So summer is gradually drawing to an end here on the Exe Estuary, the temperature has started to drop and the rain has begun to move back in. Spirits are still high however as several of our projects are nearing completion with a few more exciting ones in the pipeline. The keen birdwatchers amongst you will be happy to hear that the new fence around the hide at Bowling Green Marsh is finally completed. It’s been a long and arduous task, but we can’t ask for much more than to be working outside in the glorious British sunshine, and we appreciate all those who’ve been putting up with the constant hammering and sawing around the hide over the last month or so.

The wildlife garden at the front of the hide is moving along steadily, the pond has been filled and several of the flower beds are ready to receive residents. We will be adding some of our own personal touches over the coming weeks, a stumpery for example, which will be placed next to the screen at the northern end of the garden. We are also planning to install a bee and bug hotel beneath the walkway. There are over 240 species of wild bees in the UK called ‘solitary bees’ because they make individual nest cells for their larvae. These nest cells vary from species to species but many make them in holes and tunnels in old chunks of wood, hollow stems of dead plants or holes in the ground. The bees themselves also need somewhere to essentially hibernate over the winter ready for the following spring. The idea of a bee hotel is to provide a variety of different mediums and habitats for these harmless solitary bees, all of which are important pollinators without which our plants and flowers would struggle to reproduce and keep our countryside looking splendid year after year. The other intention of this bee hotel is to demonstrate to the general public some of the really simple things you can do to make a bee hotel in your own garden and help out these valuable little invertebrates.

Back at Exminster, the improvements to the Turf path are nearing completion, which should make for much easier passage during the wet months to come, and our vast array of bramble bushes have pulled out all the stops this summer with monstrous blackberries springing up almost everywhere we look. Our Discovery Area near the end of the Turf path seems to be a particular hotspot, many of the blackberries being so large they look more like bunches of grapes than the small berries most of us are used to. I encourage anyone who likes a good crumble to come down to the reserve and take full advantage of the plentiful crop while they’re still here, as in a few weeks they’ll have gone entirely.

If you’re in the discovery area, and in between filling your tupperware with blackberries you could investigate the plethora of minibeasts swimming around our pond-dipping platform. Nets and trays and even identification sheets are all provided under the benches at the platform so all you need to bring are yourselves.

The cutting and baling is going well on Exminster Marsh, as is the ditch cutting that comes immediately after. We try not to let the edges of our ditches get too overgrown to allow waders and water dwelling species easy access to them, and also to keep the rushes from dominating them too much. Many species do enjoy the heavy cover that clumping grasses like Rush and Deschampsia offer, but others who feed along the edge of ditches need fairly open terrain to observe potential approaching predators, so we try to control the growth along the ditch edges in an alternating fashion as a compromise between the two.

On to some birds to finish, we’ve had a Hobby flying around near our lagoon for several weeks munching away on the dragonflies that inhabit the area, and this week some of our more experienced volunteers identified a Marsh Harrier circling some of the fields, distinguishable by its cream face and head. These majestic birds feed on small birds and mammals and, despite seeing population declines in the past, their future in the UK is more secure now than at any time in the last century. Lastly, even though Powderham Marsh is now empty of the Lapwings that have been breeding there over the summer, it’s nice to see that some are still strutting proudly around the estuary. We identified a small flock of around 14 birds at Bowling Green Marsh during the final stages of the fence building earlier this week.

That’s all from us for now. I hope everyone gets to enjoy the last of the sunshine.


Nick Davies