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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 July, 2016

Rock Samphire: hands off



Rock samphire (Crithmum maritimum) is a common plant of the western and southern coasts of Britain around shingle beaches and especially at the foot of cliffs and along land slips. Samphire is quite a common name for coastal plants and rock samphire is a member of the carrot family and is not related to the golden samphire which is a daisy or to marsh samphire (also known as glasswort).
It is quite a distinctive plant with fleshy, almost wiry stems and leaves and pale green flowers that do, in time, turn a little creamy in colour. It flowers from June to August and is well established here in Dorset.
Rock samphire is an edible plant with a hot, spicy flavour and it used to be harvested in large quantities and taken to market in London. Whilst some people still collect it today the removal of any plant from the wild is now illegal and they should not do so. It has been grown as a cultivated crop and it is also imported from overseas where protection is less rigid.
Rock Samphire: hands off

30 July, 2016

Mitrula paludosa: the bog beacon



When you are out in the countryside it pays to keep your eyes open; look up and down, left and right. After a while I think you develop a sense of what is unusual as opposed to 'ordinary'. There is nothing 'ordinary' in the natural world, may be familiar would be better term? When at Arne it is easy to look up in to the trees for birds, or through the woods for deer or out across Poole Harbour for the views but if you keep your eyes open you will find many things that are quite unusual, and this fungus is one of them. 
It may not be nuch to look at but in the drainage ditch where it grows there is a lot of it. Referring to my library I find this fungus is called the bog beacon (Mitrula paludosa) and that it grows on rotting twigs in damp ditches amongst sphagnum mosses. The amazing thing to me is that exactly these factors come together in the coniferous woodland near the Shipstal bird hide and there is the fungus im exactly the habitat the book says it occurs in! It is described as 'occasional' which means it is not that common. I want to know how this fungus can survive and spread given the uniqueness of its habitat? You can see it from late spring to early summer.
It is not edible so leave it where it is!
Mitrula paludosa: the bog beacon

29 July, 2016

Phalera bucephala: the buff-tip moth



One can only wonder in amazement at how life on earth came to be as it is! Has this incredible buff-tip moth (Phalera bucephala) become just like a silver birch twig through random gene mutation and natural selection (therefore almost by accident)? On the other hand, did the design team in charge of moth development decide that a moth that looked like a piece of twig would be a neat idea? Frankly both theories seem impossible to me and, who knows, there may even be a third reason we humans have yet to discover but for me that is the wonder of nature, so much if it is still a mystery and waiting to be discovered.
The buff-tip moth emerges as an adult and flies at night in June and July and is a common and widespread but because it is so well camouflaged one is unlikely to see it even at rest. It is more common in the south but does occur throughout the British isles. 
Phalera bucephala: the buff-tip moth

28 July, 2016

Sea Beet: the wild spinach



Looking down along the shore line, especially on mudflats or at the base of cliffs, you will undoubtedly soon come across this very common plant of the sea shore, the sea beet (Beta vulgaris). It is widespread along the coasts of Dorset and especially in our large harbours. It also had the ability to grow on sea walls and in some unusual places.
Not an attractive plant, perhaps, but the long yellowish flower spikes look quite impressive when they are all out together. Flowering from July to September it is one you can hardly miss on your day out at the seaside.
Sea beet is an ancestor of several of our present day food crops; beetroot, chard and sugar beet for example. Sea beet has edible leaves, they can be eaten raw or lightly boiled, and are described in Wikipedia as having a "pleasant taste" and so this plant is also known as wild spinach.
Sea Beet: the wild spinach

27 July, 2016

Red Kite: the kite mark



It was not long ago that the red kite (Milvus milvus) was on the verge of extinction in the British Isles due to excessive persecution but conservation work initially in Wales which led to re introductions in other areas, notably the Thames Valley, has seen a dramatic reversal of this species fortunes and in some places they are now actually common, even coming into gardens in some places. Being scavengers rather than hunters helping the red kite back to good numbers was relatively simple, it will be less so for many other hunting species. 
The increase numbers of red kites mean that they are slowly spreading out from the areas they were introduced back in to and now nest in Hampshire and are being seen more often in Dorset, although they are still far from common here.
The red kite is quite a distinctive bird. Usually seen in flight with wings outstretched, with the observer looking up at the underside, there is a white triangle in the wing and it looks almost as of there has been a loss of feathers creating a gap in the wings. This mark is quite unique; you could say it is a kite mark!
Red Kite: the kite mark

