Somerset Wildlife Trust

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May: Bitterns, Brownies and Helwell Bay

 8th Jun 2017

May marked the half way point of my traineeship. Time is flying by, and I’m enjoying the opportunity to get involved with more and more outdoor events and activities as the weather starts to brighten.

May was Naturally Healthy Month in Somerset. This initiative, which was new to the county this year, was all about encouraging people to get outside to improve their health and wellbeing. We ran 11 events in total, including mindfulness in the meadow, guided walks and conservation task days, which were attended by over 200 people. I helped to organise and promote the events so it was great (and a relief!) to see that they were so well attended and well received. We had lots of positive feedback, with people generally saying that it was nice to take time for themselves to explore and enjoy the outdoors.  

This month I also led my first reserve based educational visits. Heathfield School joined us at Blackrock Reserve, part of the Cheddar Complex, for a day of orienteering, bug hunts and some hands-on conservation experience. I was really impressed that the students were so engaged and keen to get stuck in, despite some sudden heavy downpours! We were also joined at Westhay National Nature Reserve by Wedmore Brownies. Westhay is one of my favourite places, so it was great to be able to get the group out to explore it. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly pond dipping on the Mire- there were lots of excited squeals as we discovered water beetles, smooth newts, sticklebacks and even a water scorpion! Leading these educational sessions has been a huge learning curve and an incredibly rewarding experience, especially when young people have told me that it’s been the best school day or visit ever!

Steph A

Beautiful Westhay, where I heard my first bitterns booming this month!

Steph B

A smooth newt found by Wedmore Brownies

At end the month, I decided to do something a bit different and join our Coastal Survey Officer, Beccy, for two days of surveying at Helwell Bay. Since my background is in marine ecology, and I am at my happiest rummaging around in rockpools, it was so nice to get back out to the shore and contribute to SWT’s survey of the Somerset coast. My ID skills were a little rusty (and Beccy deserves a medal for being so patient with me whilst I was battling the GPS!) but by the second day I was fully into the swing of surveying. It’s easy to overlook Somerset’s coastline, but there is an amazing diversity of species living there and I would encourage everyone to get out and explore it!

Steph CSteph D

Surveying at Helwell Bay on the two hottest days in May!