Southern Town Park, Saturday 25th September

 This Saturday we returned to Southern Town Park in Abingdon for some litter picking, bramble cutting, and (most excitingly) maintenance of our wildflower patch. It was a busy day on Lambrick Way (our meeting place for the day's session) as there were seemingly hundreds of football games going on at once on the playing fields, but it was lovely to see so many people enjoying the outside and being active. We had a quick briefing from our commander-in-chief, Kevin, before heading down around the playing fields to find a suitable place to set up camp and begin the day's activities. 

Most of the team headed off to the wildflower patch to get going with nettle pulling and redistributing the now dry seedpods from the wildflowers. Whilst nettles do indeed provide a vital habitat for many creatures, there are plenty of them in this area, so we try to make sure that our variety of pollinators are not crowded out. Whilst the flowers were all over for this year, there were plenty of seeds to be spread and dead vegetation to be cleared and raked up in to nature piles, which we left around the perimeter of the wildflower area. Whilst we did not have the names of the plants to hand, Olivia used a handy app called 'Picture This' to identify them and ensure that we were not uprooting anything that we shouldn't have been. Through a little detective work (i.e. reading through previous blog posts and googling the seed packet) I can confirm that we have helped develop a patch consisting of betony, common knapweed, corn marigold, corn poppy, corn cockle, corn flower, cowslip, musk mallow, ox-eye daisy, red campion, self-heal, and yarrow (Olivia's app hit almost all of these, so well worth a look!)

Surprisingly (and excitingly) this wildflower patch has proved a favourite spot for amphibians, which were everywhere - and I mean everywhere! We spotted many common frogs and common toads (the former hops and has smoother skin, whilst the latter walks and is more warty), and even what we think was some kind of newt, who was a orangey-brown colour and very small. The volunteers were careful to either shepherd or very gently pick up the frogs and toads, and place them in the nature piles we established on the perimeter. They were all shapes and sizes, ranging from large adult frogs about the size of a hand-palm, to tiny specimens barely larger than a thumb-pad. Through some very unscientific research (scrolling back through these blogs) it looks like this wildflower patch might be directly encouraging these little dragons, as it offers them with the kind of shady undergrowth to keep them nice and moist, as well as providing them a ready supply of invertebrates. Eleanor B (hello!) will now register these amphibians to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (arc-trust.org)) so that this data can be referred to for conservation purposes. 

Upon returning for breaktime, we found that the litter picking team had managed to find a great array of bottles and packets along the pathways, although thankfully not as many as previous trips had yielded. The loppers had also done a good job of clearing the pathways of some over-reaching brambles, which we placed back over fences so that they could continue to be used by birds and small mammals as cover. As we had been so diligently productive, it was mutually decided that we would simply have a good catch-up for the rest of the session, and we all had a lovely hour sitting, chatting, and sampling a pumpkin spice cake which Eleanor B had made. Friendship is, of course, a vital part of what we do - whether that is between volunteers, or humans and amphibians.  


Our noble leader lays out the day's tasks











Its off to work we go...














Ursula's beautifully decorated sign standing the test of time! 


Clearing begins




















Shaking out those seeds




















A tale of seeds and snails



























An adult common frog




Operation Rescue Amphibians




A speckled frog (missing: a speckled log) - photo by Michele K. 






















A job well done



Tasty treats: a pumpkin spice loaf











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