Hello from a suddenly chilly Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood and welcome to the first blog of summer, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. What a turnaround we have had. Our weatherstation recorded a temperature of 32 degrees on Tuesday, and then a mere 17 on Wednesday. That’s a 15 degree drop in 24 hours. We also had about 4.5 mm of rain on Wednesday, which was very welcome, although not enough to make a real impact. It has rained a little more since then and there is more in the forecast, so hopefully the parched ground will feel better soon.

I’ve been busy doing lots of strimming this week, and I actually preferred to do it in the rain than the heat. When you put that helmet on, your temperature seems to shoot up, but it does keep your head dry (mostly).

The birds are still busy around the farm. Those blue tits had fledged by the time I went out there on Tuesday morning to check on them. I was pretty sure they were ready to go. So that’s two successful fledgings from our nest boxes by blue tits, although I don’t know how many chicks.

The pied wagtails have continued to build in the ATV shed and I saw them mating on the roof on Tuesday, so hopefully they will have laid the first eggs in that nest, or start very soon.

The sky over the farm is much quieter in the last few days. The swallow fledglings seem to have moved away, although I still see them a little The adults seem to be preparing for another go at nesting. I saw one of them sitting on one of the other nests under the eaves (not the one they have just been using), although I don’t think they’ve laid any eggs yet. I’ll keep an eye on them to see how they get on.

A new arrival is a willow warbler that has taken up residence in the trees just across the road and is singing merrily away. They tend to be a later arrival from Africa, unlike the chiff chaff, which looks almost identical, but arrives very early. Luckily their songs are very different so when you hear them, you can identify which it is.

I haven’t seen the adder again, despite several checks on the compost heap, but with this cooler weather, it makes it less likely to see it. If we get a bit of sunshine, it might come out to bask, but otherwise will look for somewhere warm to hide.

We were all out at dawn on Thursday, completing a survey on West Sedgemoor to see how our waders and other breeding birds have been getting on. Usually we would have done two surveys already, but those weren’t completed due to lockdown, so this is our first chance to find out what’s been happening. As a newbie to this sort of survey, I took the part of the moor that had the least wading birds, but there was still plenty of activity. There were sedge warblers and reed buntings singing along the ditch edges, a pair of linnets in some bushes, a snipe drumming over one of the fields and lots of roe deer out grazing in the early morning, as well as a hare that was trying to hide from me. And of course there were all our common birds too such as blue tits, great tits, blackbirds, robins, woodpigeon and chiff chaff.

  Dawn on West Sedgemoor

  And a little later on

Swell Wood has been open for over a week now and we’re really pleased that it seems like everyone is behaving responsibly, so thank you if you’ve been up there. We’re not quite ready to open Greylake yet. The work has turned out to be even more than we anticipated. That’s where I’ve been doing all the strimming as it was becoming difficult to walk along even the surfaced paths. We will open the site as soon as it is safe to do so, so thanks for your patience.

  An unstrimmed path at Greylake (it was actually more overgrown than it looks)

  A strimmed path, ready for when visitors are back

I went for a walk this morning across the fields opposite the farm. I was intending to stretch my legs for a fair way but got rather distracted by the abundance of wildlife. The were hundreds, if not thousands, of meadow brown butterflies. I did my best with the photos, but the grass was long and they were insisting on hiding in it.

  Meadow brown upperwings

  Meadow brown underwings

I also came across some white-legged damselflies. Although not terribly rare, they aren't really common either so I was glad to see them. 

  Based on the colouration, this is an immature adult, or possibly a female. The males are blue and easily confused with other blue species unless you can see their white legs.

I also found these beautiful field bindweed flowers growing along the path where the grass had been trampled. They were clearly taking advantage of the lower vegetation and bare earth to grow. Bindweed often grows by twining around other plants, but these were very low to the ground.

  Field bindweed, a common wildflower

There were also lots of dragonflies, bees, grasshoppers and day flying moths around. Great to see lots of biodiversity in our local meadows. Probably due to the variety of different plants and grasses present, which in turn is due to lack of weedkillers and fertilisers being applied which creates a monoculture.

  A great biodiverse meadow habitat

This week has been volunteers week across the country and we’ve been missing all our wonderful volunteers greatly. As the only volunteer left I am carrying the torch until we can invite you all back to join us when we can safely do so. We really wouldn’t be able to do the amazing work we do without the army of volunteers that support us, and the RSPB as a whole, with so many different tasks. Working with our practical day volunteers, I’m always impressed by your dedication, effort and ability to turn up with a smile come rain or shine, and boy did we have some rain over the winter.

Well that’s all from me this week. Take care.

Kathryn

P.S. All photos taken by me

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