Saturday, 23 April 2016

Bats in the bird hide

Apologies for the tardiness of posts - it's been a hectic few weekends!

Last weekend was my brother's fiance's hen do in Bracklesham Bay, West Sussex - you might think 'what has this got to do with wildlife/the environment'? Don't worry, I ensured I was able to get out and explore the surroundings, including the wonderful West Wittering beach in glorious sunshine. It's less than 2 hours from Salisbury, and yet it felt like foreign climes.

It's one of the few sandy beaches in the vicinity, and backed up by lagoons, sand dunes and salt marsh, making it a wonderful mosaic of habitats for birds and invertebrates in particular. On our walk along narrow bands of coastal woodland and grassland, bluebells, stitchwort and lesser celandine accompanied us, to a background of skylarks. Oystercatchers foraged in the mud among pretty fishing boats. Idyllic.

And then, during the week for work, I was lucky enough to have meetings in Wareham and Wool in Dorset. The first involved a short stroll in Wareham Forest - here, the Forestry Commission tried desperately to establish conifer plantations on the poor soil, having cleared the area of heathland. The stunted 90 year-old trees are still evident today, where they haven't been cleared to re-establish the heathland that is. Part of the Dorset Heaths Special Protection area, and including Morden Bog National Nature reserve, it is part of a wider mosaic of internationally important habitats for birds, plants and invertebrates.

And the following day, again in sunshine (unbelievable!) I had a brief visit to an experimental nuclear power station built in the 50s, now in the process of being decommissioned and returned to heathland. Adjacent to the site is the Dorset Wildlife Trust's Tadnoll and Winfrith reserves - again, a mixture of heathland, wet grassland and woodland, some of the fields used to be a prison! The wildlife sightings were good - starting with two pairs of displaying lapwing at very close quarters, and ending with a trip to a bird hide where we didn't see any birds at all, but did see a bat frantically scuttling out of our sight!

I'm hoping that the bluebells will be at their peak when I visit Garston Wood RSPB reserve tomorrow - nothing can match this spectacle in my mind.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Simple pleasures

Last weekend was a deferred 70th birthday celebration for my dad - we headed off to the Brecon Beacons, to enjoy the amazing scenery and fabulous weather.

Lots of ravens, skylarks, pipits (uncertain whether rock or meadow - probably rock), and a possible peregrine in the distance. On the plant front, lots of primroses and wood anemones (no bluebells - Wales appears to be a bit behind us here in England) - life's simple pleasures appreciated for free whilst doing your body some good!

And then yesterday, whilst out on Martin Down for a quick yomp in the strong winds, I marvelled at a large group of ravens, merrily kronking away as they repeatedly climbed, glided then tumbled in the sky. Enjoyment or just breeding behaviour? Do ravens get joy from life's simple pleasures too?

I had hoped to see the pasque flower (only the one and very out of place from its usual northern haunts!) but perhaps I am too early - I contented myself with the clusters of hairy violets in flower. These are one of the main food plants of the marsh fritillary butterfly, a nationally-declining species. They also go remarkably well with the dense yellow clusters of gorse flowers - yellow and purple being opposite on the colour wheel - how does nature know this?!