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Friday, October 31, 2014

Starlings in Somerset

At 16.30 this afternoon I watched thousands of Starlings flying over Curry Rivel heading towards the Avalon Marshes. The flock size covered the village from South East to North West filling the sky. When they meet up with flocks from other areas they will almost certainly create the kind of image shown on the RSPB web site for Ham Wall.

This is an extract from the RSPB web site. The telephone hot line recommends a dawn visit to avoid the crowds  of spectators and the traffic congestion.

Large flock of starlings congregating at dusk
Image: David Kjaer

For information on the roosting starlings please phone the Avalon Marshes Starling Hotline - 07866 554142. Please do not leave enquiries on this number, as it is an automated service and they cannot be answered.
You can also find out more about the location and receive an automated email, by emailing
The starlings use sites managed by three different organisations - the RSPB (Ham Wall), Natural England (Shapwick Heath) and Somerset Wildlife Trust (Westhay Moor). There is very little parking available at any of the sites, so avoiding the weekend rush will greatly improve your visit.
Whenever you come, please follow any parking instructions given and avoid stopping on narrow verges or blocking gateways. There is no parking for coaches other than at The Avalon Marshes Centre situated between Shapwick and Westhay villages. Parking for the western end of Shapwick Heath is also at The Avalon Marshes Centre.
Please take care not to disturb the wildlife or other visitors, by keeping noise to a minimum and obeying rules about dogs and restricted access.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Draft Parish Plan , Instalment 3

To add a bit of colour!  Photo taken in our garden of a Jersey Tiger , Euplagia quadripunctaria

The next extract will start to show recommendations.

Wildlife friendly gardening.
Gardeners have a huge role to play in the future of wildlife as the traditional British countryside changes. Encouraging nature in gardens can be rewarding and inexpensive.
Making a small change to the way we garden can add interest and make a huge difference to wildlife. See separate appendices for more information.
Wildlife education and awareness
Education doesn’t mean studying botany and zoology but simply to raise awareness of local assets, our wide range of habitats, moors, woodlands, fields, open hilltop and the corresponding wide range of birds, animals & plants.
The sparsely built up edges of the village, should not be further urbanised. It is important to protect the endangered species of shy birds who are thriving and breeding in these peaceful places.
Farming and Wildlife.
issue of balancing public access to farmland and wildlife conservation needs to be debated and guidance given to all. Access to productive farmland must go hand in hand with an understanding of how farms work. Some agreed guidelines need to be circulated and perhaps additional signs erected.

Not least of the issues needing attention is how to live with a large dog population

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust | Annual conferences | Annual ARC-BHS Scientific Meeting

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust | Annual conferences | Annual ARC-BHS Scientific Meeting
This link gives the date and location and booking form.

Our recent public meeting on the subject was very popular so this should be good.

Draft Parish Plan . Instalment 2

This instalment shows the next three topics covered. I should point out that an editorial group will be pulling the whole document together so my contribution may get modified!

But first a couple of photos from our local meadow. A Bee Orchid ( Ophrys apifera ) and then the tiny lovely Grass Vetchling ( Lathyrus nisolia)  in front of the large clock formed by the pappuses of a Goatsbeard ( Trapopogon pretensis).

The Parish has a great opportunity to protect and improve biodiversity by appropriate management of Eastfield in line with SSDC and SCC policy. For example by creating a Community Orchard in a meadow already rich in wild Pyramidal and Bee Orchids and many other plants, insects and small mammals.
To raise awareness of its importance for the future of the Parish it's critical that people are involved in investigating and recording the biodiversity currently within the parish.
Records of sighting of all forms of wildlife should be collated via the record centre at the SWT. See annex for more information.
It's possible to explore most parts of the parish by footpath.
A map on the website or a paper copy with footpaths, wildlife notes, viewpoints, etc. should be produced.
It seems clear that there is a need for contact between local farmers and the village community to establish a better understanding of sometimes conflicting interests, Some kind of contact group should be set up.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Draft Parish Plan., instalment 1

It might be interesting to post in sections my contribution to our proposed Parish Plan

First Draft write up covering local Countryside and Wildlife. (Work in progress!)



Our village lies at the centre of approx., 6 sq. miles of beautiful and varied Somerset farmland, parkland, woodlands, wetlands and moors. The River Parrett is our northern and eastern boundary with the River Isle to the south.

