From the 24th of February 2021, the Sheffield eLibrary will move from RB Digital to Libby – the one-tap reading app.
The Libby app is the easiest way to get started with the thousands of free eBooks, eAudiobooks, and eMagazines available from Sheffield Libraries.
For more help with Libby, visit help.libbyapp.com.
The final event for the Volunteer Libraries in Sheffield 'Readathon Live' half term fun for children took place on Friday 19th February and The Performance was posted on CHOL's Youtube channel on Saturday 20th February.
What fantastic talent we have in Sheffield!
Here are Jan Flamank's Nature Notes for February 2021 as well as the December Nature Quiz Answers. Click on each photo to see a larger photo on a new page. For downloadable pdf versions of each topic see the links below.
February can be a rather drab month, best known for being thankfully short, as we move towards the end of the winter season.
Amongst the stark, bare branches of most of our trees, one real delight of February is seeing catkins, particularly evident on hazel, birch and alder trees. Catkins are the male flowers of these trees, which bloom early, designed to be pollinated by wind not insects. They are sometimes called lambs tails, and contain masses of microscopic pollen within their scales.
The earliest catkins are on hazel trees, dangling down in small clusters, flowers with no petals as such, but laden with pollen that is released in yellow puffs when the wind blows through the branches. These are easier to see than the tiny female flowers, called styles, which are bright red and sticky. This helps catch the pollen in the air, which then travels down the tube in the centre of the flower to fertilise the ova inside, from which new hazel nuts develop. Clever.
Dangling catkins are always wind pollinated, but there are also upright catkins which appear a little later, such as on various willow trees – salix - and these are pollinated by early bees, flies and also blue tits, who enjoy feeding on the nectar produced; pollinating by default as they forage on the fluffy catkins surrounded by pollen.
So, the next time you venture safely out for a late winter walk, look up and see how many catkins you can spot, as well as the discreet red female flowers on hazel trees. A sign of spring arriving soon.
I may have mentioned it before, but the Corvid family of birds are amongst my very favourite birds, and of the whole Corvid family - crows, ravens, jackdaws, rooks, choughs, jays and magpies – rooks are the ones I like best. They are so intelligent, highly sociable, and also very handsome!
We need to look carefully to help us distinguish between crows and rooks, as they are mistakenly all thought to just be big black, scary birds. Corvids have often been thought of as vermin that simply require eradication. But as we have learnt far more about their behaviour and have come to understand more about how intelligent and adaptable they are, there is, thankfully, less persecution now.
Numerous scientific tests of corvids, including rooks, have clearly shown they have intelligence on a par with primates and dolphins. These include their understanding of displacement of water in order to reach food, an ability to think ahead and problem solve, to use teamwork, making and using simple tools, the ability to mimic a wide variety of sounds and they also have a lovely tendency to ‘play’ in complex ways. This implies enjoyment as well as mere survival.
As humans we have always tended to think of ourselves as at the top of the evolutionary tree, and judge other species by very inappropriate human parameters. This is evident in the term ’bird brain’. Avian brains are built in different ways to ours and they have developed a part of the forebrain, called the hyperstriatum, which we and other mammals lack. Corvids have a large brain, similar in size to ours in ratio to body size, and packed with an exceptionally large number of brain cells. Rooks have excellent memories, make mental maps, enjoy socialising with each other - and they can fly!
Jays are the most colourful and distinct member of this bird family, but rooks have a gorgeous purple gloss to their feathers, and the base of their beak is bare and grey, not covered in fine feathers, and they have a more loose, ‘baggy trousers ‘ look to their thighs. How marvellous is that! Their beak is longer and sharper than in carrion crows, and it is also said that if you see a flock of crows then they are more likely to be rooks, as they are far more sociable.
Rooks nest together in colonies called rookeries, and the collective nouns for rooks include: a clamour, a wing, a congregation and a storytelling, which is lovely as they do chatter loudly to each other.
