Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Spring has truly sprung

Last week the weather took a turn for the better and, armed with my camera, I went out looking for willing (or otherwise) subjects for my college natural history diary.  So far the species are mounting up, however pen has not yet reached paper in terms of writing.  Plenty time for that.....

Adder (Vipera berus)

On Friday we took a quick trip out to see if we could find any adders.  Since the weather had warmed up it was hoped that they might be out basking in the sunshine.  Our first forray turned up an adder but it made its escape before some of us could get to it.  The second location we went to was much more successful.  We managed to see about 4 or 5 different adders and a couple of slow worms as well.  I am pretty scared of snakes and walking through the undergrowth looking for them was giving me the creeps.  As long as I could see them I was ok.  I just tried not to think what might be there that I couldn't see.

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)
Later that day I was delighted to find a host of beautiful Snake's Head Fritillaries on the college estate.  I remembered these flowers from my trip to La Brenne in France where they are in fact quite rare.  We felled quite a few trees in a woodland area of one of the reserves to allow light to penetrate the canopy and give the Fritillaries a fighting chance.  I hadn't realised that they were quite common in the UK, but was delighted to see them.  Definitely one for the diary!

At the weekend, after I had completed my work party at Langdon Lake & Meadows I took a wander round the reserve to look for butterflies.  I had already seen a Brimstone and a Peacock whilst I had been working but hadn't been able to snap any pictures.  I found a Peacock on the edge of the arable field at the back of the reserve, and also a cute little rabbit (not of any real scientific or diary interest but so cute I have to share the picture!).

Peacock (Inachis io)

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

Finally I walked round the lake and took a couple of pictures of the geese.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Name that mammal...

I recently took part in Kent Wildlife Trust's Mammal Identification course.  The course took place, unsurprisingly, in Kent at Wildwood Trust.  This is a really lovely place which is a bit like a safari park for native animals.  In actual fact they have a lot of different animals including arctice fox, lynx and bison which are not native, but interesting all the same.

We spent the morning learning about the different families of animals, their main identification features and about fieldcraft techniques, i.e. spotting and identifying tracks and poo.  We were also able to look at pelts, antlers, skulls and other bones in the class to help us get an idea of the size of the animals.

After lunch, outside in the sunshine, we had a tour round the park to see the animals we had been taught about.  Some of which were elusive, weasel and stoat were both quite shy, and the badger had to be coaxed out of bed...

Polecat (Mustela putorius)

Badger (Meles meles)

Otter (Lutra lutra)

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa)

Konik Horse (Equus caballus)

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The day was very informative and it was really helpful to see the animals close up to get an indication of their size and key features.  The other animals we saw were:

Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus); Bison (Bison bonasus); Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus); Lynx (Lynx lynx); Pine Marten (Martes martes); Stoat (Mustela ermines); Weasel (Mustela nivalis); and Wolf (Canis lupus).

We finished the day off with a "poo i.d. test" in which Kerry and I fared quite admirably.  Chris Packham would have been proud of us!