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This week our volunteer team spent a lot of time in the quarry, keeping on top of the re-growth of gorse and saplings (mostly Ash and Holm Oak). I returned yesterday in the sunshine to take a few photos of the ‘good stuff’ that is starting to thrive there.

In the grassy areas, Field Wood-rush and Glaucous Sedge can be found … with Field Wood-rush flowering widely around the reserve.

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Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca)

 

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Field Wood-rush (Lazula campestris)

In the rock crevasses, various ferns and mosses can be found, including the delicate Maidenhair Spleenwort and Wall-rue.

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Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)

Finally, another rock clinger, the Rue-leaved Saxifrage.

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Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites)

Usually at this time of year I’m publishing pictures of Green Hairstreak butterflies and Early Purple Orchids. I’m hoping that these will be along soon but I could only find one orchid showing any signs of colour … and no Hairstreaks. There are a few orchids in bud however. So, with a warm spell, I’m sure they’ll catch up.

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Friday 16th March

The first butterflies of the year are always good to find and a reminder that there will be many more on the way. It was still quite cool when the first, a Peacock, put in an appearance. As a result it was spending much of its time in the sun trying to get some energy into its wings. However, by midday, there were 5 or 6 Brimstones in the quarry – already far too active to photograph. Great to see though.

Peacock

Peacock

On the ornithological front, there is plenty of song and display activity. Although I didn’t find any migrants, we can expect Chiffchaffs to be singing any day now and a whole host of other birds to follow. Today there were plenty of raptors in the skies, with a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying and ‘loads’ of Buzzards. Also seen today, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush and Jay. No woodpeckers today but both Green and Great Spotted were around during the week.

Friday 9th March

Winter is coming to an end, and Spring is almost upon us; although there is still snow on the ground. Early violets are flowering …. and other plants will follow as soon as warm air starts to arrive. This will also signal the end of our ‘winter works’.

This winter the Tuesday team have been working around various areas of the grassland, thinning out some of the encroaching trees and opening up the woodland edge to more sunlight. This, combined with grazing from our wonderful team of dexter cattle, have left the grasslands looking as good as they have been for many years. We now eagerly await the arrival of the plants, butterflies and other insects to take advantage of this work.

Dexters

Dexters taking a break

This photo of the dexters is actually quite interesting. This part of the common was, only a few years ago, a dense area of bramble, bracken and saplings. The difference they are making is very noticeable – especially when looking back at old photos of the common.

Dexter

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If there was a beauty competition for cattle …….

Tuesday 19th December

The final work party of 2017, and a great turnout. [The photo is actually missing three of the team from this week (including me)]. With very few exceptions, we have been up on the Common each Tuesday carrying out a range of management tasks. Along with various other volunteer groups (and the herd of beautiful dexter cattle), Walton Common is slowly being transformed back into the wonderful calcareous grassland that it has been in the past.

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In fact, of course, it isn’t just volunteers. We also have to thank the Miles Estate (especially Andrew), Natural England, various individuals from Avon Wildlife (especially Bernie), other contractors ….. and the encouragement we have had from visitors (local and otherwise) to the reserve.

There is still a lot to do. In fact, we’ll never ‘finish’ as such, but we will reach a stage where the dramatic improvements we have been making won’t be needed. There will always be management tasks to carry out though. The speed at which nature tries to return the grassland to woodland can be seen only too readily. Proof, in the form of aerial photos from the recent past, shows this very dramatically.

Here’s wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a great 2018.

 

 

 

Wednesday 22nd November

Another visit today from the Species Recovery Trust. They have been monitoring the status of one of the rare mosses on the reserve. A few years ago, we feared it might have been lost.

It was very encouraging that, after a careful count, the number of plants had reached the milestone of 100. This is rather more than we found last year with a few plants showing in an area where we exposed some ‘hidden’ rock just last year.

Rabbit Moss (Cheilothela chloropus)

Rabbit Moss (Cheilothela chloropus)

This moss is tiny; far smaller than the illustration! I guess it gets its name from the fact that it likes closely nibbled grass to ensure it avoids any shade. However, although we would like to have rabbits on the Common, I still haven’t seen one here in the seven years I’ve wardening.

Thursday 2nd November

It has been a long time since my last update – no excuses (or no good ones). Today was a lovely day when the fog lifted. Despite the drop in temperature, there is still plenty going on. Good numbers of Red Admirals continue to be seen, as do the last of the flowering plants that haven’t been cut back. The wasps nest is still very active and hornets continue to be seen.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

It was, however, the birds that I enjoyed today. As usual at this time of year, they are seen moving around together and I found most of them in the ride along from the quarry. Although I’m sure I missed a few, there was Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Redwings as well as the Blue, Great and Coal Tits. Jays were around in numbers (many collecting acorns) and there were a number of  Buzzards soaring.

Margoram

Margoram

Although I haven’t seen much evidence of migrating birds on the Common this autumn  (probably because I haven’t been there at the right time),  one local expert saw a Honey Buzzard passing through. Quite a rarity, although another was seen nearby following the coast path on a different date. Very unusual for Avon generally.

 

 

Tuesday 15th August

This is the time of year we are on the lookout for our late flowering orchid (Autumn Lady’s-tresses). I had a quick look around the reserve and found a few in flower, with one in an area I haven’t seen them before. If you go looking for these little gems be aware they are rather small and can easily be overlooked!

Autumn Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

Autumn Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

Autumn Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

Autumn Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis)

In terms of reserve management, we are entering the window for our hay cut. As many of the flowers have already set seed we are cutting and raking off the remaining vegetation. The raking is particularly important so we can avoid a build up of nutrients giving our special plants a chance to flourish.

One of our volunteer team is an expert in fungi and told me that the recent wet conditions have caused quite number to pop up. He found over 50 species on a recent survey!