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Showing posts from May, 2014

Bombus jonellus: the heathland bumble-bee | Peter Orchard

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Greater Stitchwort: the poor mans button hole | Peter Orchard

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Wall lizard: rocking on the cliffs | Peter Orchard

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Hogweed: love it or hate it? | Peter Orchard

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Green-veined white: in a different vein | Peter Orchard

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Early Marsh Orchid: tell me the old, old story | Peter Orchard

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Eight Acre Wood: a surprise in Bovington | Peter Orchard

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Large Red-tailed Bumble-bee: red tails in the sunset! | Peter Orchard

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Herb-Robert: stinky old Bob | Peter Orchard

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Smooth Newt: in the spotlight | Peter Orchard

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Garlic Mustard: Jack by the hedge | Peter Orchard

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Large white: eat your greens | Peter Orchard

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Green-winged orchid: surviving on a wing and a prayer | Peter Orchard

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Kings Wood: awesome ramsons

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A visit to Kings Wood in early May reveals one of the most awesome botanical sights in Dorset, millions (yes millions) of white-flowered ramsons carpeting the woodland floor. They spread as far as the eye can see, quite amazing! Ramsons is also known as wild garlic and there is a definite scent of garlic as you make your way through the woodland. Kings Wood is not just a one trick pony

Common carder bee: not a rolling stone

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The common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) is the most common carder bee. Unlike a rolling stone it collects moss! it uses this to cover its nest, hence the term carder or gatherer. Nests can be quite large with over a hundred workers. This bee is almost totally ginger brown but it has dark hairs on the abdomen which distinguish it from

Butchers-broom: for healthy legs!

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Butcher's-broom; a curious name for a curious plant! Butcher's-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) is an evergreen plant of dry woodland areas in southern England and is not uncommon in the woodlands of Dorset. It loves shade, is slow growing and is considered to be an indicator of ancient woodlands. What appear to be its leaves are actually flat stems, the plant has no

Long-tailed field mouse: boarder and hoarder

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Our mainly new, modern, clean town and suburban houses mean that the house mouse is now quite rare but the long-tailed field mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) still manages to prosper. This is not necessarily due to it living in houses but by living near to human habitation. During my working days we lived in five different houses and at each address we encountered this little chap in one way or another, usually in our garage! Not only do they look cute with those big eyes and long whiskers they are

Cow Parsley: the first in line

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The umbellifereae (or carrot) family of plants present many difficulties for the casual observer, even those with some basic botanical knowledge. As always, my advice for what it is worth, is to try get to know them one at a time and the most common ones first. That way you know when you are looking at something different.   One of the ways of separating them is by order of

Green Hairstreak: master of disguise

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The green hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) is the only truly green British butterfly and so it is unmistakable, provided you see it in the first place that is. Being green and leaf shaped they are extremely well camouflaged and they have a fast fluttery flight so they quite often go undetected. However, it is a really lovely butterfly and a joy to behold. They are generally in flight from about the middle of

Early Spider Orchid: the flower of Dorset

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Dorset has a few floral specialities and this is certainly one of them, the early spider orchid (Ophrys sphegodes). This plant is only on the chalk cliffs of the south coast of England from Dorset to Kent, but the main populations are here on the Purbeck limestone cliffs of Dorset. The early spider orchid is quite a small plant with a flower that looks like

Wilkswood (Langton West Wood)

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This wood is known locally as Langton West Wood but as it is signposted Wilkswood and the National Trust sign says Wilkswood that is the name I use. The Ordnace Survey map has no name for the wood. Whilst Wilkswood is not considered to be ancient woodland it does contains many of the indicator species that one associates with ancient woodland including wood anemone and butchers broom. These are plants that spread very slowly and

Mining Bee: Andrena thoracica

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This attractive bee (Andrena thoracica) is a member of the andrena family which are mining bees and as such, nest in holes they excavate in the earth, usually sandy soils that are easy to burrow in to. In such soils you often see little volcanoes, a conical heap of sand with a hole at the centre and these can be the work of mining bees although digger wasps also do this. There are several species in the family, some

Hedgehog: Rag, Tag or Bobtail?

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What can I tell you about the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) that you will not already know? One of our best known and most loved of animals, most of us will have been familiar with the hedgehog from our earliest days. When I was young Rag, Tag and Bobtail were big on 'Watch with Mother' a childrens television programme. Rag was the hedgehog!  Nowhere near as common as they once were I

Red campion: the walkers companion

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If you walk the lanes and bridle ways of Dorset it is pretty certain that the red campion (Silene dioica) will be a familiar sight, it is a flower that will often be your companion as it can grow in profusion along our hedgerows. It is one of those flowers that seem to be with us all year but it actually flowers from March through to October but it is in late May through until late July that it is at its best. In mild winters it can actually be found all year in Dorset but

Holly blue: the holly and the ivy ...

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Is the holly blue (Celastrina argiolus) not an adorable little butterfly? Totally exquisite when seen close up with an amazing silvery under wing and bright blue upper wings although the females have black markings on the upper wings which can be confusing! The holly blue is also a fascinating creature. The insect over winters as a pupae, usually hidden in amongst Ivy. In April

Early purple orchid: as it says on the label ...

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There is undoubtedly something special about orchids, they are quite dramatic flowers compared to many of our other native species.  As it's name suggests the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) is one of the earliest orchids to flower; flowering from April through until June depending on location and the weather. They are usually in fine flower at Durlston National Nature Reserve in April and early May. The early purple orchid is quite

Bere Wood: the sea of blue

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You can see bluebells almost anywhere in Dorset, along roadside verges, on cliff tops, even on the heaths but to see them at their best one needs to go to one of the county's well established woodlands. Visiting woodland to see bluebells seems to be a veru popular pass time and there is some debate as to where the best place is. Is it Pamphill in the east or Hooke Park in the west or perhaps

Common toad: warts and all!

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It is not difficult to distinguish the common toad (Bufo bufo) from a frog; it is much darker in colour, often brown or verging on black, and has a warty skin, frogs are much greener, often two tone in colour and have smooth skin. They are very different in other aspects too, shape, size, etc. Much less common than they once were, toads are probably more