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About Me

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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!

31 December, 2014

Spangle Gall: straight out of the packet | Nature Notes

The common spangle gall houses the larvae of a gall wasp (Neuroterus quercusbaccarum); each gall containing one wasp larva. It is a species linked solely to oak tress (hence the quercus in the scientific name) and occurs where the wasp has laid an egg on the underside of an oak leaf. There can be lots of galls on one leaf but not all leaves will be affected of course. Each gall is a fairly flat packet about 5mm across with a central raised pimple. The centre of the gall can appear reddish in colour thanks to the presence of many red hairs, the disc of the rest of the gall tends to be yellowish or pale green.

Read more: Spangle Gall: straight out of the packet | Nature Notes

23 December, 2014

Grey Bush-cricket: albo (white) punctata (spotted) | Nature Notes

The grey bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata) is not only a scarce Dorset species, it is scarce nationally too. It is very much a coastal species and is found mainly along the grassy tops of cliffs along the south coast of England from Cornwall to Kent and so, in Dorset, that means it might be seen almost anywhere near the sea. I say it 'might be seen' as I have only ever seen one, this one at Hengistbury Head!
It is quite a distinctive insect and unlikely to be confused with any other species 

Read more: Grey Bush-cricket: albo (white) punctata (spotted) | Nature Notes

22 December, 2014

Chaffinch: feet firmly on the ground | Nature Notes

The chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is frequently described in guide books as Britain's most common bird, it is certainly Europe's most common finch. After the 2014 RSPB Garden Birdwatch it stood at number five amongst our most common garden birds with an average of 2.2 per garden. A good number do visit gardens in winter when food supplies are short in the countryside but they disappear in spring to go nesting and raise their young. 

Read More: Chaffinch: feet firmly on the ground | Nature Notes

21 December, 2014

Yellowing Curtain Crust: | Nature Notes

I love rummaging around piles of dead wood and tree stumps. I am not that good on fungi identification but I find them fascinating and you never quite know what you will find. This lovely green, brown and white one was new to me when I saw it for the first time on the Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve at Greenhill Down; quite appropriate, a green fungus on Greenhill Down? Thanks to my excellent field guide, the Collins Fungi Guide, I had it sewn up in no time; the Yellowing Curtain Crust (Sterium subtomentosum)!

Read more: Yellowing Curtain Crust: | Nature Notes

20 December, 2014

Little Grebe: the dabchick | Nature Notes

Now you see it ... in a moment you won't! You get your camera on to it, focus, shoot and you have a photograph of water, this little chap has gone down again. I reckon that the little grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) spends as much time under the water as it does on it, perhaps even more below the surface. It's a good game, watching one dive and then trying to guess where it will reappear - one is never right.
Little grebe or dabchick? Both are accepted names for this bird but it is little and it is a grebe so for me it is the little grebe

Read more: Little Grebe: the dabchick | Nature Notes

19 December, 2014

Lichen: Parmelia caperata - a story of Noel | Nature Notes

Parmelia caperata is a very common lichen found on deciduous trees across southern England and hence can be found almost anywhere in Dorset. It can also be found on rocks, mosses and conifers too but it is not able to cope with air pollution, hence it is more common in the south west than further east and north. 
Now I have been a distant admirer of lichens for a long, long time, ever since I was privileged to meet an authority on the subject back in 1984 whilst on holiday on the Isle of Skye

Read more: Lichen: Parmelia caperata - a story of Noel | Nature Notes

18 December, 2014

Hairy Curtain Crust: living recycling plant | Nature Notes

If you look at tree stumps, logs and fallen branches of deciduous trees (as I like to do) you will often find bracket fungi growing on them. In some cases the fungus will have got in to the tree whilst still alive and killed it, in others the fungus colonises the dead wood and has started the rotting process which will eventually see it return to just plain earth. The hairy curtain crust (Stereum hirsutum) is one of the latter.

Read more: Hairy Curtain Crust: living recycling plant | Nature Notes

17 December, 2014

Silk Button Gall: all sewn up | Nature Notes

A substantial number of insects, over a thousand, are associated with oak trees, it is one reason why our oaks are so important. Several of these insects lay their eggs on oak trees which then produce galls or deformities. The silk button gall (Neuroterus numismalis) is one such species. Being a bright orange-brown in colour they are one of the more easily found galls as they are quite noticeable (assuming you take the trouble to look to course!). Why the silk button gall? 

