Somerset Wildlife Trust

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January Update - New Year, Same Amazing Experiences

 11th Feb 2015

Another month as flown by so fast - yet again, with 2015 kicking off in the same fashion 2014 left off. We have had even more amazing experiences and encounters, all of which you can read about below. 

Monthly Round Up

Another month and another residential, this time to the wonderful Wiltshire. We did a real mix of training, ranging from bird ringing to risk assessments and it provided all of us with a very special wildlife memory so click here to find out what it was, and read more about our adventures.

Individual Summaries

Beth ­- After some serious indulgence over Christmas I was really happy to get back out on the reserves and get stuck in. January has been full of lots of different jobs, with a chance to learn some new skills, and to catch up with the Trainees from the other counties on our penultimate residential.

I’ve been practicing my dry-stone walling around Chancellor’s Farm, patching up some holes, and I feel like I’ve really improved with that. Other jobs have included tool maintenance, cutting bramble, clearing fence lines and thinning out hawthorn scrub. I’ve collected soil samples for our senior ecologist, and went along for a walk on one of our reserves, with some other staff members, to look at its condition and work out what needs to be included in the management plan. I fell even more in love with Mendip in January too, when I had a chance to see how beautiful it looks when covered in snow! I also had my first go at hedge-laying when I joined the Magnificent Meadows volunteer group for a day. That’s another thing to add to the long list of skills I’ve learnt over the last seven months!

Chris -­ Apart from a fabulous week of training on our third residential hosted by Wiltshire, where one of the highlights for me was getting breathtakingly close to a kingfisher, this month has mostly been about planning for the upcoming year. Planning the remaining twelve months is harder then you might think. It’s a fine balancing act between getting the necessary training to do my job whilst also getting the practical experience required to get jobs after the Traineeship. Another pleasant complication is the vast array of amazing opportunities so many of the local and national taxonomic experts are offering to help train people like myself in all manner of intriguing species. I just hope it all goes to plan so I can cram it all in!

Whilst I’ve been in the office planning, I have enjoying taking the opportunity to study our native and overwintering birds forage from my window. As those long winter nights start to draw shorter, spring seems to be slowly sneaking in; the willow buds fluffing up, hazel catkins growing and snowdrops adding the first splashes of colour to the scene. It looks like the stage is all set for another spring spectacular which I hope to be out surveying very soon!

Claire ­- I began the month in typical trainee style by doing something new. I laid my first hedge with Beth at Cheddar Wood Edge which was very exciting and really enjoyable for everyone including the Save Our Magnificent Meadows volunteers, although I learnt there is definitely an art form to creating the perfect hedge. 

This month I seemed to focus on the Watch Groups ­ organising schedules, promoting the sessions and attending Watch Leader training which was a really great opportunity to find out about all the Watch Groups in the county and meet my fellow leaders. Somerset is extremely lucky to have so many watch groups in the county, engaging with so many families because several Wildlife Trusts now don’t have any, let alone so many active and inspiring groups. 

The end of the month also saw our first school groups of 2015 out at Black Rock. Rather appropriately given the sleet and bitter cold, the theme was survival and what animals do to survive the winter. The groups were great and everyone seemed to enjoy it (and survive!) so looking forward to getting back out with more school groups soon! 

Olivia ­- January has been a very busy month with a lot of scrub control and coppicing. We spent a couple of days brushcutting at Prospect Fields and Green Down before coppicing at Dundon Beacon, Great Breach Woods, South Field and Horsehill Coppice. We had two days out with the East Poldens Conservation Volunteers, the first at Aller Woods for a day of coppicing where we were joined by a group from Transition Langport and the second at Great Breach Woods with the Sedgemore Conservation Volunteers. Both days went very well and it was a great experience working with other more established groups and learning from them.

The Trainees also had our third residential this month in Oxenwood Wiltshire. It was a brilliant week but my highlight was a visit to Langford Lakes where we had a demonstration on bird ringing and a photography workshop with Iain Green a professional wildlife photographer. We got some really nice pictures while practising our new skills including some shots of a beautiful Kingfisher which was being ringed but you'll have to read our residental write up to see that!

Silly Hat Group credit Rachel Janes Beth and Claire Hedgelaying credit Claire Critchley

                All the Trainees at the WIltshire residential                                          Beth and Claire laying a hedge                                

Species Spotted in Somerset

So to end here our January Update is a round up of some of the species we spotted this month in Somerset and it seems to have been busy birding month in Somerset as well as Wiltshire!

  • Kestrel
  • Starling
  • Snowdrop
  • Wren
  • Fox
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit

Kestrel credit Elliot Neep Starlings Snowdrop 2

L-R Kestrel, Starlings, Snowdrops

Photo Credit: All the Trainees - Rachel Janes, Beth and Claire hedgelaying - Claire Critchley, Kestrel - Elliot Neep