Conservation Blog

Welcome to the new Creswell Crags wildlife blog. My name is Jim and I am one of two wardens who regularly patrol the site. I am a trained naturalist  and have a background of many years in conservation. I really enjoy working at Creswell Crags because the site is so varied and there is always something different to see.

I hope you will enjoy my blog and perhaps even contribute to it. Each monthly entry I will highlight what has been seen around the site during the last month. I would like this blog to become yours as well with your input and your photos. I would welcome your input (reports of sightings and photos) via email (jim.anderson@creswell-crags.org.uk). Alternatively, please feel free to take details of your sightings to the main Reception desk during open hours, leaving your contact details.

  • Crags Wildlife - Past and Present

    Creswell Crags is a great place to visit if you're into natural history because there is over 125,000 years of it to discover! Within the Museum you can learn all about the animals that made the Crags their home thousands of years ago and also see the bones of woolly rhino, mammoth, reindeer, cave bears and cave lions to name just a few.

    At the moment the temporary exhibition Hyena! tells the fascinating story of the hyenas who were present at the site in the Ice Age. These hyenas, Crocuta crocuta splaea, were related to spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) which are found in Africa today, but had larger bodies. They are considered to have been a sub species of the Crocuta crocuta genus. The hyenas lived in caves, which they used as dens, providing shelter and a safe refuge to rear their young in. Shown in the exhibition is Eric, the most complete skeleton of a baby Ice Age hyena ever found.

    Hyena!

    If you leave the Museum behind and take a walk around the site be sure to visit the actual gorge where these artefacts were discovered. You might be quite surprised at how rich this place is for present natural history. You'll find all the common woodland species of bird here including; blue and great tits, blackbirds, song and mistle thrush but also there are birds of prey to be seen like kestrel, buzzard and sparrow hawk. Look out for the kingfisher on the stream that runs through the Crags. On the large Crags pond you'll see mallards, coots, moorhens and tufted ducks. Then there are the summer visitors like pied flycatcher, warblers, chiffchaff and black cap, swifts and swallows.

    There's also a bird feeding station near the visitor centre that's maintained by volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology. In the winter you can sit in the comfort of the Crags Edge Cafe watching the birds feeding whilst have a scone and a nice cup of tea. Don't miss the bird ringing event on 31st January 2016!

    As the weather gets warmer and winter turns to spring the Crags becomes home to amphibians like frogs, toads and smooth newts that use the site for breeding. The small pond in the meadow is their favourite place to live.

    Mammals at Creswell Crags are much harder to spot but you may catch a fleeting glimpse of a stoat or hear the plop of a water vole dropping into the water from the river bank. There are also seven main species of bat here. These are; daubenton, whisked, brown long-eared, soprano pipistrelle, common pipistrelle, natters and noctule bats. They live in the woods and caves and there's also a large population of common pipistrelle near the visitor centre. Look out for upcoming bat related events at the Crags!


    Common Pipistrelle

    There are also many types of insects that live at Creswell Crags. I'm currently working on projects to improve habitats for dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. This is a fantastic site for butterflies and if you come in peak season through June and July you can be counting into the hundreds for just one species like the ringlet. On a good day you can see at least ten different species of butterfly around the gorge and meadow. The rarest species is the white-letter hairstreak butterfly. Volunteers are doing lots of good work through the winter months improving habitats from planting food plants for the caterpillars to opening up new spaces and spreading flower seeds into these areas. 

    Common Blue

    There is also a wide range of trees and wild flowers at the Crags through spring and summer. There are bluebells and wild garlic in the woodlands, and in the flower meadows you can find cowslips, bee orchids and kidney vetch as well as many, many more. 

    All of this natural history takes a lot of conserving and we could really do with your help. We're looking for volunteers to help keep the site looking it's best and a great place for wildlife to live. You can give as much time as you like from a couple of hours a week to a block of two to three days a week and there's loads of different roles. You can have ago at surveying butterflies or get involved in conservation management tasks like coppicing, hedge laying, grassland management or general gardening. 

    It's a great chance to receive valuable training in conservation and to work in such a beautiful place with so much history that changes throughout the year. So if you would like to get involved please get in touch by phone, email or pop in to the visitor centre. All we ask is that you're as passionate about conserving the Crags as we are!

    Full story

  • Summer 2014

    With spring being early this year, with such a warm winter, the wildlife at the Crag got off to a great start with birds nesting. On a nice sunny day in March, while out on patrol in the gorge, I counted four different species of butterflies: 1 Peacock, 1 Tortoiseshell, 1 Coma, 14 male Brimstone.  


                  

    Tortoiseshell butterfly Peacock butterfly

    The warm weather continued through spring giving us  a great spring with plenty of activity from the wildlife. The tufted ducks started breeding for the first time on the large Crags pond. Life was also starting to happen on the small pond now planted up with many different plants, frogs and Pond skaters where some of the first species noted on this pond.  We surveyed the pond in June for newts and found one male Smooth newt. 

    Tufted ducks

    Summer saw record numbers of butterflies. In July, I counted into the hundreds of the Ringlet butterfly.  June and July look likely to break the record of 256 hours of sunshine set in 1955. Sunshine hours for the UK are well above average, with 210 hours so far – which is 122% of the average we’d expect for the whole month. This means it is currently ranked as the joint 10th sunniest July in the record, rainfall has been below average for the UK. The highlight of the summer for me was the number of emerging dragonflies and damselflies   all coming to the new micro-pond. , Common darters dragonfly,  both female and male are seen around the site on warm sunny days till the end of September.   Common darter on a stick photo If you see a big yellow to green dragonfly with black stripes it'll be a southern hawker dragonfly - I have spotted plenty in Crags Meadow this summer. 


