The diary of a nature lover.

 In 2016, at the request of Winsham Web Museum, Liz Earl, undertook to keep a simple 'Nature Diary', recording some of the events and sightings she experienced over a twelve month period starting at the end of 2015. Liz has a  lovely garden and small field located at the top of the village, which is often the place where she takes striking photographs of birds, flowers and insects, which are often featured in the Winsham Calendar, and the Parish Web Site.

This proved so popular that we asked her to do the same for 2017 and hopefully for many more years to come



Very lovely, bright and frosty weather throughout most of this month with night-time temperatures falling below freezing.  Some birds such as sparrows and dunnocks are already beginning to pair off.

Winter WLong tailed Titatch on TV, headed up by Chris Packham, gave some useful snippets of information about how small birds keep warm on cold nights in winter:

Long-tailed tits huddle up in a row on a branch (the weakest probably gets stuck on the end!)

Wrens snuggle together in, for example, aMagpiend empty house martin’s nest.

Blue-tits stay alone and shiver to keep warm.

Apparently, the tiny Goldcrest can lose up to 20% of its body weight in one night.

January 27th....

...already the magpies have paired up and are titivating their last year’s nest in the oak tree and adding more twigs to it.


February 14th

This is the day when, by tradition, the birds begin their courtship rituals.  Some have already started – magpies, blackbirds, robins, the various tits and the greater spotted woodpecker, but others may be put off as this Valentine’s day is dull, damp, murky and cold!

A few primroses are out but most are in tight bud.  They are much later than last year.  Why?  Is it this year’s colder weather or something that occurred last year?

One of our youOak Appleng oak trees planted about 5 years ago has loads of oak apples on it.

 These are brown, round and hard, about 2 cm in diameter with a tell-tale small hole in the bottom through which the parasitic oak apple gall wasp (biorhiza pallida) escapes.  The wasp larvae burrow into the leaf buds and live and feed there until July.  The tree reacts by producing a sort of hard callous called a gall.

February 24th....Last year was definitely the year of the primrose and this year is the turn of the snowdrop.  The banks along Whatley Lane, parts of Fosse Way and Crewkerne Hill are alight with them. 



March 11th...

I noticed a song thrush in our garden.  So?? I hear you ask?  Well, song thrushes are rare in our garden at the top of High Street as also are house sparrows and starlings – once the commonest birds.  Now all these birds are on red alert, sparrows having declined between 50% and 60% in the last 20 years and thrushes and starlings by even more.  Interestingly, I notice that they are much more numerous towards the bottom of Fore Street.  Perhaps there are better nesting places there.

The blackbirds have started to pour out their lovely melodious song at dusk.  I was serenaded all the way up Fore Street this evening.

The snowdrops are Purple Violetsbeginning to fade showing their fat, green seedcases.

There are purple violets on the banks of Colham Lane and some along Ebben Lane and white ones along Leigh Lane.


Dog’s Mercury is abundant.  Apparently it has this name because of its resemblance to Chenopodium bonus-henricus (Good King Henry), also known simply as Mercury and is an edible herb. ‘Dog’ in Dog’s Mercury means bad, (dog owners please don’t take this personally!) but beware – it is highly poisonous!







March 19th....

An interesting article in the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) magazine, by Tim Birkhead which I will share with you. It appeared in the Spring 2017 issue. Read on!

There are huge variations in the mating habits and hence the sexual organ size of different species of birds.

For example, guillemots are Dunnockmonogamous and so are bullfinches whereas female dunnocks are extremely promiscuous and copulate readily with many different males.  As a result the males have to compete fiercely with each other and have extremely large testes making up 3.4% of their body mass whereas male bullfinches have tiny testes making up only 0.37% of body mass.  The sperm of the dunnock is smooth and streamlined (think of an E-type jag) whereas the sperm of bullfinches is more like a Morris Minor!

March 26th...

