Somerset Wildlife Trust

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July: A New Beginning

 5th Aug 2016

So here it is - a new beginning! My opportunity to live the dream has started; I can now shine in a new role that interests me and get great job satisfaction and achievement at the end of every day!

July has been a busy month. The first week was a bit of a blur, a wonderful blur, full of hand shaking, meeting new people and desperately trying to remember names and what everyone does.

Luckily, things settled down a little after that. I got to the work base, met the people I’d be working with on a daily basis, hacked up some Hogweed and generally enjoyed getting into a routine - for two days.

I was shortly whisked off to Brownsea Island for a week to meet the new trainees from other counties and, of course, to meet the Red Squirrels too! During the week there was First Aid and Health and Safety training, which sadly the squirrels couldn’t attend (thus limiting my knowledge to humans). There was also stress making dinner for twenty, Buff Tip and Goat Moths flying around, and Nightjars churring, whirring and doing other ‘irring’ things! Not to mention all the bonding and getting to know one another. Who knew that throwing a ball at people and screaming their name actually helped retention? It was a new one on me.

I arrived home exhausted, and got back into my new routine on the reserves, getting down to some serious work. I mean really, ask anyone, 30 degree heat is the perfect weather for constructing livestock fencing on a hillside:

Photo 1 - Phil
Looking good , t
hose will be some happy sheep. A job well done, well 50% done!

The sheep are already grazing Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) grassland. It seems most of the reserves in my area are grassland, and several are home to the Large Blue Butterfly, particularly partial to Wild Thyme. This presented a problem to me, in that I knew less about wild plants, than I did about medieval sewing techniques!

Luckily Mark, my mentor (pictured above) was on hand to help out and sort my Thyme from my Tormentil. I’ve already picked up a great deal of knowledge, including finally learning about Enchanter’s Nightshade, a common plant in shady woodland and found all over Great Breach Wood, where I do a lot of my work.

Photo 2 - Phil
Enchanter’s Nightshade

I’ve also learned a lot about Thistles, because Thistles are the enemy of Grassland biodiversity (taking everything over as they do). Learning about them is important, as I will be spending a lot of time eliminating them. There has already been a lot of brushcutting, and I’m assured there is plenty more to come over the late Summer and early Autumn.

In the last week I’ve had the opportunity to look at some of the reserves in the Blackdown Hills and the Quantocks, and investigate some of the species that call these different habitats home. A particular highlight for me has been a trip to Brimley Hill Mire, where we found two carnivorous plants: Pale Butterwort and Round Leaved Sundew. Phwoar, I think you’ll agree:

Photo 3 - Phil
Round Leaved Sundew

That brings me more or less up to now, at the end of another busy day that involved catching an Ash Bark Beetle in the act of boring into an Ash Tree - it didn’t even look embarrassed about it, though admittedly expressions can be difficult when you have your skeleton on the outside!

I already feel more confident with identification, more confident at brushcutting, and infinitely better at manufacturing sheep proof boundaries. Eleven months from now, just imagine! Oh the excitement! I’m off for a lie down.

Phil