Some natural happenings are still seasonable at the traditional times, such as the shedding of antler velvet by roe bucks (Capreolus capreolus). The beginning of May is the time when the antlers harden and the winter warm covering of fur dries. The buck usually rubs it off by rubbing the antlers on small trees but sometimes it just falls off. Here on a heathland path a large piece lays where it fell.
Tadpoles of the common frog(Rana temporaria)huddle together in a small pond to catch warmth from the sun; but this is very dangerous for them as many birds and mammals will easily take them.This is very natural as the whole reason as to why so many spawn is produced is to ensure that just a few will survive to breed in a few years time.
Fortunately many Dartford warblers(Sylvia undata)have survived the harsh long winter and have started to breed.During the cold winters of the nineteen sixties, the numbers in England dropped to just a few pairs. Here a fine male sings atop the flowering gorse on Bournemouth cliff top.
The mating season for many spider species is now, and the woodlice spider(Dysdera crocata )emerges from its ivy clad walls and tree trunks to seek a mate. The large jaws of this species enable it to tackle beetles and woodlice, two of its preferred prey species.
I prefer to call it summertime, as spring has almost come and gone, catching up with the place it should be, although many animals and plants have lost their short time period to do what they should have done.The breeding cycles of many will be quashed for this year;whether or not it will have an overall bad effect on the long term success of many species remains to be seen. During this last week sand lizards(Lacerta agilis) are out basking and have shed their winter skins, as have most snakes. The male lizards are already claiming their territories and it will take several weeks to slowly turn into their breeding colours.
The wall lizards peep from their wall holes, they of course do not hibernate, but just become less active during winter and so are a head start above other species.
This is a mature female( Lacerta muralis). The long wet winter seems to have effected the numbers of these and possible green lizards(Lacerta viridis) but one will have to see how many emerge in the next week or so.
An old female slow worm (Anguilla fragilis) basks under a piece of roofing felt.
There are a few species of Ganoderma bracket fungi in the UK, and locally there may be most of them present, but this one is far less common than two or three other species. It is ganoderma (pfiefferi) and it was found on an old beech tree near Dorchester. It is very old and yearly the fruiting body adds a layer, so in time it becomes a huge deep wedge.The fungi weakened the tree’s support system making it vulnerable to winds and so it fell whilst still alive. This is a very natural process and in the larger scheme of things is needed to naturally create clearings within the vast seas of woodland that once supported the land, but unfortunately with far less trees about, especially beech, their habits are far less welcome by people. Most fungi are vital to the eco system and without them other species suffer.
This is the whole tree showing the rotten inner parts.
Marc Eldridge (friend and tree consultant ) pokes about and does a full inspection.
Dartford warblers(Sylvia undata) have suffered losses this past winter but not as many as I first thought as one can hear the males singing from most large areas of heathland including the Bournemouth clifftops by the sea.These warblers are insectivorous .The common gorse is now in full flower.
Yes I know, everybody is fed up with this cold weather all the time, well it is still spring time and what warrants the seasonal changes is not warm weather but longer daylight times and the growing of plants, re awakening of hibernating animals, movements of animals etc.Temperature changes is also important, but not as important as people would like to think. Humans are selfish but animals and plants have needs, and struggle to survive.The yearly weather patterns are not just for us but mainly for them. Unfortunately we as humans have chosen to depart from nature,yet we still moan within are warm homes. Spare a thought for this little otter cub, unable to cope with the cold and so perished, along with many other wild animals in the UK this springtime.The cold weather could be a yearly feature, as we may be entering into an ice age. Global warming may have always been a prelude to global cooling, or could have been simply a product of our pollution, and may have been holding back the inevitable. As A child I was taught about the impending cooling period and so I am not to be brainwashed by the global warming fraternity.I do have an open mind to it all, but some things are inevitable, that is changes in weather patterns and trade winds, gulf stream and so on. I think two different factors are battling along side each other, causing the extreme weather conditions worldwide .I am sure that our sun, and the earths movement on its axis are all involved. Nature will cope and always has done.There may be extinctions, and upheavals, but it has always been that way.
Many wildfowl would normally have migrated north, but are still hanging around such as the large flocks of ducks,geese and swans. Many leave, regardless of temperatures as this does not effect them generally. The region in which they spend summer time may be free from the cold weather in which we are having at the moment. The insectivorous birds are having a tough time at the moment and any migrants from the south will perish if they cannot find enough food to sustain them. Some fly back south part of the way before returning on warmer winds. Fortunately not all of the UK is under a sheet of snow and ice. As I write this, a bumble bee has just whizzed passed the window but there is little in the way of food for it. A sallow in my garden is not quite in flower , and the forsythia is in flower.
This teal may not be a migrant but a resident as most of them are.
The temperature on heathland yesterday was fourteen degrees out of the wind, and reptiles were out basking.
