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Tuesday 8th June

This summer promises to be a rather good one again for our wildflowers. One of our specialities, Dropwort, is already flowering and putting on a fine display.

Dropwort (Fiipendula vulgaris)
Dropwort (Fiipendula vulgaris)

Another flower doing rather well is Yellow Rattle. This species is partially parasitic on grass species and in one area where it is particularly prevalent the lack of grasses is very noticeable.

Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)
Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

We seem to have had rather more sightings of Brown Hare this year. Their habit of quietly disappearing in the vegetation, means they are probably seen more often when disturbed. Another reason why we ask visitors to keep dogs on leads.

I have previously mentioned that we are close to a very interesting field. In fact, it can be seen from the top of the quarry. It is where the footpath leads down to the coast path. There are a couple of springs in this field that make for some very boggy patches. These are particularly good for orchids at the moment. I lost count at 300 spikes of Southern Marsh-orchids there – very impressive!

Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)
Southern Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)

Still rather chilly, but even so, butterfly numbers are rather disappointing. Plenty of Brimstones on the wing, but no Green Hairstreaks on their favoured gorse bush. However, it was rather nice to find a Hairy Dragonfly there even if it didn’t stop for photo.

Cowslips (Primula veris) (Photo courtesy of Mike Toogood)

It is proving to be a very good year for Cowslips with numerous plants to be found all around the grassland. They make an impressive display, with a few of them beautifully captured above by Mike Toogood.

The wildflowers are now really starting to come alive. A select few below:

Bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium)
Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys)
Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) photo courtesy of Mike Toogood

I haven’t had any reports of our speciality early butterflies yet. We should have found Green Hairstreaks at least by now. The gorse bush is a favourite place to find them, although they can appear anywhere on the reserve. Although the butterflies might be missing, there were lots of tiny moths on the gorse. I’m indebted to Andrew Jones for proving some excellent photos of them (and the ID as well).

Grey Gorse Piercer (Cydia ulicetana)
Grey Gorse Piercer (Cydia ulicetana)

The Early Purple Orchids have now decided the weather has improved enough to start flowering. They seem to be having a good year as well, but their preference for appearing on the paths means quite a few are trampled before they can reach maturity.

Early Purple Orchid
Early Purple Orchid

Another first for the year, the Large Red Damselflies have started to appear. These should be followed by the Hairy Dragonfly (a local speciality) any day now and then a good range of other dragonflies and damselflies as the summer progresses.

Large Red Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly

Finally, a Stoat, a mammal that I’ve yet to spot on the reserve, was seen by Andrew Waygood this week.

Still disappointingly cold, but spring continues to progress. Two of our ‘purple’ plants are now in flower and fairly widespread; Common Dog Violet and Ground-ivy. Ground-ivy is an attractive member of the Dead-nettle family but is not related to our better known Ivy. The Common Dog Violets are all over the grassland now, although only one of five viola species that can be found on the reserve.

Common Dog Violet
Common Dog Violet
Ground-ivy
Ground-ivy

A few species of birds have started to appear, some will be resident and others just passing through. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have been singing away, along with the commoner residents, but the drumming of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was very unexpected. However, it appears to have continued on its way rather than hang around. Far more common though are the Buzzards. I just about managed to picture this one .. but it was a rather long way off.

Common Buzzard

Walking along the lower woodland path, there are the first signs of sedges starting to appear. A few small clumps of Wood-sedge and quite a bit of the much larger Pendulous Sedge. Sedges aren’t restricted to the woodlands, there will be plenty of Glaucous Sedge (and some Spring Sedge) to be found in the grasslands, as well as the similar Field Wood-rush. Not our most colourful plants but very attractive in their own way!

Pendulous Sedge

Thursday 8th April

Spring is temporarily on hold. We even found ourselves in a snow storm this Tuesday. The Early Purple Orchids seem reluctant to complete their growing until conditions improve. One plant doing very well though is the Common Stork’s-bill of which there are many in flower at the moment.

