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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A photo a day Feb 12th to Feb 19th

This next set of pictures illustrate mid Feb in and around our garden which has been a little wet at times and warmer.

This first one is a small plant in our wild patch, flowering quite early and possibly looks like Lung wort, Borage family? -Feb 12

At the side of our new pond I planted some herbs for no particular reason. This one has had coloured
leaves for some time now this winter.Thymus puleyioides ? -Feb13


Recently noticed some miniature daffodils probably grown in a pot and then discarded near the green house. Now flowering and ideal for cutting for the house! - Feb 14th

The sun was shining and I found this Ladybird enjoying the warmth no doubt.  Severn Spot . Feb 15th

Moved a bit of old trellis lying on the corner of the lawn and found a couple of these caterpillars laying underneath. No idea what species.- Feb 16th

On the same piece of old rotting trellis I noticed this odd fungi. It looks like one of the Coral type  species, Ramariaceae? Feb 17th

 I almost trod on this next species of Fungus which had found its way through a small crack in the concrete floor of the greenhouse. I think it may be a Bay Cup, Peziza badia. - Feb18th

Lastly in the group is this Greater Celandine. Chelidonium majus. Growing in our front garden after I collected some wild seed from a waste patch of ground in the village. Its very vigorous and spreads very quickly. It has small yellow flowers which produce a lot of seed!  - Feb 19th

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wild Plant Conservation

A favourite botanical charity of mine has written to me with a new scheme and I think it could be useful for anyone concerned about the state of wild flowers and plants in their own area. As with any other project it will only be successful if more people get involved. As a small step I'm including details as a post on my Blog. I'll download the parish record form and try to make use of it here in my own Parish. Think about it. Give it a go! You could also sign up for their free newsletter. If you happen to live in Somerset we have our own Botany Groups who carry out identification surveys and they would be pleased to hear from you and you dont need to be an experienced botanist. You can contact me through this Blog.

Dear Parish Pioneer reader

The Wild About Plants team need your help!  We are keen to reach many more people and have prepared the attached article which we would like to ask editors of local parish and village newsletters to consider including in their publications this spring.  Would you be able to approach the relevant person local to you and ask them to do this?  In this way we can all spread the message about the importance of wild plants in our countryside and hopefully recruit lots of new readers for the Parish Pioneer newsletter too.

If you are successful, could you let us know how you've got on and which newsletter has published the article?

Thank you

The Wild About Plants Team.

Attached write up.

Are you Wild About Plants in your parish?

Wild Plant charity, Plantlife, which conserves wild plants on the ground, is interested in your wild plant memories, foraging tales and recipes to find out just how connected our lives still are to wild plants and whether they continue to be important to communities and individuals today. Parishioners can write in to the Wild About Plants team with their memories, poems and photographs which will be added to a plant anthology on the website,

If you have more time available, it would be great if you could complete a parish record form, which as well as asking about how local people use wild plants, also asks you to record whether certain wild plants grow in your parish. A parish record form can be downloaded from :

Plant enthusiasts can also subscribe to a lovely free quarterly newsletter called Pioneer which aims to inspire the amateur botanist and nature lover with useful tips, facts and plant ID help – readers are encouraged to provide content and feedback regularly making for a real hands on friendly and fun newsletter! Email: to sign up!

Great Crane Project

Last Wednesday  our group organised a talk to hear all about this great new project on our local moors. On Friday two of us went on a visit to a secret location organised by the RSPB to see the new flock of cranes in the wild. Here is my write up.

Summary report on HLG public meeting on the Great Crane Project. 22.02.12

Another very good meeting. There were 28 members in the audience for an excellent presentation by Roger Lucken. Roger is a volunteer with the RSPB who has been involved with the project for some time.

The talk included a general description of the project and the history of Cranes in the UK and world wide. Roger explained details of the implementation of the project and the latest news about progress in establishing a new population of Cranes on the Somerset Levels.

