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Sunday, March 23, 2008

New hedge

Here it is! 200 metres long, 1000 hedge plants ( sometimes called whips) with canes and plastic guards to form a double line and completed with volunteer labour in less than a week. The weather was kind to the plants by making the ground wet before we started and during the planting it was generally just cold and windy.

The mix of species is :
Field Maple,
Wayfaring tree,
Wild Privet,
Common Dogwood.
All these species are also present in our existing ancient hedges.
We followed the recommended procedure using a spade to make a slit deep enough and opened up enough to take the plant roots. Taking care to tread firmly in and then adding a cane and finally a plastic rabbit guard. Keeping a reasonably straight line was not always easy and the separation between rows and between plants in each line needed a watchful eye.
So in about 5 years time it should look very good and be a great new feature in our wild flower meadow for wildlife of all forms. It will also be a bonus for the adjoining field.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I'm often complaining that I rarely get comments on my posts.
So I was surprised to see this post by Anon today.
It relates to my post back in Sept 12th 2006 and is a very similar sighting.
What was also a coincidence was that a visitor to the blog in the USA was also searching on Google with a similar question at about the same time but left no comment. So here it is. If the writer would like to email me direct on the address given in the header it might be possible to get a little more information about the event.
Thanks for the comment.

Wildlife Conservation: Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group : Do bats fly in the middle of the day?

I saw a pipistrelle bat flying today (18th March 2008) at 13.15 hours near Pontypool in South Wales. The weather was cold and sunny

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Local Nature Reserves

Field B Blackthorn hedge in bloom last year.

Field A showing wildflowers, butterflies and wooden fence.

Last Dec 10th 2007 I gave a brief report on two adjoining local grassland areas, each one about 4 acres and both unimproved meadows. I'll refer to them as Field A and B.
Field A is manage by a group of local people with the aim of conserving the rich biodiversity of wild flowers, grasses, ancient hedges and fauna. The management group decided some time ago that a hedge should be planted on the only one side of the field with only a wooden fence. As there is currently grant funding available for such projects subject to approval progress has at last been made to go ahead. This has become urgent because delay would mean missing a chance for planting this spring and having to wait until next winter.
We have just received confirmation of approval of the grant and have placed our order for a large number of hedging plants. We are currently clearing the route of grass and expect to be planting over the next two weeks. The two pictures show some of the flowers and the wooden fence waiting for our new hedge.
In another effort to improve the wild flowers last autumn we spread a significant amount of Yellow Rattle seed ( Rhinanthus minor ) which we are told will help to restrain the grasses for the benefit of wild flowers. We await evidence that the seed has germinated.

Field B has recently be given to the local council for a nominal sum and is currently the subject of consultation with the local community to decide what the field should be used for. The characteristics of the field are very similar to our adjoining field. As you might expect we have made a written submission to the council to seek to have this field become a nature reserve too.
The consultation process has resulted in good support for a nature reserve but also for a bowls club,tennis courts, sports hall and a few other ideas. A council sub committee meets again next week to discuss what happens next. Needless to say we hope that most if not all the field can be saved from car parks, tarmac and buildings as far as possible. The photo above shows one end of the field where a blackthorn hedge gives a splendid display of blossom resulting in a fine crop of sloes and providing a home for the Brown Hairstreak butterfly which is relatively rare round here.
Our local wildlife group supports both projects. I will make further reports on their progress as they develop.

West Somerset Area Group March Newsletter

Before you start reading , here is a photo of some of the volunteers who are running the Somerset Wildlife Trust Area Groups. Between them they cover most of this very large county from Exmoor to the Mendip Hills

I've just been reading the latest newsletter from the West Somerset Area Group. (I should have been writing up our own newsletter but this one proved very readable). They operate much as we do except they have been going a bit longer than us and perhaps because of their years of experience they are very well established. Here is an extract.

West Somerset Area Group


March 2008


Monday 3rd – Area Group Committee Meeting

Thursday 6th Climate Change Meeting 7 – 9 p.m.

Friday 7th – WSCV Hopcott Common Project

Saturday 8th – WATCH Group Meeting 10.00 a.m. at Nettlecombe Court

Tuesday 11th – Bovine TB 7.30 p.m. Taunton Library

Monday 17th – Area Group Committee Meeting

Friday 21st – WSCV Hopcott Common Project

Thursday 27th – 7.00 for 7.30; Two Woozles and a Wizzle


On Saturday 1st February Janet and I attended the WATCH Group Meeting at Nettlecombe Court. It was a rather noisy morning as the youngsters were building nest boxes which they then erected in the grounds. It was good to see youngsters enjoying themselves constructively and we hope to see the WATCH Group go from strength to strength.

