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About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

25 September, 2016

Ichneumon suspiciosus: an ichneumon fly

Although there are several similar species Ichneumon suspiciosus is one of the most common so applying my rule that I am statistically more likely to see a common species than a rare one I am going for suspiciosus. It has the half brown/half black abdomen, the orange legs and the yellow triangle just behind the head all of which tie in, I believe.
Ichneumons are parasitic insects and lay their eggs in the body of the larva of another creatures, moth caterpillars are the host of many including this species; the female ichneumons have a long sharp ovipositor for this very purpose. They are related to bees and wasps and that long ovipositor could be mistaken for a sting but, in general, they are harmless to humans although they can look pretty fierce!
Ichneumon suspiciosus: is very common on umbel flowers, especially hogweed, in summer and, unusually perhaps, the adult overwinters by hibernating just like queen bees and wasps

Ichneumon suspiciosus: an ichneumon fly

24 September, 2016

Leccinum cyaneobasileucum: the blue bolete

With names like Leccinum cyaneobasileucum it is little wonder that casual naturalists like me struggled to even pronounce the names of some fungi let alone remember them from one year to the next. In recent times the mycological movement have started giving "common" names to most species but this is one that seems to have been missed! This species does have a distinctive light blue colouring and that accounts for the cyan in cyaneobasileucum and as it is a member of the boletes group I am going to name this he blue bolete. 
Despite not being allocated a common name in my new field guide in the same way many others have this is a widespread and fairly common species of dry heath where birch is present. Indeed, the only specimen I have come across was in exactly that habitat at Arne. 
I have no idea whether it is edible so if you try it and survive with no ill effects please let me know!
Leccinum cyaneobasileucum: the blue bolete

23 September, 2016

Greater Celandine: the topic of cancer

Our common English names for plants and animals can be fraught with problems and cause confusion. I am sure we all know a celandine when we see one don't we? Or do we?
The lesser celandine is a common bright yellow flower of the spring; it has five petals and is a member of the buttercup family and one might expect the greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) to be similar but bigger. In reality it is totally different; pale yellow, four petals, flowers in summer and is a member of the poppy family! It is bigger than the lesser celandine, much, much taller. The lesser celandine is found in woodlands and places where the grass in thin whilst the greater is found on hedgerow banks, usually near housing. So, the same name but totally different flowers. 
Being a member of the poppy family the greater celandine is interesting medically. It is a poisonous plant but extracts from it have been used in herbal medicines for treating many conditions fr centuries. However, recent developments have shown that it may have the capacity to arrest the growth of cancer cells and tests are ongoing on this.
Greater Celandine: the topic of cancer

22 September, 2016

Mesapamea secalis: the common rustic

This may be the common rustic (Mesapamea secalis) and it is, indeed, a widespread and common species from June right through until October but you are unlikely to see it! The reason may be obvious when you look  my photograph and see that you chances of finding it in the day time are very slim as it is so well camouflaged that it can rest on a tree trunk or in scrub and you would never know it was there. It is attracted to light so you may see it at rest on your window. 
The colouration of this species can vary considerably from pale brown through to almost black but the rusty colour seems to be the one I have most often in my moth trap. What ever the main colour of the fore-wing the wight mark and the white dots on the curved wing edge are always quite clear.
There are actually three species, the common rustic, lesser common rustic and Remm's rustic which are indistinguishable without the use of magnification and, as regular readers of my nature notes know, taking specimens and looking in that degreee of detail is something I do not do so let us just accept that this is probably what I say it is as it is the most common of the three and if it is not then we will never know. 
The larvae feed on grasses and overwinter as a pupa.
Mesapamea secalis: the common rustic

21 September, 2016

Yellow Water-lily:the brandy glass

It is not unusual to find water-lilies in ponds and more often than not they are white ones which have 'escaped' into the wild. The yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea) however is different and not just because it is yellow! It is a native species and I think I am right in saying it is our only native water-lily. Secondly, it seems to be more often seen in slow moving rivers rather than in ponds and all of my observations have been from the River Stour in Dorset. Then, the flower heads are on stalks rather than resting on the water surface; this reduces the resistance to the moving water and so protects the flower. The petals on white water-lilies tend to open out forming a star but on the yellow lily the curve upwards cupping the central stamens and style
The plant apparently has a faint smell of brandy and with the upturned petals making a cup shaped this flowers is nicknamed the brandy glass. 
Yellow Water-lily:the brandy glass