So we move into July and the weeks seem to be passing more and more quickly. It feels like I just post one blog and here I am writing the next. It's a good job I enjoy doing it. Yes, welcome to this weeks update from Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood.
At the end of each month, we collate the rainfall data and see how much we've had in total. In February (the wettest on record I might add), we had a total of 124 mm over the month at our weatherstation across the road. In June, we had a total of 132 mm. Yep, you read that right. About half of that fell in just two or three days, that apocalyptic rain I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. But still, it was an extremely wet month on the Somerset Levels. We're having to be careful where we drive and which fields we put the cattle into as some are quite squelchy underfoot.
At Greylake, the rain and sunshine has been spurring the vegetation to grow wildly. I've already been out once to do more strimming and I'll be out again next week, hopefully with a couple of volunteers as we cautiously begin our volunteering program again. There are lots of extra precautions to take with distancing and cleaning of tools but we believe we can do this safely as long as we keep numbers low. I took a photo of the reedbed loop, which was cut with the tractor just a month ago. It has gone from a tractor width of nice low grass to a narrow overgrown track in that short time.
Of course, we try to keep cutting to a minimum for the benefit of the wildlife, but if we left it completely, the site would be inaccessible to visitors, as it was at the end of lockdown. So we have to strike a careful balance.
I've really been enjoying my weekly walks around both Greylake and Swell Wood. I walk all the paths to check for safety hazards and cut back any overgrowing vegetation. At Greylake this week, the reptiles were out in force. Of course, they slither away when they sense you approaching, so it's often hard to see them. However, as I was walking quietly and fairly slowly, I caught a couple of glimpses. One of the grass snakes was pretty big, around 60-70cm, I would guess. I also saw the much smaller tail of a slow worm vanishing into the grass. I love reptiles, they're probably one of my favourite groups of animals, and as we only have six native species in the UK, it's easy to identify them all!
Grass snakes can vary slightly in colour, but they all have the distinctive yellow collar and black bars down the body
Most snakes will slither away when you approach, but occasionally they'll freeze long enough for you to get a good picture
You also get to spot things you might otherwise not notice. At Swell Wood, when I went to cut off a stinging nettle leaning over the path, I caught a flash of yellow and found this brightly coloured beetle sitting on a leaf. I looked it up and found it is a black and yellow longhorn (rutpela maculata). I love it when they give things obvious names. It's much easier to remember them.
I also noticed this really cool looking fungus growing on a rotten log on the trail between Swell Wood and Fivehead meadow. It looked like a bloom of strange flowers. I'm no fungus expert, and there's a zillion different types, so if anyone knows what this is, I'd love to hear it.
You find nature in all sorts of odd places. This week it was in the door of my car. I opened it to find a large brown moth had taken refuge underneath. Concerned that I might squash it by closing the door again, I rescued it and popped it in a bush.
A kind person on my Facebook invertebrate group identified it for me as a large yellow underwing, quite a common species in the UK. Like fungus, there are zillions of moths too, so I sought help with ID. One of the things I've really been enjoying about writing this blog is improving my ID skills, particularly with inverts. Hopefully you've been enjoying seeing them too.
Well that's it for this week. I'll be back next week, even if it feels a lot sooner!
P.S. All photos by me
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