Read more:

Silk Button Gall: all sewn up | Nature Notes

16 December, 2014

Dark Bush-cricket: the dark side | Nature Notes

The dark bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) is easy to identify as it is our only all brown bush-cricket. The other brown bush-crickets we have in this country have some white and green on them, are much smaller, are far less common and tend to be found in specialist habitats where the 'dark' does not occur. That said, the colouring can vary from a chestnut colour to almost black, the female usually paler than the male although this female I photographed is pretty dark in colour. 

Read more: Dark Bush-cricket: the dark side | Nature Notes

15 December, 2014

Blackbird: looking for trouble | Nature Notes

"Looking for trouble? You've found it!"

By far the most aggressive bird in our garden is the blackbird (Turdus merula); they are real characters and make garden bird watching fun. We usually have about five of them but if the weather turns cold we can have nine or ten. They seem to spend most of the day trying to protect their food supply from the others. They must use enormous amounts of energy shadowing their opponent, staying between it and their food, having the occasional flutter at each other. They chase round and round the garden, under shrubs and out again, up in to the trees and down again, into the water dish and out again, all energy, all action packed.

Read more: Blackbird: looking for trouble | Nature Notes

14 December, 2014

Studland Heath National Nature Reserve: the bare essentials | Nature Notes

Pretty inhospitable in winter but a delight in spring and summer, especially the brilliant yellow of the gorse in the spring and the lovely purple of the bell heather in late summer. Studland is a classic site of sand dune succession with various stages of the sand dune system clearly visible.
My records for this site also include sightings from the off shore area in Studland and Shell bay which is a wintering haven for rare grebes and divers. A walk along Studland Beech is a popular way of spending a Sunday afternoon although most people will miss the birds bobbing up and down on the waves not far out to sea.

Read more: Studland Heath National Nature Reserve: the bare essentials | Nature Notes

13 December, 2014

Coot: the bald one | Nature Notes

It is not hard to see where the old saying 'As bald as a coot' comes from is it? This coot (Fulica atra) is proudly showing us its most distinctive feature, the white frontal shield and white beak. 
The coot is actually not black but dark grey when seen close up. You can just discern that perhaps from the lit under feathers on its front here. Apart from its white features it has no other distinctive markings. They do have remarkable feet, however

Read more: Coot: the bald one | Nature Notes

12 December, 2014

Lichen: Cladonia portentosa, reindeer lichen | Nature Notes

I find lichen identification extremely difficult and if anyone has any tips I would love to hear them. However, there is one lichen I think anyone can identify. All you have to do is walk out on to one the Dorset heaths and look amongst the heather and in no time at all you will find 'reindeer lichen', Cladonia portentosa. It is a very common species in heathery habitats

Read more:

Lichen: Cladonia portentosa, reindeer lichen | Nature Notes

11 December, 2014

Scaly Polypore: the dryads saddle | Nature Notes

When walking in broad-leaved woodlands, especially where horse chestnut or sycamore trees are present, you may encounter the large capped bracket fungus usually known as dryad's saddle but more specifically called the scaly polypore (Polyporus squamosus); squamosus means scaly. A dryad, by the way, is a tree nymph in Greek mythology.

Read more: Scaly Polypore: the dryads saddle | Nature Notes

10 December, 2014

Speedwell Gall-fly; high dependencies | Nature Notes

For years I have been seeing fluffy heads on germander speedwell plants and I just assumed they had gone to seed. Imagine my surprise when browsing through my new book about plant galls to come across a photograph like mine. This is not germander speedwell gone to seed, it is the work of a gall fly, Jaapiella veronicae. Apparently, the fly attacks the shoot tips and causes the topmost pair of leaves to cling together to form a hairy pouch that then contains numerous fly larvae.
This fly only attacks germander speedwell and germander speedwell is a pretty common flower but is there not a real risk here for the fly? 

Read More ... Speedwell Gall-fly; high dependencies | Nature Notes