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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New year message

Greetings to all readers and best wishes for 2010.

Whilst enjoying a very pleasant social evening yesterday I met someone who is interested in starting their own Blog. Not on the same subject as thisone but never the less it was quite a challenge to have to explain how and why I run my own. I have always hoped that the subjects I post on speak for themselves but that is probably a false assumption. There are many excellent blogs and I'm always impressed by the world wide contacts a blog generates and by the range of subjects covered. But to really catch visitors interest is not easy and I feel I must do better. I wonder if colour works!!!
So I hope I haven't put off a potentially very good new blog.
I did gain from our discussion a renewed enthusiasm for seeking to improve my writing and presentation especially as wildlife conservation is such a huge subject of great importance to everyone.

I must just mention our next public meeting on Owls on Jan 14th and full details are on our Diary of events. Link here.

I'm also adding another U Tube video clip showing a group of owls as I have never seen them before.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bats





















These photos from Kids Zone web site, link here.



The internet provides an amazing ability to link subjects together. Here is how I recently
found myself reading about bats!


A few days ago I found a bright yellow flower, size about 10 or 15 mm growing on a grass trail round a local meadow. I tried to remember enough details about its size, petals, stamens and leaf arrangement to identify it at home with books such as Wild Flowers by Blamey and Keeble Martin. Bearing in mind that it is now mid Dec I decided that it must be either the Creeping or the Spring Cinquefoil. I asked a friend for an opinion and went back to check. Naturally the flower had disappeared and I had little luck trying to pin down where I had seen it. There were no other specimens around either.
I've been persuaded that it is the Creeping form and as a final check I searched the web for any further guidance.

I came across a new web site run by Natural England called, "Gardening with Wildlife in Mind" .

Their web site says: "Natural England's Gardening with wildlife in mind aims to help people choose plants likely to attract wildlife. It also shows what eats what in the garden." It seems to be a joint venture with a private company called, " The Plant Press", publishers of books and CD's on gardening.
So with the help of Plant Press you can search for a range of wild animals and find out what they eat and other data. This is where I found my way to Bats!

I tried it out with bats and that is the point of this post, here is an extract from the site. Read more at this link.



I find it interesting to read that:

The pipistrelle bat was thought to be a single species until around 1998, when it was found that there are two genetically distinct species, the larger common pipistrelle and the smaller Pipistrellus pymaeus or 'soprano pipistrelle', so-called because its echolocation call is at a frequency of 55kHz as opposed to the common pipistrelle, which echo locates at 45kHz. New research into these two species is showing that they also have different preferences for food and habitat. The 55kHz bat prefers wetland and lives up to its German common name of 'midge bat'.


In future I must remember to talk about 45 or 55kHz bats which sounds very much more interesting!

I had to follow up this article by clicking on the link to the Bat Conservation Trust which I recall visiting some time ago before posting an item on bats. This time their web site , as usual gives a lot about bats but here is an extract on bats and biodiversity, the latter subject I had posted about recently.
Read more at this link:

Protecting our Biodiversity

The United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992 committed member states to conserve their biological diversity and set a global target 'to achieve a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss'. In Europe however the goal is that 'biodiversity decline should be halted with the aim of reaching the objective by 2010' known as the Countdown 2010 initiative. We are now less than 600 days away from the end of 2010 and there is still a lot of work to do.

Throughout the UK, BCT is working to maintain our bat biodiversity. We have 17 species of bat and we wish to see the populations of all these conserved and, where possible, enhanced.

All of our bats and their roosts are protected by law. Legislation is one way of maintaining bat biodiversity and shows that the Government thinks that conservation of bats is important.

BCT's Bat Biodiversity Project delivers a whole range of actions in conjunction with the Statutory Nature Conservation Organisations, volunteer bat workers, other environmental charities, sectors of trade and industry and government departments to help ensure that bat biodiversity is maintained. Further details of our work on policy and lobbying can be found on the consultation and lobbying pages.

The work of the Biodiversity Officer is supported by Natural England and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation


A final interest in all this is that I have been trying to persuade our Group to purchase a bat detector for some time now. I might just have to buy one myself!
Out of this bit of research several outcomes might be generated:
  • We organise another meeting about Bats or a bat walk to support the Countdown 2010 event.
  • We write to all our local authorities : parish and town councils, to ask about their interest in the environment and what they are doing about their responsibilities in respect of biodiversity etc.
  • We continue to promote wildlife gardening.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Nature Reserve. Fivehead Arable Fields.









These two photos, which I took in 2006 show a general view of the Trusts nature reserve known as Fivehead Arable Fields. They were the subject of a recent appeal for funds. I 'm pleased to post a copy of a news release from SWT because its a reserve in our Area and our committee contributed to the appeal. Its very satisfying to see such a good result and its good for our Group too. Please read the press release below.

08 December 2009

The Trust saves rare flowers near Taunton

One of the most significant collections of nationally rare cornfield flowers will continue to bloom in Somerset thanks to SITA Trust and Somerset Wildlife Trust members.

Fivehead Arable Fields is home to rare and beautiful flowers coating an area of more than 10 football pitches. It is because these rare flowers coat the entire 10 hectare site, rather than just at the field edges which is more typical, that Fivehead Arable Fields is unique and designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI.)

The project to protect the fields and increase the amount of rare flowers is supported by a £10,908 grant from SITA Trust and an appeal to the Trust’s members saw donations pour in.

Somerset Wildlife Trust Reserve Manager Emma Daniel said: "The SITA Trust grant and donations from our members means we can secure the future of this rare habitat to preserve the rich variety of plants and animals that thrive there.”

Rachael Fickweiler, Regional Fund Manager for SITA Trust said: “We were delighted to offer this funding to enable Somerset Wildlife Trust to make a real difference to this amazing habitat and are very happy to hear that our donation helped kick start the Trust’s funding campaign.”

Fivehead Fields are extremely vulnerable and home to nationally scarce flowers including broad-leaved spurge, spreading hedge-parsley and slender tare. Skylarks, grey partridge, the great green bush-cricket and brown hare are amongst the animals that call this rare habitat home and it is hoped barn owls may also be attracted back.

