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Tuesday 12th February

There isn’t always a lot to see on the Common in the winter (well.. not compared the rest of the year anyway). The winter months are when we can get on with our management tasks – in line with the management plan for the reserve. We are currently working on a scrub and tree management plan aimed at restoring some of the grassland back to its optimum condition. Since rabbits were lost to the reserve (many years ago), the woodland has started to encroach such that the area of grassland is now significantly reduced. And calcareous grassland is a rapidly vanishing habitat in the UK (I have read that wildflower grassland in general has reduced by about 97% since the last 1930s).

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The scene above is a stretch of south facing grassland that hadn’t existed for many years (it was thick scrub). The work, initially carried out by Andrew Waygood, (with the aid of some heavy machinery) and subsequently worked on by the reserve volunteer group, shows how in a few short years the grassland can be reinstated.

Hopefully we’ll get the cattle back in the near future to help maintain this recovery (they had to find alternative grazing as a result of last years heatwave).

This winter we have been concentrating on thinning out areas of woodland to open up the canopy to allow some light through and give some of our more mature trees room to thrive without competition. We are still finding a few ‘alien’ trees on the reserve and these are being removed as and when we find them. This week we moved onto a new block with quite a few Turkey Oak and Holm Oaks; trees with little wildlife value whose saplings can prove very difficult to control.

Our ‘winter works’ will, hopefully, soon come to an end as Spring establishes itself. It was rather late last year – however, this allowed us to continue work until well into March. Personally, I can’t wait for Spring and the chance to see what our winter woks have achieved.

 

 

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Sunday 23rd December

Possibly my last visit of the year ….. and a rather misty one. Also rather quiet as the mist seems to absorb a lot of the sounds. There were however quite a few birds about (the usual suspects) and also quite a few visitors of the human kind exercising their dogs or enjoying a stroll away from the manic scenes at the supermarkets.

Misty Afternoon

Misty Afternoon

One interesting splash of colour was provided by a fungus that we found on one of the rotting piles of leaves. A bit more research is required before I can put a name to it though.

Fungus

Fungus

As 2018 comes to an end I would just like to thank everyone who follows this blog and wish you all a very happy Christmas. I look forward to seeing some of you in 2019.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas!

Tuesday 13th November

Autumn is a great time of the year for fungi. And Walton Common has an impressive list of them; as shown on the new tab I added to this blog recently. A small sample of those found yesterday are shown below. I’ll add their names when I’ve had a chance to look them up! These particular fungi were all to be found on rotting wood. There are however a lot of mushrooms to be found on the grassland and on the woodland floor. A recent report highlighted Walton Common as being of national importance for certain types of waxcap. Typically, I failed to find any yesterday!

Although we are experiencing a mild period, it is hard to recall exactly what a ‘difficult’ summer we had. Nature has done its utmost to recover; but I thought I’d post a photo from back in July – just as a reminder. It looks more like the African savannah than Walton Common.

July heatwave

Tuesday 16th October

October is turning out to one of the best months of the year. Butterflies in particular have been showing well with the highlights being a couple of migrants. First, a Painted Lady put in an appearance (on a rather chilly day) and a few days later a beautiful Clouded Yellow. Other butterflies and insects have also been seen in good numbers on warmer days; for what are relatively late dates. Even Lizards and Slow Worms have remained active.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

We have been delaying our annual hay cut on the reserve because so many plants are still in flower. Many of them well outside of their ‘normal’ flowering dates. My casual list of October flowers was remarkably long. No doubt they were trying to recover from the very hot spell during the summer when opportunities to flower were very limited.

Dropwort

Dropwort

Common Calamint

Common Calamint

While on the subject of plants, there is a list of those recorded on the Common in one of the tabs at the top of the page. During the winter I’ll try and bring it up to date. Despite visits by many botanists over the years, we are still adding new species all of the time. In fact, this year has been exceptional. Jenny Greenwood, the monitoring officer for Avon Wildlife has added many on her visits to the reserve this year …. but others have also been spotting new plants (even me!). Giles Morris came across the following interesting specimen on the south slopes during one of our Tuesday workparties.

Thornapple (Datura stramonium)

Thornapple (Datura stramonium)

 

Tuesday 25th September

Yesterday was one of those wonderful autumn days with blue skies and very little wind. Even with a cold start to the day, the wildlife seemed to appreciate the conditions. In particular, there was a good selection of butterflies including Common and Holly Blues, Red Admirals, Speckled Wood and Brown Argus.  Many of these had rather worn wings but a couple of the Brown Argus were looking very smart.

Brown Argus

Brown Argus

Also very active today were birds and dragonflies. In fact, numbers of Common Darters were higher than they’ve been all year. Many could be found on suitable areas of bare ground where they soaked up the sunshine. The stumps of the old Holm Oak were particularly appealing to them.

Common Darters

Common Darters

Tuesday 4th September

This week we continued to see a further ‘greening’ of the Common following the hot spell. Harebells, mentioned last month, seem to have cropped up in a number of new places – as have St John’s-wort and Wild Basil. It is good to see that the Common can recover so quickly.

As we started some of our autumn management work, a few species have come to light. In particular, we have disturbed quite a few toads that have been hiding deep in the grass. It always seem odd to see them so far from water  Рbut they will stay for the winter, returned to the Moors in the spring.

Toad

Toad

And, for the second week running, we have been joined during our lunch break by a Dark Bush-cricket. Although well hidden in the leaf litter, these Bush-crickets are big enough not to be overlooked!

Dark Bush-cricket

Dark Bush-cricket

Tuesday 7th August

A couple of my favourite species can now be found on the reserve. A few of the delicate Harebell flowers have started to appear, albeit in rather reduced numbers so far this year.

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Harebells

My other favourite is one of our late emerging dragonflies, the Migrant Hawker. Despite its name it is very much a resident these days. This particular individual was photographed on Weston Moor – just down below us in the Gordano Valley. Although they will return to the rhynes to breed their initial inclination is to ‘wander’ and, as a result, they can be found in quite large numbers on Walton Common. As they aren’t territorial, if you see a ‘swarm’ of these medium sized dragonflies they are probably this species.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Finally, the reserve volunteer group and our colleagues at Avon Wildlife encourage you to visit us and enjoy this little local gem of a nature reserve. However we would ask that you avoid any kind of fire or BBQ …. and not just at this time of year. Some areas of the reserve have a very fragile flora that can easily be damaged by even a small fire. Enjoy a picnic instead?