Sunday, 1 April 2012

April day on the Somerset Levels

April is here and there seems to be a battle, or a swinging arrangement, going on in the bird box. At alternate moments there seem to be sparrows inhabiting the box and then there are blue tits. The pair of blue tits seemed quite at home however this afternoon with one inside and the other passing things through the hole so they may have won.

This afternoon we all went down to the Peat Moors Centre, for the Avalon Marshes family day, and spent a great afternoon making bittern puppets, dismantling owl pellets and doing wildlife competitions. Terrific pond dipping and we found hog-lice, leeches, may fly larvae, flatworms, freshwater shrimps and a magnificent great diving beetle (*photo beneath), the great diving beetle was possibly the biggest UK native beetle I have ever seen, 3cm or so. After a picnic lunch we went on the tractor and trailer ride along the old railway line by the south drain and watched the birds, with the children sitting on the trailer floor watching hopefully for otters. Talking to the guide I have also established the best locations to see the marsh frogs and a spot where there are frequently basking adders to be found in the early morning sunshine.

There is an abandoned peat digger's hut now stranded in the middle of the water on an island where once it stood alongside the peat trenches and provided shelter for the workers. With the flooding of the digs this relic now provides possibly the best roost for a pair of barn owls, safe and isolated in the most beautiful location. The peat digging still carries on around the nature reserves, with the last of the extraction licences due to end in 2020.

Note: 'Ash before oak and we're in for a soak, oak before ash and we're in for a splash'
Well the ash tree leaves are now coming out before the oak and so it looks like it's going to be a wet summer. Also the rooks are nesting lower in the trees which apparently also suggests that they know it's going to be poor weather so they avoid the windy top branches, we shall see.

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