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!

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