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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wildlife Gardening in Curry Rivel, Somerset

A contribution to our draft Parish Plan which we hope to publish in draft form in November! Some photos will be added from our Village open garden day

Photo of a Bug Hotel with some rooms occupied! Photo taken in local garden during Somerset Art Week!

Gardeners have a huge role to play in the future of wildlife as the traditional British countryside changes. Being more wildlife-friendly doesn't mean you have to have a messy garden, but it does mean forsaking the ideal of a perfect lawn and rigidly trimmed borders, but encouraging nature in gardens can be rewarding and inexpensive.
Feeding the birds with bought seeds and nuts is popular; less expensive alternatives in the wildlife garden are flower seed heads, holly berries, walnuts and apples, attracting birds, wood mice and squirrels. Planting native hedges is really worthwhile for the shelter and food they provide in the form of berries, seeds, insects and spiders. Smaller mammals like wood mice use the base of the hedgerow for shelter, bats need hedgerows and wood edges for their protection and navigation and moths love any white or cream coloured flowers like blackthorn in the hedge.
Attracting bees to the garden can be achieved by planting flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle, asters, dahlias, geraniums, marigolds and sunflowers. Clover flowers found in untreated lawns are important for bees, as a source of both pollen and nectar. Leaving some long grass on the margins of the garden cuts down on the mowing and the beetles, caterpillars, butterflies and grasshoppers in the mini jungle will in turn benefit the birds, bats and hedgehogs.
Many of our most colourful and well known butterflies depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae but will also enjoy lavender or buddleia bushes and fallen fruit.
The hedgehog is very much the gardener’s friend, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as snails and slugs, beetles, caterpillars and worms. A pile of composted leaves will provide a perfect spot for the hedgehog to hibernate in a cold winter. A pile of logs or roof tiles is the perfect refuge for spiders, ladybirds, bees, frogs and slow worms.
Deadwood hedges are a great way to provide a whole habitat for a large number of animals to call home, as well as providing a very easy way of getting rid of branches and waste which are too woody to put on the compost heap. Other garden waste can be composted to make one of the best soil improvers you’ll ever have, and certainly the cheapest!
A water feature - even a simple bowl can encourage frogs and other wildlife which will feed on bugs and snails. Dragonflies will often breed in them, and many birds may use them to drink and bathe in.
Making a small change to the way we garden can make a huge difference to wildlife.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Amphibians and Reptiles of Somerset . Next HOL public meeting 16th Oct

Amphibians and Reptiles of Somerset . Next HOL public meeting 16th Oct

and Reptiles
Photo: Common Frog ©Philip Prevey
John Dickson chairman of the Somerset Reptile and Amphibian group introduces us to the snakes lizards and amphibians that share Somerset with us. Where are they and what are their habitats.
of Somerset
Thursday 16 October 7:30 - 9:00pm
Held in the Parish Hall of the United Reform Church, West Street Somerton. Suitable for wheelchair users/limited mobility. £3.00, refreshments available before the talk.
Somerset Wildlife Trust,Tonedale Mill, Tonedale, Wellington TA21 0AW Tel: 01823 652400.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New campaign by Wildlife Trust and the RSPB

The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB today call on all the main political parties to value nature and secure its recovery by committing to a new Nature and Wellbeing Act.
The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB are urging all the main political parties to commit to passing a new Nature and Wellbeing Act to help value what nature does for us
The two leading conservation charities have spent recent months working behind the scenes to pinpoint the ways in which we need to help nature recover.  Both have a deep understanding of why contact with nature is good for us, for our communities and for our economy, and a long track record of trying to turn around nature’s decline.  A major shift in commitment and action is needed to secure nature’s recovery and The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB believe that new legislation is critical to achieving this. 
The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB are urging all the main political parties to commit to passing a new Nature and Wellbeing Act to help value what nature does for us, for its own sake and also to underpin improvements to people’s health, wellbeing and the economy.  We are delighted that the Liberal Democrats have declared they will commit to a Nature Bill in the party's manifesto.

