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Showing posts from April, 2013

Caddis Fly (Brachycentrus subnubilus)

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Caddis Fly (Brachycentrus subnubilus), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. Walk by any water course in spring or summer; a slow moving river, a fast flowing stream, a pond, a lake, even a drainage ditch and there is a pretty good chance you will encounter a cloud of smallish, fluttering insects. Always active and rarely landing but when they do land on vegetation they just seem to disappear because their colouring and markings provide such good camouflage.
If you witness this, the chances are they are caddis flies, and one of the first to emerge each spring and one of most common species is Brachycentrus subnubilus. It does not have a common name so that might be a bit difficult to remember! This is a species of slow moving rivers and so can be seen along our chalk streams as they near the sea.
Caddis flies spend most of their live as larvae in the bottom of the river. Some species are known for covering themselves with small stones and grit, this species uses dead vegetable material. Th…

Black Hill and Turnerspuddle

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Black Hill and Turnerspuddle, a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. Black Hill is a ridge to the west of Bere Regis with a fairly steep climb to get to the top. It is predominantly gorse and heather sandwiched between agricultural land, mostly rough pasture.

You can approach Black Hill via a footpath from the centre of Bere Regis and from a footpath to the south of Bere Regis at the junction of the road to Briantspuddle although parking is difficult here. My preferred access is from Turnerspuddle where there is limited parking by the church but this is not a busy spot so I have never had a problem during the week. From Turnerspuddle there are various routes up to Black Hill that provide alternative habitat types and make for a more interesting walk.

The main path on the ridge itself is well made but in winter suffers from puddling and becomes very muddy thanks to four wheel drive vehicles, mountain bikes and horse riding! That said, it is not a busy place at all, popular with locals for wa…

Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna)

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Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. Common whitlowgrass is not a grass at all, as you can see it is a flower. It is a tiny flower at that but one that is worth a closer look under magnification.

The flower head of this plant is so small it is very easy to not see it in the first place! It grows where there is very little soil, often on concrete or tarmac in gutters of roads or car parks. Not only does it grow in harsh conditions it thrives in February and March, long before the majority of other flowers have even started to appear above ground. It can be pollinated by small insects but, flowering so early in the year, the species is basically self-pollinating.

The four deeply lobed petals make this a member of the cruciferae (or cress) family.

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Find out more about common whitlowgrass here:
http://www.natureofdorset.co.uk/species/common-whitlowgrass

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

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Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. One of the many delights of living here in Purbeck is seeing the many Blackthorn trees and bushes come in to flower.

They are just about coming out now and for the next three weeks or so the hedgerows will look as though they have had a heavy dusting of flour!

Blackthorn is unique in that the flowers come before the leaves whereas the other hedgerow shrubs are all the other way round. Blackthorn is invariably the first to flower as well.

Close up the flowers are really lovely; pure white petals with what, at first, seems to be two small black dots on each. The black dots are, in fact the tips (or anthers) of the white stamens. Early insects will pollinate these flowers to give us sloes in the autumn.

The colder winter means that the Blackthorn is a little later this year. If we get another cold snap then it undoubtedly will bring to mind the country saying of it being a 'Blackthorn winter'.

You can find out more abo…

Kinson Common, North Bournemouth

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Kinson Common, North Bournemouth, a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. To me Kinson Common is the epitome of an urban nature reserve. An area saved from development whilst the urbanisation of the surrounding area was taking place because it was too wet for building on and is now just a tiny fragment of a lost precious piece of countryside. Surrounded on all sides by housing it gets extensive use from local people and is blighted with dog mess (and this revolting habitat some dog owners now have of putting it in a plastic bag and hanging it on a bramble) and litter. It is a favourite playground for local children, adults and their dogs.

Despite this the site has an impressive species list and provides a very pleasant hour or so to the nature lover who is happy to meander and look. Lots of work has gone in to this site to try and strike a balance between nature and people and those involved deserve a lot of credit for their work, especially the volunteers; they deserve better support from …

Common Daisy (Bellis perennis)

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Common Daisy (Bellis perennis), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. The ubiquitous yet humble common daisy, one of the first flowers we can name when, as youngsters, we are taught to make daisy chains! When a bit older we pull the petals off one by one saying \"She loves me, she loves me not\".

Love them or hate them if you have a lawn you almost certainly have the daisy growing there. Surely everyone has daisies on their lawn apart from one of my neighbours whose lawn is like astro-turf. Cutting the grass gets rid of them for an hour or two but it is not long before those familiar white and yellow flowers reappear. I like them and have no problem with them, my wife hates them and wants them cut off by the mower.

The common daisy flowers from March to October on short grazed (or mown) turf everywhere and they are so familiar we take them for granted but looked at close up they are attractive flowers.

Find out more about the daisy here: www.natureofdorset.co.uk/species/daisy