In every wood there is moss and leaf litter, and inhabiting these are multitudes of microscopic creatures. Many of these are mites (Acari). Mites are arthropods – literally animals with pairs of jointed legs and a hard exoskeleton (cuticle). The main groups of arthropods are
- the insects
- the crustaceans
- the myriapods and
- the arachnids
The Acari or mites (and ticks) belong with with the spiders – as arachnids. The arachnids have two main regions (or tagmata) to the body – the cephalothorax and the abdomen but these regions are difficult to distinguish in the mites – the head end is known as the gnathosoma and the posterior part as the idiosoma. They usually (but not always) have 4 pairs of jointed legs. The Acari probably outnumber all other arthropods is the soil / humus complex. Read more…
Bugs or invertebrates such as insects, arachnids, centipedes, molluscs, crustaceans and millipedes are an essential part of any ecosystem including our woodlands. In woodland they help create the leaf litter layer and dead wood which adds essential nutrients into the forest ground layer. Some insects pollinate flowers helping to create productive crops, biodiversity and picturesque woodlands. Some even provide us with honey.
The wonderful birdlife we have in this country thrives due to the large number of insects which are essential food stuff for birds, including our woodland birds such as woodpeckers, tree creepers and willow warblers. Read more…
Pond building in woodland is more than just digging a big hole. It is very much about creating a habitat, which is varied but which actually keeps the water in. Over the last month or so, we have been digging a large wildlife pond in Kent not only for wildlife but also for enjoyment. We wanted an expanse of water that would be big enough for some canoeing and paddling around in small boats.
To do the job, we employed a pair of digger drivers with their machines but we were very much involved in the design and practicalities. I knew several people who had dug ponds and lakes but in this case I particularly wanted something with an island; hoping that this could be a protected area for bird nesting – as well as an interesting feature. Read more…
Butterfly Conservation UK and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have been involved in the monitoring the status of butterflies through various citizen science schemes*. UK butterflies (and indeed, birds) are probably the best-studied wildlife groups thanks to the dedication of an enormous workforce of highly skilled and committed volunteer recorders. Butterflies and birds have been observed and recorded in detail for many, many years and these detailed records and counts yield an invaluable resource of information for the analysis of population change(s).
For those wanting to follow up on the different forms of wildlife in their woodland, the following organisations / societies might be of interest / use.
For each there is a link and a snippet from the organisation’s website.
Website of the British Arachnological Society (wiki.britishspiders.org.uk). “Here you can find information on those fascinating animals, arachnids. Our emphasis is on British spiders but we don’t exclude other arachnids such as Harvestmen (opilionids), Pseudoscorpions and Scorpions”. Read more…
The trend in the weather since the 1980’s has been for a general increase in temperature. Perhaps, in consequence, new species of dragonfly and damselfly have arrived in Britain from the warmer climates of Southern Europe.
The following species have been recorded to date
- the Willow Emerald
- the Southern Migrant Hawker
- the Southern Emerald Damselfly
- the Vagrant Emperor
- the Small red-eyed Damselfly and
- the Dainty Damselfly.
There is a considerable number of different surveys running throughout the country, some of which might hold a particular interest for you. Many ‘natural history’ organisations / charities are dependent on the input from volunteers to monitor the status of plant and animal populations throughout the UK or specific local areas – especially in these financially difficult times. Read more…
Whilst it always good to see wildlife in a natural setting, such as a woodland, it is also good to encourage wildlife in our gardens.
The woodland blog last year listed some of the strategies that might encourage insects and invertebrates in our gardens. It is also possible to encourage birds into our gardens, just as Catherine wrote about managing woodlands for birds. Many ‘everyday’ urban species of bird populations have declined in recent times: house sparrows by approximately 60% and starlings perhaps by 75%. Read more…