Our hands were peppered With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

As the title suggests, I went blackberry picking this week! If you attended school in the UK you are likely to have read the poem from which I’ve taken my title – Blackberry Picking by Seamus Heaney. If not, do go and read it – it’s one of my favourites. Anyway, the blackberry picking was late in the week, so shall come onto that in a bit!

Earlier in the week, I was based down at the Chesil Beach Centre. A mixed bag in terms of weather, but I managed to take some nice photos after work. Sadly I can’t get out much during work as the centre tends to be quite hectic, and I usually end up gulping down my lunch!

A day at Lorton mid-week, no groups in so I was getting on with work in the office. Thought had a stroll had to be taken of course.

This week was a bit topsy turvy, as I was then back at Chesil again! As before, busy during the day. I had an unplanned wander after work – the weather was very calm, with no wind for once, and the sunshine was glorious. I popped across the road to Hamm Beach and photographed the Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) for a while. They are such wonderful birds, and as the name suggests, they turn stones!

I also filmed them for a bit as their stone-turning is brilliant to watch, plus they call – I think to each other. Using an educated guess, I would say they are contact calls? I.e. letting the other(s) know they are still there?

I also saw this massive bumblebee – I think it may be a queen? She really was huge!

Despite being the end of September, I literally took the plunge and went paddling. The water was actually a decent temperature, once I got used to it!

Some others photos from the evening:

Back to Lorton again for the weekend and the theme of Pond Life, which means … pond dipping! Woohoo! One of my favourite activities! We discovered a myriad of insects, molluscs and other invertebrates within the pond, as well as seeing some adult dragonflies zooming about above it.

Saturday evening I went blackberry picking – even though the freezer is already full of fruit thanks to Matt’s foraging efforts. And on both days, I had someone else at the centre with me (membership recruiter, then a volunteer) so we peered at wildlife together during a couple of quiet moments.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Pain, but no gain (only partially true)

Strictly speaking, the title is not true. I’ve had very little pain this week, and a lot of gain, but you’ll see later why the title. As I write, I am in a sickeningly “I love life” mood. I want to take a moment to examine this mood. As a sufferer of both Seasonal Affective Disorder and, more recently, bouts of depression, spending time outdoors in the sunshine and talking to people (aka my job!) is bound to have a positive effect on me. People can often underestimate how much nature can help us, not least with our mental health. We are intricately connected with nature, even with today’s technological distractions. Taking a moment, even just a little one every now and then, to appreciate nature can benefit you.

Back to my week. It began with paint. An odd beginning to the week one might say, but I work in environmental education (/community engagement) and my tasks are varied! For the first couple of days this week, I was tasked with ensuring that a big roll of white fabric got covered in handprints! I relished the task, and got involved with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm (i.e. getting my hands covered in paint and encouraging others to do as as well). Soon enough, and with help from volunteers, centre visitors and even Taste* cafe staff, the sheet was covered. And my hands were blue no matter how much I scrubbed them! And the purpose of this? Well, that shall remain a surprise until the next blog post.

A midweek lunchtime stroll on Chesil Beach resulted (as usual) in a quick beach clean! I just hate seeing litter on the beach (and elsewhere!). So I am continuing well with that wildlife resolution!

We sailed off into the sunset, almost literally, when The Fleet Observer took some centre volunteers (and a couple of DWT staff) out on a trip. I know, I know, I went on a trip only a couple of weeks ago! But I do so love going out on the boat and we always see something fun. This time I even managed to get some good photos of the hares (Lepus europaeus), and some sunset photos too, so I was particularly pleased.

Inland to Lorton, and I was leading our Caterpillar Kids session on grasshoppers and crickets! What great fun it was, and we had some children that were absolutely brilliant at catching them! I have realised that there aren’t actually that many grasshoppers and crickets, so I didn’t feel too daunted in trying to identify a couple. I got them wrong mind, but I gave it a go and I shall continue to try, which is the important thing!

I must apologise here to the residents of Weymouth and the surrounding areas. The torrential rain on Friday was my fault. I had a day off you see. However, I wasn’t too put out as it provided me with a decent opportunity to sort through some photos and the like. The weekend dawned bright and clear, but Weymouth did soon cloud over (unlike Portland which stayed sunny all day, grr!). I was meant to be leading a reptile walk at Lorton, but the slight chill in the air made me dubious that we would find any. So I turned it into a general nature walk and we had a fantastic time! A good variety of wildlife was seen, including my first Wasp Spiders (Argiope bruennichi) which are incredibly awesome! I also picked up a bush-cricket and much to the amusement of everyone there, yelled in startlement when it bit me! The cheeky thing (though I don’t blame it)! I can’t say which species it was, as the unexpected pain caused me to throw it into the grass. Oops! Note to self – it isn’t just Great Green Bush Crickets (Tettigonia viridissima) that bite! The end of the walk ended on a reptile sighting, as we found two baby slow worms, but they slithered away before I got photos. I caught one the following day, prompting it to defecate on me – charming! – but again no photo I’m afraid.

A quick evening dash up to Portland Bird Observatory as Josie Hewitt was visiting and I wanted to say hi. I also got to see this lovely Painted Lady  (Vanessa cardui) which was very obliging with letting me take photos. I even persuaded it to sit on my finger, but naturally it flew off before I could actually take a photo of it doing so! I also saw a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), but that was not at all obliging and disappeared before I could even grab my camera.

The weekend, and thus the week, drew to an end. With sunshine above, and no big plans for the evening, I just had to go for another wildlife wander in Lorton. I looked for the Wasp Spiders again, and found two, as well as some galls on oak (presumably caused by a parasitic wasp?).

A note on Wasp Spiders. It is actually only the female that has the stunning stripes. The male is smaller and brown, I think there is a male in one of the photos above. Apparently, the male has to wait until the female reaches her mature form, make the most of her soft jaws, and then go into mate with her. Even so, a number of them do get eaten still! As one of the orb-weaving spiders, you can see the white zig-zag in her web, which is called a stabilimentum. According to the Wildlife Trusts webpage on them, there is no known function to this stabilimentum.

Next week’s post is likely to be delayed as I shall be travelling back from BirdFair (which is going to be amazing!). Let me know if you’re going and would like to meet up!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).