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 News Spring 2024

Let's give our stag beetles a helping hand

Local wildlife enthusiast Jacki Larcombe has taken these great photos of local stag beetles as part of her monitoring of Shamley Green's endangered stag beetle population. These were once a common sight in the summer months as the males flew around looking for a mate - they look fearsome but are completely harmless, their big claws only used for wrestling other males, not biting us! Adults can’t feed on solid food – they rely on the fat reserves built up whilst developing as a larva, and they can use their feathery tongue to drink from sap runs and fallen soft fruit. Now they are relatively widespread in southern England and live in the Severn valley and coastal areas of the southwest, but elsewhere in Britain they are extremely rare or even extinct.

There is loads of information to be found on the People's Trust for Endangered Animals website, where you can see a map of every sighting of a stag beetle since 2021 (they have been recorded in several spots in Shamley Green) and you can send in your own sightings too, as well as recording your own log piles and taking part in a yearly survey. 

The short-lived adult stag beetles emerge from hibernation about mid-May and most will have died by the end of August, so keep your eyes peeled for them and do send in your sightings to the Trust - citizen science is a powerful tool in conserving threatened species like this, and every observation is valuable.

Larvae feed on decaying wood under the ground and that's where much of the problem lies: all our tidying up results in not enough decaying wood left lying around,  so one of the best things we can do is to provide deadwood areas for them. It can be as simple as not tidying up fallen deadwood or keeping a stump in place after a tree has been felled or has fallen. Or you can build your own log pile from logs and twigs.

Female stag beetle

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Male stag beetle

Publicising the Environment Group

After all the litter picking and quite a long toad patrol season SGEG embarked on a bit of self promotion at local meetings in May, in the hope that people would  have a clearer picture of the SGEG activities.  We are always looking out for people who would like to be involved or at least be on our mailing list.

Jane gave a short talk to the Gardening  Club at their AGM in the Arbuthnot Hall  and Jim,  Chris and Regena  spoke (and did a little acting!) at the Parish council meeting in Blackheath where we were able to show off our new posters showcasing our volunteer parties and our range of  other interests.

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Henrietta was invited to an assembly with Wonersh & Shamley Green School to talk about SGEG.  First their Eco Council did a presentation on their findings having taken part in the Big Plastic Count. Then we all discussed the importance of collecting soft plastic separately and also a plan to collect some items for Terracycle. We also talked about using existing containers for packed lunches and also buying large packets and decanting to cut down on individual wrappers and refilling existing containers when we go shopping.  

To see what we are planning for this year,  take a look at our 10-point plan for 2024 on the Reports page. We also publish this in the Shamley Green Parish Magazine - do keep an eye on the magazine for our regular articles about  the environment in Shamley Green.

Himalayan Balsam Warning!

The dreaded Himalayan Balsam has got going really early this year with all the rain we have had, so it's important to get as much of it as possible removed before it progresses to flowering and setting seed - the amazing seed pods uncoil explosively and can fling the seeds up to 7m away, so it spreads like mad! Here are some photos to help you recognise it before it flowers - and one showing how big it will be by July/August if we don't pull it up now!

 Please do get in touch if you have spotted it in an area and need help with picking it.   There are already residents on the look out and we have had a session or two pulling it up in the wet woods.  (Talking of wet … the rainfall for the month of May was 67.2 which is more than May and June combined last year.)

 

Click here for lots of information about this beautiful but problematic plant.

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Smaller plants and seedlings can be recognised by the reddish colouration on the stems and leaf stalks and midrib, and the leaves generally in whorls of 3 around the stem.

Unmistakeable once it's in flower - and it's very tall!

Barn Owls are breeding in Shamley Green!

The Barn Owl was certainly a far more common species at the beginning of the 20th century than it is today, but numbers plummeted to a low point during the 1970s and 1980s, probably due to the use of organochlorine pesticides like DDT in the 50s and 60s. However, numbers are now increasing - and a pair has taken up residence here in Shamley Green!

 

They are nesting in a box in a Long Common garden, and as they are usually nocturnal birds it was really lucky for their wildlife camera to capture this great daytime shot  a couple of weeks ago. Sadly the birds didn't show themselves when our bird group visited on Monday 8th April.

The familiar hooting of the tawny owl is quite different from the screeching sound a barn owl makes, so you may have heard them without realising that what you were hearing was an owl! Click here for lots of information and to hear their calls.

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LITTER PICKING SUCCESSES:

Fun Village Litter Pick

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Litter picking team 2024

A fantastic number of people joined the Shamley Green Environment Group for a fun and productive litter pick on Saturday 23rd March in really beautiful spring weather. The group pushing 40 strong armed themselves with litter pickers and hi-viz jackets and roamed all over the village, down paths and up surrounding roads collecting a really surprising amount of rubbish, much of which had either fallen off vehicles or sadly been thrown out of them. We recycled as much as possible before disposing of it responsibly.

 

There was a competitive element with volunteers being allocated a random letter: A-Group managed to collect more than B-Group and chocolates were awarded all round. Jim and Glynis Drummond kindly hosted tea and cakes afterwards at the Malt House and delicious bakes were freshly made by Jane Hoy, Gordon and Kate Elmes Rudd and Glynis Drummond. 

