Nature Diary for March 2010
On the 8th and 9th of February Four Shetland cattle were introduced on the heath at Dunyeats Hill, they will stay until October 2010, one has a radio collar for easy tracking, they are checked every day. I will be monitoring these large herbivores to see what impact they have on soil living invertebrates e.g. Ants by trampling, also imagine finding the beautiful ladybird spider (Eresus cinnaberinus) that lives in a silk-lined tube buried in the ground and then finding it trampled on, what a disaster that would be. Though the chances of finding this rare spider on Dunyeats Hill is very remote, but I am always looking and hoping that one day I will discover it on the heath. Although this will be very low intensity grazing and should have very little effect if any on these species.
On 5th Feb I took a trip to Hatch Pond I was very lucky to see three Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) and a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus). I met and spoke to Mike Coleman who was there to photograph the Bitterns, you can see some of his photographs of birds on Dorset Bird Club website. His photos are superb but when he told me the price he paid for the telephoto lens that's another story, but then he is a professional.
24th Feb I checked the pond in Pocket Park for frog spawn, the first batch was showing, there was also some in a nearby puddle. Within the next few days the pond will become a mass of jelly, let's hope the pond does not become dry in the next month or so like previous years, but with the amount of rain that we have had I can't see this happening.
We have had a Goldcrest (Reglus regulus) come to our feeders for the past few days these minute size birds with a yellow stripe on the crown bordered black at the sides are usually seen in pine trees. I remember finding a goldcrest nest in the 1980s when I was working in Poole Park while having my lunch break I noticed this tiny bird going back and forth to a low hanging branch of a pine about eight feet up. I decided to investigate I was lucky below this branch was a chain link fence and a pile of wooden pallets allowing me easy access, I could not see anything at first but on close examination I found the most exquisite nest I had ever seen, it was so tiny and well concealed attached near to the far end of the branch and hung underneath like a tiny hammock the nest was made of pieces of moss and held together with gossamer/cobwebs and was smaller than an egg cup, I felt privileged to have witnessed this wonderful work of art by such a tiny bird.
Feb 26th a Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) visited the bird table, a first for our garden. Also heard the laughing call of a Green woodpecker (Picus viridis) although a common bird it is not seen as often as the Great-spotted (Dendrocopos major) its diet being mainly ants especially woodants. Feb 24th I noticed a Magpie (Pica pica) building a nest in a small pine tree close to the bus stop in Tesco's car park.
March 11th found my first Harlequin ladybird of the year on my bedroom wall. I also noticed a Carrion crow (Corvus corone corone) carrying nest material to one of the large pine trees in the recreation ground.
March 13th The magpie nest that was being built in a small pine tree in the car park of Tesco supermarket at Fleetsbridge was now finished.
March 14th Clear skies and sunny with a hard frost brought several Redwing (Turdus iliacus) onto the cricket field this morning. Later in the morning I decided to go for a walk on Dunyeats Hill there I saw my first butterfly of the year a Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and also another yellow favourite of mine the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) always a joy to see. Later while checking refugia for early slow worms (Anguis fragilis) I saw a Common lizard (Lacerta agilis) sunbathing on one of the tins put down for reptile surveys. I also found several pioneer colonies of wood ant ( Formica rufa) showing signs of life; one other invertebrate I saw was a Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata). I was surprised not to find any frog spawn in the bog area, last year there was plenty of spawn on the 20th February.
16th March more sunshine saw my first Comma butterfly (Polygonia c- album) of the year in the sheltered hollow adjacent to woodland at the rear of Sharlands Close, they are usually seen in April, the warmth of the sun probably brought him out of hibernation early it was a wonderful bright specimen. I also spotted the early-nesting Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) a worker; the first workers usually appear late March/early April. The queens are the earliest appearing in early February depending on the weather.
21st March I haven't heard a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) singing in the recreation ground yet they are normally here by now, I have recorded him in previous years singing on the 12th March.2007 & 15th March 2008-2009
24th March the Chiffchaff has finally arrived I heard him singing in the wooded area of Broadstone Nature Reserve in the afternoon. Once I have seen the face of lesser celandine smiling in the sunshine and heard the Chiffchaff. I know spring has arrived.
On Tuesday the 30th March in Broadstone library there will be a display put on by me and Dr Patricia Mathers on Heathland Ecology showing the flora and fauna and the work that has to be done to maintain this precious and slowly disappearing habitat.
Keith Clements - Parks, Nature Reserves & Heathland