Nature Diary for October 2010
Sat 4th Sept I went with a friend to Parley Heath to photograph the marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe) and was not disappointed, it was a sunny morning and they were just starting to open, their deep blue corolla smiling at the sun surrounded by Bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) that had just finished flowering making a wonderful picture that only nature can produce. After photographing this gem we decided to look for the long-winged conehead (Conocephalus discolor) and by using my bat detector we managed to locate two, both females. This green bush cricket recognised by the long almost straight ovipositor was first recorded here in the 1930s and loves being photographed unlike the bog-bush cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) whose ovipositor curves upward, and quickly dives for cover once disturbed. While searching for this Orthoptera our attention was drown to a high pitched wee wee wee wee wee sound coming from above, looking up we witnessed a pair of Hobbies (Falco subbuteo) hunting, their mastery of speed and flight in pursuit of dragonflies is a wonderful thing to watch, they displayed for at least five minutes then disappeared as quickly as they came. Being summer migrants they will soon be leaving us and heading back to warmer climes. While on the heath we did find a large rusty piece of corrugated tin and on examination found a male grass snake (Natrix natrix) warming himself, being cold blooded reptiles rely on the sun's warmth to give them energy.
12th Sept Visited Dunyeats Hill, 9.45am to do my monthly survey and found two Smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) one adult and one juvenile, nothing else not even a slowworm or a beautiful adder, where have they gone? Was the heavy rain that we have had to blame for their disappearance? I just don't know only time will tell. Continuing my usual round checking the heath I discovered a new daughter colony of Southern wood ant (Formica rufa) by the side of a path the nest being 12"x12" and made within a day or so, on close examination I could see the tiny ant (Formicoxinus nitidulus) which is an inquiline that lives in a nest made by other species, notably wood ants, and are not very often seen only when the host is less active e.g. early morning or autumn, but this was 11.45 am and very hot. On leaving the ants in peace to continue building their new home I made my way towards the pond on my arrival at the waterside I noticed several common darter dragonflies (Sympetrum striolatum) flying in tandem the females dipping the tips of their abdomen into the water where the eggs are washed away into the mud at the bottom of the pond where they will remain if fertile until they hatch going through several stages before emerging as a perfect dragonfly thus completing the cycle once more. In the soft muddy ground where the sundew grows there were plenty of roe deer slots and fresh fewmets (Droppings) telling me that they are still around. On the south side of the pond when making my way home I noticed the beautiful scarlet cap of a freshly emerged fly Agaric toadstall (Amanita muscaria - see picture below) just asking to be photographed, which I did, and the common puffball (Lycoperdon perlatum) growing nearby, thus ending a perfect morning on the heath.
20th Sept I walked to Pocket Park with my wife and our dog Peggy to see if there was any sign of badger activity, I was told badgers had been seen going into gardens but I searched the woods and could not find any trace of a sett or worn paths made by these nocturnal creatures. If they are living there then they are well hidden, but if I were a badger I certainly would not want to live there, the rubbish dumped in the woods of this lovely little park is disgraceful.
30th Sept I visited Pocket Park again and I did notice signs of Badger activity this time the grass had been lifted in places where one had been looking for earth worms, they are becoming quite common once again in Broadstone. A resident who lives in the Ridgeway told me she has a badger living under her shed and they have also been seen crossing the road into the recreation ground.
10th Oct The morning was very dull but by 10.30am the sun came out as the weatherman promised and by midday became very hot, I had decided to visit Dunyeats Hill to film the southern wood ants before the cold weather arrives and they disappear deep underground but being hot they were very active, but the Slave maker ant Formica sanguinea seemed very quiet with just the occasional worker foraging. While I observed these industrious hard working little folk I became aware of movement overhead, looking up I saw not my usual companion the buzzard but an old friend I had not seen for sometime the windhover, in fact the last time I saw him he was hunting along the verges of the A31 but here he was with his long wings and tail spread wide his wings beating at a pace adjusted to wind in the opposite direction searching the ground below for a field mouse or shrew or even a beetle, isn't nature wonderful. I know this small falcon is known as the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) but I prefer the old country name of windhover, a perfect description of this beautiful bird.
11th Oct I saw my first winter visiting redwings (Turdus iliacus) flying over the recreation ground early this morning a small group of about twelve, I look forward to their arrival every year along with the fieldfare (Turdus pilaris).
Keith Clements - Parks, Nature Reserves & Heathland