Good slides and excellent photographs enlivened the one and half hour talk. We learnt a great deal about these fascinating birds.
Cranes first appeared on Earth around 40 million years ago and were last seen in the wild in the UK around 400 years ago. Loss of habitat due to drainage of the wetlands and their attraction as a source of food for human consumption were to blame.
The reintroduction of the birds in Somerset followed a detail assessment of the available wetland areas.

The project was developed with several partners bringing together experience of rearing animals in captivity so that they do not become humanised was an important requirement. The WWT at Slimbridge were vital for the initial rearing of chicks from eggs imported from Germany.

Looking after the young chicks after they were brought to Somerset involved dressing up in clothing which loosely resembled adult cranes and walking around with a stick with an imitation Cranes head.
The whole talk was filled with such detail and it was very appropriate that two of our committee were able to visit the Aller Moors on Friday 24th Feb to see the young flock for real.
The photo attached was taken during the visit. Further information can be found at the Project web site shown here.
Photo by D. German

Friday, February 17, 2012

A photo a day Feb 1st to Feb 11th

Its about time I caught up  and showed some evidence of my progress. Its been the coldest February for a long time so plants and bugs have been having a hard time.  Hopefully some of my recent photos not only show the conditions but have a little interest.
Laurel shrubs in the garden are showing very healthy new buds despite the cold.Feb 1st.
Showed this shrub before I think but buds seem to have developed well recently and showing colour now. Feb 2nd.
Several degrees of frost make the snowdrops collapse onto the ground. Feb 3rd.
The whole of the small pond is now frozen over with some seed heads locked into the water. Feb 4th.
A change in the weather , rapid rise in air temperature and the snowdrops fully recover. How do they do that? Fen5th.
Despite the cold spell the white flowering Lonicera is still in full flower.  Feb 6th.
Taken during our Botany Group field trip to small wooded are nearby to practise identification skills for trees without leaf. This one just beginning to flower. Cherry. Feb 7th.
In the same wooded area in a nearby blackthorn hedge we found these Brown Hairstreak Butterfly eggs.  Just visible in fork of branch.Feb 8th.
Back home and finding plenty of Lichen on various trees in the garden. Some trees have a good covering and others very close by none at all. Both trees apparently healthy. I've borrowed a book"Understanding Lichens " by George Baron and a Field Studies Council Identification card covering Lichens and Air Pollution. I need to get some samples and use a hand magnifying lens or a microscope to make progress.  Feb 9th.
At last we had a slight covering of snow but it only lasted 24 hours or so. Feb 10.
Noticed a Thrush flying to the think Ivy at the top of an adjacent wall. Watching it I realised it was managing to reach the fruit of the Ivy plant and remove the berries. The photo shows one of the flower spikes which was covered in berries and now has only three left out of approximately 15 a few weeks ago. Feb 11.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Planning law changes and wildlife.

I recently used the CPRE web site to send another letter to my MP on the question of planning changes.
Here is a copy of my letter.

I strongly support the CPRE campaign to minimise the damage to our productive and beautiful countryside, under Government proposals more than half of it would not be adequately protected from development.

Green Belts, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty make up about 40% of the English countryside. I welcome the commitment to retaining special protections for these areas. But here in Somerset we are also concerned about what the Wildlife Trust calls Living Landscapes. I am concerned that the Government’s reforms to the planning system through the National Planning Policy Framework will remove protection for these important areas of the countryside. Currently, countryside is protected for ‘its intrinsic character and beauty’ but its also vital for its role in enabling the production of food, maintaining the quality of the air we breath and the water we drink.

This policy of protecting the quality of the open countryside has been in place for decades and has been supported by successive governments during times of growth and recession. It doesn’t prevent all development but it has helped ensure that ordinary, though valuable, countryside is not unnecessarily lost to speculative development.