The money given by SITA Trust and donated by members will enable Somerset Wildlife Trust to:

  • Instigate a two-year cultivation regime to extend the range of the rare cornfield flowers.
  • Carry out detailed survey and monitoring to ensure that the management regime is achieving the right results.
  • Install an interpretation panel for visitors to raise awareness of the value of the rare habitat.
  • Improve site security through the installation of a field gate.

Meg Tyler, Volunteer Reserve Manager for Fivehead Arable Fields, said: "The rare flowers at Fivehead are extremely vulnerable and the money will help us to protect them and encourage wildlife to the fields.”

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Owls, continued


Another email from a friend has brought me a photo of an owl flying new the village of Aller in Somerset. This was just a chance sighting during a walk with a camera handy.
To see the owl more clearly click on the photo to enlarge.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Owls and Carry Akroyd landscape and wildlife paintings


By way of a change here is a link to a remarkable artist. Click here. Thanks to Carry Akroyd here is the picture. I hope you like it as much as I do.

I came across her work whilst browsing for a birthday card in a local shop. The cover was very striking and as usual with art I find it hard to say why exactly because huge numbers of artist do landscapes and many of them are very good but some just jump out at you.
You should be able to find the picture on her web site, its called "Bright Night" and its a screen print and many others.
I bought the card and found her web address and for me it is well worth visiting.
As you can see from the picture above there was a particular feature in the painting and that was the OWL in flight. As you will know Owls are very much on my mind right now as we get nearer to our next public meeting on Jan 14th on this subject.
We are just getting our posters printed and must start in earnest to promote the event which I am sure will be one of our best.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Biodiversity in Somerset

I've just received my copy of the newsletter from the Somerset Biodiversity Partnership. Its an interesting read. Apart from the content, with news about the SBP itself, there is information about the people involved in the implementation of the new set of Biodiversity Action Plans (usually referred to as BAP's). The Wildlife Trust has a big part to play in all this as it forms the essential ingredient under pinning all our work and interests. It seems clear to me that if biodiversity is destroyed or allowed to decline then that is the same thing as allowing wildlife to wither and die. That is something that members and volunteers with the Trust must aim to prevent.
The newsletter explains that there is an overarching strategy called Wild Somerset under which has been collected a large number of county wide and district level habitat and species action plans.
They range from county plans for hedgerows and hedge row trees to roadside verges and green lanes to local plans for native wild flowers of arable land.

All these it says can be accessed through the County Council web site. However I found the web address given in the newsletter appears to be incorrect so try this Link here which should show you the South Somerset District Plan. Otherwise go to the County Council web site and search for biodiversity.

A very impressive list of organisations have been working to produce these BAP,s including Exmoor National Park, Wessex Water, RSPB, the Drainage Boards, and of course the Wildlife Trusts. Twenty two in total.

In conclusion it seems that these set of documents will become the focus for the work of all conservation in Somerset. I hope through our Group we can make use of the BAP's t0 learn a great deal about wildlife in our County

Friday, November 27, 2009

Owls, continued

Leading up to our next public meeting on January 14th 2010 I have continued my search for video clips on UTube. I found this next one by visiting the Wild Owl web site. Link here

I hope you enjoy this excellent video with a lovely accompaniment by Katherine Jenkins.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Owls in Canada



Trying to find Owl clips from the UK but this one looks pretty good to me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chris Sperring on BBC Autumn Watch

Looking for info for our Jan meeting I have just discovered that Chris Sperring is appearing on BBC Autumn Watch this week. Why did no one tell me!!!
Here is a link to his Web site where you can find more information.
Here is a link to the BBC Web Cams.

Because I have only just seen the news item I'm too late to spread the word.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chris Sperring talks about Owls



A photo from Chris's blog. See link below.

This photograph of a Little Owl is by Chris Sperring and can be seen with many others on his web site



We are very pleased to have Chris Sperring coming along to our next public meeting in January. On Thursday 14th 7.30 pm at the Huish Episcopy Specialist College for Science. Leading up to the talk I hope to be able to feature information and photographs relating to British Owls.

To start with here is a link to Chris's web site.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Starlings at Ham Wall

Further update on the Starling Hotline ( 07866 554142) at 16.11.09. The Starlings are apparently staying away from Westhay and continuing to roost at Ham Wall and Shapwick Heath.


Starlings at Ham Wall

Photo by Lynne Newton. Click here for her latest photos and starling up date.

A new experiment for me is to try to include a video clip showing starlings roosting. So here goes.





Now here is my update on the Starling situation.

Yesterday afternoon ( 6th Nov) we had some visitors who wanted to go to see the display. By the time we started out it was about 4 pm and the weather was not promising. On the way it started raining and was becoming more cloudy. We had checked the hotline and were told Ham Wall was a current roosting site. Not having been there before we were a little vague about its location . It took longer to reach the site than we had allowed. However we spotted a car park with a group of people wearing all weather gear and pulled in . It was the right place and it was 5 pm with 100% cloud and rain and quite breezy. My assessment was proved correct by talking to the group which turned out to be bird watchers. Yes the starlings were roosting at Ham Wall. However they had arrived an hour before we did , that was about 4 pm, and we were way too late. About an hour and a half I would guess.

Conclusion;
  • the bad weather had not stopped the birds flying in to the roosting site,they were there probably about half an hour before sun set, and because we had not checked how early sun set is at present, which today is about 4.35 pm, we had missed a chance to see them.
  • We have learned that there is a car park at Ham Wall and it is about 600 metres to the roosting site so we will try again. Today looks a much better day but that means it will be quite crowded.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Butterfly Conservation, Large Blue

An enthusiastic visitor to Green Down to see the real thing! My photograph.


Photograph by "Somerset and Bristol Butterfly Conservation"




I shall be going along to the Annual General Meeting of the Somerset and Bristol Butterfly Conservation Group on Saturday.
Looking at their web site I found details of working parties for Jan and Feb at local reserves, generally clearing scrub. Here are some of the details.

