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First sighting of monitors

by Rod Kebble

The cry of the returning Pierrepont monitoring group was heard for the first time this Spring in Tankersford Copse yesterday (31st March). These warm-blooded creatures usually hibernate or fly south in December and January, returning to the farm around the third week of February.

But this year, for a variety of reasons (but including neither climate change nor neonicotinoids) their arrival was delayed until now.

Shy yet diurnal, they are often hard to spot, spending as they do much of the time in the undergrowth with their muzzles close to the earth. Yesterday was no exception, as the group conducted a transect through an area that was coppiced three years ago.

Members of the monitoring group at the Countryside Restoration Trust's Pierrepont Farm gather round to examine plants.

Monitors gather round a quadrat frame in Tankersford Copse. (See post of 27th July 2011 for an explanation of the frame.)

They recorded the flora now sprouting through the floor of the wood and will compare yesterday’s findings with those of earlier years and thus measure the changes brought about by the removal of the canopy.

As well as differences in the plant life, the monitoring group will also note the appearance and disappearance of various insects and fauna as a result of the removal of the trees which had grown up over a period of twenty years.

The plants found yesterday included:

  • Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)
  • Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea)
  • Heath Speedwell (Veronica officinalis)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Forget-me-not (Myosotis)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), also known as Town Hall Clock, as it has flowers on its four “faces” (with an upward-facing fifth on top) or Five-faced Bishop.

The monitors also found a member of the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae), Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) and possibly Rosebay Willowherb (Epilobium angustifolium) in another part of the wood.