26 July, 2016

Sea Purslane: salt of the earth



Once you get down to the shoreline in Poole harbour and other saltmarsh locations where it is muddy as opposed to sandy you find all sorts of plants not found elsewhere; it is a unique environment. Plants that grow in these conditions need to be tough to with stand the high salt content of both the ground and the air and they also have to cope with occasional entire submersion in salt water.
Sea-purslane (Atriplex portulacoides) is one of the plants that are adapted to such a life style. They thrive in drier saltmarsh areas around the high water mark but have to contend with a soaking from time to time during very high tides.
A shrubby plant with greyish leaves and not much to look at but the leaves can be eaten as a salad plant or used as a herb in cooking. The leaves are thick and crunchy and have a salty flavour, I wonder why? 

25 July, 2016

Leptogaster cylindrica: the slender-striped robberfly



Robberflies are aptly named! A bit like a highway man they lie patiently in wait and strike when an unsuspecting insect passes by. They have long, spiny legs to grip their victim and sharp piercing mouth parts to kill and consume it. Those jaws can inflict a painful bite in self defence if you attempt to handle one but they are not human biting insects otherwise, unlike mosquitoes fr example.
This particular species is the slender-striped robberfly (Leptogaster cylindrica). It has a long thin body, hence the 'slender' which has bands or 'stripes' around it. Being a robber fly it is thus named as the slender-striped robberfly!
This species is found on grasslands and hedgerows from May until August and is widespread and not uncommon in southern England but they are seldom seen by casual observers.
Leptogaster cylindrica: the slender-striped robberfly

24 July, 2016

Shrubby Sea-blite: the alkali seepweed



Not all rare plants are spectacular and interesting! indeed many are rather nondescript or ordinary and this is certainly the case with the shrubby sea-Blite (Suaeda vera). 
Shrubby sea-blite is a nationally rare plant that grows where saltmarsh and shingle beach meet, a little above the high water line. It is found mainly on the saltmarshes of the Thames Estuary but it can be found in places around Poole Harbour in Dorset. At first sight it looks a bit like a heather and around being Poole Harbour you could be forgiven for putting it down as that.
In the United States this species is called the alkali seepweed. I can see where the seepweed comes from as it occurs where water seeps through the shingle from the surrounding area. Around Poole Harbour the conditions are acidic rather than alkaline and my books make no reference to a preference in soil chemistry other than the fact that it has to be salty. As salt is sodium chloride and both sodium and chlorine are acidic then the alkali connection seems to be unfounded?
Shrubby Sea-blite: the alkali seepweed

23 July, 2016

Laccaria amethystea: the amethyst deceiver



The amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystea) is is a lovely, delicate fungus of shaded woods where it can be quite abundant. It occurs elsewhere but shaded woods, both deciduous and coniferous, are the most likely place to find it. It is especially associated with beech trees.
It occurs from late summer right through in to winter but September and October is most likely. It is most easily distinguished by its unique colouring and it is probably the only mauve (or lilac) fungus to be found in the United Kingdom.
It is edible but has very little taste or smell so it is probably best left alone to delight others who may pass by later!
Laccaria amethystea: the amethyst deceiver

22 July, 2016

Phlogophora meticulosa: the angle shades moth

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Despite dramatic falls in the population levels of moths they are still very common insects. Most are nocturnal and most are masters of camouflage and so one does not see them often in the day time. The striking pattern of this one, called the angle shades (Phlogophora meticulosa) actually means that it is very hard to see when it is at rest during daylight hours on fences and leaves. However, this newly hatched one in pristine condition obviously missed the point of its wonderful camouflage colouring and thought it would show everyone who stopped to look just how gorgeous it is! Fortunately, it chose our bungalow to do this on and so my nature loving wife tenderly moved it to a more secure location.  
The angle shades is one of our most common moths and can be found from April right through to October as it is multi-brooded. Common may be but hard to find once they learn the technique of disguise.
Phlogophora meticulosa: the angle shades moth

21 July, 2016

Common Restharrow: the ploughmans lunch break

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Common restharrow (Ononis repens) is a creeping shrubby plant found in clusters close to the ground. It looks like a low growing vetch and is, indeed, a member of the same family, leguminosae, otherwise known as the pea family. Common restharrow particularly likes calcareous soils so it is well at home in Dorset and it can be found in flower on grasslands and downs across the county from June right through until September. 
It is called 'common' because it is. indeed, the most common of the restharrows, the others (spiny and small) are far less common and are unlikely to be found in Dorset,
I have not been able to discover exactly why it has this name but there is a suggestion that when farm implements such as ploughs and harrows were pulled by oxen or horses these animals would browse on them whist the ploughman ate his lunch! I suppose this may be true but it seems that oxen and horses not would be that fussy and would eat a range of plants including grasses surely?
Common Restharrow: the ploughmans lunch break

