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Owls and Boxes - Part 2

Owls and Boxes – Part 2

by Chris Saunders ~ 5 September, 2018 ~ comments welcome

It was disappointing not to have a resident owl in the newly installed nest box, but at least we had enjoyed the trail camera shots of an owl exploring a potential site.   In mid-March we blocked the hole, having expelled a squirrel family on several occasions. By this time of the year tawny owls will have chosen their nest site, and be well into their courtship cycle. Perhaps something will persuade them to use the nest box next year. Read more...

foraging bee

Bumblebees ‘hooked’ on neonicotinoids?

by Chris ~ 1 September, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Researchers at Imperial College, London (Dr Andres Arce, Dr. Richard Gill et al) have been conducting field trials on the foraging behaviour of bumblebees and the effect of neonicotinoids.  As wild bees have a choice on where they feed, the researchers wanted to know if the bees could detect insecticides and learn to avoid them. Read more...

Threatened spiders

Threatened spiders

by Chris ~ 31 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

According to the British Arachnological Society, there are some 654 different species of spider in the U.K.   However, a recent survey (link opens a PDF) they undertook (in conjunction with Natural Resources Wales) suggests that 16% of our spider species are threatened.   Eighteen of these species are critically endangered and eighty four species are classified as vulnerable or endangered. The terms used are based on those of IUCN Red List categories, so critically endangered means Extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Read more...

Bumblebee update - brief notes

Bumblebee update – brief notes

by Chris ~ 28 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The yellow banded bumblebee (Bombus terricola) is a North American species of bumblebee.  It has been in decline across its range.  This bumblebee is now down to about 10% of its former numbers.   Recently, its genome has been sequenced at York University, Canada.  This genetic analysis shows that the bumblebees are inbreeding.  As bees become more inbred, the face difficulties in maintaining their population numbers.  As population become smaller, there is a greater risk of inbreeding.  Inbred bees have problems in terms of fertility.  Males can become infertile so that if they mate with a queen, there are no offspring or the queen may produce sterile males instead of worker bees. Read more...

Unusual or exotic trees - the horseradish tree

Unusual or exotic trees – the horseradish tree

by Chris ~ 22 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The horseradish tree has other names - moringa, the drumstick tree or the benzoil tree.  It scientific name is Moringa oleifera.  The word moringa is derived from a Tamil word, murungai - which means twisted pod, referring to the shape of the tree’s young fruit. 

It is native to the foothills of the Himalayas.  It is known to have been cultivated for some 3000 years (source : Mabberley’s Plant Book) and it is a very ‘versatile’ plant as nearly every part of the tree can be used.   It can thrive in semi-arid conditions. Moringa is grown in India, Thailand, the Philippines, parts of the Caribbean and Indonesia. Read more...

Monthly Mushroom: The Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)

Monthly Mushroom: The Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera)

by Jasper ~ 17 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Parasols should be popping up all across the UK at the moment. Paul Stamets in Mycelium Running calls them “one of the most majestic of all edible mushrooms.” The second part of the Latin name Macrolepiota procera literally means lofty, upraised or extended to a great height, and they are certainly hard to miss on late-Summer and Autumn forays. 

The Parasol mushroom starts out looking something like a drumstick, before the initially egg-shaped cap opens up to a maximum size of around a foot across (typically between 10-30cm) when fully grown. Read more...

Wood Ants film

Wood Ants film

by Angus ~ 15 August, 2018 ~ one comment

WoodlandsTV has made a new ant film that shows wildlife film maker, Tom Hartwell taking a closer look at the life of Wood Ants. With numbers decreasing across the UK it is important to pay more attention to these fascinating creatures and the role they play within our ecosystem.

There are over 200 species of Formica rufa - the scientific name for Wood ants. As the name suggests they are most commonly found in woodlands but some species are also found in grasslands. Read more...

Cooking Under the Sun: The Solar Oven

Cooking Under the Sun: The Solar Oven

by Jasper ~ 12 August, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The long hot summer months have provided plenty of scope for al fresco cooking and eating this year. For most, this means channelling our inner caveman, poking at unevenly cooked slabs of meat over a bed of smoking charcoal. The record-breaking levels of sunshine we have enjoyed recently, however, suggest other opportunities for off-the-grid culinary experimentation. The expanding range of solar ovens on the market may never replace the traditional barbecue experience, but cooking using just the free power provided by the sun’s rays can be a lot less faff than hours of fiddling with newspaper, firelighters and dusty briquettes.

Aside from providing the smug satisfaction of keeping carbon emissions down to a minimum, these campsite counterparts to Le Creuset offer up far more possibilities for the more adventurous outdoors cook than the usual backstop options of the charred sausage or the billy can of beans, opening up a brave new world of stews, curries, baked vegetables, even risottos… Read more...

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