Nature and Wildlife Information

14th March 2012

Hello, and on behalf of the Coton Community Allotments Association, I wish you a very warm welcome to the Wildlife corner of the Allotment webpage.

My name is Graham Morgan and I am a professional ecologist, enthusiast landscape photographer, and a plot holder on the Allotment. When I’m not doing any of these I’m fell running and mountain walking, and generally keeping a keen eye on the weather and the seasonal changes in the landscape.

For me, and I hope many of you, one of the major attractions that the Allotment has, and indeed Shrewsbury, is its stunning location; that sense of being in the countryside, besides being in an urban area.  Being within walking distance of the countryside at the Allotment  truly adds another enjoyable dimension to being outside; only the other week whilst I was out on my plot at the Allotment a red kite circled very low overhead – clearly I was not that tempting a prospect because it soon moved on!

Each month, I would like to bring you seasonal updates on what plants and animals are doing, how the landscape is changing with the season, and what to look out for (apart from rabbits!), whether you are having a (leisurely!) dig in your plot, taking a gentle stroll around the Coton Hill fields or in the wider countryside around Shrewsbury and Shropshire.  I would also like to share any interesting news items on Wildlife and the landscape, places to visit, and where further information can be found if you are interested.  Although, like me, your priority is to get your plot dug over at the moment and ready for planting out your spuds and other vegetables. However in the coming months it would be great if we could begin making space for Wildlife at our Allotment, and I look forward to hearing and sharing ideas on this; after all the Allotment is part of the living landscape around is, if we help look after Nature, in return it will help us to successfully grow our food and bring colourful enjoyment to our time on the Allotment.

Well it has been a topsy-turvy few weeks as far as the weather is concerned, with 15 Celsius and bright sunshine one day shortly followed by hail showers and cold blustery winds.  Although it still feels like we have not shaken off the cloak of Winter just yet, Nature’s Spring activities certainly are in full swing.  Even the ice cream vans were out in February – got to admire the optimism!

The days are becoming longer, the ground is beginning to warm, and plants and animals are stirring from a sleepy Winter.  In The Quarry park at the end of February I saw many bees excitedly buzzing around the colourful crocus flowers in the warm sunshine.  Pink and white cherry blossom and the white blossom of blackthorn in the hedges has been in full bloom for weeks, and now it’s the turn of the daffodils to peek out their yellow heads. I have also noticed in the last week that hawthorn in hedges has started leafing out.  On the allotment the pear and apple trees are beginning to bud.

In the wider countryside, frogs and toads have been laying their eggs (spawn) in the ponds, soon to be followed by newts, after about 5 months in a hibernation-like state (known as ‘torper’).  These amphibians actually spend most of their life tucked away under rocks, logs, and tussocky grass and are only in ponds for a few months of the year in Spring.  In caves and buildings, most bats are still in their torper, but will soon awake and begin moving to their summer roosts to give birth to and raise their young.  Bats are dynamic animals and use many different types of roost at different times of the year.  Blue tits have begun gathering twigs and moss for their nests in trees and next boxes, and bird song is noticeably more frequent and louder now.

A sleepy toad has recently been seen on the allotment so do keep an eye out for amphibians when you’re moving any rubble, logs or big earth clods in the next few weeks in case there is one ‘having a lie in’ that has not quite woken up and made its way to a pond.   If you do discover one on your plot, and you are feeling brave then you can carefully pick it up with a gloved hand and move it to some taller, dense vegetation (leaves, long grass, woodland) on the boundaries of the Allotment where it can gradually wake up and make off into the countryside at its own pace.

Finally, I would welcome any comments, questions, thought or suggestions for this section of the website.  After all we are a community, and it is very much your website and your Allotment, and I look forward to meeting and getting to know more of you as the Allotment and its community establishes and grows.

Until next time, best wishes.

Graham Morgan

Over the 4 weeks keep an eye out for…

1) Bats flying around and feeding on moths and other insects at sun set on a warm day as we move into April.

2) The little yellow flowers and heart-shaped leaves of lesser celandine, which is a member of the buttercup family of plants;  appears in shady places, on road embankments,  under trees, in woodland, and along the base of hedges.  The large white flowers of wood anemone  with its three triangular leaves around the stem is also a distinctive flower in old woodlands.