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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wed 7th May 2014 - Corf Camp, Shalfleet.

It was off to Corf Camp on the outskirts of Shalfleet for our session this week. Frequent readers will know that we visit here two or three times a year to help the staff keep the wonderful grounds in good order. Much of our work this time was a continuation of our previous tasks which included drainage, cutting back overgrown pathways, hedge laying etc. Several new drains were dug to help reduce boggy areas, some involved digging trenches for plastic drain pipes and then back filling with pebble gravel. The trailer we were using to transport the gravel developed a puncture so it was back to the wheel barrows (yet again!). One of the toilet/shower blocks had become somewhat "grown in" to the countryside so the ivy and bramble was cut back - making sure there were no birds nesting nearby. A roving team went around the pathways trimming back anything that was overhanging whilst others did some hedge laying to ensure that the correct pathways are clearly marked. All in all, a very busy session with GG people working right across this beautiful site. The weather was bright and breezy and the turnout was above average.

Carrie's Nature Natter.

May is a fantastic month for wildlife - summer migrants are now here and their beautiful songs combine with our resident birds. Nightingale, cuckoo, swifts and swallows bring much fascination to wildlife watching, while warblers are found in woodlands and hedgerows, and sea cliffs clamour with breeding birds each squabbling for their own space. Our gardens are full of blue tits, great tits, robins, song thrushes and blackbirds, who are very busy trying to find enough food to feed their young.  My own garden has a nestbox full of bluetits, and yesterday I saw the first baby blackbird being fed by its parents.  The little blue tits work so very hard flying backwards and forwards to the nestbox, it must be quite exhausting after one or two broods.

Lots of our trees and hedgerow shrubs are now covered in bright fresh young leaves, while the hawthorns are bursting forth with fat white blossoms.  The end of the month will see elders in flower with their large saucers of tiny flowers, while the ash is one of the last to break into leaf, with the mat black hard casings splitting open to reveal the new growth below.

The meadows are full of yellow rattle, buttercups, meadow vetch, oxeye daisy and dandelions, possibly joined by common spotted orchids and many interesting grasses, sedges and rushes.  On the downs our floral diversity is at its best, with colours and perfumes complemented at the end of the month by the brilliant and astonishing beauty of some of our early butterfly species, such as adonis, chalkhill and common blue.

In our rivers and ponds insects start to make an impact this month, with the short-lived adult mayfly emerging to mate and then dying after just one day. Its nymph stage lasts for a year, and mayflies are an important food source for many fish.  And if you should hear a bang on the outside of your window, it may well be a cockchafer beetle.  This is one of our largest species of beetle and the adults gravitate towards street lights and windows in search of a mate.

Many thanks to Carrie for her monthly Nature Natter and the photographs this week were taken by Mark.

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