Common Stork's-bill
Common Stork’s-bill
Early Purple Orchid
Early Purple Orchid

There are a lot of wonderful woodlands around the Gordano Valley, and this is the time of year to visit. The woodland flora springs into life before being shaded out by the leaves in the tree canopy. Weston Big Wood and Prior’s Wood are particularly fine examples and each have their specialities. Another wood I’ve enjoyed visiting recently is Norton’s Wood and the woodland above Clevedon Court (Court Hill). This area is directly opposite Walton Common and one lookout affords a view of the south facing slopes that aren’t generally viewable from that side of the valley. The extra footfall from the increase in visitors in the last 12 months shows rather clearly in an erosion of the steepest part of the slope. Hopefully that will recover.

The South Slopes
The South Slopes

Tuesday 16th March

A very pleasant day! A few bright yellow Brimstone butterflies around; no females noted yet though. The only other butterfly was a Comma. Birdwise, there was my first singing Chiffchaff of the year, a few Ravens on the slopes, a distant Mistle Thrush, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and much more beside!

Along one of the paths there was a noticeable mess below where a bird had obviously kept returning to a favoured branch. A closer look and there were a couple of pellets as well! I’m guessing that this is a favoured perch of a Tawny Owl.

Pellets
Pellets

As far as the wild flowers were concerned, there were plenty of violets on show. For some reason, Early Dog Violet doesn’t appear on my list of plants for Walton Common. It will do now. One of the first violets I noticed walking up the path from Walton Street looked like a good candidate – and I think this photo proves it.

Early Dog Violet
Early Dog Violet

Friday 29th January

The first update of 2021. With the new lockdown in force, visits are becoming less frequent … and volunteering activities are on hold. I have, however, managed a couple of visits and have even spotted some early signs of spring! Snowdrops are to be expected at this time of year but flowering Lesser Celandine less so. Not flowering just yet, but the spotted leaves of Early Purple Orchids are starting to show in various parts of the woods. It won’t be long now before the reserve springs into life!

Lesser Celandine
Lesser Celandine
Snowdrops
Snowdrops
Early Purple Orchid
Early Purple Orchid

Tuesday 29th December

Our final work party of 2020. In all, the Tuesday team managed just 18 days on the reserve this year – when we would normally be there on over 40 days. However, it has been a year when more and more people have ‘discovered’ the reserve. Yesterday was a typical day with many people out walking and enjoying the fresh air and winter sunshine. Many of these people were wandering across areas of the reserve that we have been cutting and raking ready for the spring. I wonder how many are aware that they wouldn’t have had that freedom a few years ago! The following is a photo from 2014.

January 2014
January 2014

By contrast, the following is a photo taken yesterday from a very similar position.

December 2020
December 2020

This is, of course, still ‘work in progress’. There is long way to go before we can say we’ve completed the restoration. At that stage, we hope that it will be sustainable based on a combination of volunteer work, contractor work, and grazing from the dexter cattle (that we hope to welcome back very shortly).

A huge ‘thank you’ to all of the many people who have contributed to the management of the reserve and contributed to monitoring wildlife on the reserve over the last 12 months. Your efforts have been much appreciated.

2020 has been a difficult year. Here’s looking forward to a much better 2021. And a HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL

Tuesday 28th October

 

Before the recent lockdown, at the end of a hard days hay cutting, Mike Toogood captured this image looking down towards the village, valley and the NNR. A view that so many of us take for granted. Definitely one of my favourite views from the Common! I think it’s the red of the Spindle bush that makes it!

We hope to resume normal activities in the not too distant future.

Tuesday 3rd November

A very pleasant day on the Common with the Tuesday work group. This was our 5th since our return from covid 19 restrictions; and the last for the time being with lockdown 2 coming along on Thursday. The reserve has also benefited from a visit from the Gordano Conservation Group. All in all quite a substantial number of man-hours (person-hours?). However, the annual hay cut is very labour intensive and we are still quite a long way behind where we might hope to be at this time of the year. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to start up again in the not too distant future as we prepare the grassland for next spring.

As we cut back the vegetation and rake off the arisings it isn’t unusual to find some wildlife. In the last few weeks we’ve found Short-tailed Field Voles, Common Toad, Common Frog, various Grasshoppers and Bush-crickets and plenty of insects such as Hornets and Wasps. Without any recent hard frosts all sorts of things can be found; even butterflies!

Common Frog
Common Frog

This frog was taking shelter in one of our piles of cut grass and ‘happy’ to pose for a photo; eventually wandering off to find a new place to shelter.