Read more by using the link above.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Only One Earth

In case you haven't noticed , there is another chance for the world leaders to get to grips with climate change. What this press notice ( below)  doesn't say is that we all must decide how we are going to stop ruining our planet!

On a  more cheerful note , I took this photo in our meadow in June. A furry caterpillar  ( no idea what species it is!) on a newly flowering wild  Pyramidal Orchid

Now for the news!

UN Climate Summit 2014

Climate change is not a far-off problem. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and even more tomorrow.  But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.
There is a sense that change is in the air. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders, from government, finance, business, and civil society to Climate Summit 2014 this 23 September to galvanize and catalyze climate action.  He has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015. Climate Summit 2014 provides a unique opportunity for leaders to champion an ambitious vision, anchored in action that will enable a meaningful global agreement in 2015.
Everyone can step up and take climate action. Visit the UN Climate Summit site to find out how. #climate2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

CPRE campaign

Extract from CPRE web site;

The Government’s planning reforms are unnecessarily damaging the countryside and undermining local democracy while failing to prioritise the regeneration of urban areas, concludes a new report launched by CPRE.
Community Control or Countryside Chaos? analyses the impact of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) on the countryside in the two years since it was adopted.  The research has found that the reforms are forcing local councils to accept major developments against their will in all parts of the country from Devon to Derbyshire and Suffolk to Staffordshire. 
It reveals plans for over 700,000 houses in the countryside - including 200,000 allocated for the Green Belt. As a consequence, the countryside surrounding towns and villages across England is under siege (see page 10 of our report). Sites already earmarked for housing are being left undeveloped while councils are under increasing pressure to allocate more and more land for future development.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Latest News from the Heart of the Levels

March Madness!

Roger Dickey, Group Chair, tweeted last week that 8 hares had been spotted boxing in the mist outside the Trust's reserve at Great Breach Wood.  What a cue for the group's talk in Somerton this week by Peter Thompson on the Brown Hare

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blog page views

Should reach 40 000 page views sometime this month which is surprising since I don't do much to promote the Blog. Thank you to all who visit and hopefully find it interesting.

Kingfisher, copyright, Darin Smith

I'll add a comment on our Heart of the Levels committee meeting last night.
It was very pleasing to see three of our four new committee members quickly becoming at home with us and playing a positive and constructive part in our discussions. We have a volunteer to assume the role of chair with our full approval  and support.  It was very encouraging to those of us who have been with the Group since its start up in 2005. The future looks very much brighter now but of course the problems facing the Somerset Wildlife Trust and ourselves in helping to support nature conservation are as great as ever.

Storm damage on the East Coast. RSPB Reserves hit.

Before a change of subject here is a lovely photo of a scarce in ( in England)  Red Squirrel. Copyright Darin Smith. Click on the picture to get a full screen image.

After thinking about threats to wildlife in the Arctic I was surprised to read the letter shown below, received as a member of the RSPB and which as all conservation groups need to do is asking for financial help to try to restore the damage done in the recent surge tides in the North Sea and along the east coast.  Houses were also  destroyed by the severe weather and tide conditions so humans suffered together with the wildlife. It makes interesting reading!


Help us recover from the worst storm in 60 years

Hide falling into water after storm surge
Although events like the weekend storm surge along East Anglia's coastline are to be expected, I hadn't fully braced myself for the aftermath.
As the full impacts of the storm hit us on Thursday night, it quickly became apparent that this was going to be devastating. Homes, businesses, landmarks and habitats were suddenly going to be hit by a wall of water. I went to bed on Thursday night feeling helpless and sick with worry about our precious coastline.
I'm e-mailing you today to ask for your help.
We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused by the worst storm in 60 years. A donation from you, whatever you can afford, will go a long way to help us restore these precious homes for nature.

