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Archive for February, 2014

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Last week, each of our garden centres hosted Owl Day, hundreds of families flocked to meet the owls from Sharandys Birds of Prey. For a donation to the rescue of Barn Owls, children were able to hold an owl – even some of the parents couldn’t resist either. Many bird and wildlife enthusiasts signed up to The RSPB who was there with an array of information on owls and other birds, as well as demonstrating different bird songs. Other activities included making pine cone owls, masks and finger puppet owls, using felt, feathers and stickers, there were some very impressive creations over the three days.

Keep an eye out for our Easter activities which will be announced shortly.

Mike

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You may remember Ollie Devoto who used to work at Castle Gardens on a Saturday, we’re rather proud to announce that Ollie, who now plays for Bath Rugby Club, has got through to the final of the LV Breakthrough Player of the Year. It would be great to see him take that trophy and put Sherborne on the map once again for its sporting prowess, what’s more he will win £1,000 which can be donated to a grass roots club of his choice to help other aspiring rugby players to follow in his footsteps.

 

To show your support for a local sportsman, please click here before Sunday 9 March.

 

Mike 

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Resembling baby dragons, the UK’s three newt species find garden ponds provide a particularly good habitat. The smooth and the palmate newt can grow up to 10cm in length and are relatively common. But our favourite is the impressive and protected Great Crested Newt (GCN) which grows up to 15cm in length. All newt species need open water to display to each other in spring, soft plants to lay their eggs in (they lay them singly and then use their back legs to fold a leaf around them) and preferably a fish-free zone, as fish eat baby newtlets. 

 

Like frogs, newts can start their breeding season as soon as the pond warms up enough, so in Dorset this can be as early as late February, early March.

 

There was a Kingcombe rumour that our pond had the Great Crested Newt in it as well as the smaller species, so last summer we set up special bottle traps, (I hold a special licence issued by Natural England, allowing me to trap and handle protected species). Our luck was in and we caught a lovely female, proving that our pond was indeed a site for GCN.

 

If you create a pond, amphibians will most likely find it on their own accord within a season or two; as all amphibians, frogs, toads and newts, are susceptible to some nasty diseases we don’t recommend moving animals or their eggs between ponds.  

 

Dr Rachel Janes – Pond Conservation officer 

 

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Here at Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Kingcombe Centre near Toller Porcorum, we’re keeping a watchful eye on our newly renovated dipping pond to see what appears as we move into spring. It all looks a bit quiet at the moment, but we have made sure it has all the elements of a super wildlife pond; clean unpolluted water, lots of small niches for bugs to hide and near to other high quality ponds so that dragonflies, beetles and invertebrates can find it and move in easily.

 

Back in November, volunteers from HMRC helped us clear out some excess weeds so that we can get the pond back in good order, to encourage amphibians in particular. The autumn is one of the best times to have a bit of a sort out in a pond as most amphibians leave the pond and over winter hide under leaves, logs or rocks until they have completed their lifecycle. We recommend only taking out some extra weeds, dead leaves or sediment at a time, (no more than a fifth if you can) on an annual basis in a garden pond, so that you don’t upset the balance of the pond by releasing too many nutrients, (causing unsightly green algal blooms) or removing too many of the minibeasts living in the sediment at the bottom.

 

Tomorrow – I’ll tell you about our dragons…

 

Dr Rachel Janes – Pond Conservation officer

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