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Showing posts from January, 2014

Male-fern and the invisible man

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The male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) is probably the most common British fern and is found in damp woods, ditches, hedgerows and other shady places. It is certainly common in Dorset and is especially prominent in winter when there is little competition from other foliage. The male-fern has

The curlew: beak almighty!

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The curlew (Numenius arquata) is a common bird on the mud flats of Poole and Christchurch harbours although at high tide, when it cannot feed, it is forced up on to neighbouring rough pasture. Curlews can be seen on the coast of Dorset all year round but, as with so many other birds, the numbers are boosted in winter by birds arrivals from the colder north where food

Top dog!

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The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) has probably got me in to more arguments than any other creature apart from, perhaps, the magpie! I seem to be in a minority of one but it people (well 'country folk') love to hate the fox and can provide ample justification to hunt it down and kill it. To me, like all life I suppose, the red fox is a precious addition to the natural fauna of our country and it would be a far

A hard fern to identify?

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Actually not all ferns are difficult to identify, some are quite unique in appearance and cannot be confused with any other. The hard fern (Blechnum spicant) is one such species and is not hard to identify at all! The fronds are very thin and give a 'serrated' appearance, a bit like a double sided comb perhaps? No other Britsh fern is like this and so can be named

Pee-wit, green plover or lapwing?

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It's not so many years ago that the lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) could be seen in spring over farmland across Dorset displaying with its wonderful 'swooping' flight and amazing electronic 'pee-wit' sound. Sadly, as a breeding bird in southern England, it now seems quite rare so it is always good to welcome them back as they come south to spend the winter with many other

They seek a deer here ...

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... they seek a deer there. Those sika deer, are everywhere! A visit to RSPB Arne at any time of the year will guarantee you good views of sika deer (Cervus nippon), there has been a herd there for many years although the numbers have been reduced in recent times. In the autumn your visit will often be accompanied by frequent groaning and wining noises. This is when the sika deer rut is under way and the stags are very vocal. Their aggressive behavior seems to be

Does a deer tongue really look like this?

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This is a common plant in the south west of England and especially so in many places in Dorset. The hart's-tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium)can be abundant where the environment is suitable.

It can be food in woods, especially woodland on hill sides, hedgerows, among rocks, on walls, on the sides of ditches, even inside water wells. In short, it likes warm, darkish,

Red legs? Redshank ...

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With many birds there is something, one specific feature, that stands out. It may a feature of its colouring or perhaps its size, posture, shape, flight, movement on the ground, behaviour, call or song, habitat, anything and quite often a species will display that characteristic and you know straight away what species it is. Find that feature, remember it and you are well on the way impressing your friends with your bird identification

You dirty rat!

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I guess the very mention of the word 'rat' will give the creeps to many people let alone this photo of one! Ever since "The Plague" of 1665 we Brits have hated the rat, albeit that the plague was brought here by the black or ship rat, not the common or brown rat  (Rattus norvegicus)shown above. It's a shame these creatures are so vilified in many ways as they are actually quite cute, extremely adaptable and very intelligent. At that point my defence of them has to stop

Money may not grow on trees ... but ferns do!

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When out and about in Dorset's deciduous woodland from time to time you will find ferns growing up in the trees, quite often in mature oaks. I had seen this elsewhere but it was not until I went through details of the Dorset Wildlife Trust reserves when we first moved here to Dorset some years ago that I spotted something called 'polypody' listed on some woodland reserve species lists. My curiosity aroused I read up about it and went looking for it.

The early bird catches the ... oyster?

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You can find an oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) pretty well anywhere along the Dorset coastline, especially during the breeding season in May and June. In winter, however, like many species of birds, they tend to flock together into areas where there is plenty of food and some shelter. Poole Harbour and the lagoon on Brownsea can be home to thousands of these birds during the harsher times of the year.

The little grey villain!

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As I expect we all know, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is not a native British species, it originates from eastern North America (the scientific name of 'carolinensis' reflects this). It was introduced in to parks in Britain around the turn if the 19th Century. One of largest introductions was at Woburn in Bedfordshire. In the hundred years since then it has spread rapidly across most of the country with devastating effect on our native red squirrel. My reference book says it now 'infests' most of England

Help with identifying wild flowers ...

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Back in April 2013 I introduced a new feature to my Nature of Dorset website. It was a ‘top down’ pictorial system that helped casual observers identify anything from mammals to fungi. I admit it is pretty basic and has many flaws but I do get positive feedback about how useful people found have it. As a result of this  I have decided to try and improve the feature starting with wild flowers