Wildlife

Watchtree Nature Reserve has a wealth of wildlife.

In conjunction with Carlisle Natural History Society, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery Trust and The Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre we ran a ‘Bioblitz’ over the weekend of 16th and 17th of June 2012.

link http://cbdc.rodis.co.uk/Adhoc/RODISAdhocFileSummary.aspx?q=CBDC45

Over a twenty four hour period twenty-seven naturalists blitzed the wildlife and found an amazing 641 species including plants, birds, invertebrates, mammals, bats, moths, fungi, mosses and liverworts indeed anything that we could find an expert to identify, we even included the Red Kite seen just hours before the official start time. The ‘Bioblitz’ species results  are summarised below:

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  • Watchtree now has a site species total well over 1000 species including 113 birds, 335 moths and 218 plants.
  • Forty five new species of moth were recorded including a new Cumbria Biodiversity Action Plan (CBAP) species ‘Knot Grass’ which takes us to 31 CBAP species now recorded at Watchtree.
  • The British Biological Society held their spring meeting in Cumbria and included Watchtree as a site to visit; they recorded 109 species of mosses and liverworts.
  • The Great Crested Newt, our only legally protected species, continues to thrive and is present in most of the water bodies on site.
  • We have a wide range of notable species and several ‘amber’ and ‘red’ listed bird species.
  • The only target species from the original Watchtree plan that has not yet bred is the Yellow Hammer.
  • Habitat change means that for at least four years Lapwings or Ringed Plovers have not bred.
  • Curlews breed but seem to have a  difficult time with predators, probably the fox that is often seen on site.
  • The Ringing Group ring over a thousand birds a year.
  • Stoats and  Weasel are common however they can get into  occupied nest boxes and clean out the eggs and occupants.
  • Tree Sparrows usually raise multiple broods.
  • We were pleased that the Spotted Flycatchers returned to a box in Pond Wood after four years absence and fledged 4 chicks.
  • Skylarks are a recognised species at Watchtree.
  • Willow Warblers are one of the study species and many are colour ringed for identification when they return. The return rate is good and surviving males return to the same territory for as long as they live, which is rarely more than 2 years.
  • Our Brown Hare population thrives and Otter is now a regular visitor especially when the Frogs and Toads are spawning.
  • The weather has a big impact on invertebrates however Watchtree continues to attract new species year on year.
  • Grey Squirrels are now seen regularly in the woodlands despite our control measures and that of neighbours. A Red Squirrel Group was formed during the autumn and meets at Watchtree, they organise Grey Squirrel control in many of the nearby woodlands in an effort to help the Red Squirrel survive.
  • Hedgehogs are relatively abundant on Watchtree but nationally there is concern about the long term future of this small mammal. Whilst it is nice to see them they are quite effective predators of ground nesting birds.
  • Watchtree is meeting almost all of our expectations as a wildlife habitat and is developing into an important site complimenting the nearby National Nature Reserves, Cumbria Wildlife Trust Reserves and the RSPB Reserve.
  • No bird or bat casualties were attributed to the Wind Turbines this year and the bird life shows that in this situation they cause no particular problems.