The next meeting is on Saturday 8 March when they will have a look to see what is using their nest boxes and whether there any eggs; plus an eggstravanza of other Easter Eggy sorts of fun and games. Just the sort of thing to take the grandchildren to.

Minehead RNLI & Porlock Coastguard save deer off Culvercliffe

Following a call from a member of the public HM Coastguard requested Minehead's new Atlantic 85 Lifeboat launch at 12.00 hrs with volunteer helmsman Adam Bonar in command. The crew arrived on scene just off Culvercliffe and quickly spotted a young deer about 100 meters off shore. It was evident that the animal was extremely tired and distressed so a decision was made to "coax" it back to shore where a team from Porlock HM Coastguard was waiting.

As soon as the deer got back on dry land it immediately returned to the water where the Lifeboat crew again tried to encourage it to go ashore. On this second attempt the startled animal made for some bushes just off the beach where it stayed for a considerable time.

After struggling to catch the animal it made a third attempt to swim away when the Lifeboat managed to get alongside and recover it and secure it for the short journey back to Minehead Lifeboat Station.

The animal stayed onboard until the Lifeboat was recovered before being checked over by a local vet. Once confident that the deer was in good health, albeit wet and tired the crew took it to North Hill and released it.

Volunteer Helmsman Adam Bonar commented "we get called to a wide range of incidents but this was one of the more unusual. The deer proved quite tricky to recover and didn't seem overly appreciative of its trip in a Lifeboat".

Source: Minehead RNLI website

WSCV Hopcott Common Work Days

On the 8th February we were blessed with glorious weather. The clear visibility across Minehead and up and over the Channel gave a brilliant backdrop to our labours and we were delighted by little flocks of Crossbills and Siskin amongst many other birds. It’s a while since we have seen any deer whilst working but they leave their evidence everywhere.

On the 22nd the weather wasn’t bad either. We were visited by Patrick Watts-Mabbott the Exmoor National Park Authority officer responsible for volunteer activity, amongst many other roles. He was accompanied by a colleague from ENPA and two representatives of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, who seemed impressed with what we were doing, and more importantly the way we were doing it.

The purpose of the visit was to check on the suitability of our project for a visit by some youngsters who have to shoulder responsibility for looking after an infirm or disabled relative. The Wildlife Trust, BTCV and the National Park have all individually agreed to lay on fun/respite days for these very deserving and often overlooked youngsters and it so happens that all three organisations come together on Hopcott Common.

Banish the Bags

I was pleased to see the Daily Mail's new 'Banish the Bags' campaign, in an effort to rid the UK of plastic bag litter - see the Mail's website for details, which includes lots of advice, statistics and images provided by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). You can also read more about plastic litter on the MCS Adopt-a-Beach website.

Otter Monitoring

A number of members are involved locally in monitoring our resident otters on behalf of Somerset Otter Group. All seems to be well with the population very stable which means we probably have just about the optimum number of otters in West Somerset. As a rough yardstick one can say there is an otter for every 5 miles or so of ‘fishable water’ – but what you might think of as fishable and what an otter can find food in are very different things. Quite large eels can be found in very small rills for example; and at this time of year an otter will take frogs as well as fish.

Committee Matters

At their Meeting on Monday 3 March your Committee started to look at the implications of likely shortfalls in funding resulting from changing Government policy towards the allocation of Heritage Lottery cash and grants for environmental work.

In future it would seem that the Wildlife Trusts will have to rely more and more on their members to provide volunteers to carry out tasks heretofore performed by paid staff. Here in West Somerset we are fortunate in already having our highly skilled, multi talented, super-fit, motivated and eager team of Conservation Volunteers who have demonstrated their ability to perform miracles in exchange for a burned sausage; but we are going to need more people willing to have ago at a multitude of interesting projects.

Our Programmes Sub-Committee has already been looking at ways of bringing our programme closer to the membership – not easy in an Area that is 43 miles long by around 10 miles wide on average. You will notice changes in the months ahead as the new ideas start to kick in – it will be some time ahead as events are planned and speakers etc. booked well in advance.

We also need to take our displays to more events across and around the Area and anyone willing to have a go at staffing these at a fete or fair or show in your own local community please let me know.

That’s all for now, folks.

Happy wildlife watching!