Tag Archive | environment

My words go a little further

In July last year I had an idea. During my time as a full time volunteer with the National Trust at Fyne Court in Somerset¬† and the Quantock Hills AONB service I carried out a small survey on hazel dormice. I had gathered and analysed some interesting data and wanted to share this with anyone who might like to read it! Having never gone to print in the nature or environmental field, I started looking at possible options. I guessed my survey didn’t merit “scientific peer reviewed” publication status, but was more along the lines of “general interests” to nature lovers.

A sleepy dormouse holds on to my thumb

I got in touch with the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species who run many different protects based around conservation of different species in England. They produce a newsletter twice a year called “The Dormouse Monitor” for people with an interest in dormice and for people who monitor the small mammals.

Dormice are put into plastic bags briefly to be seperated, weighed and sexed

I contacted the editor and explained my situation and I was invited to submit an article with some photos. With some feedback from experienced dormice monitors, Steve and Shelly I put together a piece and sent it off. Six months later…my words are in print, being read (hopefully) by many dormice lovers around England, and maybe further afield!

A family of dormice huddle close together to stay warm

To read the article, visit the PTES website at this link, click “Autumn 2011” and go to page 6. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed collecting the data and getting up close and personal with the adorable dormice!

Dormice enter a semi hibernation (torpor) during cold or wet periods during the breeding season

Lets Get Wild

I’ve been thinking about putting together a “wildlife diary” so to speak for a while. A collection of thoughts and experiences on my day-to-day experiences into the natural environment. It will hopefully help me organise my thoughts and focus my learning. There is so much to get my head around and maybe through telling others about what I find, I’ll learn a little more myself! I’ll try to keep it varied and informative, not all about dormice…

A wetland wander…

Yesterday evening I took a walk around the wetland reserve at Cardiff Bay. The reserve was created in 2002 when the barrage (effectively a large dam across the river estuary) was built. The area went from salty mudflats to freshwater marsh as the water levels rose. On the water’s edge there are footpaths and a board walk, ideal for a bit of twitching! It was a blustery evening so I imagined most wildlife would be sheltering from the weather. I brought along my new binoculars which I have been itching to use for weeks now (Thanks mam & Pat!) The first thing to catch my attention was a family of mute swans – 2 white adults and 5 dirty brown cygnets. Mute swans (Cygnus olor) are the more “domesticated” of swan species, but can be aggressive during breeding, raising wings and hissing loudly! They have a reddish-orange bill with a black facial patch. In the summer there are ~30,000 adult breeding mute swans in the UK and in the winter they are joined by European swans on holiday from the cold weather! Males (cobs) are larger than females (pens) and can weight up to 12kg (one of the heaviest flying birds!).

The family was grouped close to the boardwalk (in the water below) and I approached carefully. They didn’t seem to mind me being close, but the young did make a quiet chirping kind of sound – but it wasn’t aggressive, maybe they were just chatting! They were busy pruning and the juveniles seemed ready to shed their grey-brown plumage and show off some nice white feathers – no more ugly ducklings (according to HC Anderson)! The young also have a grey bill for the first year. Interestingly the mute swan is the national bird of Denmark – what a coincidence! On my wanders I kept an eye out for some swan feathers – I have read they make great quills (another project!). I did manage quiet a few other birds, including gulls (many many) coots, moorhens, great crested greebes, some ducks and cormorants – not a bad evening bird watching!

Slimey close up…

While out in the woodland last week, joined by my helper (Tracey) we came across a large slug making his way across the path. Yes- not the most exciting piece of wildlife, but something I have never stopped to investigate.¬† Slugs are in the class gastropod coming from the latin – stomach foot. I think this maybe a European black slug (Arion ater) but can’t be certain. Slugs are identified by having an unsegmented soft body, a large foot and a well-developed head. I’ve never really looked closely at a slug, but they have some well-defined body parts. On the head they have 2 optical (light) and 2 sensory (smell) tentacles. Below this is the mouth which contains a toothed tongue (radula) with up to 27,000 teeth(dam think of the dentist bills) used to rasp food into the mouth. Further down is the mantle (smooth area) containing the breathing hole or pneumostone. The slug actually breathes through its entire body, but uses this breathing hole to increase air-skin contact during strenuous exercise. I tell you he was moving fast at this point trying to escape my evil little sister who was putting stones on his back! Behind the mantle the slug has ridges called tubercles which form the foot and are used to move. The edge of the foot has a fringe or skirt where it meets the sole (I LOVE the terms used!). Slugs are most active on wet days and at night as they need to remain moist. Slugs are hermaphrodites (have both sex organs) but still need to mate for breeding to be fruitful. Slugs feed on fungi and vegetation (both living and decaying). Although I’m not interested in this form of free food, slug is on the menu for many including badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, slow words and some birds.

Something for the weekend…

Finally I’d like to introduce you to Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia) also known as True-lover’s Knot. It is a woodland plant preferring damp shady places on limestone. It’s looks really quiet weird, as it has a whorl of leaves with one solitary berry (looks like a blueberry) on the top. I was quiet curious its name so decided to do a bit of research. According to my sources, in large doses it’s quiet nasty – producing nausea, vomiting, vertigo etc while in small doses it can be used to treat bronchitis, coughs, rheumatism, cramp, colic, and palpitation of the heart. Interesting – but I won’t be trying it out any time soon! I did find out however, it has been used as an aphrodisiac..hmm…there’s an idea!

That’s all for now…I hope you’ve learned something – I know I have!