Wayford Woods are full of spring flowers.  One of these is Lysichitum americanum, a very invasive, non-native relative of the more delicate Arum Maculatum or Lords and Ladies.  This plant has lots of other common names:  cuckoo pint, jack in the pulpit, cows and bulls, and naked girls to name but a few.  These gender-related names refer to the plant’s likeness to male and female genitalia simulating copulation. They attract small insects with their rather unpleasant (to us) smell and the insects are trapped in the lower section where they feed on the nectar and in return pollinate the flower.  They are then released.



April 29th...

This must be one of the coldest, driest Aprils on record.

The wild cherry blossom looks magnificent.

The blackthorn blossom is still out – much later this year than last.

The hawthorn blossom is just beginning to show

The bluebells are wonderful and also the cow parsley and wild garlic (ramsons).  There is a wonderful wood full of ramsons between Broadwindsor and Beaminster and another near Knowle St Giles.  There are a few in Geoff Peacock’s wood but I haven’t seen many others around Winsham.

Our field is full of dandelion clocks



June 14th...

There are slow worms on top of our compost heap keeping  warm and safe under an old carpet.  Unlike snakes they give birth to live young.

There are lots of young birds on the feeders.  They are much less brightly coloured than their parents until they grow their adult plumage so they are less likely, perhaps, to be caught by predators.


June 21st...


The longest day of the year and the hottest day since 1976!  We have had a week of scorching temperatures.

This grass snake was lying under a piece of discarded PVC sheeting along with some slow worms.  It pays to be untidy in the garden!


There are damsel flies on the wing, a flash of iridescent, electric blue on the water.  They have such short lives as adults, like many insects


Churchyard Meadow

Praise should go to Richard Rose for establishing and tending a wild flower area in St Stephens churchyard. At least one orchid appeared this year and he successfully got Yellow Rattle to germinate.  This is a very useful semi-parasitic meadow flower which suppresses the growth of coarse grasses and allows more slender plants to thrive. 

The council should be praised for not cutting the roadside verges before the wild flowers have had a chance to seed.  Of course, this may have more to do with shortage of money than good environmental credentials!

July 29th...

This was the day we opened our garden for Somerset Wildlife Trust, having invited Mark Fletcher, a moth expert from Yeovil, to set up a moth trap the night before.  He had been twice before in May and June to do trial runs and had caught some stunning moths.  However, typically, after 2 weeks of unbroken sunshine, the weather broke yesterday and became cool, damp and very windy, and, guess what?  Moths don’t like flying about in wind!  Undaunted, we put the traps in sheltered places and in the end he managed to capture some beauties.  Here are a few from June and July:

Tiger Moth

Martin and Fiona kindly agreed to open their woodland to our visitors and it was fascinating.  They have a wonderful collection of trees and a very large pond.  Also there are quirky surprises around every corner.

Tree Man
Bracket Fungus


August 8th

When the sun is out we have seen quite a few butterflies, many more than earlier in the summer.  Carl recorded the following for the Butterfly Conservation Society count:

Peacock, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Brimstone, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Comma, Painted Lady, Small White, Holly Blue.

It is worth remembering that as well as providing food plants for the butterflies (Buddleia comes to mind!) we also need to provide food plants for their caterpillars.  Many of the varieties we see around here feed on nettles – Red Admiral , Peacock (pictured) and Comma for example.  Others, such as Speckled Wood, Ringlet and Meadow Brown need grasses, and as we all know if we are trying to grow cabbages or broccoli, the caterpillars of the Large White butterfly love brassicas. 

So leave the odd stinging nettle in your garden!



October 1st...

August and September were cold and unsettled

Everyone agrees it has been a bumper year for fruit, both domestic such as apples and pears, and wild like chestnuts, acorns, hazelnuts, rowan and hawthorn berries.


Tail End!
As the days became shorter, and the garden prepares for autumn and winter,
I took to reading two wonderful books by Dave Goulson. The first -'A Buzz in the Meadow' contains a lovely poem -'The Insects' World' by Ethel Jacobson. The second book-'A Sting in the Tail' is all about bees.

Click HERE to return to Fossil Index