As an artist, I have made a series of artworks about this amazing bird, so have included one here, Rook, in watercolour and mixed media.
We will learn more about this extraordinary family of birds, but in the meantime, look closely when you see a crow, and you may find that it is instead, a rook. Baggy trousers, bare faced brilliance and all.
The magnificent wildcat is in severe decline, facing extinction now with less than 100 pure bred species, all concentrated in the Scottish Highlands.
They need a large area of wild country and woodland to hunt their prey, which is in very short supply, and have been heavily persecuted by humans and culled by gamekeepers. They also mate with feral cats, which results in hybridisation, and dilution of wildcat genes. A fully protected species since 1988, there are efforts to increase their numbers by the Save Wildcats project, within the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. This is a complex project, needing the cooperation of local cat owners to neuter their moggies, and excluding any feral cats. A part of the Cairngorms now has permission to develop a special area for conservation and release of pure bred wildcat kittens.
Superficially similar to domestic tabby cats, the wildcat is a different animal in various ways. It is thickset, and up to 1 metre long including their tail, has longer legs, a more broad, blunt head, and a pale brown/ russety body with up to 11 black stripes. It has a very distinctive, thick tail with 3 black rings and a rounded black end. Pure wild cats are always this colour and never have white paws. It is silent apart from mating, and only has one litter a year in spring.
Nocturnal and solitary outside of the mating season, wildcats are carnivores, feeding on live prey, mainly rabbits, small mammals and birds, only eating grass occasionally for extra roughage and vitamins. Their soft feet allow them to approach their prey quietly, and then pounce and kill quickly with a bite to the back of the neck. Being solitary ensures each cat has exclusive hunting areas, and they rarely meet up apart from mating, so avoiding potentially damaging fights.
My own much loved moggie, Freddy, is also thickset, but black and white and very fond of lolling about on my bed, showing off his tummy. Unlike wildcats, he would be most insulted to be constantly out in the cold, making a ‘nest’ as they do amongst rocks, tree roots and old fox burrows and badger sets.
A piccy of Freddy here too, so you can clearly see the difference between a wildcat and a domestic cat!
Hope you did well! There are lots more answers and more amazing fingertip facts in the Autumn to Winter nature booklet I wrote. Enjoy.
© Jan Flamank 1st February 2021. All rights reserved. Images used in the document have been sourced free for use in this social, educational, non-commercial setting
Sheffield City Council has announced that each of Sheffield's volunteer libraries will receive a grant of £10,000 to be spent on capital projects. Stannington Library's management committee has issued the following statement:
The Stannington Library volunteers are very pleased to hear that this grant is on the way. The grant has to be spent on capital costs, not on running costs, so it cannot be used to pay bills or buy books and supplies. We are looking elsewhere for funding for those.
When the grant was first announced back in March 2020, we were asked to say what we would spend it on. We wanted to use the money for things that are needed now and that will be needed to aid post-pandemic recovery, so we proposed quite a wide-ranging list. It focused on the needs of children, our plans for the future, and our aim to increase availability of access to the internet for people wanting to find jobs or training.
Accordingly, we have asked to spend the grant on screens to make the library safe for book browsing, additional furniture and equipment to support opening for PC use, and tablet computers to help people access e-books. We want to put the remainder towards our library extension fund to create enough space for a new children’s section.
All these aims are subject to what we are able to do in terms of current restrictions and having enough volunteers available to take the projects forward. We would be really interested to hear your comments, and also to hear from people who would like to volunteer to help the library deliver the grant aims when we are finally able to open our doors again.
If you would like to comment, or find out more about volunteering, we look forward to hearing from you. See our Contact Us page for details of how we can be contacted.
These posters have been distributed to give further details of the exciting workshops that are available in February Half Term. There are still some places on the workshops available, so book your place now!
Whilst we are temporarily closed, the opportunity to reserve (place on HOLD) books from the Sheffield Library Catalogue and have them sent to Stannington Library has been suspended.
