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On Thursday mornings, a group of volunteers join the staff at Campfield RSPB reserve to undertake various necessary tasks. On the last Thursday in August, we assembled at Rogersceugh, the old farmhouse on the drumlin, a seventy feet high lump of boulder clay dumped at the end of the last ice age in the centre of Bowness Common. It’s one of the few remaining lowland peat bogs in England and still in good condition. We usually know in advance what the work will be but nature can give us some surprises while we work. This time, the job was removing saplings of downy birch from the bog before they develop and start to draw off water and risk the bog drying more than it should. Nature started to show its hand almost before we had moved; a barn owl was spotted quartering a field just below us and obligingly landed on a fencepost, where we had excellent views of it. We were informed a pair had nested this year and raised three chicks which fledged successfully. As we walked off the drumlin we saw it again and also heard the characteristic squeal of a water rail in some nearby reeds. On the bog the heather was in full flower and being visited by various bees and hoverflies but we also found some quite large patches of bog rosemary, a beautiful little plant which despite its name and the appearance of its leaves, is not related to rosemary. I was once told it is a good indicator of the health of bogs and can remember some excitement when, a good few years ago the first couple of plants were found. Also, we found plenty of cranberry plants which were carrying a good crop of ripe berries.

At lunchtime, as we returned to Rogersceugh to have a picnic lunch, a chiffchaff was heard singing from some trees behind the lily pond. Its song sounded a bit weak, so I wondered if it was a chick of the year getting in some practise ready for when it returns to breed next spring. As we sat having our lunch, numerous swallows were zooming around us, and a flock of goldfinches chattered noisily from a nearby hedge. A flock of linnets descended into a nearby arable field that has been planted to provide winter bird food. Then a raven was heard calling as it flew past us towards the bog only to return a few minutes later, still calling. Then just before we

left, a peregrine falcon showed up and circled the area for several minutes before flying away to the east.

After we finished work, Marjorie and I walked along the new boardwalk on Glasson Moss which abuts on to Bowness Common. There was much less heather here but an abundance of the insect eating plant, sundew; there must have been literally thousands of them. There were also good numbers of dragonflies, especially black and common darters.

As we left Campfield after a visit two weeks earlier, we had spotted an osprey on the shore; it was just after high tide and it was eating a flat fish, probably a flounder. Since then, we have heard several reports of an osprey and sometimes two, at or near the same spot. Green sandpipers, not the commonest of visitors to the reserve, were also seen several times over a period of three days.

The voluntary work and company are enjoyable and interesting in their own right, but there is also a lot more of interest in what is happening and appearing around us. As well as the work parties on Thursday mornings, some volunteers also carry out surveys, or staff the reserve centre at weekends. If you fancy trying your hand at any of this please get in touch, either with Marjorie or me or with the staff at the reserve.

The RSPB West Cumbria Group are holding a Coffee Morning on Saturday 10th November, in the United Reformed Church, Main Street, Cockermouth from 10.00am to 12.00 noon. There will be stalls with books, cakes and RSPB goods, as well as RSPB pin badges, including new ones and information about birds.

The RSPB West Cumbria Group’s next indoor meeting will be in URC, Main Street, Cockermouth on Tuesday, 6th November, when Lucy Dunn will give an illustrated talk on her trip to Peru and biological research and recording in the Amazon. Everyone welcome.

More details from or from Group Leader Dave Smith on 01900 85347, or Marjorie and Neil on 01900 825231.

ISSUE 430 | 18 OCTOBER 2018 | 56 Neil Hutchin FROM MY PERCH


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