September seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye, and now Autumn is here full of my favourite fiery colours in the trees and bracken on the hillsides, and promising pumpkins, conkers, bonfires and crisp mornings. I love this time of year.
The first day of the month I was out on a Marsh Fritillary training day in the beautiful Blackdown Hills, run by the Blackdown Hills Natural Futures, and the Butterfly Conservation Trust. We spent the day learning how to identify and survey these beautiful butterflies by looking for their larval webs. Marsh fritillaries live mainly in damp or tussock-forming grasslands, chalk grasslands and coastal grasslands, and the main food-source for their caterpillars is Devils-bit-scabious. They are endangered and are the subject of much conservation effort throughout Europe. Sadly we didn’t see any webs whilst out at the survey site, but we did get a good idea of the kind of habitat in which to look for them when we go out surveying!
Ideal habitat for Marsh Fritillary butterflies- damp tufted grassland with Devils bit scabious’
During September I continued working on the text and maps for the 13 interpretation boards going into green spaces around Taunton. Each board will have a bit of text about the history and habitats found at the site, and include around 10 species visitors are likely to find there. The maps have proved to be the most challenging element to get right, partly because I don’t know Taunton well at all! The first board went up in at Children’s Wood during September, and I think it looks fantastic!
Interpretation boards found along the River Tone.
Find out how we are connecting Taunton to its Wildlife neighbours here
Later in the month was the SWT all-staff meeting at Avalon Marshes. It was an interesting opportunity to meet some staff I still hadn’t crossed paths with, and hear about recent successes from various teams. After the meeting I took the opportunity to visit Catcott reserve in the sunshine, and was blown away by the hundreds of dragonflies around the pond. Darters and Hawkers flying all around me and even landing on my arms, head and back! It was quite an extraordinary experience!
Common Darters ( red ones are male and the green ones female).
I also went out with a corporate volunteer group from Viridor, the waste and recycling company, who are sponsoring the Taunton interpretation. We pollarded two large Willow trees down by the river, and I had a chance to practice my forest school fire-lighting skills. At the end of the day we headed down the river to look at a small orchard and pick apples. The Routes to the River Tone team are planning to plant a number of heritage apple tree orchards at various sites around Taunton, which will be linked up by a trail. In the new year we will hold wassailing events at some of the orchards, and the hope is that the local communities will take on looking after them.
Apples from the Orchard