Hello and a very warm welcome to this weeks blog from Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood. I think we’ve been baking more than basking this week with the endless sunny skies and soaring temperatures. This was the moor on Friday afternoon, although you can’t really see the heat shimmer.

We were very happy this week to be able to open Swell Wood to visitors on Friday afternoon. We’ve been working hard strimming the path wider (not fun in this heat) and making lots of new signage to help people stay safe on site.  There is a new one way system in place on the Woodland Trail to try and reduce contact between groups of people and the Heronry Hide and Scarp Trail have had to stay shut because of social distancing difficulties. We hope that everyone can enjoy a pleasant walk in our peaceful woodland in a safe way, so if you do head out there, please take note of all the information. It’s not just coronavirus that can cause danger. I’ve had three ticks from Swell Wood so far, so make sure you check yourself thoroughly after walking there.

Greylake remains closed for now, as it is the site with most work in order to get it ready for opening but we are working on it and hope to welcome you back there soon.

In wildlife news, the swallow chicks are no longer returning to the nest area. They are still flying around above the farm and surrounding fields, checking out their new world. One even flew into the mess room the other day while I was sat at the computer. I stayed very still so I didn’t scare it and it flew back out again.

I’ve also seen one or two of the pied wagtail chicks around the roofs of the farm buildings and they look like they’re doing well too. I'm pleased to see that the adults have already started building another nest, this time in the ATV shed, so they're going to have another go. I've been watching them taking nest material in under the corrugated roof. At some point I will try and find where the nest is but I don't want to disturb them, especially at this point, as they could stop building and move elsewhere.

  Coming in with nest material

  And back out

The blue tits fledged early in the week, probably on Tuesday, the last of the nests that I was watching.However, I was walking around the garden this morning and heard the calling of baby blue tits, so I followed the sound and discovered another of our boxes is being used by blue tits as well. I had taken a look at this box a few weeks ago and thought it wasn't being used but clearly I was wrong, or they occupied it after that. Anyway, the chicks are almost ready to fledge, as you can see in this picture.

  A little chick takes a look at the world

There’s more baby birds appearing out on the moor now. I’ve seen moorhen and coots with chicks in the ditches, and came across this pair of swans with five cygnets as I was driving on the reserve. The adults were not keen to move out of my way and there was lots of hissing, but the cygnets were very cute so I didn’t mind. Plus I was in a car so they couldn’t attack me.

We’ve also had good numbers of lapwing and redshank on site. Some of them fly up and alarm call when you get close, meaning they likely have chicks on the ground. You can’t see them of course because they are very small and hunker down in the vegetation until the adult returns. We don’t hang around in one place too long so the adults can come back quickly.

The damselfly I showed you last week turned out to be a male variable damselfly as I suspected. It can be identified by the broken stripes on the thorax. Unfortunately the females have full stripes, much like many of the other blue species, which is when you need to look at the second abdominal segment for the shape of the markings for identification. I think the second photo, taken in my garden, has a U-shaped mark, making it a male azure damselfly, but it could easily be a female variable, or a male common blue as they all look very alike and could be found here. The female azure and common blue are actually green in colour, although with similar black patterning to the males.

  Variable damselfly (male)

  Male azure damselfly?

My best sighting of the week however is one I didn't manage to get a photo of. While I was investigating the blue tit nest box, I heard a rustle in the compost heap and noticed a large female adder slithering away. It was gone before I could even touch phone, let alone get the camera ready but it was amazing to see it. Rest assured I will keep my eye on the compost heap and try to get a picture. I will also be more careful walking around the garden!

That's all the news for this week. Check in next week to see if I find the adder again and all the other goings on from Somerset.


P.S. All photos taken by me at home, on exercise or during essential work