Here is a link to the Groups web site to find out more about the Large Blue


Poldens Large Blue Action Group – Work parties January – February


Sunday 10th January, Walton Hill, volunteer work party to improve Large
Blue habitat, 10am – 3.30pm

Come and help clear scrub at Walton Hill to improve the site for the Large
Blue butterfly. There will be hot jacket potatoes and cakes. Please bring your
own drinks and any additional lunch and snacks required. Please wear strong
footwear and old clothes and bring work gloves if possible. Walton Hill is
south west of Street. Meet in the car park at 10am (Map reference:
ST46633505). Please contact Bernadette Noake (Butterfly Conservation:
01929 406004, 07960616320) or Shane Potts (07912 085603) for more
information and to let us know if you wish to attend.


Saturday 30th January, Collard Hill, volunteer work party to improve
Large Blue habitat, 10am – 3.30pm

Come and help improve the habitat at Collard Hill for the Large Blue butterfly.
There will be hot jacket potatoes and cakes. Please bring your own drinks and
any additional lunch and snacks required. Please wear strong footwear and
old clothes and bring work gloves if possible. Collard Hill is south of Street, on
the B3151. Meet in the car park opposite the Youth Hostel (Map reference:
ST48013451) at 10am. Please contact Bernadette Noake (Butterfly
Conservation: 01929 406004, 07960616320) or Rob Holden (National Trust:
07919392181) for more information and to let us know if you wish to attend.

Sunday 21st February – Lollover Hill, volunteer work party to improve
Large Blue habitat, 10am – 3.30pm

Come and help improve the habitat at Lollover Hill for the Large Blue butterfly.
There will be hot jacket potatoes and cakes. Please bring your own drinks and
any additional lunch and snacks required. Please wear strong footwear and
old clothes and bring work gloves if possible. Lollover Hill is near Dundon,
south of Street. There is limited parking on the road in Dundon. Follow the
public footpath and meet at Lollover Hill at 10am (Map reference: ST474325).
If you would like a map of the site please contact Bernadette Noake. For more
information and to let us know if you wish to attend please contact Bernadette
Noake (Butterfly Conservation: 01929 406004, 07960616320) or Shane Potts
(07912 085603).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Starlings Hotline

Photograph by Lynne Newton.

The Starling Hotline is working this afternoon and the telephone number is: 07866 554142.
The information given reports that starlings are roosting at Shapwick Heath, Natural England site and at Ham Wall , RSPB site. Click here for Ham Wall site.
You can also email for information to RSPB. Address is: ham.wall@rspb.org.uk
Large flocks of starlings have started gathering in the Curry Rivel area and I'm sure many other places.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Darwin

Before I start on my post, here is a photograph taken by John Bebbington and used in our poster for our next public meeting in Langport on 12th November. Anne Bebbington will be talking about the diversity of ways that flowers achieve pollination. This shows one of them.

I've got to chapter 6 in Richard Dawkins book , "Climbing Mount Improbable". This chapter spends a lot of time explaining his understanding of the evolution of the eye. Having explained in earlier chapters the meaning of Mount Improbable as a way of understanding the ways in which life may have developed and diversified he has gone on to discuss spiders webs and flight.
With an engineering background I find it fascinating and well explained. I can also see the problems which can arise in the minds of people for whom religious faith is important.
This post is prompted by a news item covering the British Councils international survey of opinions about how much people know about and understand about Darwins work.
You can contribute to their survey on line by going to their web site. Click here. It is quite a good idea I think to complete the survey and to have to think out your answers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starlings





























These photographs were taken by Lynne Newton.

(Visit Foxbiddy.com to see her photographs at http://www.foxybiddy.com/page/starlingspectacular/3)

They show the kind of images that can be seen on a good day and with a bit of luck. Being wild animals of course there are no guarantees for your visit. A clear sky is important for the best aerial display. I have just checked Lynne's web site and I should have done so first because she has published photographs taken at Westhay on 14th October2009 , so for the latest information go to her web site at this link Now read the post I had composed 10 minutes ago!!


Here's a quick update on the annual starling show.
Living a few miles from Westhay and Ham Wall reserves we always see the local starlings starting to fly over to their traditional roosting sites. We have already seen small groups in mid October.

The SWT usually provides information on the where and when they can be seen but there is nothing posted on their web site today. A search of their web site produces last years information including a Starling Hotline telephone number. The number has been run by the RSPB in the past but checking it today gives the message : "this hotline is closed ". So not much help there.

What I recommend is to call the normal office telephone numbers shown below and ask for the latest information.
It is a little early yet for a good display which I am told is at its best later in the winter after migrant birds have come to the UK from more northern latitudes. Maybe climate change or even random variations in temperature will delay the migration pattern.
Telephone numbers to try are:
RSPB HAM WALL Reserve: 01458 860494
Somerset Wildlife Trust main office: 01823 652400

Hedges and Verges --Somerset Wildlife Trust protest

I missed this news item shown on the SWT web site in September but as it's an important wildlife issue you might like to see it here. The full news report is on the SWT web site which you can see by clicking on the link below ( Somerset Wildlife Trust).

Somerset Wildlife Trust: "28 September 2009

Leave the roadsides and hedges alone!


This autumn, leave the roadsides and hedges alone! Today, Somerset Wildlife Trust is asking why Somerset Highways is damaging roadside wildlife?

Somerset Wildlife Trust members have reported that during September, Somerset Highways contractors have been over-flailing roadside verges, trees and hedgerows, damaging valuable wildlife habitat and leaving an unsightly mess.

Lisa Schneidau, SWT’s Leader of Living Landscapes, said: “This is the wrong time of year to cut hedges and roadside trees. It leaves no food for wildlife over the winter and damages wildlife habitat that is valuable for birds and small mammals"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Annual Report of the Heart of the Levels Area Group

Heart of the Levels Group of the Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Chairman’s annual report
10.10.09

This report covers:

• Some of the successful events of the last year.
• The work of the committee and its members.
• Looks forward over the next 12 months.

I am very much aware of the strong support our committee gives whilst helping to support our aims and objectives. Our committee has met 8 times since last September.

Our finances have benefited from careful attention by our Treasurer, for which we are grateful. At the end of Sept we had £749.09 in our local account.

