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Saturday, March 08, 2008

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!

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