Bumblebee Identification Course

Our Bumblebee Identification Course yesterday was a great success. The Heritage Lottery sponsored our course which allowed us to invite Dr Richard Comont Science Officer for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to run the day for us.

Bumblebee Identification Course Jenner Hall
Jenner Hall Cricklade

We started the day in the Jenner Hall with two presentations. The first covered bumblebee ecology in which Richard used his incredible depth of knowledge to explain how bumblebee populations have changed in response to habitat changes. Species rich meadows like North Meadow are ideal habitat for bumblebees. The second presentation was a logical and very clear explanation of how to identify the commoner species and split them between queen bees, worker bees and male bees. We also learned about how to send in records using the Bee Walk Scheme.

North Meadow National Nature Reserve

Field Trip

After lunch we walked to North Meadow to see if we could find and identify any of the bumblebees we discussed during the morning. On arriving at the meadow we enjoyed the spectacle of meadow buttercups glowing yellow in the bright sunshine. We soon found some bees on the large patches of flowering red clover.

We attempted to use our newly acquired identification skills and were pleased to find a red tailed cuckoo bumblebee queen. Cuckoo bumblebees are parasitic and  this one takes over the nest of the red tailed bumblebee. It was good to see as they are usually hard to find and are an indicator of a heathy host species population.

Richard Comont

This was quickly followed by queens and workers of the buff tailed and garden bumblebees. We were able inspect them closely in clear specimen pots.

In all we found queens and workers of 5 species only the early bumblebee and tree bumblebee were missing from the species around at this time of year.

Garden Bumblebee Queen

Very satisfied with our relaxing and enjoyable field trip we made our way back to the Jenner Hall for a final cup of tea and chat. We felt we had learned a great deal thanked our tutor Richard for sharing his passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for these fascinating insects.

Recording bumblebees is a very important part of their conservation and quite a few of our 15 course participants are now thinking about taking part in the Bee Walk Scheme.

Feedback

Our feedback on the day was overwhelmingly positive with so many very nice comments about how much everyone had enjoyed the day. Here are some examples.

Time flew by-the sign of a great day. Very knowledgeable and informative tutor, and the guided walk really helped cement our learning

Thank you. Well organised, welcoming, interesting, well pitched, motivating to protect meadow and get involved in conservation

I love how passionate of all of the contributors were about not only the bumblebees but the wildlife and history of Cricklade – You have a real gem here!

 

Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished

Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished
Fritillary Seed Pod
Fritillary Seed Pod

The fritillary flowering almost finished for this year. Most Fritillary flowers  have now been pollinated and are developing seed pods. The main pollinator of the fritillary flowers are queen red tail bumblebee ( Bombus lapidarius).

Over the next few weeks the seed pods will swell and the stem will straighten. Eventually the seed pod will split releasing up to 150 seeds.

The picture above taken today shows a carpet of dandelion seed heads and ribwort plantain flowers. A few fritillary flowers are still visible but largely obscured now by the growing hay crop. Continue reading “Fritillary Flowering Almost Finished”

Fritillary Count on North Meadow

Research on North Meadow

The fritillaries are still looking spectacular, most are now in flower and some have stared to form seed heads.

Over the next few days you may see Natural England and the Floodplain Meadows Partnership carrying out research on North Meadow, recording the  Snakes Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris). North Meadow is home to 80% of  the UK population of this nationally scarce plant. Continue reading “Fritillary Count on North Meadow”

Spectacular Fritillary Display

Now is a great time to see this year’s spectacular fritillary display. The picture above was taken last Saturday and shows huge numbers of fritillaries in flower.

On a sunny day the meadow will have a purple bloom as the majority of fritillary flowers are purple. There are also white flowers which are the same species and these are less common, about 7% of the total.

Only about 20% of the fritillary plants flower each year. The majority of mainly young plants are non-flowering, some with only a single leaf which resembles a blade of grass. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership who carry out research on North Meadow have produced a leaflet explaining the life cycle of Snakes Head Fritillaries.

Bring your binoculars to get the best view of the display which is even better from a low viewpoint. Please remember to stay on the path. Continue reading “Spectacular Fritillary Display”

Lots of Fritillaries but only a few in flower

There are large numbers of fritillaries and a few have started to flower. They are still very difficult to see as the picture above taken on Friday 29th March shows. Only a about 20% of the fritillary plants in the meadow flower each year.

Vegetative Fritillary Plants
Vegetative Fritillary Plants

The younger plants stay in a vegetative state for several years, even the older plants only flower if the environmental conditions are favourable. The Floodplain Meadows Partnership have produced a leaflet describing the life cycle of the fritillaries . The vegetative plants can easily be mistaken for grass as the adjacent picture shows. They are very easily trampled and damaged at this stage. Continue reading “Lots of Fritillaries but only a few in flower”

The Snakes Head Fritillaries are showing but very difficult to see

The Snakes Head Fritillary season is about to start. There are a small number of flower buds showing but, although there are a large number of fritillary shoots, they are currently very difficult to see. The picture above was taken on Friday 25th March. If you do visit in the next few days do not be tempted to leave the marked paths as you will do considerable damage to the emerging fritillary shoots. Continue reading “The Snakes Head Fritillaries are showing but very difficult to see”

John ‘Taff’ Lee

Sadly, The Manorial Court has learned that  John ‘Taff’ Lee died on 2nd February.

He became a Freeman of the Hundred and Borough of Cricklade in 2014 and was very proud of that recognition. He served in the RAF for many years but had made Cricklade his home for around 50 years.

He was a very active member of the Royal British Legion and was the inspiration behind many of the events that the Court and the Legion had jointly undertaken over the years. He was such a community minded person and worked tirelessly within the Town. His passing is such a sad loss.

Our condolences go to his wife, Ingrid, and his children.

Clive Smith

High Bailiff of Cricklade

New Courses for 2022

New moth and butterfly course for 2022

Three new courses for 2022 are now available for booking. We are delighted to have 3 highly experienced tutors all specialists in their fields. The courses are:

These courses are sponsored by the Heritage Lottery and are highly subsidised. If you would like to attend any of these new courses for 2022 we advise early booking as we expect they will book up fast.

Kathleen Coole

Kathleen Coole, sadly passed away peacefully at home on Sunday 19th December 2021, following a long illness.

Kathleen was made a Freeman of the Borough in 1993 for services to the Town. The citation records that she served 32 years as a Town councillor, latterly as Vice Chair and 19 concurrent years as a member of North Wilts District Council.  She was an active member of the United Church and was actively involved in so many aspects of the Cricklade Community. There will be many people who have had their lives influenced by her kindness, caring and understanding personality. Continue reading “Kathleen Coole”