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A fine sunny afternoon tempted out a good range of butterflies today with 12 species noted by Andrew Jones and Peter Evans in the afternoon. I was up there a little earlier in the day and found plenty to enjoy with Bee-fly, Hornet, Mistle Thrushes, Nuthatches, Treecreeper and Green Woodpeckers. A few Early Purple Orchids are still hanging on, but the two orchids on the grassland above the quarry are going over now. I have been puzzling as to which species these are as they don’t quite fit into the typical possibilities of Early Purple or Green-winged. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid

Orchid sp.

Orchid sp.

Butterfly highlights have to go Dingy Skippers, Brown Argus and Common Blue … all appearing for the first time this year.

Dingy Skippers

Dingy Skippers (photo by Andrew Jones)

Brown Argus

Brown Argus (photo by Andrew Jones)

Walks

I think I might have omitted to publish the dates for this year! Hope to see some of you on one later this year.

Walton Common walks 2017

Friday 7th April

Green Hairstreaks were the highlight of a walk around the Common on Friday afternoon, along with a number of Brimstone and Holly Blue butterflies. This is the time of year when we look forward to seeing our first Green Hairstreaks, but these were the earliest I have recorded them here. My previous early date was 11th April … but I understand that they may have been on the wing even earlier this year. Although I wasn’t able to take a photo of them …. I am indebted to Andrew Jones who sent me a few of his shots from last week.

Green Hairstreak (by Andrew Jones)

       Green Hairstreak (by Andrew Jones)

 

Tuesday 7th March

At last! A pleasant sunny day for our work party. It makes such a difference from some of the recent Tuesdays. Add to that my first butterfly of the year was out sunning itself and numerous birds were in song or, in the case of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, drumming on a hollow tree deep in the woods.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Not everything was feeling ready for spring … Giles found a hibernating toad in some deep leaf litter while coppicing. It was carefully covered up soon after … although it will be active soon enough. It looked rather cosy where it was. Also lingering on the reserve, about 20 or so Redwings. These will be on their way north to their breeding grounds before long.

Hibernating toad

Hibernating toad

Coppicing

Coppicing

Signs of Spring! At this time of year we are always on the lookout for the change of season … and the signs are there. In a month or so it will be far more obvious, but it was nice to see new growth appearing all around the reserve …. and even the odd snippet of bird song (and a calling Tawny Owl).

A quick look around and I soon found a few early violets in flower .. replacing the snowdrops that are on their way out. In some of the wooded areas carpets of Dog’s Mercury are appearing and, if you look hard enough, the first spotted leaves of the Early Purple Orchids can be found. A good warm spell is all that is needed now.

Dog's Mercury

Dog’s Mercury

Early Purple Orchid leaves

Early Purple Orchid leaves

Tuesday 24th January

One of the big problems associated with maintaining nature reserves is often the impact that ‘alien’ species have. Often with the most innocent of motives, alien species have been introduced and all kinds of problems have resulted. For example, the impact of the North American Grey Squirrel on the native Red Squirrel population, or the problems associated with the introduction of Japanese Knotweed. Indeed, it also works in the other direction as some of our native plants are a huge pest in other parts of the world.

The collection and planting of non native trees has been going on for years. And it is a couple of these species that are a major pest on Walton Common. Both Holm Oak and Turkey Oak are present and both are proving very difficult to control. Where possible we have been trying to eradicate them. However, despite removing some of the more mature specimens, there are large numbers of saplings springing up on the grassland. We will continue to try and control these are best we can.

Today we completed the felling of one of our most impressive Holm Oaks. Although it seems contrary to be felling trees – this one was the wrong type and in the wrong place. It has left a big gap … but it is worth it!

This is one of the last photos of the tree towering over this mornings fog.

Holm Oak in the fog

Holm Oak in the fog

Tuesday 10th January

Well, 2017 is up and running. It is also a good opportunity to reflect on 2016. It was, by any standards, quite a momentous year for Walton Common. We now have a dedicated band of volunteers meeting each Tuesday. These, along with the regular visiting groups from Avon Wildlife and the Gordano volunteer group,  have made a huge difference across the reserve. And, of course, the introduction of grazing with our small team of Dexters has, I believe, been a great success. It took a little while to ensure that the ‘new’ technology was working effectively but by June we were ready to introduce the livestock and they settled in quickly and became firm favourites, especially with the volunteer groups (and even put in a starring appearance on BBC Points West). Hopefully they are also favourites with the many visitors to the reserve, especially those who had misgivings about their introduction. Lets hope we can consolidate all of this progress during 2017 and see significant improvements to the flora and fauna that is so special here.

A wander around the reserve yesterday was rather quiet on the wildlife front, but a woodcock that was flushed from the woodland by the quarry was a nice surprise. Long-tailed Tits and Treecreepers are often seen around the reserve and I’m indebted to Peter Evans for a couple of his photos reproduced below. In the afternoon, Andrew Waygood dashed across the reserve to alert our volunteer group to the fact that he had seen a couple of Great White Egrets nearby flying our way. Unfortunately they didn’t arrive – presumably diverted to the coast or valley. That would have been a treat! Perhaps one day.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit (Peter Evans)

Treecreeper (Peter Evans)

Treecreeper (Peter Evans)