If you have any books already on HOLD, you should receive an enquiry (phone call, email or letter depending on your records) from Sheffield Libraries asking if you would like delivery to another library that is still open, e.g. Hillsborough.
Any books on Hold that have already been delivered to Stannington Library will be kept until we re-open, when you will be notified that they are available for collection.
From Monday 18th January 2021, we have once again arranged for hearing aid batteries to be available for our customers from Lo's Pharmacy on Pond Road.
Many thanks to the staff at Lo's Pharmacy for enabling this valued service to continue in the village.
Status Update 13 January 2021
Because of the current Covid-19 situation, the trustees of Stannington Library have, with great regret, decided that the volunteer library must close from Monday 18th January.
You can place orders for books up to 3.45pm on Friday 15th January. Saturday 16th January will be our last day of opening for books previously ordered to be collected, or you can take a Pot Luck bag of free books, or a free jigsaw puzzle, if you prefer.
Although the current rules allow us to stay open, we have taken the decision to close in the light of the Chief Medical Officer’s clear advice to everyone to stay at home and avoid all unnecessary contacts. Our first concern is the safety of the public, and also our volunteers, most of whom are in vulnerable groups.
We will keep the situation under review and hope to re-open for Order & Collect Services soon. Please look out for further announcements on this website, on our Facebook page @StanningtonLibrary or on our Twitter page @booksSTAND.
Here are Jan Flamank's Nature Notes for January 2021. Click on each photo to see a larger photo on a new page. For downloadable pdf versions of each topic, see the links below.
Jan has decided NOT TO PUT THE ANSWERS to the December Nature Quiz on the website this month but will include them with the Nature Notes for February. This will give time for Tuesday Club members to receive their Autumn to Winter Nature Booklets, which will also give lots of the answers within the text. The new booklets will be ready soon!
Many of us have been lucky enough to enjoy watching birds in our gardens and local green spaces, especially in these tough, but necessary, times of lockdown.
The RSPB does a fantastic job each year of encouraging us all to be ‘social scientists’, reporting which birds we have nearby. January is the time for the annual Big Garden Birdwatch, and it only needs an hour of our time. It is a really useful way of recording and understanding patterns in bird behaviour, and changes in the number of those small local birds we can easily take for granted in our gardens. It is the largest wildlife survey in the world and very easy to be part of. Simply join by going to rspb.org.uk, where you will find all the information you need. They will also post out a paper copy of the bird I.D. and information sheets if that is better for you. The number is 01767 693690.
So, between January 29th and 31st 2021, settle down with a cuppa or a coffee, specs on, or with binoculars if you have any, and record which birds you can see in your garden, over one hour. What a simple, delightful thing to do.
We know to keep feeding our garden birds through winter with high energy food such as sunflower seeds - which are actually tiny nuts - fat balls and mealworms, and ensure they have supplies of fresh water too. Fill the feeders little and often, keep them clean, and I also leave a few apples on the lawn and put out grated cheese and dried fruit on the table feeder.
Alongside this reminder, some really useful smallish trees to attract birds to our gardens in winter are: Native Rowan, best with red or pink berries, Holly, Ivy, Crab Apple, Hawthorn, Hazel, all providing food, shelter and beauty.
Enjoy all the birds who visit, whether natives or visitors like waxwings, and nearby European neighbours who swell our numbers of blackbirds, robins, etc.
Vulpes Vulpes, a member of the dog family, Canidae
A remarkable native mammal, whose depiction in children’s books, folklore and media have fostered their fearsome reputation, the fox still divides opinion. They have also become much more common in urban areas, due to their incredible versatility and ability to adapt to widely variable habitats.
