Waist high buttercups, bream and Banded Demoiselles

May 22, 2014


Stourbridge May 2014 (5) Stourbridge May 2013 (1)So many reasons to take a walk on Stourbridge Common and not just to stand and look at it from the bridge or row past …

The Common is looking glorious: if you stand with your back to the fence round the bare earth (the grass will soon grow). Lack of cows means that grasses and buttercups are waist high this year.

The sunny spring has meant a profusion of small tortoiseshell butterflies, and many caterpillars are now feasting on the nettle patches. Dragon flies – particularly Banded demoiselles and damselfly are already looking for flies. Looking down from the footbridge, you can see Bream spawning on the tree roots, now speckled with tiny pale eggs, just under the surface of the water (they only do this for a short time, so look today!)

– Pete, Friend of Stourbridge Common, Wednesday, 21st May 2014.

Stourbridge May 2014 Stourbridge May 2014 (4) Stourbridge May 2013 (3) Stourbridge May 2013 (2)


Litter Pick and the Big Dig

March 14, 2014

We’re looking forward to the Stourbridge Common litter pick on 22 March 2014.

Meet at 10 am near the Riverside entrance of the Common to be issued with gloves, bags, and litter-pickers and to listen to a Health & Safety talk. We will finish by noon, it’s always fun and is a great way to meet other people who enjoy Stourbridge Common and help keep it safe and litter free for all its many users.

Another set of events that may be of interest (although there is partial overlap with our own litter pick):

Local charity Cambridge Carbon Footprint is helping co-ordinate a national community gardening event called The Big Dig.  They have three orchards and gardens where they would love volunteers to come along for a an hour or two to help them get ready for the growing season. Midsummer Common Community Orchard and Trumpington Community Orchard will be giving a warm welcome to volunteers on Saturday 22nd March 10am – 1pm and Empty Common Community Garden will be welcoming volunteers on Sunday 23rd March 10am – 1pm. Foraged fresh soup will be available to try, cake will be on offer and there will be a range of activities for all abilities (including a ukelele band dropping by to liven things up) . No need to book, just turn up.  For further details please do take a look athttp://www.bigdig.org.uk/cambridge/.

Bird Boxes on Stourbridge Common

February 4, 2014
Guy Belcher from Cambridge City Council and ‘a few volunteers’ got together on Monday 27th January and installed 22-24 boxes in the belt of trees that borders the industrial estate. 
These are German brand Schwegler nest boxes made of ‘woodcrete’ a natural product made from 75% wood and 25% ‘natural additives’ to allow air permeability.  There are over 8.5 million Schwegler woodcrete nest boxes installed in Europe, US, Canada.
We helped put up a mix of boxes:  larger holes for great/blue/coal/crested tits, as well as sparrows and bats.  Boxes with smaller holes for marsh/blue/coal tits and possibly wrens.
Lisa, one of the FoSC volunteers says, “It was quite nice that as soon as a box went up, a great tit took up residence immediately. Also, bat boxes are placed to catch the sun, and I like the kind of ‘semi-detached’ situation with the two boxes next to each other.”
Putting up the next boxes

Putting up the next boxes


seeing how the Bat can get into the box

seeing how the Bat can get into the box

in situ

in situ

open for business

open for business

Help us install next boxes

January 17, 2014

On Monday, 27 January, Guy Belcher, the City’s Nature Conservation Officer will be installing new nest boxes for smaller birds and bat boxes on Stourbridge Common along the industrial estate tree belt (kestrel and tawny owl boxes have already been installed).

If you’d like to come along to help out or just watch, please meet at 10.30 at the Oyster Row Entrance.  All materials provided.

Stourbridge Common Habitat Survey

January 16, 2014

A report (December 2013) by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust is now available  on the habitat and management recommendations for Stourbridge Common and we have news of owls and snipe.

Check out our biodiversity page for all the details.

Beetles, Weevils, Moths and Flies

July 9, 2012
Following on from his wonderful talk at our Autumn meeting in September 2011, Brian Everham, the head of the  Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire, returned to lead a walk and talk on the invertebrates of Stourbridge Common on May 12th.

