Friday, 8 November 2013

Volunteering With Butterfly Conservation and Our Nuthatches Are Back

It's been POURING here this morning, so you can guess where I've been...

Yup, that's right- out on Magdalen Down clearing scrub for the butterflies, moths, birds and other Wild Things who make this fantastic stretch of Chalk Downland their home.

My friend Dave, who is on my course, was there too, wielding loppers and a saw, as well as three other volunteers and Abby who is second in command, and finally Jayne, who is Reserves Officer and arrived with The  Most Enormous box of cakes you've ever seen.

By the time I arrived they already had a bonfire going, and we fed it for the next two hours with branches and twigs and brambles which we had cut down and collected, until it was white hot, roaring, and baptising us with hundreds of flecks of drifting ash (I pretended I was in Pompeii, which was a Bit Frightening to be honest).

It was Great Fun, even with the rain. We all stopped for tea and cake and a bit of a natter in the shelter of the trees while the rain poured down. Jayne showed me a map of the site and highlighted some of the management considerations she has to think about when running the reserve (the cost of fencing alone is staggering).

It gave me a really good insight into what it is like to look after a reserve, how much work is involved, how every tree and shrub and flower is meticulously planned and has to earn its place with conservation in mind. You don't necessarily consider these things when you're out enjoying a walk in the country so it was good to see it from the other side, so to speak.

It also made me realise how much difference volunteers and volunteering make to places like this, so I would DEFINITELY say, if you have a couple of hours spare, really think about volunteering with a local organisation - you can guarantee they'll be able to put you to good use and you'll meet plenty of nice, like-minded, cheerful souls and enjoy a morning or afternoon being active out in the country (does it get much better than that?)  It felt really good to be doing some active and purposeful to help wildlife.

Here are some shots of the morning...

This photo was taken from Magdalen and the hill fort you can see in the distance is St Catherines. The motorway snaking past it on the left is the Twyford Down cutting which caused such a furore twenty years ago when it was created. They cut out a third of the neighbouring hill (which contained ancient trackways into the city of Winchester, amongst other things) to make way for it and it is still a scar on the landscape today, although the original road layout was a death trap..

We were working at the foot of the hill where you can see the bonfire smoke

Our Lovely Bonfire
Dave chucking branches on the fire

An action shot of me in the rain, just to prove I was there!
Magdalen Hill Nature Reserve
When I got home I discovered our two nuthatches have returned. They never did bring their kids to the garden to see me but I will forgive them that as they are such beautiful birds and I have missed them.

The Herald Moth who appeared in our bedroom recently looks very much like he is hibernating as suspected. He certainly hasn't moved off his spot on the wall above where I sleep since yesterday. Finger's crossed.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend,

CT :-)

PS- If you'd like to see the Northern Lights in action, have a look at Dave's blog (here) and click on the photo to go to a video of it. Fantastic! 


  1. Lovely blog, glad I found it and admire you for your voluntary work. Thanks for calling by at my blog. We have nuthatches too, I am fond of mine. I envy you living near the sea. Great bonfire!

    1. Hi Cait,
      Thanks for the comment, glad you like the blog. I did click the follower button on your wonderful blog but for some reason I've not come up as me but as a blank person! Oh well :-)

  2. I hope you have dried out!
    Good to see the nuthatches, hope ours will return too. Although I did disturb two young pheasants when I was outside just now..

  3. HI CT Great that you are out volunteering and doing a good work in the countryside. I love the second shot of the Nuthatch best but they are all good.

    1. I really enjoyed it so will be going again. Garden birds are all starting to show up again now the weather is changing.

  4. Sorry to hear it was raining again :( but sounds like a very interesting worthwhile morning :) Good to see the nuthatches too - great garden visitor :)

    1. Got soaked this morning on sheep duty too! The nuthatches have been back again this morning, both of them at the same time, which was lovely. Hope all is well? CT :-)

  5. I imagine you felt you'd earned that cake! But it's such good work to do. I used to do lots of voluntary work like this and loved it - I just loved being outdoors, working with other volunteers and discovering new countryside.
    It's wonderful to see the Nuthatches and you've taken some lovely pics. I've never seen any on my feeders and would love to.

    1. That is how I justified it, yes!

      It did give me a really good feeling, doing some useful and practical with a group of like-minded people. Keeping fingers crossed you get some nuthatches soon.

  6. I love the smell of a natural bonfire, glad to see you hard at work! Brilliant Nuthatches, love them and always know when they are about as they have such a distinctive call

    1. Me too- there's nothing quite like a bonfire to cheer you up, especially on a miserable day!

      Our nuthatches are quite quiet people, I only heard them for the first time earlier this summer when they had children, otherwise they just arrive, eat and go off again :-)

  7. I love coming home smelling of a bonfire after a volling day! Not sure my mum does so much haha!! It certainly makes one feel like they have achieved something and had a positive impact, even if it is only on a small scale.

    I am super envious of your nuthatches!! Wonderful photos of them too :)


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x