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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!

07 December, 2016

Echthrus reluctator: an ichneumon

The main reason why I write my nature notes is so that I can research a species and find out much more about it. With my collection of books together wite Google and Wikipedia I usually come up with some facts that I did not know about my subject for the day. Today the Internet has met its match! Whilst Google does return a few options for the ichneumon fly Echthrus reluctator there is no information of note anywhere about it!

So, what do I know? Well, firstly I am pretty certain that this is the ichneumon Echthrus reluctator, everything about its visual characteristics matches available images elsewhere and there are a number on the Internet. Secondly, as an ichneumon I know that it will predate another insect by laying eggs in either the adult or the larvae of its host and, thanks to my big book of insects, I know this to be wood boring beetles. It follows, therefore, that this is a woodland species. I also know it is not a common species, it being described as 'local'. Beyond that I am stuck.

That said, I do know it occurs in the woodland near Shipstal at Arne as I saw several crawling over a ragwort plant by the dragonfly ponds in mid-summer. They were a bit difficult to photograph so I apologise for the quality of the image.

Echthrus reluctator: an ichneumon

06 December, 2016

Thyme-leaved Speedwell: what is the thyme

Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia) is a tiny flower which will often be overlooked as it somewhat insignificant amongst the other plants around it. It has preference for bare ground where there is little competition but it still struggles to get noticed. The flower is very small and the petal fall very quickly if the plant is touched.

Flowering from April through until October the flowers are a very pale blue, almost white, but are, on close inspection, typical of the speedwell family with four petals, the one at the bottom being narrower and more pointed than the others. The main feature are the leaves which are oval, dark green and shiny and do, indeed, recall those of the wild thyme.

It is common on bare ground, gravel, edges of car parks and such places as well as being a garden ' weed'. It can also grow in short grass including lawns.

Thyme-leaved Speedwell: what is the thyme

05 December, 2016

Lycophotia porphyrea: the true lovers knot

A moth called the true lovers knot (Lycophotia porphyrea) is bound to raise question "how does it guess its name?". This is an attractive and intricately marked moth and the pattern on the wing is said to resemble a knot that is used to join two ropes together and that is called the true lovers knot as it binds two separate entities together for ever. It seems, however there is no specific knot attributed to this name but any one of several that are used to join two ropes can carry the name so not so romantic after all for this little moth.

Another rather attractive moth that flies at night and is rarely seen by day. They fly from June until August and although widespread and do occur in gardens they favour heathers as a nectar source and so are most commonly found on heathland and there is no shortage of that here in Dorset. The larvae feed on heather too and overwinter as a larva.

Lycophotia porphyrea: the true lovers knot

04 December, 2016

Yellow Horned-Poppy: stone me

I never ceased to be amazed by nature! The yellow horned-poppy (Glaucium flavum) grows in the shingle you find on beaches, just how amazing is it that plants can not just survive but actually thrive in what appears to be a totally inhospitable environment. It is not alone, a few other plants have made shingle beaches their home.
Being a large yellow-flowered poppy you hardly likely to mistake it for any other plant but just to be certain that the sprawling, large four-petalled flower growing on a shingle beach that you have found is, indeed, the yellow horned-poppy look for the seed capsules from flowers that have gone over. In fact you probably will not need to look for them they will be obvious at once being anything from six to twelve inches long, the largest seed capsule of any British plant. This long seed capsule is, of course, how it gets its name as a horned-poppy. Related to the common field poppy you can find this flower on the various shingle beaches in Dorset but Chesil beach is its stronghold.
This is a very poisonous plant that can cause all manner of ill effects if consumed. Some chemicals, notably glaucine, are taken from it for various modern drugs but these can sometimes be accompanied by difficult side effects.
Yellow Horned-Poppy: stone me

03 December, 2016

Meadow Barley: Sir John Barleycorn

It is easy to forget that our vital cereal crops have been developed from wild grasses. When you look at meadow barley (Hordeum secalinum) it quickly reminds you of the fact, it has the characteristics of the cultivated versions in our farm fields.
It is difficult to describe the flower of the barley and I probably do not need too as most of us will be familiar with it. Barley have lots of long hairs or bristles that protrude from the central seed cases. That is very crude really, I should be mentioning glumes, awns and lemmas! However, as I do not really know what they are and I am pretty sure that unless you are grass enthusiast you would not know what I was talking about I will stick with hairs, bristles and seeds!
There are few barley species likely to be found in Dorset, the common one being wall barley and the meadow barley is very different being taller and more erect and growing in old meadows rather than on waste ground and roadsides and so it is a readily identifiable species if you encounter it. It is supposedly common but there are few old meadows still around so iy will nly be common in suitable habitat.
Meadow Barley: Sir John Barleycorn