Yes it is good to know that warmer days are on the way.I used to love the winter time but now as I suffer from several ailments I do not like the cold. It is great therefore to see the wild daffodils blooming in the New forest.
The smell of the flowers of the Witch hazel are amazing. The tree has just finished flowering, and next will be the goat willow, or sallow with its pussy willow flowers.
There is so much water about ,especially within flood plains of rivers and streams.Many wildlife have been misplaced and burrowing animals either drown, or have to find new homes. The river Avon has burst its banks for months now and the flood plain will create new small permanent ponds where wild life will flourish. The range of territorial animals will change, like all things.walking along the present edge of water one finds otter scats and also the remains of a cat killed roe deer such as this below, the remains of a femur. The rest of the skeleton lay nearby out of the water. A large cat has recently been hunting here and deer bones are a regular find for myself and other people.
Nearby were the remains of a frog that had been skinned but not eaten possibly by a polecat or raven.
Surprisingly, there were thousands of whirligig beetles on one of the flooded streams.
Once, it was thought that the migrating geese that arrived in the UK from the distant oceans, metamorphosing from strange creatures called goose barnacles. People actually believed that ! Goose barnacles are crustaceans that anchor themselves via a tube to floating debris. They live in colonies and float about for years on the open seas.The common goose barnacle (Lepas anatifera) can be found washed up on beaches after strong winds. Here are a few I found at Hengestbury head, Bournemouth.
sometimes the tubes can be bright blue in colour, but usually a dark black brown like liquorice.
whilst on the heath at Arne, I came across an old duck egg that had been predated on by an animal, possibly corvids, as these are the usual culprits but also foxes, martins and polecats ,hedgehogs and badgers eat them. The upturned shell was a tiny world within. It lay under a rotting birch and there are droppings of a moth larvae at the bottom that have fallen from the tree , a coiled slug dropping, mosquito larvae and three springtails on the surface water. springtails are an ancient group of insect like creatures and possess a spring that enables them to leap great distances like fleas. They are called collembola and there are about three hundred or so species within the UK. The species here resembles Dicyrtomina sp. They are very interesting creatures and vary immensely . Many species live on the surface of water or in soil especially if damp.
I have noticed a lot of Autumn fruiting fungi still around, including this species (Leotia lubrica or Jelly baby. The name is quite apt as I counted a dozen little groups of between three and eight fruits and they looked like little people all stood up in the leaf litter.
This species is said to be inedible, but looks tasty. I eat loads of wild fungi but this species I have not eaten yet. The species below is (Lepista nuda) or wood blewit. I love to eat it and it has a wonderful violet colour and a fruity smell. They appear late and continue up until Christmas.
They can be quite hard to see as they are low to the ground and are camouflaged against the leaf litter.
Amphibians ,like reptiles usually hibernate just on the onset of winter time.Unlike reptiles, amphibians living in temperate climates do not need warmth in the same way and can tolerate cold temperatures.Both common frogs and common toads as well as Natterjacks can move around in cold air and water.Common frogs often hibernate at the bottom of muddy ponds or under logs, but need to keep damp.Toads do not need to keep damp, but being slightly moist much of the time is good for them . They hibernate late and can still be seen hunting at night well into December, or on any mild evening if the weather has been mild for a few days, suggesting that common toads do not truly hibernate in the same way that reptiles do.They hibernate on land under stones, logs or under buildings or animal burrows. This one was in the new forest under a rotting log half buried in the wet soil.
Small newts such as this smooth newt need to come out of the water as soon as they metamorphose from a tadpole. They are very vulnerable at this small size to predation from ground beetles and centipedes, but generally they keep still and avoid interest.
As the leaves from the trees fall, along with some of them are more galls such as this cherry gall on oak. The wasp(Cynips quercusfolii) adult hatches in winter, and are all females.They reproduce parthenogenetically, without fertilization.They have other forms of galls on different parts of the oak, just like most other gall wasps.
This pair have been pecked into by great tits.
Birds such as tits learn where to find food either by trial and error, or by copying their parents or by watching other birds. In these cherry galls are just one wasp larvae per gall. Other types of gall can have several larvae within them.
Many beetle and bug species will be gathering in areas to hibernate the winter away.Ladybirds often cluster together and hide in thick gorse in sheltered areas. Some ladybirds overwinter on the outside of houses such as the recent invader, harlequin ladybird.
This specimen is the cream striped ladybird(Harmonia 4-punctata) a recent newcomer to Britain about thirty years ago. It is not common but spreading and is associated with pine trees and its aphids. I found it at Hatch pond in Poole.
The very large variegated oak aphid (Lachnus roborus) is one of the largest of aphids and can be similar to the giant oak aphid, but smaller and darker. It lays eggs that overwinter. Here are some adults with many eggs. There is also hover fly larvae eating them.