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Nature is full of drama

What a week of drama! So much wildlife has been seen and there have been stories worthy of a TV soap opera! And oh yes, there was that general election thing as well. I’ve written about that too.

In terms of the caterpillars, they are all still alive and munching their way through large quantities of leaves. I did get quite worried about the Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars at one point as they were not moving much, or eating much. And then I found what looked like half a caterpillar! But I still had three … turns out it was the skin of one! Evidently they outgrow them and shed them. It wasn’t long before the other two went through this as well. Just after they shed it, their hairdos look particularly fresh! They are called Fluffy 1, 2 and 3, whilst the green caterpillar has been nicknamed Jade (as suggested by Jennifer Hunt).

At Lorton, we have had a couple of school groups in looking for minibeasts – pond dipping, using sweep nets in the meadow and searching under logs in the wood. An interesting beetle, caught by a little girl, caught my eye and I took it back to the centre. My line manager identified it as one of the soldier beetles, and with a bit of further investigation I do believe it is Cantharis fusca which is Nationally Scarce species. [ID was confirmed by NHM Coleoptera, I said previously that it was a Red Data Book species, but it was downgraded in 2013]. In the woods, one group found a caterpillar, so I promptly potted it up (with some leaves of course). This one is called Fusspot as he/she seems quite fussy about food.

We had a bit of a work jolly on Thursday. As part of being a volunteer at the Chesil / Lorton centres, training is provided. In this case, training took the form of a trip over to Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve where we had a lovely wander in the sunshine (surprisingly pleasant weather considering the wind we’d had the rest of the week!). We found yet another caterpillar – now potted up and named (Arnold – suggested by Chris Calow), as well as plenty of flowers and even my first Wall butterfly of the year!

After our wander, we were given a guided walk by one of the rangers, during which we saw some more fantastic wildlife!

Back at Lorton for the weekend, and I was anxious during Sunday morning – the eggs had been unattended all morning, with just the quickest visit from the male Kestrel. Later on, he sat on them for a good long time, though as I type at 8pm, he is absent again from the webcam. My fears were confirmed when someone found some wings and feathers in the meadow near where their box is … Kestrel wings, and according to Sean Foote, they look to belong to a female!

To cheer myself up after this tragedy, I spent an hour or so sitting by the pond after work (busman’s holiday!) looking at the insects and listening to the birds. As you can see, it is a lovely spot to relax at. I watched a damselfly nymph crawl across a lilypad, attempt to climb a vertical leaf a couple of times, before it fell into the water. I saw a bright red beetle lurking in the shade of a post, and a spider waiting for its next prey item to appear. A fellow naturalist appeared and we discussed wildlife, before he spotted a damselfly on a nearby bush – my first of the year! Just after, I spotted a dragonfly exhuvia attached to a plant near the pond – a different shape to the one I found last week, thus a different species presumably!

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We Knew We Had Been There Before

Part of me feels I should start splitting my blog posts into four sections – Chesil Beach, Lorton Meadows, the garden and adventures out and about. Thoughts on that idea welcome, but for now, let’s get on with looking at wildlife!

Wait hang on, wildlife is suffering for oh so many reasons, and I want to highlight one of them briefly – litter. Isn’t it just awful?! Cans with the last remnants of fizzy drinks, dirty plastic bottles, torn and mangled plastic bags hanging from trees or caught up in grass. You’re probably nodding as you read this, we all see litter all the time. But how often do you actually do something about it? If you’re my dad (unlikely as I don’t think he reads this blog often), that’s quite often. Rarely a dog walk goes by when he doesn’t pick up some litter and put it in the bin. The rest of you though? Have an honest think for a moment … how often do you walk past litter? Or watch someone drop litter and say nothing? Or (hopefully not!) drop litter yourself because (a) it’s just a little bit, so it doesn’t matter, (b) there are no bins around and no way are you putting it in your pocket / bag, or (b) you’re in car so it’s fine to chuck it out the window? And that’s just litter … don’t get me started about dog mess!

Why am I going on about litter? Well, first it is one of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions to pick up more litter which I have been trying to do, and second I took a photo of one of my quick litter picks on Monday to put onto Twitter under the hashtag of #2minutebeachclean. It’s a wonderful idea, literally just spend two minutes picking up litter whilst you’re at the beach (obviously don’t add any litter to the beach during your visit!). Imagine if all the visitors did that … *dreams happily of litter-free beaches*.