20 July, 2016

Whinchat: on the wild side



Some migrant species are seen regularly in autumn as they pass through Dorset heading south for the winter but are less likely to be seen on the return journey in spring. The whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) is one of those birds that fall into this category. I think, in spring, these birds have a single driving force that keeps them on the wing until they reach their breeding grounds. On the return journey there is less pressure and they take their time and stop off to feed as they tackle the long journey ahead of them.
The whinchat is a relative of the stonechat and both like wild places to live but whilst the stonechat is quite common on the heaths and scrubby cliff tops of Dorset it is not wild enough for the whinchat that likes the upland moors further north. The stonechat does not migrate like the whinchat that will over winter in Africa. Although related and similar the whinchat has a more upright posture that the stonechat and so gives the impression of having a slimmer figure.
Whin is an alternative name for gorse and they certainly do like have a liking for gorse and scrub.
Whinchat: on the wild side

19 July, 2016

Common Rock-rose: take courage



The common rock-rose (Helianthemum nummularium) is a plant that favours calcareous soils and can be found from May through until September on dry, grassy or scrubby areas in Dorset on the chalk ridge to the north of the county and along the limestone coast of Purbeck and Portland.
Not a rose at all, it is a member of a very small family of plants, the cistaceae. There are just four members of this family and the others are more common in mainland Europe and are very rare here in Britain. The common rock-rose has five yellow petals with an orange centre that can be seen from June until September. It is, in fact, a dwarf creeping shrub and each plant produces a number of individual flowers over its summer season
Rock-rose is a favoured food plant for some butterflies, especially the brown argus, the green hairstreak and the silver-studded blue. It also, supposedly has healing properties and is used to calm individuals who have suffered extreme panic, terror or hysteria. It restores strength and courage. 
Common Rock-rose: take courage

18 July, 2016

Chrysops viduatus: the square-spot deerfly



The square-spot deerfly (Chrysops viduatus) is a horsefly. That might seem like a contradiction of terms but let me explain. The familiar name of horsefly is given to the insect family with the scientific name of tabanidae and, in general, the female of this family of flies depend on acquiring blood from mammals to enable her eggs to develop. They mainly attack horses for this blood supply but Chrysops viduatus is an exception and attacks deer. So, this horsefly is a deerfly.
Horseflies are not usually known for their good looks but I think this particulat species, albeit a deerfly, is quite an attractive insect with striking colours and lovely blue eyes! Before you think I am nuts remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I happen to think there is beauty in many species that other people do not.
This species is widespread in south eastern England and can be found in meadows and woodlands where there are deer present. They are not common but can be frequent where a deer population exists. I believe any species of deer will do but I suspect roe deer are its main source of blood.
Chrysops viduatus: the square-spot deerfly

17 July, 2016

Yellow-wort: Madame Tausaud

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This lovely yellow flowered plant, hence its name, yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata), has curious waxy grey-green leaves that form opposite pairs up the stem. This makes the flower certainly stand out because the leaves do not look real, it makes the plant look almost like an imitation and made of wax!
Yellow-wort is a member of the gentian family and is found around the Mediterranean but its range extends northwards and it is widespread on the coasts of Britain, especially on calcareous cliff top down land. It flowers from June right through until October and you can frequently find it all along the Dorset coast and on the Purbeck Ridge in mid-summer.
Yellow-wort: Madame Tausaud

16 July, 2016

Mycena polygramma: the grooved bonnet



A delicate fungus growing on the rotting wood of broad-leaved trees and shrubs, this species has the English name of the grooved bonnet (Mycena polygramma) because the cap is bonnet shaped and has grooves in it! It is frequently associated with hazel coppice and you can see some fallen hazel leaves on the ground in this picture. It is a widespread and very common fungus, usually growing in small troops. The cap starts bell shaped but slowly flattens out to leave a centre 'hump'. Initially a creamy white but changing to an ochre colour with age.
Apparently has a faint taste of raddish but you would need an awful lot of them to make a worthwhile meal so don't bother!
Mycena polygramma: the grooved bonnet