Our native Red Fox is the largest of the fox species with males weighing up to 18lbs. Like dogs, they have a long muzzle, slim legs and four-toed pads with 5 claws on their front feet and 4 on their hind feet. Their resplendent, bushy tail makes up to 40 % of their length, and varies in thickness depending on the season and their overall health. Males have a broader muzzle and are slightly larger than females, but it can be hard to distinguish them at distance.
Although related to dogs, foxes also display behaviour similar to cats. They hunt with feline stealth, stalking and pouncing on prey; even catching fish from a pond with a front paw. They are also excellent climbers, and sit and sleep with their magnificent tail curled round them for warmth.
Their lustrous coat is in peak condition during our winter months, and the variations in coat colour are called morphs. They have a fine, grey underfur that provides insulation, and longer top coat guard hairs which contain the melanin pigmentation that gives the pelt its glorious rufous colours.
Vixens come into oestrous – with ovulation triggered by shortening daylight - in winter, for up to 3 weeks, but are only receptive to mating for about 3 days a year. Peak mating season is January, which is when we hear the distinctive scream of the vixen, advertising her presence to the male. He is super attentive during this time, known as mate-guarding, and he follows her day and night, awaiting her receptiveness. During these 3 brief days, she scent marks all over her territory, and mating is a noisy ritual of wailing, shrieks and chittering sounds. Foxes remain as a resident pair within their permanent territory, breeding every season together, and have strong lifelong bonds.
Part of the common dislike of foxes is our inappropriate tendency to impose human feelings onto a wild animal. It is understandably upsetting if all our garden chickens are killed by a fox, but the instinct of a wild animal is to take prey at every opportunity, then store it for later. So, keeping chickens in an artificially small, confined area means they need to be properly protected.
Foxes have a hugely varied diet, including rabbits, rodents, earthworms, eggs, fruits and carrion in what is known as optimal foraging – changing their diet to ensure they get the best energy reward for the effort used in finding the food. Urban foxes have been with us since the 1930’s, mainly due to our housing encroachment on their natural habitats. They may explore bins, but prey mainly on rats, mice and pigeons, doing a great job of urban pest control.
Members of the Lepidoptera order of insects
We tend to think of moths as pesky little things that munch through our favourite jumpers, but they are far more fascinating than that, and it is the larvae that eat the wool, not the adult moth. Despite the shocking decline in both the number and variety of insects, moths remain far more numerous than butterflies and are often very beautiful. There are many more species of moth than butterfly, with over 2,500 moth species in the UK, who often rely on specific plants and trees for their lifecycle. We tend to ignore moths as they are mainly nocturnal - active at night - so we see them less often, especially so in the winter months.
Moths are fantastically adapted to their nocturnal lifestyle:
The Winter Moth, one of the many geometrid moths, flies only at night, and it is the male which does so. The female has tiny, useless wings and her only, brief role is to mate and lay eggs. She will sit on tree trunks after dark, and is one of the moth species whose caterpillars can infest and devastate orchards, so gardeners often have moth traps on their fruit trees.
I have a lovely old book I bought in a charity shop, by Richard South, called The Moths of the British Isles, first published in 1908. It has marvellous drawings and paintings of moths as you would expect, but what I most enjoy are all the names of the moths.
Here are a few I really like:
Sharp-angled Carpet, Dark Spinach, The Scarce Tissue, Chimney Sweeper, Cloaked Pug, Slender-striped Rufous, Drab Looper, Bloomers Rivulet, Dingy Footman and the Scorched Carpet. Fabulous names.
We are still uncertain about why moths are attracted to bright lights, but the best ideas so far are concerned with how moths navigate at night. As with other unsung species, we will learn more when we value them more.
© Jan Flamank 1st January 2021. All rights reserved. Images used in the document have been sourced free for use in this social, educational, non-commercial setting
STAND (Stannington & District Library Group) was formed in 2013 after two public meetings that explored the issues raised by Sheffield City Council’s announced withdrawal of formal support for Stannington Library. Since then, the group has been formalised, a committee was formed and teams of volunteers were recruited