At the end of May nine members met up with the invertebrate expert Ray Barnett for a field trip that linked up with Ray’s excellent “How to Read the Signs” talk given to the group last February. Priddy Mineries is on the outskirts of the village of Priddy on the Mendips. It is grassland/heathland mosaic with an area of valley mire and some nutrient-poor pools. The site was worked for lead for many centuries up to just before the First World War. The legacy is a landscape full of pools, mounds and spoil heaps.
On Sunday 14th May, 15 of our members met up for a 2-hour walk around Keynsham Memorial Park looking at wild flowers, guided by committee member Liz Wintle. We were lucky to have a warm, sunny (and dry) day!
Our first field outing of the 2023 season in late April was “Dave’s Dawn chorus”, starting at Saltford shallows with a 4.30 am start, and led by chairman Dave Sage as usual. 12 of us enjoyed a magical morning, starting on the cycle track River Avon bridge near the Bird-in-Hand, listening with eyes closed as the robins and blackbirds started to sing. Very mindful, as some people noted!
Both our last 2 evening talks of the season broke the mould in terms of the subject matter and of audience participation.
Our March talk: Climate change beneath our feet”, given by Emma Brisdion began by her asking the audience “Name one good thing you have done for the planet this week.”
The April talk, "Working Together for Food Justice" with Ped Asgarian was even more radical, with an unprecedented level of audience participation.
Our speaker for February was one of our favourites, Ray Barnett, returning after an absence of several years. Ray has been based at Bristol Museum since 1989, and the Head of Collections and Archives for many years. Specialising in Entomology, Ray is also an all round passionate advocate for wildlife conservation.
“Reading the Signs” was subtitled: “what the bug life in our gardens reveals about our changing world.” In other words, studying invertebrate communities in our gardens, and seeing how they have changed over time, gives us clues and hard evidence about the effects of environmental change (in particular, climate change) on these communities.
At our January talk, Bob Medland took us on a fascinating journey to three very isolated but most interesting island locations east, west and north of the Isle of Lewis.
The three locations were the Shiant Islands which lie four miles east of the Isle of Lewis and twelve miles away from the Isle of Skye, the Flannan Islands (Also known as the Seven Hunters) which lie twenty-five miles west of the Isle of Lewis and finally North Rona which was once the most isolated permanently populated island in the British Isles.
Our second talk of the season in the Baptist Church Hall attracted a great audience of around 50 people, it was great to be gradually getting back to the numbers who attended pre-Covid.
The speaker, Alasdair, is the founder and Executive Director of Somerset Wildlands (SW), a charity which he set up 2 years ago.
Alasdair first clarified what exactly the term “re-wilding” means: restoring land to an uncultivated / unmanaged state, and offered 3 different ways that this is being achieved.
It is with great sorrow that we have to write about the passing of our dear friend and former colleague, Cynthia Wilson, who passed away peacefully this week, with her close family at her bedside, following a fall a week ago, aged 89. Our thoughts go out to her family at this sad time, but they should be immensely proud of all she has achieved in her long and active life. Read more about her wonderful work for Keynsham Group HERE
Our first meeting in the Baptist church hall since before Covid lockdown (that’s 2.5 years!) was attended by a good audience. The speaker, Michael Pitts, is one of our favourites, and it was his 3rd visit. The talk was unusual in that he outlined several key incidents / battles of WWII, in the Pacific, so it was more a history lesson at times!
Anyone attending our last trip of the season would have been disappointed if they were expecting to see a large diversity and number of species. Yet everyone agreed that the late evening walk in Priddy with bird experts Chris and Helena Craig was absolutely magical and a thrilling and memorable experience.
It was a warm, dry and wind-free afternoon in July, when members Andy and Jane Daw led us around Bannerdown Common in search of summer butterflies. We were rewarded with a plethora of species within open grassland and natural woodland.
Following her superb Zoom talk earlier in the year, we were delighted that Dr Helena Crouch was able to lead 12 of us on a botanical walk along Sand Point, near Weston-Super-Mare. She expertly found, identified and described over 45 different plant species between the car park and the windswept headland, showing a wind range of adaptations to survive in the challenging conditions.
Early in June we went on an exciting field trip to see native and tropical orchids in Cley Hill and Writhlington School. This was a follow-up to our Zoom talk last December by orchid expert and school teacher Simon Pugh-Jones. It was a perfect afternoon, and with the help of some very knowledgeable pupils we soon discovered five different species of native (hardy) orchids
Our final online talk of the season this April welcomed botanist Dr Helena Crouch. Helena is Vice-County Recorder for the north part of Somerset on behalf the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland and an active member of Somerset Rare Plants Group. During “The Coastal Plants of Somerset” she discussed the plants she studies on the Somerset Coast between the estuaries of the Rivers Avon and Parrot. Some of these have amazingly made their way inland to places like Bath and Keynsham, especially in the vicinity of salt storage facilities where conditions mimic those at the coast.
A secret ancient orchard in the heart of Herefordshire, was the subject of a long term study to understand the true value of this habitat for native wildlife by our March speaker, BBC natural history producer Nick Gates and fellow naturalist Ben MacDonald. “Orchard, a year in England’s Eden” is the title of the award winning book they have written about their work.
In February we enjoyed another outstanding Zoom presentation in February as 58 screens shared an enthusiastic and inspiring talk on Ospreys, given by Liv Cooper, who works for the Birds of Poole Harbour charity, and is the projects coordinator of the Poole Harbour Osprey Translocation Project (PHOTP).
Ospreys are migratory raptors, arriving in the UK in March or April, breeding over the summer, then flying south from August to October to overwinter. Some travel as far as the Gambia or Senegal, others to SW Europe. Younger birds fly south, but often delay returning for 2 or 3 years until when they are sexually mature. Poole harbour is an excellent stopover location for these migrating birds.
|As we head into a new lockdown we wish all our subscribers, local members and your families continued good health. Keep safe, everyone!|