A devastated landscape

All along the East coast, we have battled with the elements for centuries. And our team are well drilled in dealing with this kind emergency - sluice gates are lifted to prevent seawater getting into the freshwater habitats, livestock is moved to higher ground, and footpaths are closed. The safety of our visitors and staff are our paramount concern. This drill was being tested to the max.
As it all unfolded, there was a strange mixture of emotions.
Sadly, the most extensive damage was at our Snettisham, Havergate and Dingle nature reserves and it was with a heavy heart that I drove along the Beach Road to see my colleagues at Snettisham.
As a Regional Director I know that I am not supposed to have favourite reserves, but Snettisham holds a special place in my heart. My grandparents had a caravan in a park adjoining the reserve and this is where I began birdwatching. The access track was impassable and the shingle bank where thousands of wading birds roost safe from disturbance had been breached. Some of the chalet owners who live and holiday next to the beach were clearing up with shovels rather than brooms. It was extremely heart wrenching to see.
The shingle beach had been completely stripped away. In the summer it is a riot of yellows, pinks and blues but this time the seaweed was strewn up where the shingle beach used to be and silt mud covered the path. There was a profusion of plastic barrels, bottles and rope.
Snettisham is normally two gravel pits separated by a causeway footbath. Having been topped up with millions of gallons of seawater it was now one massive lake.
The first hide was still in tact. Looking from the window I could see that another hide had been rolled 180 degrees and was now tilted at a 45 degree angle - any view from the hide slots would now just be of the sky. One hide had completely disappeared!
I went into Shore Hide. The hide door had a strand line that came up to the door handle. Inside the hide was strewn with seaweed and the sheer force of the water had shattered one of the windows and punched a massive hole through the front of the hide.
The pits at Snettisham are important in the summer for breeding birds such as black-headed gulls, which nest on a number of islands. It will be important to get rid of the water in readiness for their return. It is at this time of year when the pits at Snettisham come alive. When the tide covers the mudflat of The Wash tens of thousands of waders come into the pits to roost – one of the most remarkable sights in nature. They stand in a massive huddle on the concrete and shingle banks of the gravel pits. These banks have now been eroded by the force of the tide.
On arriving at Snettisham I saw a flock of knot fly from over the pits and out to The Wash. Knot roost in large numbers at Snettisham. I wonder where they roosted last night? Like their namesake, King Canute, the knot weren't able to turn back the power of the tide.
Water rushed over the river wall at RSPB Blacktoft Sands causing damage to our reception centre. The Marshland sluice needs repairing, and no-one has manged to get out to Reeds Island yet. We can only assume the lagoons have been completely destroyed.
At RSPB Saltholme the banks that protect the reedbeds from the damaging effects of saltwater have been weakened. And the footpath and boardwalk to the seal viewpoint is still under a lot of water, so we don't even know the extent of the damage there yet.
RSPB Titchwell suffered at the hands of the tide, but had it not been for the Coastal Change project a few years ago the site would have been completely devastated. As I walked along the westbank path to witness the effects for myself, it was clear the site's infrastructure had taken the full force.
The sea wall was covered with weeds and plastic canisters dragged up from the sea. Benches were strewn with debris and the iconic boardwalk was in tatters. This was just the beginning.
Beyond the seawall our boardwalk onto the beach had fared less well - it was twisted and contorted. I had been at Titchwell the week before and had wandered along the beach next to the 30 foot sand dunes. These had been completely flattened by the surge.

Help us repair the damage

The devastation to some of our nature reserves has been immense, and as I write this we're still not sure of the full impact. But it will take a lot of hard work and resources to put it right and restore these homes for nature. Insurance covers some of the costs of the damaged hides, but not the cost of repairing habitats.
We are still assessing the damage, but estimate that the cost of repairs could be over £300,000. That is why we're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our nature reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused.
Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.
Thank you.
Paul Forecast Regional Director, Eastern England