We had gained two new committee members in 2008 but lost one this year due to other commitments. We would welcome at least two more members.

May 19th 2006 was our inaugural meeting but we started setting up our group at the end of 2005 and so we are now four years old.

The Wildlife Trust has settled down some what since the major upheavals in 2008 caused by economic issues and new staff have been settling in through out 2009.

The most significant event has been the start of a new Botany Group based in Langport. SWT members have signed up for a series of monthly classes in basic botany. Proposed and led by Dr Anne Bebbington with the help of John Bebbington it is hoped that it will give members a chance to improve their plant identification skills and possibly lead to an active group able to carry out botanical surveys.

We have organised or supported 13 events in our area. We have six events organised through to April 2010. We have a new programme card which we can make available.

We visited Aller Woods for a fungi foray and a spring woodland flower walk.

We have an email newsletter. Please let us know if you would like a copy.

We made two donations from our funds to the Trusts appeals for work at Westhay and to maintain bluebell woods in general. There are three new small appeals being promoted by the SWT which we will consider shortly.

In advance of the next election, should we hold a meeting to ask our prospective MP’s for their views on important topics. Would you like us to do that?

We are promoting our Arts and Wildlife Workshops in the next edition of the SWT News magazine and depending on the response we will either continue them on a regular basis or perhaps revert to an annual event.

SWT set up two new committees or Forums to enable staff to discuss with members some of the important areas of the Trusts work. 1) The Living Landscape Committee (LCC) this is a major part of the Trusts work load. 2) The Campaigns, Community and Education Committee (CCE) As Chair of our group I attend the CCE meetings about every 3 months or so.

The Trust has also given new support to the Private Nature Reserve Network (PNRN).
It was set up in1996 to help land owners who wanted to encourage wildlife and has around 200 members at present responsible for a total of 355 hectares in all parts of Somerset.

We supported the educational work of the Kingfisher Project which allowed around 250 primary school children from 8 schools, mainly in our area to get first hand experience of wildlife during visits to a wild flower meadow on a farm in Curry Rivel. We would like to see a Watch Group set up in this area.

I expect our activities for the next 12 months will include:

• Organise about 6 indoor meetings through the winter using venues in Curry Rivel , Langport and Somerton.
• Arrange some visits to reserves during the summer months.
• Encourage members to offer to help out with running our meetings and on reserves with practical tasks.
• Get better at communicating with members especially new members so as to make sure we are putting on talks and events which members find interesting.
• Encourage members to get to know our local reserves.
• Respond to wildlife related enquiries put to us by members and even if we don’t know the answer we will find someone who does! Use the Open University web site, iSpot.
• Support the Wildlife Trust in its work wherever we can with our limited resources through positive and constructive comment and fund raising.


*********************************************************************

Contacts.


Telephone: David German by email: levelswildlife@btinternet.com
Web site: http:// heartofthelevels.blogspot.com

Details of the SWT and other specialist groups are in the Trusts magazine.

Anyone wanting to read more about our activities will find a lot of information on the SWT web site and our Blog: http:// heartofthelevels.blogspot.com

Climbing Mount Improbable

I'm finding the book by Richard Dawkins, which is the subject of this post, a most fascinating read. For some reason probably to do with the publicity which he attracts I have in the past always left his books on the shelf in the book shops. That is regrettable but better late than never. I have been spurred to do so after a visit to the local Odeon to see Creation, the film based on Darwin's work in the context of his family life. It is a very gripping and moving story very well acted and directed. It also brought to life much of what I new about Darwin's life and his theory of evolution and especially how it conflicted with the religious thinking of society and in particular his wife's beliefs. Its also very topical today.Very much by chance I happened to see a TV programme recently featuring Richard Dawkins himself on a journey to visit people who held views of a religious nature which could not accept the Darwin theory. That was an eye opener to me.
Meanwhile I find his book packed with details about wildlife explaining very clearly how he understands Darwinian evolution.
This is all coinciding with David Attenborough's new series on Wildlife with amazing photography.
So if I dont post as often as I should you'll know why I'm busy elsewhere.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Economic growth?

I hope the Wildlife Trust wont mind me copying this item from their own web site, CEO feature.
The article referenced is written on a subject you rarely see in the media and the implications are for instance in line with the idea that if the country was to reduce its growth in demand for electricity it would open up a whole new way of looking at CO2 reductions and the urgency for energy projects like the wind turbine parks and the Severn barrage. Of course pigs might fly!! Or is it just possible??

An interesting article from the Guardian here - politics apart, it sums up in the last 3 paras particularly the issues that need to be considered as our economy “recovers” and our politicians have their conferences....


Here's an extract from the article.



David Cameron is on record as saying that well being is as, if not more, important than growth in an economy. An increasing number of voices from Nobel economists down are pointing out the ultimate incompatibility of endless rich country economic growth with the preservation of a habitable planet. What's interesting for the Conservatives is that ditching growth as the single, overarching economic policy obsession could well revive ways of living that they find politically appealing.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New nature website



As a former student with the Open University I receive the OU magazine called Sesame. The autumn edition has an article on a new web site set up by the OU.
The site is designed to enable anyone to get an identification of any form of wildlife which they have seen and wish to find out what it is. I know it works because having registered to use the service I uploaded a photograph of a moth found in my garden. Within a few days I had five people confirming its identity and as they all agreed I think that is pretty certain!
You can find the site by clicking here.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Welcome to all who stop to browse this Blog.

Its always a pleasure to hear from fellow Bloggers and so welcome to "suetommer".
It has made me think that it might be worth copying into a post, some of the stats showing the recent visitors . The first surprise has been the way people from all over the world have logged on.
Secondly where it is recorded, it is interesting to see what search words were being used.
For instance the words. "Do bats fly in the daytime", keeps coming up and so perhaps I should do more research on the subject for another post.
I'll check the most recent visits and post a summary in a few days.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DEFRA paper on farming and soil condition

I was surprised to see a news item about a press release by DEFRA on the subject of the quality of the soil on our farms. Its obviously an important subject and has great implications for wildlife of all kinds and perhaps my surprise was really a reaction to what I regard as good news. Hence this post simply to record the event of the issue of this report. Below is an extract from the DEFRA web site introducing the report. Click here to see the report in full.


