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Showing posts from February, 2014

Shielding the broad buckler fern

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Ferns take some getting used to and even after several years of trying I am till struggling to sort them out! I always find a good strategy with any form of plant or creature is to try and get to know the common species in any taxa as they are, of course, the most likely ones you will encounter in the field. This gives you a bench mark and then you can take a closer look if you encounter something

Greenshank: the nebulous plover

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A slightly up-turned, greenish, probing beak and pale green legs are good guides to identification here. The greenshank (Tringa nebularia) is aptly named. I think it is a very elegant bird and it is one of my favourite waders. It is a relative of the redshank, similar in size but paler and mottled, in fact it is a fairly nebulous bird so perhaps that where 'nebularia' comes

Spot the fallow deer

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The Dorset Wildlife Trust produced an excellent book in 2012 about the 'Great Trees of Dorset' which Andrew Pollard and Emma Brawn, who were working on the Greentree Project, authored. The book points out that there have been sixty-four deer parks in Dorset over the years and these were mainly grazed by fallow deer (Dama dama). These deer parks were very expensive to maintain and have largely died out and now and just three remain, at Melbury, Sherborne Park and Stock Gayland

The ubiquitous bracken

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I guess that of all the fern family bracken (Pteridium aquillinum) is the one that we could all name quite readily. Bracken seems to grow just about anywhere and everywhere. It is not only the most common fern in Dorset, it is the most common fern in Britain and indeed, in the whole world! Yes, we are all familiar

The forgotten grey plover?

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To my mind the grey plover (Pluvialis squatarola) is something of a forgotten bird. Ask a number of Dorset birders to name ten waders and I suspect very few would include grey plover in their list, I am not sure why. They are rather plain, drab birds in winter I suppose, no remarkable plumage and they are not that big and so not particularly impressive. Grey plovers are not that common

A current bank vole account

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Although very common this is a little chap you do not often see. The bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) is a tiny creature, just 4 inches from nose to tip of its tail and it is a favourite snack for kestrels, owls and foxes and so it is a very cautious animal, spending as little time in the open as it can and often preferring to venture out at

Will the wall rue the wall-rue?

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Dorset's rivers have lots of bridges crossing them and many are built of limestone. It is always worth taking a look at these bridges to see how, despite being brick or stone, nature colonises them. Crustose lichens are usually well established on the upper stone surfaces but look over the sides and you will find plants, especially spleenworts, and frequently this one,

The dunlin: a small bird in a big flock

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I am no photographer, just an opportunist with a camera! The dunlin (Calidris alpina) is one of many species that present the likes of me with real issues. Firstly, they are small birds - no bigger than a blackbird, so you need to get close to them to get a decent shot. However, they are very nervous birds and will fly at the very least disturbance, usually just as you have them in focus! Finally, they feed at the waters edge which can not only be inaccessible but

Roe deer, oh dear, oh dear

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One gets so used to seeing sika deer in the Purbeck area of Dorset that it takes a little while to convince yourself that you are seeing something different. Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) are far less common here than the sika, in fact their numbers are very low and they seem to prefer the open woodlands at the foot of the Purbeck Ridge on the northern side. I do not know whether the numbers of

Maidenhair spleenwort: somewhat off the wall

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Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) is a charming little plant with a rather unusual name. Spleenworts are members of the fern family with special structural characteristics. They do not usually grow in the ground like many other plants, instead preferring rocky or wooden substrates. Many spleenworts are found in fairly unique places like crevices in rocks on mountain sides and

Blackwit or barwit?

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This is a wader that we see a lot of down here in Dorset, especially around Poole Harbour which is recognised as an internationally important site for them. The black-tailed godwit (limosa limosa) can be seen here all year round but in winter the numbers grow considerably with northern birds coming south and In most years there are over 700 present in the harbour. One of the best places to see them is the lagoon on Brownsea Island, but large numbers can often be seen

The beleaguered badger

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When we moved to Dorset in 2006 we were surprised at how many dead badgers (Meles meles) we saw alongside the roads, especially in spring and summer. After so many years in Hampshire where badgers seemed to be scarce these corpses were a clear sign that they are doing well in Dorset. We have subsequently seen many setts on our walks in the Dorset countryside and it is clear that badgers are widespread. We have also discovered that