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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wildflower identification

Now that the hedgerows and meadows are growing fast its useful to have a means of identification and there are some good books. However the Wildflower Society has a very good photo gallery showing most of the common UK plants and it can be seen here.
Shown above are some of the flowers which we can see locally.
Our group has organised three visits to local reserves which will all feature spring and early saummer wildflowers. Hopefully we will have some phtos to post on the blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another visit to RHS Rosemoor

Whilst in the area last weekend we made another brief visit to RHS Rosemoor, at Great Torrington , North Devon. In my earlier blog on 27th October 2006 I talked about fungi and lichens I had seen there. Now in the spring time its very early in the growing season and the rose displays are all only a future dream. However perhaps because the vegetation was fairly sparse I noticed the insect shown in these photographs.

I'm convinced I haven't seen them before but if so it is just a lack of looking because they are apparently quite common. The are the Large bee-fly, Bombylius major as I have now discovered via the Internet. These photos are credited to: Keith Edkins: Here is a link to the web site.
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Just to reinforce my lack of observation as soon as I returned home and walked round our garden I immediately saw another specimen for the first time. They are fascinating creatures and like the humming bird hawk moth seen last summer amazing in their flight control for feeding.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A week in the life of a Somerset wildlife group

In case you were wondering what we do in our group here are some diary entries for this fairly busy week.

Monday 2nd April.

There were several matters hanging around from last week.
This included arranging to collect from Trust HQ a new first aid pack for Group use at meetings and on visits to reserves. We need more people qualified to provide First Aid cover.
There was a first meeting of a brand new local group based around Frome last week and it would show our support if I sent an email to congratulate them on getting the group started.
Having agreed to call a committee meeting at short notice last week there were some car sharing arrangements to put in place by telephone and this was successfully completed ready for tomorrow evening.
Last week I raised several queries after using the web site run by our parent organisation, the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts, I received an acknowledgement that the matter would be followed up soon. A problem had arisen in my registering for membership of its Wildnet system designed to give communication between staff and volunteers across all the county trusts organisation. It appears that this new system which allowed me to register and gain access to a forum mainly intended for staff use should not have been so open. The web master has now locked my registration account! Whilst waiting for a clarification of my application I notice the web site and registration process seems to have been modified and made more secure. Perhaps I did them a favour by showing how easy it was to get entry to the network! I await a further response.
Apart from work for the Trust there is work to be done on our 4 acre private nature reserve field in the coming week to implement our plans to introduce additional wild flower species. All are native English meadow plants some of which are already present but not wide spread. Follow up phone calls had to be made to confirm participation of our volunteer work party. Although private we are members of the SWT Private Nature Reserve Network.

Tuesday 3rd April.
Following on from Mondays comment, as secretary to the Syndicate which owns the 4 acre field I had welcomed a chance to meet a new member. This proved a most interesting chat to talk about how we set up our Syndicate and a summary or our progress so far and also to hear a bit more about the fields history from someone who had lived in the area for a lot longer than me.
I am a little concerned about the need to progress arrangements for a SW Trust meeting of all local area group chairs which happens every 4 months or so and our group is responsible for the organisation of the next one in June. A local village hall has been booked but the agenda needs to be agreed. A draft needs to be circulated for comment and any additional items to be discussed need to be identified.
In the evening we got together for our Group committee meeting with the main business the summer programme of events. The meeting went well and all seem happy with the arrangements with various jobs spread around the committee including refreshments for our Group meeting. Our Diary blog gives details.

Wednesday 4th April
If you have read my post dated 22.03.07 you will know that I had researched the way local trusts provide a wildlife information service for plant or animal identification. I sent a copy of my brief report to the SW Trusts CEO as a courtesy and for his information. Today I received a brief note saying that my comments had been referred to a group carrying out a review of the Trusts web site. I hope they take my somewhat critical comments as constructive observations.
For our private reserve, morning and afternoon sessions on the field, with help from several members of our syndicate, resulted in two small areas being prepared for young wild flower plants grown from seed and some bought in from a specialist nursery. It was necessary to remove a small plug of turf to insert each plant. Some gravel or sharp sand was placed around each one to try to keep slugs at bay. Their survival is not certain and only time will tell.
In between planting sessions two phone call are worth reporting. Firstly a call from the local office of the Environment Agency to reply to my recent request for information on the Parrett Catchment Project. The main news was that the PCP was being wound up at a meeting on 27th April and replaced by a new form of partnership. The aim will continue I assume to attempt to balance the demands of farmers making a living with conservation needs and other development type issues.A contact name in the Somerset County Council was given which I must follow up. Our Group is centred around the levels and moors and is involved indirectly.
The other call resulted in getting agreement on holding a garden party locally with all members, friends and the public invited. A chance to meet members not yet seen at our meetings we hope.Detailed arrangements to be sorted out later. An email has been sent to our local Parish newspaper giving date and time

Thursday 5th April.
Today's activities started by preparing an email to all our local Trust members who are on email which numbers around 80 at present with a further 450 members not contactable this way! It seemed a good time to remind people about the dates of our Group events and visits to local reserves. The next visit is at the invitation of the RSPB with a guided tour of their two nature reserves in Somerset. One has only just opened to the public. One more member has called to ask to join the party which is encouraging. I will need to contact the dozen or so members who have told me they are coming along to confirm arrangements.
Out on our private field planting continued to add a further area of new wild flowers. We are keeping a record of what has been planted so that progress can be monitored. It is noticeable now in early April that plants and grasses are starting to grow in earnest. A rota of Syndicate members has been agreed to keep our new very small plants watered at least for the next few weeks. The weather has become quite warm with plenty of sunshine and a fair drying wind making watering necessary.

Friday 6th April.
Alongside our private 4 acre field is a similar area of grassland which our local council is negotiating to acquire. News from this Thursdays Council meeting is that they have deferred a final decision on the transfer of ownership. They have received a further letter from the owners solicitor raising yet more legal queries still to be resolved.The outcome of this matter will have an impact on our own field and is therefor of considerable concern to our Syndicate.
Further afield some Trust members have today reported disturbing activity by a farmer on the Westmoor Drove near Hambridge. They are asking for information and guidance on what can we do to retrained damaging actions of this kind by farmers? Not having a ready answer to such queries I can only take details to be followed up next week after the Easter break. There are a number of bodies that might be able to confirm the legality of farmers work where it effects the pathways etc across the moors and levels. I have promised to check and call back in a few days.

Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th April.
Two days of beautiful clear blue skies, warm sunshine and almost clear of wildlife issues apart from finding an hour or so to type up this report and time to pay attention to our own garden which gets neglected. Just one other important event to mention. The second stage of the UN IPCC report on Climate Change has just been issued and today's papers are giving it attention but a more measured approach this time. The heat is on Governments now in more ways than one!! This blog gives links to both the UK Met Office and the IPCC for detailed information.

(minor revisions 8th April)