Quote from http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/latest/2009/defra-0924.htm:

"Measures to protect and improve our soil to meet rising demand for food and to combat climate change have been unveiled by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

England’s soil has suffered over the last 200 years from the impacts of intensive farming and industrial pollution, and today is under threat from erosion by wind and rain, a loss of organic matter and nutrients, and pressure for development.

Safeguarding our Soils, published today, sets out how the government plans to halt and reverse the degradation of England’s soil over the next 20 years, working with farmers and other land managers, developers, planners and construction companies to manage soil sustainably.

By 2050 the world will need to double current food production to feed a growing population, possible only with healthy soils. Future sustainability of the UK’s food supply will depend on maintaining the natural resources, including soil, on which production depends.

Hilary Benn said: “Soil is one of the building blocks of life. Good quality soils are essential for a thriving farming industry, a sustainable food supply, and a healthy environment.

“Britain’s soils hold more carbon than all the trees in Europe’s forests – and their protection is critical if we are to successfully combat climate change.

“This is an important step in increasing the value we place on soil, and will safeguard this vital resource now and in the future.”

The strategy sets out how the government will:

  • Support farmers in managing agricultural soil, and address the threats to it;
  • Reduce the rate of loss of carbon in soil to tackle climate change, and use soil to help adapt to the impacts of climate change;
  • Provide a framework for action to protect peat habitats;
  • Protect soils in urban areas during development and construction;
  • Value soils in the planning system; and
  • Prevent pollution of soils, and deal with the historic legacy of contaminated land.

Measures include guidance, training and advice for the agriculture industry on protecting and increasing soil organic matter, incentives and regulation to prevent soil degradation, and the monitoring of levels and threats to the soil."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wildlife identification

As you may realise I spent 6 years studying part time with the OU and ended up in 2006 with a BSc Hons, Open Degree, specialising in human geography and the environment. Since then I have become involved , as a volunteer , with the Somerset Wildlife Trust and spent a lot of time photographing wildlife and trying to identify a wide range of plants and insects. That is not always easy and I make do with my own efforts with key books and sometimes contacting people who know more than I do. So this week I was very interested to get details of the OU iSpot web site which you can find here.

I've started to explore its potential for helping amateur naturalists to acquire a better understanding of the wildlife they are exploring. Its very early days for the web site as it is with my use of it but I have started by registering and posting my first message with a photograph of a moth hoping to get confirmation of its name etc. We will see how it goes and I will add posts to let you know how I get on.
Let me know if you try it and what you think of it by adding a comment to this message.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Our local wildflower meadow






Common Blue


Photographs and notes about our local meadow


Meadow Brown feeding on Scabious






Ladies Bedstraw

Great Green Bushcricket





6 Metre grass strip left close to new hedge









Our wildflower meadow has been full of interest this year. Plenty of butterflies, the great green bush cricket showing up but fewer Marbled Whites than in previous years and very few Bee Orchids, which I hear is the same elsewhere this year.

The hay has now been cut on 15th August. It was baled and the bales removed by the 21st and the gate locked.

As this cut was earlier than expected a 6 metre strip has been left nearest the new hedge, to provide a continuing habitat for the many butterflies present.Shown in the picture above.

This will also help the several species of grasshoppers and no doubt many other species.

An inspection of this strip on the 17th August showed the value of this action. There were numerous Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies, probably hundreds, still present whereas on the adjoining field and the rest of our field there are few of either. Large White butterflies are also present. It is likely that there are others I didn’t spot in the 30 minutes or so spent there. A good indicator of a healthy meadow is said to be the presence of small (or micro) moths which are disturbed when you walk through the grass and they are numerous.

The large area of Ladies Bedstraw is still intact and will have more time to seed as will a few Scabious and orchids.

Included here are a few photos from July and August this year.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Abraxas grossulariata and a large white!

These photos were taken whilst working in the garden. The moth is the common Magpie which is quite remarkable none the less. To view more clearly click on the picture to enlarge.








The large white was enjoying a rather prickly looking garden flower

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jenny Graham and the Arts and Wildlife Project


Yet another fruitful session. Despite the relatively low numbers of members taking advantage of having a professional artist spend two mornings with us to guide us in trying to see everyday things in a new light we all felt it was a success. Unlike last year we had managed to produce attempts at some form of artistic interpretation of images seen during walks round Compton Dundon on the two Saturday sessions. We were able to compare our efforts of photography and sketching without feeling embarrassed about what we might feel about our own work.

This photo was my attempt to capture the richness of these grasses as they bent in the wind and created an interesting pattern. That's what I hoped anyway.

A big surprise to me was that a suggestion was made that we continue with our sessions and formed an ongoing arts and wildlife group. We are considering meeting once a month on a Saturday morning to try to develop our interest again with Jenny Graham to give us some guidance and inspiration. More on this soon. The word ARTS was chosen to show that we are interested in all forms of artistic work not just photography say. We are appreciative of the time Jenny has given to this project and for her interest in working with us in the Wildlife Trust.


Jenny has been exhibiting some of her paintings at the MKgallery in Somerton as part of the Art Week. Her web site can be seen with this link.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bats in Somerset

A surprising number of visitors to this blog have been searching for information on bats.

Here is a link to the Somerset Bat Group who might be able to help. Link here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Moths



Have you ever tried to take a close up photograph of a small moth sitting quietly on the ceiling of your bathroom?
The photo shown here is my best effort to get a good enough image for seeking an identification as I couldn't find it in my book ( Concise Guide to the Moths of GB and Ireland.)

Having got the best image I could, standing on a small step ladder with one foot on the toilet and with a tripod balanced precariously alongside the wash basin, I emailed it to John Bebbington , chairman of the Somerset Moth Group for an answer.

It is a Rosy Footman, Miltochrista miniata. It looks very different in the book which is what confused me. In fact the book shows , I think, a simplified drawing showing the pattern on the wings , but it looks quite different in real life.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Climate Change news

I haven't said much about this subject for some time. It is a constant theme in wildlife conservation now and came up again yesterday at a meeting I attended to discuss Somerset Wildlife Trust future approach to the "Living Landscape" concept. The Trust it was said must keep the probable effects of climate change in mind it setting its long term goals.