For almost 20 years there has also been a requirement that previously developed land – otherwise known as brownfield land - should be developed before green fields. The Government is also proposing to abandon this policy. Yet, a new report commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Building on a Small Island, demonstrates that the supply of previously developed land is actually increasing, including in high demand areas, and that England has previously developed land suitable for providing 1.5 million new homes. I know that some previously developed sites can be important for wildlife but surely these can be protected without scrapping the brownfield-first policy altogether?

Protecting the countryside and building on previously developed land go hand in hand. Time is running out to persuade the Government to think again. I gather that Ministers are currently considering the final changes to be made to their new planning policies.

Please raise my concerns with the Planning Minister, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, and urge him to ensure that the National Planning Policy Framework makes it absolutely clear that the countryside as a whole needs continued protection, and that building on previously developed sites first should remain an important planning priority.

Yours sincerely

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Botany Study Group field work

Somerset Wildlife Trust,   Heart of the Levels Botany Group

Feb field trip 2012.

In its third year the Groups programme of activities for 2012 puts the emphasis on field work.
Our first session was on Feb 7th. It was a fairly cold but luckily dry day. We met up at 10.30 am and walked to a small private wooded area , where the owner had planted a large variety of trees around 30 years ago.The venue was chosen to give us an opportunity to practice our winter tree identification skills.

There were 15 members present, all well wrapped up against the cold, and led by Anne Bebbington. Most of us have been with the Group since its start up with one or two recent new members.

For this field session we worked using an identification system published by CT Prime and RJ Deacock. We followed their key to identify around 20 different species. They included for example, English Elm, Crack Willow,Horse Chestnut, Cherry and Blackthorn.
As a bonus this last species gave us the chance to search for and find Brown Hairstreak Butterfly eggs.

After about 2 hours field work we had a pleasant lunch at The Angel cafe and community centre in Langport.

This was followed by another fascinating presentation by Anne using Johns very special photography to review much of the greatly magnified detail of the buds, bark and catkins we had found on our walk.

This first field session was a great success.

Our next outing in March will take place on a meadow in Curry Rivel. The aim will be an introduction to survey methods used by Botanist to identify and record the presence of flowers and plants in an organised and measured way. Such records are of fundamental importance in the conservation of the natural environment.

This is of considerable topical interest as the Government introduces Neighbourhood Planning schemes. Surveys of local remaining unspoilt fields and woods will be vital in the formulation of local planning schemes. Every Parish in Somerset needs this work to be undertaken.

DG 9.2.12

South Somerset Climate Action Group

A lot is happening in the world of Somerset Wildlife Trust!
The trust has announced a new management structure to help in these difficult times, we had one of our regular meetings of all our local area volunteer groups at Frome on Monday, I was pleased to be part of our first field session for our Botany Study Group on Tuesday ( more soon on that) and last night I attended a discussion meeting in Ilminster.  Here are some initial comments on that:

South Somerset Climate Action Group.
Presentation with question and answer session.
Topics covered: New economic thinking, business as usual pursuit of GDP and growth,Tim Jackson, secure renewable energy supplies, 2050 European target for carbon reduction and many others.
Stewart Wallis, NEF  ( New Economic Forum)      

Sir Graham Watson MEP

A brief history of the meeting!
A revelation, inspiring, ( which is why I'm writing this now), eye opening, plain speaking and understandable talk by two very well qualified speakers.
The SSCA must be thinking this was a milestone in their short history. I've followed the groups since coming to live in Somerset and applaud the work it does.

Giving a few facts and figures doesn’t convey the impact of the important messages being presented.
I'm very impressed by the NEF ( New Economic Forum) and by the MEP's work in Europe.
I hope to see a copy of Stewarts presentation soon and will post more information then.
In the meantime here is an extract from the NEF web site:

New Economic Forum
"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist" - Kenneth Boulding
There is nothing ‘natural’ about our current economic arrangements. They have been consciously designed to achieve a simple objective: growth. But growth is not making us happier, it is creating dysfunctional and unequal societies, and if it continues will make large parts of the planet unfit for human habitation.  