Brian prepares to lead the way

The sun broke through after days of rain and a group of 20+ members set off to gather specimens under Brian’s tutelage.  We used a large insect collecting bag to sweep creatures from nettles, grass and trees.  Brian identified them for us and interesting specimens were placed – unharmed —  into clear plastic bags or tubes so that we could take them back to the Cambridge Museum of Technology for viewing.  The Museum had kindly allowed us to use their main hall for Brian’s talk: he set up a projecting microscope and we examined the animals, with Brian often holding a spider or fly gently up to the lens so we could see better. (All captives were later freed.)

Bagging up the specimens

Many thanks to Hilary Pounsett for her notes on much of what we saw!

Among the most numerous species aside from masses of aphids were weevils, including the Hedge Mustard Weevil (long snout) and the Green Nettle Weevil (beautiful iridescent green and gold body). The Green Nettle Weevil lives as a grub and over-winters inside the stem of the nettle and then hatches out in Spring.   In addition to many familiar red and black spot ladybirds, we also saw the lovely cream-spot Ladybird and a native yellow ladybird with black spots.  Other sightings included the Birch Shield Beetle and the Hawthorne Shield Beetle.
The weird world of parasites also featured heavily, including the mite that causes lime tree galls and the parasitic wasp that does the same to stinging nettles, as well as the parasitic wasp that lives on a spider through five changes of skin.
A “micro moth” (nicknamed Margaret the  Moth) which feeds on nettles charmed us with her feathery wingtips and hairy legs, as did a Green Lacewing with her huge eyes.   Brian showed us a Click Beetle: normally they can right themselves if they land on their backs by ‘clicking’ their bodies, but this was a newly-hatched one who hadn’t worked the trick out yet!
The St. Mark’s Fly – so called because it traditionally hatches around St Mark’s Day, April 25th – was in fact on schedule, appearing in mid-May due to the modifications caused by the  Gregorian calendar.  This long, shiny black fly is often seen in swarms, but is harmless to humans.  The Yellow Dung Fly, with its gingery ‘furred’ body, also likes to hang around in packs, often on cow pats; however, it’s easily annoyed by the presence of other insects, as we saw under the microscope.
In addition to the unfortunate spider wearing a white ‘rucksack’ (in fact a parasitic wasp), we also had an up-close viewing of a wolf spider, which does not spin webs but hunts instead (like a wolf….) and a jumping spider, which also does not spin a web, but, thanks to superior binocular vision, hunts by jumping onto flies (‘a hunting machine’ said Brian).  A crab spider lived up to its name when inspected by microscope.
A water beetle revealed its ‘oxygen tank’ – an air bubble that it carries on its underside when it submerges.  And our last performer was a netted slug, covered with a finger-print like pattern and moving along at a surprising clip.

Zoe with a Netted Slug

For Brian the high point of the day was the sighting of a small pale-brown beetle on a hawthorn tree.  It turned out to be a leaf-beetle called Orsodacne cerasi, and while not nationally rare, it seems not to have been seen in Cambridgeshire before.

Many thanks to Brian for the walk-and-talk and to the Museum of Technology for hosting us. You can follow Brian’s blog http://www.wildlifebcnp.org/BrianEvershamsBlog.htm

Inside the Museum of Technology

Guided Walk on Stourbridge Common – then a talk

April 18, 2012

We’re delighted that Brian Eversham, the CEO of the (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough) Wildlife Trust is joining us again on 12th May 2012 to lead a guided walk around Stourbridge Common exploring the magical and frequently overlooked wildlife there. The walk will be followed by a talk to be held at the Cambridge Museum of Technology.

Brian gave us the most wonderful talk last Autumn and enthused  a full hall of fascinated people with speak of woolly aphids, shield bugs and earwigs so we know that this talk will be superb and great fun as well.

There are only spaces available for 20 people so you will need to book your place if you’d like to come along – there is no charge but we need to stick to the limit with numbers to ensure that everyone can hear and see everything that Brian is talking about and showing us. To that end please reserve your place on the walk on our booking form at http://stourbridgecommonspringwalk.eventbrite.co.uk/.

The walk will start promptly at 11am and will end at 12.30 when he will give a talk. There will be an opportunity to purchase refreshments between the walk and the talk and to chat after the talk as well.

We look forward to seeing you there … and thanks must go to Brian for giving of his time for us in this wonderful way.

Brian Eversham

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