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WildSherston in review

26 May

The weekend of WildSherston went with a flutter, flap, a squeak and slither (and no bangs…) due to the bats, moths, owls and snails. The children made quite a lot of noise as well!!

The weather was superb with lots of display stands outside as well as in the large marquee. We were fortunate to have a number of really good speakers including Kelvin Boot on Friday night with his stories being a well-travelled naturalist. On Saturday there were 6 speakers on a whole variety of subjects from Wild Flowers to Birds and Rivers. The two stalls most in demand were the snail racing (which brought out the competitive spirit in many people albeit in slow motion) and the bats. It was a rare chance to see bats close up and many of the children were fascinated… the adults couldn’t get close..

On Friday night a series of moth traps were put out around the village and some very large moths were caught which were a bit scary. About 50 different species were found.

The Sherston mums did a fantastic job of setting up and running a whole series of activities for children including clay models, nature walks and a special thanks to Carron Watehouse for managing this.

Sunday dawned at 4.15am with a hardy bunch out and about for the Dawn Chorus and then a bird ringing exhibition, with breakfast, at the Vineyard. A series of fascinating walks followed looking at different aspects of nature including the river, birds, wild flowers and butterflies.

I suspect some people felt it was worth going just for the fantastic food alone, provided by “The Awkward Squad”.

Many thanks to lots of people and organizations who really made this a fantastic experience and to the main organisers Martin Rea, Jo Egerton, Pete Bishop, Carron Watehouse.

And of course the brain behind the idea, and general management of the event our thanks go to Geoff Carss.

Sherston Craft Club did a fantastic job with the legacy banner, and it was clear that the children loved getting stuck in.

Thank you to Sherston Church and Sue Robinson for organising the children’s and pets service on Sunday morning. The “Living Churchyard” proved to be somewhere a bit different to discover nature and wildlife.The Living Churchyards and Cemeteries Project (LCCP) was set up nationally in the 1990s with the aim of promoting churchyards and cemeteries as a valuable source of biodiversity.

We received funding from the Parish Council, Wiltshire County Council , MVCAP and support from N3 Graphic Displays (Nick Holland), The Post Office, Wentworth Jigsaws, Highgrove, Bugs Eye View, Whatley Manor, The Ship at Luckington, Sonardyne, Jeremy Nabarro and Carole Conyngham.

People clearly enjoyed themselves with some fantastic feedback including from Miranda Krestovnikov (presenter of BBC’s Coast programme and President of RSPB) who stayed for 5 hours and insisted she is invited again and will bring more people. The BBC, who broadcast the BBC Wiltshire Radio programme ‘Wild about Wiltshire” live from the event on Sunday mentioned it was the best ever live broadcast they have ever done and interviewed lots of people over the 2 hour programme.

The overall intention was to get more people, adults and children, interested in their environment and from the feedback it certainly achieved that aim.

We also had some great coverage in local newspapers:

and there are some great photo’s on our facebook site:


The Red-flanked Bluetail – a local destination

6 Mar

I finally succumbed to going on a twitch (sort of). There have been many reports of a rare bird being found not far from here – between Tormarton and Marshfield. An over wintering Red-flanked Bluetail is almost unheard in the UK – almost all the sightings have been in the summer.

Red-flanked Bluetail. Marshfield. 6 March 2014

Red-flanked Bluetail. Marshfield. 6 March 2014

It wasn’t until someone turned up with some mealworms that we could see it. It’s a very long way from home and is unlikely to see any of it’s kind again.

It’s been there for at least 6 weeks (it’s quite amazing it was ever found!!) and some 2,500 people have been to see it so far. When I was there there were only 6 people – all the real twitchers had come and gone long ago – so I still haven’t been an a real twitch – which is fine.

Their new homes are ready (almost)….

2 Mar

March heralds the start of mass migrations both to the village, with birds returning from Africa and southern Europe, and winter residents returning to Scandinavia.

The Redwings and Fieldfares are off while we should be hearing the call of the returning Chiff Chaff (named after the sound it makes) and the Blackcap. Interestingly we have Blackcaps who overwinter here and return to more northern climes in the spring and a different population who return from further south so, while we may have them all year round, they aren’t the same individuals you might see on your bird feeder

Some birds are already nesting such as the Stock Dove (which looks a bit like a drab Wood Pigeon) and the Rooks are starting to nest in their lofty colonies next to the Church.