The RSPB manages a large area of West Sedgemoor within the northern part of the Parish which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) . The RSPB also manages Swell Wood on our western boundary which is said to be home to the largest Heronry in SW England.
 Link here:
Local farmers generally follow good practice to encourage wildlife alongside arable farming.
There is a 4 acre local nature reserve off Holdens Way called Batty Piece which is privately managed to conserve an example of rapidly disappearing grass land meadow.

A number of local residents are volunteers with the Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Butterfly Conservation and the Hawk and Owl Trust helping to protect habitats and carry out wildlife surveys.

The local primary School helps to introduce children to the natural world.

Consultation issues.

The 2014 Somerset Levels and Moors Flood Action Plan has drawn attention to the need for Catchment Sensitive Farming and highlighted our location in the catchment area for the River Parrett.

( to be continued)

A couple of photos during our annual hay cut in October. We rely on the help of a local farmer for this. It has been difficult in the past to find someone with machinery small enough to get into the field from the narrow road access! This is a 4 acre local reserve.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wildlife Gardening in Curry Rivel, Somerset

A contribution to our draft Parish Plan which we hope to publish in draft form in November! Some photos will be added from our Village open garden day

Photo of a Bug Hotel with some rooms occupied! Photo taken in local garden during Somerset Art Week!

Gardeners have a huge role to play in the future of wildlife as the traditional British countryside changes. Being more wildlife-friendly doesn't mean you have to have a messy garden, but it does mean forsaking the ideal of a perfect lawn and rigidly trimmed borders, but encouraging nature in gardens can be rewarding and inexpensive.
Feeding the birds with bought seeds and nuts is popular; less expensive alternatives in the wildlife garden are flower seed heads, holly berries, walnuts and apples, attracting birds, wood mice and squirrels. Planting native hedges is really worthwhile for the shelter and food they provide in the form of berries, seeds, insects and spiders. Smaller mammals like wood mice use the base of the hedgerow for shelter, bats need hedgerows and wood edges for their protection and navigation and moths love any white or cream coloured flowers like blackthorn in the hedge.
Attracting bees to the garden can be achieved by planting flowers such as foxgloves, honeysuckle, asters, dahlias, geraniums, marigolds and sunflowers. Clover flowers found in untreated lawns are important for bees, as a source of both pollen and nectar. Leaving some long grass on the margins of the garden cuts down on the mowing and the beetles, caterpillars, butterflies and grasshoppers in the mini jungle will in turn benefit the birds, bats and hedgehogs.
Many of our most colourful and well known butterflies depend on nettles for the growth of their larvae but will also enjoy lavender or buddleia bushes and fallen fruit.
The hedgehog is very much the gardener’s friend, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as snails and slugs, beetles, caterpillars and worms. A pile of composted leaves will provide a perfect spot for the hedgehog to hibernate in a cold winter. A pile of logs or roof tiles is the perfect refuge for spiders, ladybirds, bees, frogs and slow worms.
Deadwood hedges are a great way to provide a whole habitat for a large number of animals to call home, as well as providing a very easy way of getting rid of branches and waste which are too woody to put on the compost heap. Other garden waste can be composted to make one of the best soil improvers you’ll ever have, and certainly the cheapest!
A water feature - even a simple bowl can encourage frogs and other wildlife which will feed on bugs and snails. Dragonflies will often breed in them, and many birds may use them to drink and bathe in.
Making a small change to the way we garden can make a huge difference to wildlife.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Amphibians and Reptiles of Somerset . Next HOL public meeting 16th Oct

Amphibians and Reptiles of Somerset . Next HOL public meeting 16th Oct

and Reptiles
Photo: Common Frog ©Philip Prevey
John Dickson chairman of the Somerset Reptile and Amphibian group introduces us to the snakes lizards and amphibians that share Somerset with us. Where are they and what are their habitats.
of Somerset
Thursday 16 October 7:30 - 9:00pm
Held in the Parish Hall of the United Reform Church, West Street Somerton. Suitable for wheelchair users/limited mobility. £3.00, refreshments available before the talk.
Somerset Wildlife Trust,Tonedale Mill, Tonedale, Wellington TA21 0AW Tel: 01823 652400.