Why bother though? Well! As previously mentioned, litter is awful for wildlife. It gets eaten and kills a variety of animals – including beautiful albatrosses and turtles. Even degraded plastic is not safe – it turns into microplastics and ends up in the food chain (and likely in your seafood)! Plus, litter is an eyesore, and by picking it up, perhaps you’ll inspire others to pick up litter too and soon your local area will be litter-free! Hooray!

So next time you’re out and about, do pick up some litter!

Ok, now back to wildlife. Whilst litter picking, I could see some Terns about on the Fleet. I’m still not 100% sure I have seen a Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), so won’t tick that species off for 2015 just yet. However, there were plenty of Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvicensis) diving for food. I also managed to take a rather blurry photo of Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator). Another aim for my time here – get some better photos of that species?

I also spent time over at Lorton Meadows as expected, trying to learn a bit more about the reserve – both its history and wildlife. There’s a wonderful variety of wildflowers and insects (as well as birds of course – oh, if you don’t know of the Kestrel Webcam, go watch! I warn you though, it’s quite addictive!), and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all changes across the seasons. Fingers crossed, I’ll be allowed to do some moth trapping there as well!

I won’t keep you much longer, I just want to show off a couple of the moths that I caught in the garden this week – before it started raining at the end of the week. My catches included a particular beauty called the Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria) whose wing patterning is beautiful I think. I tweeted about this species early in the week, and it seems that others agree with my thoughts, which is marvellous (though not unexpected).

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Wildlife despite office days

Aye, I know, it’s a Monday and I’m posting now instead of a Sunday. But I’d worked all day on the Sunday at a food fair (more later), having camped overnight (therefore an early wake-up) and finishing with a 3-ish hour long drive back to Dorset. Thus I got home and collapsed.

In all honesty, my last week hasn’t been as jam-packed as most of my traineeship has been so far. I begun the week helping the Lorton Conservation Officer with a school group on a river in Dorchester, specifically I was helping with the kick sampling part to find the invertebrates living in the river. We found a nice variety, including a few different types of mayfly nymphs – squat, burrowing, swimming and I think flattened as well! Unfortunately no photos as I was too busy in the river!

The rest of the week was pretty much all in the office. A lot of the work I do means sitting at a computer for a long time, or on the phone! I escaped to Portland one evening and went for a walk on Broadcroft Quarry. There were a few different species of butterflies about – Marbled White, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and a few blues. I also saw some bunnies (musn’t say the R-word on Portland!), and managed to get a decent photo of a Whitethroat (bird)!

Another trip to Surrey saw me being roped into helping my partner’s relatives at a food fair. It was being held at Priory Farm and had a range of local producers. We were selling Yum Cha iced tea, and it was actually very enjoyable. Being in community engagement anyway, I do enjoy interacting with people. Plus I love the iced tea (sour plum flavour is lush – drinking it as I write this post!) so it was quite easy to be enthusiastic about it.

NB: Don’t you just love my scarf here? It was a gift – probably one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

And that’s my week! Like I said, not overly busy wildlife-wise but I got lots done in the office so its swings and roundabouts. Oh, before I forget, I did get featured in the local newspaper, Dorset Echo, for the bird ringing that I helped with a couple of weeks ago. A bit of promotion from last time I was in there – this time I got a photo AND a quote!


With a GBB Gull chick

With a GBB Gull chick

I’ll take this opportunity to bring your attention to my favourite wildlife app – iRecord Ladybirds. It’s part of the UK Ladybird Survey, run by Dr Helen Roy of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. I particularly like this app as you can compare your photo of the ladybird to images on the app, and compare them side by side, which is so useful! As part of the record, you fill in all the usual details – location (can be done by GPS), habitat (options available), number seen, etc.

Ladybird in Wareham

Ladybird in Wareham

Best of all – it’s FREE! I may have graduated but I’m still in student mode and enjoy free things! It’s available on both Apple and Android systems. It’s so easy to do, so I thoroughly recommend it!

I’m also investigating other wildlife apps, so do comment if you do / don’t want me to discuss them on my blog!