Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,

A bewildering start to the week, as I awoke in the east side of Dorset. Not by magic mind, I had travelled over on Sunday evening to visit a friend who has just started a Masters at Bournemouth University. Watch out Bournemouth! A lovely start to the week, due to seeing both my friend and also a Red Admiral first thing in the morning. As she (my friend, not the butterfly) went off to her first lectures of the term, I wondered how to pass the time for the rest of my day off. There was no question of course – at a nature reserve! But which one …

I settled upon Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Upton Heath Nature Reserve, as it had been over a year since I had visited, and I haven’t wandered around heathland much. Naturally I popped my head around the door at the Beacon Hill Urban Wildlife Centre to say hello, then headed out to see what I could discover.

Ah, heathland … still purple in autumn, with the bright splashes of other colours, plus the more subdued oranges and browns of drooping leaves and partially hidden fungi. The quick glimpse of a snake as it is startled by my footsteps and slides away into the gorse and heather. (I think it was a Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), but not 100% sure as I haven’t got much experience with snakes).

I was drawn to examine the stems of the plants as I could hear the singing of a cricket … it took me a while, but I finally spotted a male singing away. It was a Bog Bush-Cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera), a new species for me and my eighth Orthopteran. I soon found a couple more, including one with the green patterning.

I also saw a couple of different grasshoppers and a groundhopper, but I haven’t yet worked out which species they are. With the grasshoppers, I think one of them was a Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus), and the others are Field Grasshoppers (Chorthippus brunneus). The groundhopper is most likely a Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata).  I also took a video of the bush-crickets/grasshoppers singing, but haven’t uploaded it yet.

And then the fungi … no idea what they were, but they look rather cool!

A few days of working at Lorton, and I made sure to eat my lunch outdoors. I had allowed myself to get into the bad habit of eating at my computer, which is not at all healthy. I even sat in the sunshine by the pond for my lunch, which was just lovely – and still warm despite being the beginning of October! I enjoyed watching the dragonflies zooming about – and even managed to get a few shots of one in flight. A tad blurry, but the best I’ve ever got! This particular one was very curious and kept flying over to see what I was doing (or to work out what I was?).

At one point, I was rather startled as suddenly a bird appeared suddenly overhead and splashed into the pond. A duck! Rather surprisingly, this is actually the first duck I’ve seen at Lorton! I wonder if she was hiding from a bird of prey?

A few more photos from lunchtime outside, including a slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) who was really chilled out and let me take lots of photos!

A post-work weekend walk with Sean took us down to Two Mile Coppice as we peered into the undergrowth attempting to find fungi. However, it has been rather dry recently so we weren’t expecting much. We found a few scattered about though and Sean managed to identify a few (I got one too, wahey!).

End of the week, I was sleepy and wanting my bed. But I headed up to Portland to show Christina and Amy (two of the trainees) where the Portland Bird Observatory is. We saw a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) in the PBO garden, plus the Little Owl (Athene noctua) in the quarry, ate plenty of blackberries, saw some tiny caterpillars and listened to Great Green Bush-Crickets (Tettigonia viridissima). All in all, a very nice Sunday evening.

As I finish writing up this post, I can hear the wind howling outside. Looks like our spell of good weather is over for now! I wonder if there will be any more decent periods of weather before I leave Dorset? There’s still so much to see and do!

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).

 

There’s a snake in my boot!

I lied, there wasn’t a snake in my boot this week … but snakes did feature, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use this quote from such an epic film (Toy Story in case you didn’t know, but you should know because Toy Story is amazing and everyone has seen it!).

Before the snakes, there were birds. Lots of birds. I was doing a BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) course at the Kingcombe Meadows Nature Reserve, and it was fab to go out into the countryside with someone who could identify all the birds we could see and hear. The latter is particularly difficult most of the time as although some birds are very distinctive in their call or song, there are many that sound fairly similar. Plus, many have a variety of calls or song, and some birds mimic other species (I’m looking at you Great Tit!).

Blackcap hiding behind branches

Blackcap hiding behind branches

All in all, there were: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, House Sparrow, Chiff Chaff, Swallow, House Martin, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wren, Goldcrest, Garden Warbler, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Treecreeper, Buzzard and Rook. Another walk after the course had finished saw me adding Greater-spotted Woodpecker, Yellowhammer and Bullfinch to the list.

Bullfinch

Bullfinch

I love this photo of a cheeky female House Sparrow in the chicken feed trough at Kingcombe

I love this photo of a cheeky female House Sparrow in the chicken feed trough at Kingcombe

Reptilian training took place on Upton Heath Nature Reserve with the traineeship manager, and smooth snake / sand lizard licence holder, Steve Davis. It was an epic day – Common Lizard, Sand Lizard, Slow Worm and Smooth Snake were seen, and we got to handle the latter! I was quite nervous because … well, it’s a snake! I was afraid it might bite  me, but I was also really nervous about stressing it out or dropping it. Luckily none of that happened, and instead we all marvelled over how cute they are!

Smooth snake, not too sure about having its photo taken!

Smooth snake, not too sure about having its photo taken!

Male sand lizard soaking up some rays

Male sand lizard soaking up some rays

I also saw some lovely moths (naturally!) including the Common Heath moth of whom I saw both a male and a female! In addition, there were lots of lovely birds about – Stonechat, Linnet, Tree Pipit, Cuckoo and Dartford Warbler.

Common Heath moth (male)

Common Heath moth (male)

Common Heath moth (female)

Common Heath moth (female)

The second half of the week saw me back at the Chesil Beach Centre, but I was soon whisked away to do a quick search for a rare moth – the Least Owlet, whose only UK distribution is on Chesil Beach! We were looking for the larvae of this caterpillar, who are quite pedantic about their habitat, so it wasn’t too hard to find them once I got my eye into it.

The Least Owlet Moth larvae (just below the shell and leaf)

The Least Owlet Moth larvae (just below the shell and leaf)

Following this mini expedition, I headed out on another one – a wildflower walk on Chesil Beach with Angela Thomas, the assistant warden for the Fleet Nature Reserve. There are many flowers out on the beach, and they are stunning. A couple of of my favourites are Sea Campion (white) and Thrift (pink), and you can see why – it’s gorgeous!

Sea Campion and Thrift with the Chesil Centre in the background

Sea Campion and Thrift with the Chesil Centre in the background

Naturally we saw a variety of other wildlife out on the beach, from birds (Linnet, Skylark, Wheatear, Herring Gull, Little Tern), to beetles and moths (I’m finding that there are moths everywhere if you look for them!).

Wheatear

Wheatear

Yellow Belle moth

Yellow Belle moth

So a very packed week, and I’ve not even included everything – I’ve seen a number of other moths (Muslin, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Cinnabar and some micros whose names I can’t remember!), startled a hedgehog in the garden and seen a number of butterflies (they’re not as interesting as moths though).