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!

 

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.

Moth and Butterfly Course

New moth and butterfly course for 2022

Our Moth and Butterfly Course on Saturday identified 58 species of macro moths and 5 species of butterfly on North Meadow and the surrounding area. The course was  sponsored by the Court’s Heritage Lottery Grant.

Comma Butterfly with clubbed antenna

Our course tutor David Brown started with an explanation of the differences between moths and butterflies. Butterflies usually have ‘club-shaped’ antennae while most moths have feathery or tapering ones. Also butterflies normally hold their wings vertical at rest and moths hold them flat. It is largely an arbitrary distinction we use in the UK as they are all Lepidoptera, a family of insects with 2 pairs of wings covered in often very colourful scales. Continue reading “Moth and Butterfly Course”

Scything Returns to North Meadow

Scything on North Meadow

Scything returned to North Meadow on Saturday for probably the first time for 100 years or more. This was made possible by Cricklade Court Leet’s Heritage Lottery Fund Grant which enabled the Court to purchase part of the meadow.

Horse drawn mower introduced around 1825

Cricklade Court Leet has been involved in the management of North Meadow for at least 800 years and for most of that time the scythe would have been the main tool for haymaking. The agricultural revolution in the 19th century resulted in  the introduction of first horse drawn mowers and later equipment powered by tractors.

On Saturday 10th July we held a practical scything and meadow management course on the land purchased with the help of the Heritage Lottery. Our course started with an introduction by the Court Town Crier Eric. Continue reading “Scything Returns to North Meadow”

North Meadow in Flood

North Meadow is in full flood this week. The National Nature Reserve is part of the floodplain for the River Thames and River Churn. Floodplains take the excess water when river levels are high and can extend over a wide area. It is quite normal for the floodplain to be inundated during the winter months and is one of the features which creates this species rich for lowland hay meadow habitat. Continue reading “North Meadow in Flood”

Conservation Grazing Vital for Biodiversity

Conservation grazing is about to start on North Meadow National Nature Reserve . Grazing with cattle following the hay cut is of vital importance to maintain biodiversity. North Meadow is a species rich lowland hay meadow habitat which is now very rare in the UK. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) estimate that less than 1500 ha of this habitat remain in the UK today. Continue reading “Conservation Grazing Vital for Biodiversity”