Over the past couple of months a number of people have been busy building nest boxes which are going up in various places around the village. Some have been installed in Grove Wood and the first Barn Owl boxes have been put up. Four House Sparrow nest boxes, built by Sherston Scouts, have been installed around the village to provide communal nesting sites for this declining but much loved resident. Many thanks to Graham Smith and Rod Moyes for building the bigger boxes, and John Lloyd for helping install them and to the Scouts for their hard work.

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

We spend some time trying to find old building or barns to install the Barn Owl boxes and it became really clear why we have so few Owls these days – they have nowhere to nest. If you do know of an out of the way old building at least 3 metres high where we could put another Barn Owl box please do let me know.

Please have a look at the news about WildSherston on the 16th to 18th May with a range of talks, walks and events about our local wildlife.

Spring is in the air… isn’t this a fantastic time of year!!!

PS. This made the local paper – on Page 3!! –

Summer must be here…

6 May

lots of Swifts over Sherston – great to see them back….

…and saw a Little Owl and a Raven on the outskirts of the village today – what a day… and there are quite a few butterfly’s around at last – Peacocks, Green Veined Whites, Orange Tips, Brimstones and a blue one – didn’t get close enough to identify it…

Be there ….. or be in bed… its time for the Dawn Chorus

2 May

4.15am Saturday 4th May – it’s that time of year to get up really early and hear the dawn chorus.

This years walk will meet outside Stretchline on the road from Sherston to Luckington – bring warm clothes, a torch, stout shoes and preferably no dogs….

See you bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday…

Wanted: Trees – dead or alive

2 May

The natural environment around the village is heavily managed by farmers, estate owners, gardeners, the church etc and it’s generally quite tidy with trees typically in hedgerows and along field boundaries. The environment has suffered from some ‘natural’ issues such as Dutch Elm disease which killed some 25 millions trees in the UK in the 1980’s (and we could be faced with Ash trees dying through a new disease appearing at the moment).

When the trees growing in hedgerows die they are both cut down AND not replaced which means we end up with empty hedgerows like the ones on the road towards Norton where there are no trees at all for some long sections.

Many birds, insects, fungi, lichen and plants need the tree lined field boundaries to survive. Some recent research by Butterfly Conservation found that farmers setting aside the edges of their fields to wildlife did increase bird populations the moth population only increased if hedgerow near the field edge had trees in it. Bear in mind Blue Tits eat some 35 billion caterpillars a year so we need lots of moths to sustain even the Blue Tits.

In Grove Wood there are a couple of pairs of Nuthatches (see picture) which need holes to nest in. If they find a hole which has an entrance which is too large they will use mud to line the edges of the hole to make it smaller – just big enough for then to squeeze through. This hopefully stops other birds such as Magpies and Sparrowhawks raiding the nest. On the cliff there are some Stock Doves (a bit like a Wood Pigeon but quite drab with no white marks) which also need holes in trees to nest in.

We used to have Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in the area but they are locally extinct as there is little standing dead wood – which are dead trees left to rot and fall over. We see them as a hazard – birds see them as a home!! (There are some Little Spotted Woodpeckers not too far away in the Braydon Forest north of Brinkworth)

There are a couple of things we can do. Firstly more native trees could be planted in hedgerows. They could, for example, be marked with a coloured post to avoid hedge cutters chopping them in the autumn. A couple of local farmers have expressed an interest in doing this as it helps the environment but doesn’t affect the crops.

Secondly we should leave dead trees standing where at all possible. We do have the need to make things tidy – but wildlife needs it messy! If you have some hedgerows that could do with more trees let me know and I am sure we get some some planted next winter.

Lastly – please do come along to the Dawn Chorus walk on Saturday 4th May at 4.15am outside Stretchline


Spring has finally sprung

14 Apr

It’s taken quite some while but spring is finally here. The Chiffchaff‘s are back in the bushes along the cliff, the first Swift’s are here and I saw my first butterfly today (a Brimstone).

The birds are starting to sing to create and protect their territories and there will be more migrants on the may such as Blackcaps and Garden Warblers so the dawn chorus will start to warm up.

I spend yesterday morning (at 5.15am!) out with Simon Tucker and Ian Grier ringing birds at Ravenscroft Wood near Brinkworth. A fantastic experience ringing the first Chiffchaff’s as well as Wren’s, Song Thrushes and Blue and Great Tits. Ian started to explain to me the complexities of understanding a birds age from its feathers and how the various moults a bird has effects the feather colouring and shape – clearly lots to learn here!!