July/August National Citizens Service challenge – young people get claggy in the clay

yellow aspen leaves close up

This summer, two groups of young people age 15 and 16 from the National Citizens Service volunteered to carry out conservation projects on the nature reserve. This was a great opportunity to develop new projects which we had been unable to carry out due to the huge amount of work needed to get our new garden into shape. A total of 25 young people attended the two events.

The first group built a new auditory trail through the Whispering wood and the second group built a reptile and amphibian hibernaculum in our new garden to provide safe hibernating habitat. Continue reading

Caroline’s wildlife blog: Autumn wonderland

autumn mosiacs smallThis autumn has been really beautiful and very warm. The golden browns, yellows and reds that have adorned our trees have been inspirational. It has been a real joy to work at the Barnet Environment Centre. The management carried out by the Friends of Barnet Environment Centre volunteers has created a mosaic of beautiful habitats that are brimming with wildlife. In the meadow there have been loads of bees, beetles and butterflies as well as grasshoppers and bush crickets.

Perhaps the most stunning experience has been seeing three adult grass snakes! The first was under the large oak tree and I nearly stepped on the snake. It moved away pretty pronto and then froze so I had a great view of it. The next two sightings were with a group of school children. An adult snake was basking in the sunlight when we arrived in the centre of the meadow and one sharp eyed youngster spotted it. Of course, as soon as the children saw it they were shrieking with joy and the snake quickly disappeared in to the long grass. The final viewing was under a habitat plate. I had taken a group of children to look under the corrugated metal plate and when I pulled it up there was another grass snake all curled up, warming itself up. It didn’t hang around! It’s important to remember that grass snakes are not venomous and will quickly disappear if disturbed.

The habitat plates have produced several surprises, including a family of field voles and a couple of large ant’s nests full of eggs. The poor ants frantically try to remove all the eggs underground once the nest is exposed.

The bird life has been really good. Late migrating house martins were seen catching insects over the new ponds. The ponds also attracted a couple of grey wagtails for several weeks. Such a delight to see these lovely birds. We even had a pair of mallard for a little while. The ponds have also attracted a new freshwater invertebrate to the nature reserve in the form of a rather large number of whirligig beetles! A splendid sight! Flocks of jackdaws calling overhead have kept my eyes on the sky! Their call is a real harbinger of autumn. Large flocks of goldfinches have been feeding on the thistles. Their tinkling call always alerts you of their presence.

Our new minibeast area is beginning to attract a lot of insects under the logs. This new area, which was built by volunteers from the NCS Challenge, a charity that helps young people gain practical experience in the real world. Opposite the minibeast area one of the volunteers has built a fernery around an old tree stump. It looks great and hopefully will settle in before the winter sets in.

Hedge Project Day

The Hedge Project Day took place on the 29th of October 2011 and involved altogether 23 volunteers, some of whom worked on the site where the hedge was to be built, others who made refreshments and food and kept us all happy. The idea of the hedge is that it should be composed of holly, hawthorn and blackthorn, planted quite closely along by the path between Byng Road and Cavendish Road. Continue reading