Last night by coincidence I listened to the Dimbleby Lecture given by Prince Charles. It led me to check out the UN web sites covering the G8 conference and the forthcoming Copenhagen Conference. You can read the speech at this link.

All of these links can be a bit overwhelming and I think the UN is on the right track to run a simple campaign to get signatures on a petition to be used to get world governments to take action.

I have signed the petition on line and I am number 5092 on the list shown so its early days.

If you agree with me that we should do something to help the process along then you can find the petition at this link.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Art and Wildlife workshop.

Art and Wildlife Workshop 4th July 2009

The view from the top of Lollover Hill is highly impressive.
The butterflies, Burnet moths and wild flowers seen on the way to the top are remarkable.
We had met at 9 am at the Compton Dundon village hall and over a coffee Jenny Graham had talked us through the plans for this session of the workshop. We then set off to explore the paths leading from the hall.
Most members of the group were interested in improving their photographic skills and with a clear handout we were given key advice which we were soon able to put into use.
The view from the top of Lollover Hill is so impressive on such a day that I was not surprised when someone exclaimed that the walk and the view must make you realise what a beautiful county we are very fortunate to live in.
The Burnett moths were apparently just emerging and sunning them selves all around us. Or were they busy mating? Marbled White were very obvious and a delight to see.
After much close observation and many photographs we returned to the hall. All agreed we would return for the second session on the 18th and would see what we could do with the images we had just experienced.
We expect a further group will also join us to conclude this years art and wildlife workshop.
If you couldn't make today's session and would like to join us on the 18th give me a call.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Parish and Town Councils

For this post which is I think the 200th post since I started this blog I thought I would follow up an idea which seems important to me and for the Wildlife conservation movement as a whole.
I am encouraged by the outspoken statement by the Somerset Wildlife Trust questioning the intentions of the new County Council following the change of political control. Also I am motivated by my long running attempt to persuade my local parish council to adopt a meadow as a nature reserve. Finally I am inspired by reading a book called " How to be Wild" by Simon Barnes.
The idea is that we as a local group of the SWT should make contact with the 18 parishes and two Town Councils in our area and ask them to answer questions about their activities concerning the environment. A few will be able to point to actions taken or supported.Many will find it hard to show much hard evidence. Put like this it doesn't sound very dramatic. However the point is that these authorities are the front line of governmental action on the environment and are pretty much allowed to do what they like with local matters such as setting up nature reserves or deciding on grass cutting of verges and grassy open areas. They can therefor do a great deal of damage or can do a great service to local environmental well being.

All I need to do is persuade our committee and get someone to help with telephone calls and letter writing and we can get started!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Dr Anne Bebbington

DrAnne Bebbington will be giving our November talk for our HLG.
To illustrate the background to the talk I found this reference on a web site which demonstrates the depth of knowledge Dr Anne brings to her subject:

Click on this link.

My previous post gives background on John Bebbington who will also be involved in the Nov talk.

Wildlife photography in Somerset, John Bebbington


This is my photo of John as he discovered a Lappet moth caterpillar on a one year old hedge in a local meadow.
Below are some notes taken from the "Natural Photographers Portfolio" web site.
link here

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Nature Photographers' Portfolio


John Bebbington FRPS

John developed an interest in insects at a very early age – his first memorable encounter was with a queen Buff-tailed bumblebee at the age of 2! The sting made a lasting impression.

He bought his first SLR – a Spotmatic 1 – in the mid 1960s and natural history photography became a passion, especially after he joined the Field Studies Council as a tutor in North Wales and wanted to back up field teaching with illustrated talks. His photographic technique was given a real boost in the early 1970s when he met Michael Proctor who persuaded him to join the RPS Nature Group and submit images for Associateship.

In 1978 John took over as Head of Centre at the FSC’s Juniper Hall Field Centre, near Dorking in Surrey, where he remained until retirement in 2004. He began teaching natural history photography courses (close-up and macro in particular) in 1979 and continues to do so.

In 1991 he gained his FRPS with a slide panel entitled ‘Protective colouration in European Lepidoptera’ and has served twice on the RPS A&F panel in the Nature Category. He is currently a Committee member of the RPS Nature Group.

His main photographic interests are in close-up and macro work with invertebrates and plants and in photomicrography, using both film and digital imaging. He is also secretary of the Somerset Moth Group and works as an educational and photographic consultant.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Local commitmment to wildlife conservation

The SWT has just published this note following the recent County Council elections which produced a change in political control of the Council. My previous post reported on the national policy of the Conservative Party for reference.
Please go to the SWT web site for the complete statement.

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SWT throws down the environmental challenge to Somerset County Council

Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) today threw down a challenge to the new Conservative-led Somerset County Council to make a strong commitment to Somerset’s environment.

Simon Nash, SWT’s chief executive, said: "Since the Conservatives won control of Somerset County Council a few weeks ago, we have been hearing worrying reports of a lack of commitment to Somerset’s environment and a reduction in resources allocated to this essential area. One, from a source close to the Council, was that the new Somerset County Council "doesn’t even have environment on its radar".

"If this is true, it simply isn’t good enough. Somerset enjoys a beautiful and wildlife-rich countryside, but it is under threat from all sides, including increased development, intensive land management and climate change.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

County Council and the environment

The Somerset Wildlife Trust has challenged our new Somerset County Council to live up to the policies published by the Conservative Party statements on its intentions regarding the environment if it gets elected to form a new government. Below is what it says it will do nationally.

How will it act locally?

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Environment

A Conservative Government will make Britain greener by tackling climate change and enhancing our environment.

We believe quality of life and environmental issues must be at the heart of politics – which is why we have pledged to improve Britain's environment by reversing the decline in our biodiversity, improving urban green spaces, providing incentives to recycle and working towards zero waste.

