit card. All of the income raised from the car park would go towards supporting the management of the nature reserve. Suggested costs will be £1.50/hour, £3 all day or an annual pass of £25. We would be interested to know your views about this change. Please contact us on: email@example.com or write to Natural England, Rigmoreoak, Pennerley, Minsterley, SY5 0NE.
Another way of funding the NNR that is being developed is the sale of certain products from the reserve. We started off with the sale of wool from our Hebridean sheep which has been very successful, so we have now produced some kits based on the wool and fleece. There is a crochet hat kit and a sheep needle felting kit both of which are available at the Bog visitor centre. We have also produced a set of four bone china mugs with Stiperstones wildlife on them, and we are looking for outlets for these.
The felling work at Bergam Wood was supposed to have started but has now been delayed, and we are awaiting a start date, but it will probably not be until early next year.
Simon Cooter and the Natural England staff at Rigmoreoak
There was great excitement last month, when we heard about a sighting of a nightjar on the Stiperstones. The bird was clearly seen hovering and calling and we even have a photo, which I have shared on the nature reserve Facebook page. This is only the second record that we know of for the Stiperstones. Although they can breed as late as August, and this bird was calling, we can’t count it as a breeding record, unless we get some more sightings.
Nightjars are fascinating birds, which only come out at night, unless disturbed. They have a characteristic flight as they hawk for insects such as moths and beetles, generally over heathland although they often use newly cleared woodlands, where they make shallow nest scrapes on the open ground. They are summer visitors to the UK where they take advantage of the large number of moths particularly on heathland sites such as the Stiperstones.
Nightjars are incredible agile fliers with long wings and a tail that is often fanned out for extra manoeuvrability. When perched their short head and long wings and tail give them an unmistakable profile, although possibly similar to a cuckoo. Their plumage is a mottled grey/brown which gives them excellent camouflage during the day, when they are rarely seen, but one of the most notable feature of the males are the white patches on their wings and outer tail feathers. These show up well at night and are used for display purposes, indeed one way to attract them is to wave white handkerchiefs about, which can attract them close in. The main thing to listen out for though is the call of the male, which is a long drawn out frog-like rattle, called churring. This can be quite loud, although it is known for its ventriloquist properties, so it can be difficult to locate the bird when heard.
September should see the start of the clearance work on the newly purchased Bergam Wood, south of the Stiperstones village, as the conifer trees (many of which have fallen over) are removed from the site. Hopefully this will be carried out fairly quickly so as to minimise any disruption to the road below. Once the trees are off we will need to fence the site and make sure that the footpath is in good condition as well as consider how we best protect the mine and it’s entrance, so that it is safe but enhances it for the Lesser Horseshoe bats that currently inhabit it.
Once the site is safe to use we will start planning its restoration, which should involve some acorn collection from our woodland at the north end of the hill. I will let you know in a future ‘Notes from the Hill’ when we might hold such an event.
Thanks once again to everyone who donated to the purchase of Bergam Wood, it was a great community effort, and will in time be a great addition to the National Nature Reserve.
Simon Cooter and the Natural England staff at Rigmoreoak