Dorset holiday part 4

Our next trip out on our Dorset adventure took us to the New Forest Wildlife Park. While I do favour seeing animals in their natural environments some I would never get the chance to see. The New Forest Wildlife Park has many animals that are rescue animals that have required a home to survive. While the ethics of keeping animals in this way is hotly debated as more and more animals become endangered captive animals may offer opportunities for reintroducing species back to the wild.

We were greeted by a bear.

The park holds a number of species of owl and these were some of the first animals we saw. Alice was still riding high on the coattails of seeing the Gruffalo characters the day before and was excited to see the owls again. As mentioned before I have a fondness for owls.

Having recently read Simon Cooper’s excellent book, “the otters’ tale” I was excited to see the otters at the park. The park has several species: the Asian short-clawed otter, giant otters and the North American Otters. Our native otter Lutra lutra was absent. But I enjoyed seeing the otters on offer bounding around. Truly amazing animals. Slick through the water and bounding playfully on land.

Alice was quick to spot them.

Inside we found the rather cute harvest mice and hedgehogs. I’m glad to say Alice correctly identified both.

The park feeds the birds in the forest. Blue tits and great tits were enjoying the feeders.

Underneath the feeders a taste of the wild, Rattus Norvegicus, the brown rat. While generally not a welcome visitor it was good to see this animal moving around the forest floor.

The lynx was very accomadating for photos.

Alice stopped for a brief break with Amy.

Wallabies roam the enclosure with you.

Alice was keen to spot the wolves with her binoculars, but no luck.

Another wild invader of the park.

Alice enjoyed digging in the play area.

The bees are starting to come out in greater numbers a sure sign Spring is here.

We didn’t make it round all the animals. There were more deer and bison across the other side of the park, but we didn’t think Alice’s legs would take any more.

Before heading back to the house we stopped off at IKEA for a few things for Alice’s room. It was just a short journey on from the park. While it was hell on Earth for me Alice seemed to think it was just a giant soft play area.

Once back at the house a tired Alice tucked herself into the blanket.

One last day to discuss of the holiday and then that’s the lot.

Blue Monday

Today is Blue Monday. A day supposedly the most depressing of the year. The idea coming from Christmas having gone, weather being wet and cold and motivation being generally low. While the calculation for the date is clearly rather ridiculous pseudo-science it can be a grim time of year and it does no harm trying to cheer people up.

This year Summer garden photos are being shared on twitter to give a burst of colour and a grey point of the year. I saw it posted through Hugh Cassidy on twitter, so thank you to Hugh for this little bit of cheer.

So here is a look back at colour from last year that we can look forward to again.

For anyone feeling glum Samaritans are offering support with their Brew Monday. Get together with people and share a cuppa.

Hopefully everyone has a good day and doesn’t struggle with Monday Motivation.

I have sent out some emails for the nature book swap. I currently have an odd number, so if anyone else wants to take part I will add them in. Emails have been sent out to all, but one who expressed an interest. Basic gist following from the short list of the UK’s favourite nature book I’ve organised a book swap. If you have a nature book to pass on I will email you an address and you will receive a book from someone else. Email me at natureswap@mail.com if interested or message me here.

Grow wild free seed

It’s the start of the year so Grow Wild seed kit applications are open. Grow wild have been running a campaign for several years to transform local areas with native, pollinator friendly wildflowers. The seed mixes weren’t just generic shop mixes. They were made for different areas of the country to promote flowers that would have grown in each region originally.

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I’ve had the seed kits in 2016 and I grew them in a pot. That little pot attracted in a mass number of insects particularly bees. The goldfinches loved sitting on them too. Not all applications will be successful, but well worth supporting if you can. If successful I have an area at school in mind to assign as meadow. With the fruit trees and garden area I’ve started it will bring in a god variety of insects.

In other news the Nature Book Swap has its first expressions of interest. If you fancy some nature books take a look here.

Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

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Burton Constable

Today we headed for one of the local country houses, Burton Constable, for what was advertised as a food fair. However it was more of a craft fair than a food fair. Not having brought any food with us we ended up with an odd dinner of pie and cupcakes. The cupcakes ended up a bit of a mess after being bumped along in the pram. The pie however was from Hull Pie, so was top nosh.