 

The litter pick was organised by Kate. Others regularly litter pick in the village as individuals or part of groups. Together we do a great job in keeping our environment safe and beautiful for both people and animals.

 

If you’d like to know know more about the Shamley Green Environment Group, receive our newsletter or join our next litter pick in the Autumn we’d love to hear from you: kate@shamleygreenenvironment.co.uk 

Litter pick 2024
Litter pick 2024

Friends' Run Common Rubbish Haul
 

We also had a very good litter pick on the following Tuesday spurred on by the very good example set by the Village Litter Pick on Saturday.  We managed to get about 12 black bags of rubbish collected on Run Common (just  four of us) and many offers to help another time.    We will definitely do it again just after Easter.  We felt that the amphibians would be especially pleased as Run Common is good habitat for them and the last thing they need is glass and plastic bottles, cans and bits of cars!

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We were really disappointed to see this load of plastic rubbish dumped in the layby and have reported it to the Council.

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Big Plastic Count 11th - 17th March - sign up now!

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The Big Plastic Count, the UK’s biggest investigation into household plastic waste, returns for 2024 from 11-17 March. Run by Greenpeace UK and Everyday Plastic, the campaign is engaging, empowering and educational for both kids and grown-ups, and aims to highlight the urgency and scale of the plastic problem, and enable people to play a part in helping solve the plastic crisis.

Almost a quarter of a million people took part in The Big Plastic Count in 2022. It revealed that almost two billion pieces of plastic packaging are being thrown away a week. This year you can help build even more evidence to convince UK ministers to lead the way at the global talks that could finally phase out plastic pollution for good

The brief is simple: count your plastic waste for one week and submit your results to The Big Plastic Count online.

Go to https://thebigplasticcount.com/how-it-works for lots more information, a tally sheet, and a handy plastic ID tool, and to sign up to have reminders and information emailed to you.

Update April 2024:

this year's results show a slight improvement in figures - each household that took part in 2024 threw away on average approximately 59 pieces of plastic, compared with 66 in 2022. It's still far too much, but hopefully things are improving as people become more aware of how much unnecessary plastic we use. The count showed that it is still a frightening amount in the UK: 1.7 billion pieces every WEEK, of which most is food and drink packaging. Only 17% of that gets recycled in spite of our valiant efforts as households to recycle diligently, so the answer must be to have less of it in the first place!

Toad Update:
Record numbers of toads spawning early in 2024

Migration started very early this year due to the unseasonably mild weather. The very first amphibians were helped to the pond on January 25. Since then there has been a steady trickle of activity with a few busy nights.  Our wonderful team of volunteers has expanded this year we have been  blessed with a large group of enthusiastic young people along with the less young.

As of 21st February 638 amphibians had been assisted on Woodhill Lane - the average for the last five years at this stage was 39! Of the 638, 526 were toads, 99 newts and 13 frogs. On Lord’s Hill 58 amphibians had been assisted, the average for the last three years at this stage being 1! Of these 50 were toads and the rest were frogs. This suggests a significant shift from the pattern of previous years which is assumed to be a weather related matter of timing rather than an increase in numbers.

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By March many of the amphibians were ‘leavers' and we had to be careful to help them cross the road the way they wanted to go! A full report will be on our reports page in due course.

 

Don't forget we are always more than happy to welcome more volunteers! 

235 species of Moths recorded in Shamley Green

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Box-tree moth

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Swallow-tailed moth

We now have John Portess' brilliant records of moths which he painstakingly identified in his garden in 2022 and 2023, and which have been submitted to the National Moth Database - see our brand new page 'Moths in Shamley Green' for more information and more photos.


The moths identified are generally inhabitants of meadows, grasslands, hedgerows, gardens and mature broadleaf woodlands. They are a mix of those that colonised after the last ice age and later immigrants right up to recently introduced pests such as the shimmering dark variant of the Box-tree Moth (caught 15/9/23). Form and colour vary widely, from  brightly coloured micros like Cydia amplana (caught 17/8/23) to the chunky Lime Hawk Moth (found in the garden 11/4/22) and the diaphanous Swallow-tailed moth that flies on tissue paper wings.
Autumn captures have contained a smattering of vagrants such as the Gypsy moth (caught 1/9/23) and the Vestal (caught 26/9/23).
Many common species have not appeared in the trap yet so plenty of new ones are expected in the coming years.

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Vestal moth

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Gypsy moth

March 2024 - Volunteers needed for our Toad Patrol! - Help Shamley Green's amphibians to get safely to their breeding ponds in the Spring

Now that the toad fence is in place, we are ready for the annual migration to begin.

NOW OUR TOADS NEED YOU AGAIN!

They are at their most vulnerable as they attempt to cross roads to get to their ponds to spawn and we can really help them with that.

This phase of our mission is dictated by the weather: the toads wait for mild, damp evenings to make their perilous journey so we can't give you dates! We keep in touch via WhatsApp to quickly mobilise helpers on damp spring evenings - if you are interested please contact us with your mobile number to join the WhatsApp group.

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Volunteers of all ages welcome!

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Not just toads in the bucket!

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