15 July, 2016

Sphinx ligustri: the privet hawk-moth



There are certain species groups in nature that create excitement amongst enthusiasts. In birds it is the raptors, in flowers it is orchids and in moths it is the hawk-moths. The privet hawk-moth (Sphinx ligustri) is an absolute beauty to behold, over two inches in body length and nearly four inches wide when the wings are fully spread they can seem like bats flying if you see one at your window.
Close up, in the light of day, they are superb with a pink and black body and strikingly marked wings that actually provide excellent camouflage whilst at rest. Sadly, most people will never see one as they are certainly nocturnal and not seen during the day but the large bright green caterpillar with a spiked tail can be found whilst gardening and pruning shrubs.
The privet hawk-moth can be seen from May until September as, in favourable years it can have more than one brood. It is widespread and inhabits gardens, woodlands and similar habitats, it frequently turns up in enthusiasts moth traps and is quite common.
Not surprisingly the food plants of the larvae include wild privet but they also occur on lilac, holly and ash.
Sphinx ligustri: the privet hawk-moth

14 July, 2016

Common Ragwort: the poison challice

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The common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is yet another species from the natural world that we love to hate. Ragwort pulling is an autumn preoccupation around farms and nature reserves. It presents us with two problems. Firstly it is poisonous to cattle and horses and so there is always a risk if these animals are feeding around the plant. In reality, it seems to me, cattle eat everything around the ragwort and leave the ragwort well alone. I am pretty sure I have not seen a dead cow in a field with ragwort in it!
Secondly, it is its capacity to set seeds and spread. It is a prolific plant and in some years it can be more abundant than in others but it is always abundant! You can find it on waste ground, hedgerows, pastures, dunes, downland; just about anywhere, especially if the ground is regularly disturbed or the general vegetation is sparse.
Hated by humans it may be but it is adored by insects and is another plant worth closely watching if you like insects. It is, amongst other things, the food plant of cinnabar moth caterpillars which do an amazing job of stripping everything off of the plant rendering it pretty harmless! Perhaps we should farm and spread more cinnabar moths as a biological control for this pernitious, obnoxious and useless weed?
Common Ragwort: the poison challice

13 July, 2016

Bullfinch: a touch of nostalga



In June 1977 this bird (well this species of bird) changed the course of my life! My wife and I were doing the washing up in the kitchen of our holiday cottage in Wales and there, perched on top the hedge right outside the window was one of these. We had no interest in  wildlife at the time but were entranced by the beauty of this little chap and so, next day, wet set off for the nearest town, went into W H Smith and found a field guide to birds and there it was, a bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). From then on we were hooked and, with the aid if our new book, we spent the rest of our holiday bird watching.
The bullfinch has never a been a common species during the time since then but, like so many other species, it is certainly even less these days. To see one on a nut bag is, I reckon, quite unusual. I say "to see one" there are actually two, his mate is behind him on the other side of the feeder. That is one of the enchanting things about bullfinches, they are very loyal to their mate and you nearly always see them together as a pair.
Bullfinch: a touch of nostalga

12 July, 2016

Knapweed Broomrape: plain and simple



No, I have not started photographing dead plants! This is a real, live specimen and yet there is no trace of any green on it at all. The broomrape family are parasitic plants and the knapweed broomrape (Orobanche elatior) is, naturally, parasitic on both species of knapweed, but mainly greater knapweed. Because it is a parasite deriving its nutrients from its host plant it has no need for chlorophyll and so it is not green, the colour chlorophyll would give it.
Knapweed broomrape is an uncommon plant found mainly on the calcareous soils of southern England and so can occasionally be found in Dorset on the chalk downs where there is, of course, knapweed! Whilst there are several species of broomrape none are encountered frequently and only four can be found in Dorset; common broomrape, ivy broomrape, carrot broomrape and this one so identification should not be difficult if you find one. 
Knapweed Broomrape: plain and simple

11 July, 2016

Rhagio scolopacea: the downlooker snipe fly



As a group snipe flies are fairly easy to identity having quite long, thin bodies, long, thin wings and long legs! They can be quite colourful and some are quite large whilst others less so. There are five species of snipe fly commonly seen in Britain although none are actually that common.
The casual name for this species is the downlooker snipe fly (Rhagio scolopacea) and yes, its preferred point of view is to perch on a tree trunk looking down at the ground! They can be seen as adults in May through until August. Their larvae live in leaf litter and are predatory on very small insects and other life that inhabits leaf litter.
Rhagio scolopacea: the downlooker snipe fly

10 July, 2016

Greater Knapweed: butterfly heaven



This is a favourite flower of mine because it is also such a favourite with insects. When you come across a patch of greater knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa) it is always time to slow down and look at each one to see what lies in store feeding in that lovely flower head. It is a real magnet for butterflies, especially the marbled white, but also for skippers including the Lulworth skipper. Bumblebees adore it as well.
Knapweeds are members of the daisy family and closely related to thistles. The greater knapweed is a common species in the south of England, especially in Dorset, on calcareous soils where it can be found on grassland, on downland, in scrubby areas and in hedgerows .
 