    Full story

  • February 2014

    February can be as harsh as any, with snow and freezing winds, but it’s been so mild that it’s been  the wettest winter on record.  With it have been so migrant birds have been singing like the great tit  singing its repetitive "tea-cher tea-cher" song. I have seen them pairing up and I have seen them collecting nest materials. 

    Spring is still several weeks away, but the first signs are showing with hazel catkins hanging like golden tassels in order to release their pollen to the wind. One of the earliest flowers to be seen on site is tussilago farfara commonly known as coltsfoot. It is a perennial herb that spreads from a branched rhizome. Another early yellow flower found on site is lesser celandine Ranunculus ficaria,  all seen on site this month from 22nd February.

    On the 23rd we had Sorby Bird Ringing Group here on site from 7am and they had a good public turn out with sightings of a sparrow hawk and they got see a tree creeper close up. Ringing aims to understand what is happening to birds in the places they live and how this affects population increases and decreases, this knowledge is vital for conservation. It also gives information on the movements individual birds make and how long many live for.  















    In the woodlands, green leaves are emerging such as dogs mercury and ramsons. They start to green up the woodland floor  like the cuckoo pint (or lord and ladies).  The leaves push up through the leaf litter furled up but then open out once above ground.  Other plants such as bluebells are starting to poke through the leaf litter. 

    Full story

  • January 2014

    The first month of year has not been typical weather-wise - it’s been a very wet and windy month at the Crags, and when we have had a calm day with some sunshine it's felt more like a spring day with the birds singing. The first part of the month we had a pair of goosander visiting the crags lake, both male and female on one day, and then just the male bird afterwards.

    Male Goosander The reason they are visiting the Crags Lake is because they are a member of a group known as the 'sawbills’ because of their long narrow bills with saw-like ‘teeth’. They are fish-eating birds. While out gardening, I have noticed more robins around the site - they have been fighting amongst themselves.I presume this behaviour is all about setting up their territory because it can meet their needs for food, water, shelter and nesting sites. The robins will chase away other robins from their territory but will except a wren in the same space because the two species do not directly compete for food.

    Life at the bird feeders has been busy at both sites, but nothing unusual as been seen on them. Sorby Beck Bird Ringing Group very kindly installed a seed hopper this month to help feed the birds.   By the 23rd of January, the snowdrops were flowering in the woods near the visitor centre. The snowdrop’s botanical name is Galanthus nivalis, Galanthus being derived from the Greek words for ‘milk’ (gala) and ‘flower’ (anthos), and nivalis being the Latin for ‘snowy’. Other common names for snowdrop are Candlemas Bells, Fairmaids and Dingle-Dangle. Snowdrops are regarded by many as a wildflower but most colonies are probably garden escapees. Snowdrops were not recorded as growing wild in the UK until the 1770s.  Next time you see a snowdrop look at the inside of the flower and see the beauty of them close up.

      


    Upcoming related events:

     Ice Age Zoo: Handling Collection 

    18th February & 19th February, 11 - 3

    Lions, hyena and wolves all roamed the gorge during the Ice Age. Join us to find out more about these amazing animals. 

    Birdringing Demonstration 

    Sunday 23rd February, 8 - 11am 

    Join the Sorby Beck bird ringers and get up close to the feathery residents of Creswell Crags. Booking essential.  

    See the What's On section for more details

    Full story

  • December 2013

    December is the first month of winter and it has the shortest day of the year on the 21st. This month has been very mild with temperatures on some days above normal. It has also been a dry month and Crags Pond has been low up until the end of the month when we had the bad winds and rain which helped to top the levels up.

    Spectacular winter sky at Creswell Crags

    While out on my morning patrols, I have noticed that locals have put out the bird feeders on Dam Head regularly. This feeding station and the one near the visitor centre, which is looked after by the staff, have good populations of blue and great tits and attract chaffinch, nuthatch, tree creeper, long-tailed tits and marsh or willow tits (It is always so difficult to tell them apart!)

    On the large pond, the ducks are there every day - mallards, coots, moorhen, with regular visitors like the tufted duck, gadwall and little grebe: we even had a teal which is a first for the site.

    The three mute swans have been seen on site this month. They are all juvenile - two years old. They are the cygnets of the mother who was a long resident at the Crags until she died of old age a year ago. They regularly visit the site and maybe one day one of them will stay here long term.

    Front: female gadwall. Behind: little grebe on Crag Pond

    I never stop learning from nature it has always got something new to show me, and this month while gardening in front of the visitor centre, I came across a new species for me - bird’s nest fungi. Their fruiting bodies resemble tiny-filled birds’ nests. They feed on decomposing wood, in this case a pine cone.

    Full story


Take a look at the fantastic contributions made to our group on photosharing website Flickr. Sign-up for free, join the community and submit your own photos of Creswell Crags.

Are you a Facebook member? Connect with other Creswell enthusiasts across the globe with this powerful social networking tool. If you haven't yet discovered it, come and join the Facebook revolution!

Get the latest blow by blow accounts of life at the Crags, follow our Twitter stream and find out what we're thinking, as we're thinking it!