We held the first weekend work party of the winter last Sunday, with a group of 11 joining in. Our task was to continue towards the completion of the thinning out of the woodland on the western side of the stream. John felled a few small trees and the rest of the volunteers cleared two clumps of birch saplings near to the middle bridge. The Exmoors decided to help early on and nibbled some of the newly cut birch branches, as you can see from the picture at the bottom! Unfortunately, they didn’t take to the flavour of the birch leaves and soon walked away.
A common sound over the heath at the moment is the call of buzzards as they circle overhead. Families of long tailed tits are darting between trees and making their repeated slurring ‘tsirrup' call. On the ground there is plenty of evidence of minotaur beetles starting to construct their maze-like tunnels ready for their larvae. You can see rabbit-poo size holes appearing near to paths and also in the vicinity of pony dung. The minotaur beetle is named after the mythological monster because of the shape of its tunnels, but is in fact a dung beetle, slightly smaller than a stag beetle and without its ‘antlers'. At this time of year you may also see the odd dead beetle, where I suspect a bird has tried to eat it and leaves most of it behind when it decides it doesn’t like the taste.
Winter work parties will take place on the second Sunday mornings of each month from 9.30 to 12.30. If you'd like to join us, bring suitable tough clothes and a snack for the break. We will provide tools and protective equipment. The next work party is on November 11th. Hope to see you then!