Flowering from June through to August you can find it on the cliff tops of the Dorset coast, along the Purbeck Ridge and on the downlands in the mid and north of the county.
Greater Knapweed: butterfly heaven

09 July, 2016

Coprinopsis atramentaria: the common inkcap



The common inkcap (Coprinopsis atramentaria) is, as the name might suggest, very common but because they 'liquidise' very readily they are often hard to identify and, in any event, are only around for a couple of days! They are also inclined to be quite variable in appearance.
This is very much a species of woodland and, in particular, tree stumps, twigs and general wooded debris that have a soil covering but you can also find them on grassland where there is buried timber below the surface. Generally solitary or in small groups they are visible from spring right through to the autumn.
They are considered edible but I think you would have to find them pretty fresh and cook them quickly to get them at their best. You should also avoid having a glass of wine with them as they can have nasty effects when eaten with alcohol! Indeed, it has apparently been used as a drug to help cure alcoholism. The black liquid has also been used as a drawing ink.
Coprinopsis atramentaria: the common inkcap

08 July, 2016

Laothoe populi: the poplar hawk moth



The poplar hawk moth (Laothoe populi) is very different to in appearance to other moths (apart from the eyed hawk-moth which is very similar). The shape and wing formation is unique and the poplar hawk-moth cannot really be mistaken for anything else. It is widespread across the British isles and is quite common.
It is a big moth and if you see it fluttering around a light you could easily think at first that it was a bat. It must rank as one of Britain's largest insects I would have thought. It does vary in colour between this almost blue to a much lighter shade of brown. There is also a buff version found, notably, in the London area. These browner versions tend to be the females.
This is a moth readily attracted to light and is single brooded flying from May until July although in good years there can be a second brood in September here in the south. The food plants for the larvae are poplar, aspen, sallow and willow and it is the latter two of these that are common and would usually be the host plant in Dorset. The insect overwinters as a pupa.
Laothoe populi: the poplar hawk moth

07 July, 2016

Vipers Bugloss: the blue weed



Although called Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) this flower has, of course, absolutely nothing to do with snakes! It is covered in bristles which make it feel quite prickly but I suspect the name comes from the flowers which look like the open mouth of a snake with the stamens giving the appearance of a snakes tongue. Well, if you use your imagination it does anyway.
Viper's Bugloss is a plant that is found on dry grasslands, especially on sandy or chalk soils, as well as dunes and cliffs and so Dorset is a county well suited to host good numbers of them  Especially common along the limestone coastal cliffs it can thrive in places other flowers cannot, even on thin soils in disused quarries.
It is a member of the borage family and flowers from June through until September. The flower spikes are a vibrant blue colour which can hardly be missed and which gives rise to its other name, blueweed.
Vipers Bugloss: the blue weed

06 July, 2016

Linnet: stubble and squeak



It seems that every time I feature a bird in my nature notes I am obliged to comment that they are, sadly, "far less common than they once were". Well, here I go again! The linnet (Carduelis cannabina) was a once common bird in wild, open countryside. Maybe not seen as often as many species but in the right habitat one used to encounter large flocks of them; that is now not the case. 
In many ways the linnet is just another "little brown job" as my photograph might imply but a male bird seen full frontal has a lovely rosy coloured chest and forehead which makes it easily identified. Confusion with its close cousin, the twite, is possible but the twite is very uncommon in Dorset to the point that it is hardly ever recorded here.
Like all finches the linnet is primarily a seed eater and can be seen in Dorset mainly in winter in small flocks on thistle heads and feeding on the ground where seeds may have fallen. It was once common feeding amongst corn stubble but that is never seen now that the fields are planted and sewn with winter wheat almost as soon as the harvest has finished. The decline of corn stubble matches the decline of the linnet and other seed feeding birds.
It you are lucky enough to see one in spring the linnet has a lovely song and in Mediterranean areas they are kept in cages as song birds.
Linnet: stubble and squeak

