July: The Hay Meadow Story – Northumberland National Park

Hello and welcome to the first of what will be regular updates from Look Wild, an initiative that brings all 15 UK National Parks together to encourage more people to get up close with nature and “look wild”. We’re off to a good start with nearly 450 people joining the Look Wild project on the iNaturalist app and around two thirds of people contributing observations. If you’ve joined the project but not yet made an observation, there’s no time like the present to get outside and start recording nature - you can find out how to do this with step-by-step instructions on: https://www.nationalparks.uk/look-wild/

In our first regular journal post we’re heading to Northumberland National Park, the least populated and most tranquil National Park in England. Northumberland is an International Dark Sky Park with truly dark night skies and is home to the iconic and world-famous central section of Hadrian’s Wall.

The Hay Meadow Story – Northumberland National Park

Hello from Northumberland. Here we are in late July basking in glorious sunshine and the farmers are literally “making hay whilst the sun shines”. With weather like this it’s easy to forget how cold and wet (late) the spring was this year. When Spring finally sprang nature caught up and everything started growing to make up for lost time. I’ve spent June and July using iNaturalist to help me improve my wildflower ID skills and to record the variety of flowers in a couple of my favourite local wild places – a wide road verge and scrubby field near home. You don’t have to be in a flower-rich hay meadow to spot lots of interesting wildflowers.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the poor spring weather seems to have impacted on the number of bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects that I’m (not) seeing… which makes sense if their food sources were late. Flowering plants and pollinators are interdependent, each needing the other, and pollinators are critical in providing food sources for other wildlife and for people. Annually in the UK, pollinators are responsible for £690 million worth of crops (or every third mouthful we eat). If for no other reason than self-interest we should look after bees and other pollinating insects and the flower rich habitats they rely on, which brings me back to those flower-rich hay meadows that are currently being cut. This time-lapse video tells “the haymeadow story” of a species-rich meadow in Northumberland National Park:

Video link to watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGZrAiMiTok

Here at Northumberland National Park we’ve been working with farmers over the last decade to protect the remaining fragments of truly species-rich meadow. Encouraging farmers to cut hay late to allow flowers to grow and set seed and removing inorganic fertilisers which promote grass growth. We have worked with farmers to collect and spread seed from species-rich fields to restore degraded meadows to increase the number and variety of flowers. Each year we survey meadows to monitor the habitat and we also survey for pollinators.

Volunteer and Look Wild member Ian Cole had this to say about his pollinator surveying experience: “It was fascinating to see just how variable the plant make-up of hay meadows can be and how this, in turn, affects the number of pollinator species which are found in specific habitats. With Ranger Shaun Hackett’s help, I could see from the behaviour of some bees that they were moss carder bees (Bombus muscorum), visiting one or two flowers and then flying off. I learned to distinguish between several types of bumblebee by how they fed, as well as by their shape and colouration.”

You can read more about Ian's Pollinator Placement and see some of his amazing macro-photos of pollinators on: https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/pollinator-placement/

And, you can find out more about our project to provide early (spring) nectar sources for pollinators on: https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/willows-for-wildlife-starting-to-pay-off/

So, whilst there are still plenty of wildflowers in the verges and hedgerows this summer I’d encourage everyone to get out recording and to keep your eyes open for those all important bees and pollinating insects whilst you’re at it.

By Dave Richardson, Volunteer Development Officer, Northumberland National Park

Αναρτήθηκε από callofthecurlew callofthecurlew, Ιούλιος 26, 2021 0122 ΜΜ

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