Check out these amazing photos of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, taken by volunteer Mark Day. It was seen last week enjoying the thistles in front of the viewing platform.
As a residential volunteer looking for a career in conservation, I have been on the hunt for jobs for sometime. And I have finally been successful! This time next week I will be settling into my new role as Information Assistant at RSPB Saltholme’s Date with Nature Project.
This is a short-term role, which will involve working at a site near to the reserve called Greatham Creek. I will have the fantastic opportunity of showing visitors the common seals that haul out on the banks of this tidal stream.
RSPB Saltholme is one of the reserves I previously volunteered at, so I am delighted to be returning to it in a paid role. But of course this means I will be leaving wonderful Coombes Valley!
After four short months, I feel completely at home here, so it is with some sadness that I will be moving on. I’ve enjoyed my time volunteering and gained many useful skills that helped me secure my new role at Saltholme and will help with all my future work.
Living on the reserve in beautiful countryside and with Coombes Valley as what must be Britain’s best back garden, has been great. A cosy house with two housemates who are always up for a laugh has meant I have enjoyed every minute of living here. The staff and volunteers have made volunteering at Coombes Valley something to look forward to and more often than not a lot of fun too.
So thank you to everyone who has made this experience so great and I’m sure I’ll see you soon.
To anyone who has thought about, but still not, visited Coombes Valley, do it, do it now!
To anyone who has wondered about volunteering, make sure it is something you get round to doing, as it will be an unforgettable experience for all the right reasons.
On a recent train journey I was struck by how much rosebay willowherb was about. Its tall form and bright pink spear like flower heads make it easily recognisable.
Thanks to Mark Day for taking this photo of the rosebay willowherb that can be found at Coombes Valley.
I was travelling from one side of the country to the other, through urban, woodland, suburban and rural areas. All along this cross section of Britain’s landscape rosebay willowherb flourished. I thought of the patches of it that can be found throughout Coombes Valley and marvelled at the contrast in places it can grow.
Its ability to grow just about anywhere is a reflection of its ecology. Being classed as a weed indicates its ability to quickly take over areas of bare soil. It is also known as fireweed, because it can be found growing on bare land created by fire. In some parts of Britain, it became known as bombweed, as freshly created bomb craters during World War II provided the areas of bare soil that this plant loves.
If it wasn’t for rosebay willowherb and other weedy plants that we take for granted, there would be much of Britain that would be that bit less colourful. So, I am taking this opportunity to appreciate all of Britain’s beautiful weeds.
Some of my favourite plants at Coombes Valley are horsetails. They look so different to other plants: shooting ramrod straight out of the ground, with spiky needle like leaves. This ferocious appearance gives them a completely different character to other plants on the reserve.
To me the horsetail is proud and defiant, saying; “Hey, look at me! I might not have pretty flowers like those plants in the meadow, but I was here first!”
370 million years ago horsetails were abundant in Britain. Growing up to 20 meters high, they were the woodlands of dinosaurs. I sometimes lie down at ground level and look into clumps of horsetails and imagine how they were all those millennia ago.
Visit Coombes Valley before the horsetail season is over and you too can imagine these prehistoric plants with dinosaurs crashing through them. The best place to see them is the junction of paths by Clough Meadow Cottage.
Thanks to volunteer blogger Emma for her latest post...
My latest visit to Coombes reveals the first very early signs of a new season creeping in, but with many new flowering species to report we are still firmly in summer at the moment!
As soon as we set off, we are accompanied on our walk by a flock of goldfinches numbering at least ten flying overhead. These are sociable birds that often travel between feeding sites in small noisy groups. As well as their striking red and yellow colouring, they have a distinctive liquid ‘tswitt-witt-witt’ song, which they even emit on the wing, and an erratic, wavelike flight pattern.
With more and more visits to the reserve, I am starting to build up a pattern of the territories of each bird species and it is gratifying to walk a little way and be greeted by familiar calls. On the path leading from the visitor centre down to the brook you can almost guarantee to hear chiff chaffs on the first stretch followed by nuthatches and blackbirds a bit further on. It becomes like greeting old friends!
However, there is nearly always an unexpected visitor and this week it is a young dunnock feeding in trees near the hazel hedge. At first I think it is a young robin because of its plump, speckled, brown appearance but staff from the reserve, who happen to be passing, inform me that it is in fact a dunnock, a clue being the stripes on the wing. Quite unlike the goldfinches we saw previously, this is a solitary little bird and as this is a juvenile it is quite unguarded and hops close to us on the path.
The reserve has had heavy rain over the past two days and this has left everywhere smelling very fresh and has given the brook quite a different look. It is less of a trickling stream now and more of a gushing river, quite changed in appearance. The wet and the warmth have done wonders for bringing on the plantlife and we spot new arrivals such as creeping thistle, water forget-me-not, self-heal and purple loosestrife.
Arriving at Clough Meadow we can’t help but notice that some of the trees down in the valley have a slight autumnal tinge to them. It seems very early to be spotting the browning of leaves but as spring was early this year, these leaves have been in full foliage for some time now. As if to reiterate this fact, we spot the beginnings of blackberries on the bramble bushes, orange rowan berries on the mountain ash trees and purple berries on the elder trees. We also spot fungi growing up the trunk of a tree.
As if to bring us back to the current season, the sun comes out right on cue, swiftly followed by the arrival of butterflies and we enjoy watching numerous meadow browns flitting from flower to flower. Thankfully there is still a good deal of summer to go yet and the chance to enjoy the effect it has on this beautiful place.