Britain is struggling to cope with growing mountains of waste. Ending our reliance on landfill is not just a question of raising recycling targets and finding better ways of coping with waste from discarded products; it is about changing our mindset. We need to act long before a product becomes waste in the first place - producers should be considering the waste implications when a product is still on the drawing board.

A Conservative Government will therefore introduce a Responsibility Deal on waste - a voluntary arrangement among producers to cut back on the production of waste and improve its disposal. In addition, we will encourage councils to adopt a scheme which gives incentives to households that recycle.

There is also an urgent and growing need to improve the protection of our marine environment, as many of our fish stocks have been over-exploited. We have called for legislation to conserve our marine habitats and are working to ensure the Marine and Coastal Access Bill is strengthened before it becomes law. We will also work to reform the Common Fisheries Policy to achieve a fair deal for our fishermen and seek a pilot scheme, supported by the European Commission, to help end the wasteful practice of fish discarding.

Because climate change adaption must go hand in hand with mitigation measures, we are committed to increasing Britain’s ability to cope with extreme weather conditions, for example by improving our flood prevention measures.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Art and Wildlife workshop. Preview

Our Art and Wildlife Workshop this year takes place on July 4th and 18th.

Art Project 2008. Having taken this photo I tried my hand at sitting on edge of the river and sketching. My art work was not photographed so can't be shown, thankfully. However the experience was quite surprisingly satisfying. I may try my hand at sketching again at this years workshop in July.



The photograph below is of a landscape painting by an accomplished artist which showed how a similar landscape could be interpreted.



All forms of artistic interpretation will be encouraged with guidance from Jenny Graham.

Local Group news

Somerset Wildlife Trust. Local Group News.

June 2009


Our wildlife group was busy in May with a cider apple orchard walk including a ploughman’s lunch and a glass of cider. The orchard has its own resident deer, ponds, beehives and birdlife. If you were not in the 40 or so visitors this year look out for next summer’s event.

In May, 72 members of the Private Nature Reserve Network which is run by the Trust attended a one day workshop in Drayton village hall to learn about the wildlife value of ponds. An excellent lunch was provided by Angela Davidge, a local resident. We ended with an escorted visit to John Leach’s pond at Muchelney to see dragonflies and much else.

Early in June we gave a talk to the Somerton Arthritis Care group to explain the work of the Wildlife Trust and our local group. Ease of access to reserves was highlighted as important.

The 9th June was the start of the Kingfisher Project which we support. Eight local schools visit a local field, courtesy of Henry and Richard Lang. Each school has a 2 hr session during the four day project. Our local primary school sent the first group of 30 children to explore the hedges and wildflower meadow. Experts were there to lead a search for bugs, beetles, spiders and to talk about owls, small mammals, bees, wildflowers and grasses. Each School creates a project display for later judging.

For the second year we are running our Art and Wildlife workshops on July 4th and July 18th. Jenny Graham, a well known Somerset artist will help us look at the countryside and wildlife through artist’s eyes. Our challenge is to capture our own artistic interpretations in drawing, photography, creative writing or some other way. Perhaps this year someone will compose music! By the time you read this there may still be a chance to join us.

For information email me.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Botany

For some time now my interest in plants through gardening, visiting gardens and my involvement in the wildlife of Somerset has made me realise my knowledge of botany is very basic and limited. To get more out of visits to nature reserves and even walks in country lanes I need to spend time learning in a structured way rather than just looking up in wild flower books to try to identify flowers I have seen.
Now I have a great opportunity to do just that.
Last night we held the first informal meeting of what we will probably call the Langport Botany Group. Starting in September we plan a series of monthly study group session to start the task of understanding the physical structure of plants with the emphasis on wild flowers found in this area. An ability to identify the many species which we are fortunate to find all around us is one of our aims.
The group will need to be limited to around a dozen to be manageable for practical work on plant specimens and for field work. If the initiative prospers no doubt it will continue on future years. That is certainly our hope so that more people can benefit.
I hope to give the group coverage through this blog and else where and include photographs showing our activities.

If you are interested in the subject of botany and what it covers, especially in the context of wild flowers you might find the Natural History Museum a good reference point
Here are is a web site link related to this post. Click here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Back from holiday

Dont forget that by clicking on the photos you should be able to make them larger.



Three weeks is a long time in the wildlife world. We came back to the UK last Thursday after a long awaited holiday, had two days to cope with being back in normality and prepare for Sunday.
The day was devoted to a Workshop event for the Somerset Private Nature Reserve Network. The subject was the importance of ponds, their value for wildlife and how to manage them. A series of speakers gave short introductions to related topics finishing with a presentation by "Pond Conservation". Just for now I'll include a couple of photos to give a flavour of the highlight for us all on a very warm and sunny afternoon. A visit to a local pond which we were not disappointed to find full of dragonflies, damselflies and much else. More detail later!

Friday, May 01, 2009

"Plantlife"

Twice in one week I have been very pleased to welcome conservationists to have a good look at our local meadow. This is a private nature reserve.


The photo of one of our visitors was taken this week and the colourful Grass vetchling was a new species found on the field last summer.

Today it was people from "Plantlife".
They were interested to hear about our 4 years of looking after a 4 acre grass meadow and how we had started with no experience in such management undertakings. The field is only just coming to life but should have more to offer visitors over the next few months. We hope that our mutual interests can come together so that we can welcome school parties and groups of volunteers who might use the field for visits to practice plant identification , help with surveys and maybe even hedge maintenance and laying. Over the next month or so we will try to work out a possible programme.
There is a great potential for us to learn from being involved in such a project so that our field increases its ecological value and interest.


Here is an extract from their web site:

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Who we are, what we do…in the UK

Plantlife is a charity working to protect Britain’s wild flowers and plants, fungi and lichens in the habitats in which they are found.

We were established in 1989 after a meeting of conservationists and botanists, led by Professor David Bellamy, called for a new organisation, an 'RSPB for plants', to champion wild plant conservation. Today, Plantlife is the leading charity working to protect wild plants and their habitats with national offices in England, Scotland and Wales. HRH The Prince of Wales is our Patron and Adrian Darby OBE our President.

