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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.

Tuesday 1st September

A wildlife production team took over some of the Common on Monday. They were, apparently, filming for a documentary on poaching in Africa! Presumably, if they can get enough interest in the project, they’ll be off the Africa to do it for real! It was interesting to see them set it all up though … and the weapons looked very real!

As far the actual wildlife was concerned, two species stood out by their abundance; Silver-Y moths and Common Darter dragonflies. Huge numbers of both were present. Less common was my first Painted Lady of the year. Unless something else turns up (unlikely?) I think we recorded 27 species this year. There may have been some species that avoided detection during the lockdown though!

Silver Y
Silver Y
Painted Lady
Painted Lady

The recent storms didn’t appear to cause too much damage. Most of the fallen branches can easily be avoided but the tree blocking the lower path has now been removed.

Wednesday 26th August

Although it has been mentioned a few times that 2020 has been a great year for the Common, it seems to be coming to a bit of a premature end. So many of the flowers that would often flower well into September (and even later), have already set seed. No doubt the plants are reacting to the weather conditions. Butterfly numbers are now well down, although I recorded a very reasonable 12 species in all – including a couple of rather worn Silver-washed Fritillaries.

Dragonflies are still much in evidence with large numbers of Migrant Hawkers now starting to appear. Also, a good few Common Darters and single Emperor and Southern Hawker. Migrant Hawkers are a little unusual for dragonflies in that they aren’t territorial, so it isn’t unusual to see large numbers of them hawking together. In contrast the Southern Hawker doesn’t generally allow others into its territory. It also seems to have a habit of checking out human visitors as well. It isn’t unusual to see one circling you or hovering in front of you.

Southern Hawker
Southern Hawker

A fly that I recorded a couple of years ago continues to ‘pop up’ around the reserve. Usually on the paths – but that might be because that is the easiest place to pick them up. It is an impressive fly – although the image isn’t to scale!

Hornet Robberfly
Hornet Robberfly

Wednesday 19th August

My butterfly transect yesterday suggested that summer is nearly over! Numbers and species are well down and a lot of flowers have set seed already. However, there is still a lot of colour out there and plenty of insects as well. Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies have started to appear in good numbers (which they do at this time of year). They will be around well into September and probably October as well.

Beetles rarely feature in this blog – a serious oversight! Thanks to Giles Morris for this recent photo. This is Rutpela maculata, the Spotted Longhorn beetle.

Rutpela maculata
Rutpela maculata (courtesy of Giles Morris)

Although there is a lot of Marjoram on the Common, and much of it in flower, I was surprised to find an area with quite a few white flowered plants. The following being just one example.

Marjoram
Marjoram (white flowered form)

Friday 7th August

Earlier in the week, I spoke to a couple of visitors who were searching – without success – for Autumn Lady’s-tresses. They were just a couple of days early, as the first flowers had appeared by yesterday. Only two spikes so far though (and quite a challenge to find).

Autumn Lady's-tresses
Autumn Lady’s-tresses

Continuing my search for Grasshoppers and their allies, I found a couple of Long-winged Coneheads on the site. Very attractive little insects, but still the vast majority are Field Grasshoppers. Although they are called Long-winged, it is the antennae that are impressively long!

Long-winged Conehead
Long-winged Conehead

A few flowers are clearly doing rather well on the Common this year; some I’ve mentioned in previous posts. Another that I haven’t mention, is Common Centaury. This is a plant typical of calcareous grasslands, so its abundance is very much a ‘good sign’ that the grazing and other management is having a positive affect.

Common Centaury
Common Centaury

Finally, just because I like them, a photo of Eyebright. Another of our very small flowers, but when seen in close up, are attractive as any on the Common. The name suggests this is one species – but, in fact, there are about 20 species and 60 hybrids. Telling them apart is a real challenge!

Eyebright agg.
Eyebright agg.