05 July, 2016

Stinking Iris: the roast beef plant



The stinking iris (Iris foetidissima) seems to be bit of an unfair name for such a lovely flower which is common in woods, scrub and hedgerows, especially near the Dorset coast, in mid-summer. It is one of two iris species native to Britain, the other being the yellow iris. 
This plant is also known as the roast beef plant as, when the leaves and stem are crushed, it gives off the scent of fresh meat. It is thought the smell attracts flies and the flies help with the pollination process. This odour is also where the stink comes from in stinking iris of course.
In the autumn these flower heads will be transformed and will have three distinctive green pods and each will split to reveal a line of bright red berries; you get good value from the stinking iris, attractive flowers and attractive seed heads and so it does occur as in gardens as well as in usual habitats.
Stinking Iris: the roast beef plant

04 July, 2016

Stratiomys singularior: the flecked general soldier fly



Now I am quite prepared to concede two points! Firstly, not everyone finds flies attractive or interesting and secondly not everyone likes to stop and look at just about every hogweed flower head the pass when they are out for a walk. That probably makes me a bit strange ... but I suppose I have always been a 'collector' and I love to find something new to add to my collection, even if it just a photograph of a creature or plant I have not already got a photograph of. A bit like collecting stamps, perhaps, or silver spoons or whatever, there is always a chance you will come across something special and this fly, the flecked general (Stratiomys singularior) is something special.
The flecked general is one of family of flies known as soldier flies, no real reason for the name apparently than they have smart colouring on their thorax and/or abdomen like soldiers uniforms. Until recently they did not have English common names but, in a move to make species more accessible to a wider audience, many insects and fungi have been allocated an easy to remember name.
This is a nationally rare species, rather local in its distribution, liking brackish coastal margins and ditches. It has a preference for nectaring on hogweed flowers and that is where I found this one, on hogweed near Wareham Common. A bit of a special find.
Stratiomys singularior: the flecked general soldier fly

03 July, 2016

Eyebright: a sight for sore eyes

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There are several subspecies of eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa) but the differences between them are microscopic so it is in order, I think, to lump them together as 'eyebright'.
They are tiny flowers, easily passed by without a second look, and one where the close up camera lens reveals an almost hidden beauty inside those tiny flowers.
It is quite common on grassland, downs, heaths and open woodland where the vegetation is fairly shortly cropped; the sort of habitat that one frequently encounters in Dorset and so this is quite a common plant in the county.
I believe it gets its name from the fact that it was (is?) used to make drops to sooth sore eyes and keep them looking fresh and, yes, bright! Maybe, if you find it, you should get down and have a close look as it is obviously a sight for sore eyes ... I'll get my coat!
Eyebright: a sight for sore eyes

02 July, 2016

Panaeolus semiovatus: the egghead mottlegill



This small, white capped fungus seems appropriately named as the egghead mottlegill (Panaeolus semiovatus) having a cap that is undoubtedly egg-shaped.
A dependency on the dung of herbivores (especially cows and sheep) means it will usually be found on grazed pasture. It is a simple but effective piece of cyclic ecology; the mycelium of the fungus breaks down the dung and then, when the dung is nearly completely gone, the fruiting body appears and spores are released onto the nearby grass. The cows or sheep then come along grazing on the grass and consume the spores which pass through the animals gut to be ejected as fresh dung for the fungus to start feeding on anew. The size of the fruiting body will depend on the nutrient content of the dung. 
It is common and can be seen from spring through until the early winter and it will be seen mainly as a solitary specimen but occasionally you may find a small troop. It is not edible.
Panaeolus semiovatus: the egghead mottlegill

01 July, 2016

Apamea monoglypha: the dark arches moth

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This is a moth that seems to be particularly captivated by light and finds its way frequently in to the moth trap.
The dark arches (Apamea monoglypha) is generally single brooded flying from June through until August and it is quite common throughout the British Isles. In the south, however, and especially in Dorset it can have a second brood in September to October if the weather is right so it is a species that keeps cropping up for most of the autumn.
Like many moths it is a lover of red valerian and buddleia and as our garden is blessed with both of these the dark arches is going to be a regular visitor.
The larvae feed on the roots and stems of grasses, notably the very common cock's-foot and it overwinters as a larvae, pupating in the spring before emerging in June.
Apamea monoglypha: the dark arches moth