Plantlife identifies and conserves sites of exceptional botanical importance, rescues wild plants on the brink of extinction and works to ensure that common plants don’t become rare in the wild. We are a Lead Partner in the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (which targets the UK’s Priority Species and Habitats for conservation action) and are responsible for conserving over 100 of the UK’s most threatened plants and fungi. We do this by:

As the UK’s only membership charity dedicated to the conservation of wild plants, we encourage everyone to become a member of Plantlife. Your support helps us to get the message across that the UK’s flora is, quite simply, the bedrock upon which all our wildlife rests.

*********************************************************************************

Greater Celandine



Life is full of surprises and this evening I visited our local store and just happened to notice in an untidy area alongside the shop a bushy green plant with small star shaped yellow flowers. I have only seen this plant once before a couple of weeks ago on a path in Oxfordshire. I believe it to be Greater Celandine. Perhaps it is quite common and I have just not picked it out before. Whatever the truth of that , it is still a real pleasure to add wildflowers to my list of personal sightings. I didn't have a camera with me so can't show what it looked like but here is a link to a photo:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Flower_October_2008-1.jpg

I did take a small piece home and took these photos. With a bit of luck the flowers might set seed which I can return to help spread the plant further. It looks as if the plant is set on a toilet seat but that's not so. I used my wifes sewing machine case to give a plain beackground. It works quite well I think.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lappet Moth caterpillar



Wow, anyone who is interested in moths and their caterpillars will be impressed I think by a surprising sighting this morning. Walking round our local meadow , inspecting our one year old new hedge, my companion got quite excited and dived into the young hedge to collect a magnificent specimen of the Lappet moth caterpillar. I am including my photo of its discoverer to show its size. You can see the young hedge in the background. The caterpillar was on Blackthorn. I understand this in not fully grown.

I don't have photo of the moth but here is a link to the UK Moths web site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Severn tidal power consultation

Trying to meet todays deadline for the phase one consultation I managed to send off an email yesterday. The views here are my own personal comments.

This is what I said:

I wish to make the following comments on the Severn Tidal Power consultation.

My comments are based on the following:

DECC Phase 1 Consultation Doc., and the SDC report, Turning the Tide. October 2007.

Attendance at the RSA public forum meeting on 7th March 2009, in Bristol.

Membership of the Somerset Wildlife Trust and the RSPB.

On the basis of these documents, meetings and the public statements of the above organisations which I support I am not in favour of the Cardiff to Weston barrage because it would cause unacceptable environmental damage to the Severn Estuary.

I support efforts to generate electricity from sustainable sources such as tidal energy but only after thorough testing and development.

I support the view that a greatly increased level of research is needed to explore alternative technologies which offer sustainable energy generation without major environmental destruction which would follow from the Cardiff/Western barrage.

I feel strongly that far more emphasis should be directed to reducing public, industrial and commercial demand for energy before we, as a community, massively change and damage our natural inheritance.

I do not accept the arguments that we must continue to generate ever increasing wealth and prosperity whatever the cost to the environment so that we may all maintain the life style we have become accustomed to.

I support the SDC statements (Section 5.3, page 139) that it is not advocating unquestioning Government support for a barrage and that there are serious challenges for current Government policy.

It is significant the SDC also states in Section 5.3 page 139 that:

“We do not take a position on the relative merits of the various barrage schemes but have instead considered the issues generically, with an inevitable focus on the larger Cardiff-Weston scheme due to the availability of more detailed evidence and the greater degree of impact it would have - environmentally, economically and socially.”

David German 22.04.09

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Art and Wildlife

Art and Wildlife

You will see from our events diary that we have organised an art and wildlife workshop. We tried this for the first time last summer and a dozen, mainly members, all agreed that it was a success. That is everyone found it interesting and perhaps motivating. A few were already active in creating some form of art but others were just interested enough to come along to explore the possibilites of the day.I don't think any great works of art were produced but a lot of creative thinking was stimulated. I can vouch for that personally.
So we are trying again, still very much an experiment I think but we hope another group of willing experimenters will join us for a day,this time spread over two Saturday mornings in Compton Dundon.
This blog has been sparked off by arrangements I am involved in to run a different kind of workshop for the Trusts, Private Nature Reserve Network.
I have been discussing with a local botanist and member of the Trust a contribution I hope she will be able to make to a day spent exploring the creation and management of ponds with wildlife in mind. Anne has worked for the Field Studies Council and to find out more about them I visited their web site. It was a great surprise to find they run courses more or less exactly the same. You might find their work of interest in many ways other than in art.

Here is a link to their web site. Click here.

Here is a brief extract from their art page:

Individuals & Families 2009 | Arts


Painting, Drawing and the Arts

The courses within this section offer the opportunity
to concentrate on the more artistic elements of the natural world.
There is a wide range of courses on offer in 2009 to help you to
explore and develop painting, drawing and creative writing skills.
Courses are based in and around the stunning locations of our Centres. Find out which course is suitable for you.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Local wildlife news

This post shows a note I expect to publish in our local parish magazine. Comments welcome and my email address is shown elsewhere on the page.



Somerset Wildlife Trust, Local Wildlife News.

Wild Orchids will be showing again soon on a field near the village.

The old Rugby Field is publicly owned and open to all to visit and enjoy. The Parish council is responsible for its management. That is important because most other green areas round the village are privately owned and farmed and not dedicated to supporting wildlife. We know some farmers do a great deal to encourage wild life but they do have to produce our food. The Parish Council has both an opportunity and a responsibility to conserve the natural value of the field and by doing so protect its biodiversity.

Round the Rugby Field, old blackthorn hedges are in full bloom in mid April and the field is coming to life again after a winter rest. Soon we will see the rich mixture of flowering plants and some 15 different species of grasses. There will be numerous butterflies including the lovely Marbled White.

.

Last year we mapped the areas where the wild orchids grow and other flowering plants such as Broomrape and we can share this with you.

The field has been surveyed by a number of qualified experts including the Ecologist working for the District Council who all agree that it is of significant flora and fauna interest. The field has been registered as a County Wildlife Site and local nature reserve.

Members of the Wildlife Trust will know we organise guided walks to local sites of special interest and this local field is no exception. To join a walk email me.