The Branch has continued to function effectively, even though we are still without a Chair to draw the numerous threads that are Branch activities together. A volunteer would be very welcome.
The Committee has met online, and all 14 members have made valuable contributions. Nick Redman as Treasurer has kept up with the changing data from HQ as well as organising our AGM and Social meeting raffles. Alison Uren as Secretary has kept us all on track and has been behind the organisation of our activities. The Guided Walks programme, 21 different ones between May and September, is a tribute to her determination and effective organisation.
Jen Harley as our social media organiser has worked very hard on the website keeping information about events up to date. She has begun the arduous task of transferring the Butterfly Walks in Somerset and Bristol onto the website in downloadable form. Ross as the County Butterfly Recorder has kept track of more than 150,000 records annually and communicated their patterns in an informative and understandable way. Sue Davies as the Membership Secretary and Editor of our newsletter, Arion, has done a superb job of producing three editions a year with a hugely varied and interesting content. She has also ensured that these publications get out to the members. Ben Barker has been working hard on behalf of the large number of wildlife-interested groups in Bristol and has agreed to join the Branch committee so that the interests of Bristol- based BC members are better served. Andy Danford as WCBS champion has continued to support volunteers and ensure an effective contribution to the national picture by recorders in Somerset and Bristol. Fred Giles is based in the Avalon Marshes Centre and has created a hugely successful programme seeking volunteers to record on transects, producing training opportunities and supporting them by regular updates. He has agreed to join the Branch committee so that his experience can be shared with the wider area of Somerset and Bristol. John Connolly leads several of the guided walks and has a parallel role as Secretary of the Somerset Moth group. Roger Perkins walks the transect at Lord’s Wood and leads the guided walk there as one of the few places where White Admirals fly; he also gave a talk to a group in Wells. Charlotte Wray is the Honorary Warden for the BC reserve Haddon Moor and keeps the committee posted on changes and developments there. Tony Spiess has worked incredibly hard to develop the extensive sites at Mount Fancy. Clearance, grazing, monitoring, and volunteer organisation are only part of what he and his wife Anna achieve. John Ball and Peter Bright are the wardens for Stoke Camp and Westbury Beacon, the two BC reserves on the Mendip. These Honorary Wardens provide informative reports for each committee meeting. Peter Bright has been looking after the nearly 90 or so transects that are being walked across the Somerset and Bristol area. These transects provide about half of the annual records to the Branch. Thank you to all the transect recorders who turn out week after week to provide such a good picture of the area’s butterflies. Thank you to this hard-working and engaged committee.
We have moved in person meetings to Draycott Memorial Hall which is convenient for at least 6 of the Branch committee. The first event we held there was our November 2022 AGM which was addressed by Simon Saville, a BC trustee, on the future for butterflies in the UK. Jenny Plackett as the Southwest Reserves Manager presented the rationale behind the new strategy for BC to take us into the next decade. Our social meeting in March 2023 was a chance to hear about the re-introduction of the Pearl-bordered Fritillary to the Malvern Hills. With energy and enthusiasm, Mel Mason described the success of his re-introduction plans, but also emphasised how important it is to retain our common but declining species. Alison entertained us with the exotic butterflies of Queensland, Australia, and Ross Harley as our Branch Recorder gave his thorough and elegantly presented Review of the Year 2022.
A variety of identification training events have been done by Peter Bright, at the Mendip Activity Centre, for the National Trust Mendip volunteers and to a group of Exmoor Volunteers in Simonsbath.
Some of the stalwart volunteers who have been walking transects for many years are reaching the limits of their time and energy. However, it is apparent that there is a corpus of new enthusiasts willing to take on the monitoring role. I am hopeful that the two reserves, Haddon Moor and Haddon Hill, may be about to get regularly monitored again. Already Collard Hill, Green Down, Brean Down and Dolebury Warren are established transects that have been restarted. Thank you to all these volunteer transect walkers. It is with great sadness that we note the death of Nigel Cottle who has been a stalwart of recording of both butterflies and moths.
We have welcomed Max Anderson as BC Reserves Manager for Devon and Somerset. He has been closely engaged with all BC reserves and has been very supportive to the honorary wardens. His sharp eyes have found Brown Hairstreak eggs on Stoke Camp and Small Blue eggs on Draycott Sleights. The water supply that now enables grazing on Westbury Beacon is a tribute to his organisational skills. Thank you.
In October the formal opening of the Mendip National Nature Reserve will take place in which major landowners across Mendip are joining together to be able to work their management plans across the Mendips at landscape scale. A similar Somerset Levels and Moors National Nature Reserve is about to be launched as well. Such cooperation across the landscape is going to be very important for the success of any Nature Recovery Network actions which are at the heart of developing plans for the four Somerset AONBs and one National Park. They represent an integral part of Butterfly Conservation’s latest strategy relating to improving landscapes.
Written 18th September 2023
Published in Arion 125
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