If you would like to read my Dorset nature notes about any of these featured species or sites please click on the post title
- 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!
19 February, 2010
However, the colder winter this year, seems to have driven a small family party of six birds south to Dorset. Another Arctic breeding species the Barnacles tend to over winter on the Solway Firth in southern Scotland and on the east coat of Ireland.
This group was in the company of Canada Geese and Brent Geese but preferred to keep their distance and as five of them grazed peacefully this one stood guard and saw off any of the other two species that dared wander their way!
The key identifying feature of the Barnacle Goose is its white face.It is a little smaller than a Canada Goose but larger than the Brent.
The early Irish people could not work out how these birds could disappear in the summer and appear again in the autumn and they formed an association with sea Barnacles and thought that they hatched out from the Barnacles that grew on the rocks, hence the name Barnacle Goose!
They come to the east and south coasts of England; the Solent shore, Poole Harbour and the Fleet are particular favourite wintering haunts.
The Brent Goose is related to the Canada Goose but is much smaller. In fact, the Brent is hardly bigger than a Shelduck. Not only is it smaller but the white 'chin strap' is much less pronounced so you should have no trouble telling them apart even from a distance.
They are quite happy in the company of Canada Geese however and mixed flocks are not unusual. They are very keen on Eel Grass that is exposed at low tide but in between tides they are happy browsing on rough pasture, just as this pair are.
14 February, 2010
The woodland floor with dead leaves and mast is an ideal place to look for all sorts of wildlife from Squirrels and other mammals foraging, to birds looking under them for small insect and, of course, the insects, grubs and plants (mainly fungi) that feed on the litter itself.
Nothing like a bit of detective work!
The bark is thin and the wood inside is hard and strong and of a bright buff colouring with brown flecks which make it a popular choice for furniture and is also a favourite with wood turners to make bowls and other items.
It took me while to find a Beech to photograph and, in the end, I had to make a short journey to Badbury Rings. I found it surprising to learn that the Beech is not commonly indigenous to Dorset and most of our specimens have been planted for specific purposes, often for protection as a wind break or for forestry production.
Some Beech trees have been pollarded and not allowed to develop this beautiful uplifting natural shape; instead becoming more spreading from the central crown point.
13 February, 2010
Toothwort is a parasitic plant that grows on the roots of trees and has a particular affinity to the Hazel. Because it is parasitic it does not need chlorophyll and so it is a creamy white colour tinged with purple. Those of you familiar with the Broomrape family will see a resemblance as they are also parasitic but they are not related.
This is a tiny flower, not easy to find and may be often overlooked but I am only aware of one site for it in Dorset and that is in the wooded slopes to the west of the DWT reserve at Stonehill Down.
12 February, 2010
These days these crafts have all but died out and so coppicing is not practised as it used to be and often it is either left to becoming overgrown and straggly or it is just cleared and burnt to allow other plants to prosper.
Hazel coppice is such a rich habitat, especially in spring, when primroses, wood anemones, violets, bluebells and so on all thrive on the coppice floor.
11 February, 2010
This is actually much more like a conventional flower as it contains the seed box. The red 'petals' are actually multiple stigmas that catch the pollen released by the Catkins of neighbouring trees. The pollen then fertilises the seeds and the nuts develop.
The Hazel is not the only tree to produce Catkins, others do too, most noticeably the Alder and other members of the birch family.
The Catkin is the male flower of the Hazel, its role is to produce pollen which is wind dispersed. The Hazel nut does not produce the well known Hazel nut however.
09 February, 2010
The bright, cheery faces of the Lesser Celandine glisten in the spring sunlight and are another reminder of the transformation that will occur before our very eyes in the next month or so. Don't you just adore spring?
The Lesser Celandine is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculacae. There is a Greater Celandine which is not a Ranunculus and looks nothing like the the Lesser! That just goes to show why we use Latin names for precision in identification and not common English country names which can often be very confusing.
08 February, 2010
The most obvious sign is that the days are getting longer at quite a fast rate and the birds are beginning to sing again, some a bit tentative perhaps, but the signs are there.
For most of us, however, it the appearance of the first spring flowers that tell us spring is on the way and these Snowdrops are now in flower everywhere.
Sadly, they are not really a native species being found mainly in central Europe but over the years they have become naturalised from garden escapes and now are found on banks, hedgerows and waysides across Dorset, especially in churchyards and near parks and gardens of our more 'stately' homes!
This little member of the Lily family is a particular favourite of ours in the Orchard family and we look forward to them every spring.