We took our random lunch out on the woodland walk round the field of sheep away from the hall.

We found a bench to sit on. Alice’s eagle eyes spotted a moth under the bench. While I’m ok at identifying butterflies my lepidoptorist skills don’t stretch to identifying small brown and white moths. I will need to look through the field guide.

The weather changed rapidly to windy and raining, but none of this deterred Alice.

Back in the stables we saw the Burton Constable Whale. This 58 1/2 foot long sperm whale was washed up on the Holderness Shore in 1825. Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable had claim to it at the time, so it became property of the estate. A local Hull surgeon took an interest and dissected and wrote a study of it. A second study by Thomas Beale was read by Herman Melville who would go on to write the classic Moby Dick.

at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale…Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his long cavities – spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan – and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.

And that seems like a good tie in to mention that it is National Marine Week. A time to draw attention to the need to protect marine life such as the whale. I’m going to aim to get out to do another beach clean during the week.

Within my garden this morning I finally managed to get a photo of one of the marvellous dragonflies that have been in and out. They’ve been in and out lots recently, but rarely stay still for photographing. The size and colours of these fantastic insects are amazing. I’m glad to find them starting to come in the garden more.

Bees in need

This week is bees needs week. The week is organised by DEFRA and a number of charities. It aims to raise awareness of the role of bees and other pollinators. Today I’ll discuss the aims of the week and a few things you can do to help and share some of my bee photos from the last year.

Bees are vital to gardeners to pollinate many flowers as well as significant to farmers to pollinate crops.

The week is pushing five simple acts.

1: Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees. Having planted in more variety of shrubs, perennials and annuals this year I can see the difference in the number of bees in the garden. Amongst the bees favorites ate the foxgloves and the lavender. Bee and butterfly flower mixes are easy to buy these days. Once sown many will grow easily and self seed allowing the benefit continue. I grow some in my borders, but also in pots for easy management.


2: Let your garden grow wild.

There are a number of parts to this. Leaving grass in winter. Leaving pernial plants uncut gives hibernation shelters. Leaving a few wildflowers like dandelions of thistles gives pollinators there early source of pollen in the Spring. Nettles and brambles are important for many species to lay eggs on. Behind my garden there is a narrow path where nettles and brambles grow. I trim it back as little as possible, so I can still get the wheelbarrow down. This area is particularly good for moths between the thick ivy and nettles.

3: Cut grass less often. Most people don’t need an excuse to leave their lawns. But leaving grass to grow provides a number of species of butterfly good egg spots for caterpillars. Leaving grass after September gives bees nesting sites. With Alice I don’t really want the whole lawn long so I just have areas on the edge I leave to grow longer.

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4: Avoid disturbing nests. Many bees build underground nests in old mammal holes. Trees, walls and dead wood can also be nest sites. So again its about trying to leave them alone over Winter. Bee hotels can be bought or made for many solitary bees that nest above ground. While I haven’t had much luck with bees in mine they are filling with other life.


5: Think about whether to use pesticides. Many pesticides harm bees. Check labels and think carefully before buying. If you do use them try to avoid spraying flowering plants.

The wildlife trust had put out more information sheets here. Nothing very strenuous there, but will give you enjoyment of these vital, wonderful creatures.

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Big Butterfly Count

Yesterday saw the start of the Big Butterfly Count. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation to monitor butterfly numbers. Many species of butterfly have suffered over the last decade. But if we don’t put figures to the declines protection won’t be put in place.
Within my garden I will probably only see a handful of species. I see plenty of varieties of whites. However they don’t stop for photos much. The red admirals are more obliging.

Butterfly

Ringlets are common on my walks.

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Speckled woods I see in my garden and out and about.

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Small tortoiseshells are a less frequent visitor to my garden, but common enough in my area.

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Then occasionally I’ll see a peacock.

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On the Big Butterfly Count website there is an ID sheet to download to help support identification. I’ve printed and laminated an A3 one to go outside in my outdoor classroom near the bug hotel to encourage the children to keep their eyes out.
Sightings can be submitted on the website here. My garden has a few more butterfly attracting plants than last year, so we’ll see if I spot anything new this year.