We need to do things differently, and soon. 

This means starting from first principles and building a new model for how the economy functions. Right now every one of us is dependent on growth. The way our economy is structured means that unless there is growth people lose their jobs, the tax base shrinks and politicians struggle to fund the public services we all rely on every day.

Sir Graham Watson had a tougher job following on from Stewart. It was really eye opening to hear about European thinking on the need for a high voltage DC electricity grid system across Europe. Capable of bringing electricity from solar power stations in north Africa.
( we have had such a link in operation for many years bringing electricity from French nuclear power stations to Kent via DC cables across the Channel )

Here is a relevant quote from Sir Graham's web site, click here:

Tue, 07 Feb 2012
Liberal Democrat MEP and ELDR President Sir Graham Watson, who is Chairman of a global network of MPs and MEPs from all mainstream political parties working to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy called the Climate Parliament has today said that the switch to green energy has now become just as much an energy security issue as an environmental imperative.
Commenting on the ongoing crisis where Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Germany have experienced reductions of up to 30% in Russian gas supplies from Gazprom over the last few days, Sir Graham said:

"The freezing conditions across Europe highlight yet again the dangers of being so overly-reliant on Russia for a quarter of our gas. Gazprom has - understandably - diverted its supplies to keep Russian homes warm, leaving many European countries short and prices on the rise."

There were many questions from an audience of over 100!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A photo a day Jan 26th to Jan 31st

To complete this group of photos for Jan 2012 I had to take three of them whilst on holiday in the lovely ancient  city of Worcester whilst on a walk along the river side. In fact they could all have been taken in or near our own garden.They were the three for 26th, 27th and 28th.

 Teasels, Dipsacus fullonum. Growing on the banks of the River Severn. Flowers in  July and August leaving these dry spiky involucral bracts. 26 Jan

Sticky buds on a Horse - Chestnut. Aesculus hippocastanum.  Flowers in May /June.  27 Jan

Mahonia aquifolium, flowering in Dec to May has attracted a Bumble bee. About a week ago I saw a Bumble bee in our garden on one of the flowers shown earlier. 28 Jan

An early sun rise after a cold night with a clear sky. 29 Jan

There were a number of small white feathers lying on the plants in the garden and on the lawn so perhaps the remains of a pigeon. 30 Jan

Possibly Wall Screw- moss, Totula muralis Pottiaceae  31Jan

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A photo a day Jan 21st to Jan 25th

Its a lovely bright sunny morning today  but at mid day the air temperature is still 0 C. We did make sure there was some food out yesterday for the garden birds who of course make the most of our offering.

This next group of photos continues to record very basic observations walking around the garden. Its clear that many plants are making progress despite the short hours of sunlight and low temperatures so plenty of activity is going on but its a bit difficult to find ways to show it. I might try a time sequence of photographs  of a plant taken from the same point each day but that would be a bit boring really!

 This bunch of Snowdrops has opened fully now. I think you can identify the species by the green markings on the petals but I'm not sure enough to name them!  Jan 21st

 I like taking photos of the sun rise which is always changing depending on the cloud formations,mist and fog at this time of year. Sometimes the sky is criss- crossed by vapour trails which is either good news or bad depending on your point of view.  It certainly changes the natural patterns illuminated by the sun. Jan 22nd
 This bunch of winter flowering Aconites was looking quite defensive having had to withstand a significant shower of rain.  Jan 23rd

The rain left  some attractive views of water drops  such as this leaf stalk on a climber which could I'm sure produce a much more impressive photo than mine. The drop does act as a lens and it should be possible to see a picture through the droplet. I must try again. Jan 24th

Some gardeners would be going along to their garden centre to buy spray on poison to eradicate this lichen which I suddenly noticed because we have been doing some pruning of shrubs. Its on the underside of a dead branch so I had to get low down to get this picture.It looks spectacular to me. What do you think?  Jan 25th