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Ladybirds or bishy barnabees.

Ladybirds or bishy barnabees.

by Chris ~ 16 August, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In Norfolk, a ladybird is sometimes referred to as a bishy barnabee.; this rather curious name is explored in this article in The Spectator from last year.   Ladybirds are beetles and are easy to recognise. Most have dome-shaped bodies, with an oval outline and three pairs of jointed legs.  The most common ladybirds have bright red wing cases with black spots covering their bodies.  Others are yellow with black spots, some white and brown, or even striped.  It has been estimated that there are some five thousand species of ladybird across the world, with 40+ species in the British Isles.

Their bright colour serves as a ‘do not eat me’ warning to would-be predators, apparently they have a bitter taste.  Birds such as swifts and swallows eat ladybirds, as do some spiders, frogs, wasps, and dragonflies.  When challenged, ladybirds can produce an ‘unpleasant’, yellow, oily fluid; or they may ‘play dead’.  The pine ladybird when under threat ‘clamps’ itself to the surface that it is resting on.  Bright colours are used as a defence mechanism in a number of insects.


collared paracute

August’s Fungi Focus: The Collared Parachute (Marasmius rotula)

by Jasper Sharp ~ 11 August, 2020 ~ one comment

There are quite a few conspicuous Summer fungi that you might have seen popping up recently. One of the most commonly found and easy to identify is the subject of this month’s focus, the Collared Parachute (Marasmius rotula) referred to alternatively by the names of the Pinwheel Mushroom or the Horse Hair fungus.   These alternate names present fairly accurate descriptions of the characteristic appearance of this dainty looking but tough mushroom, which you’ll find growing in groups in the leaf litter from the first June rains through to November. The thin and fibrous stem that is the same ivory white colour at the top as the tough, dry pleated cap that it supports but darkens from russet brown to near black towards its base is one feature that it shares with a number of other species in the Marasmius genus. More distinctive is the collar, or collarium to give it its technical name, that separates the gills from the stem, with the gills themselves fairly widely spaced and running outwards to the cap edges. Read more...

Ash dieback

Ash dieback

by Lewis ~ 7 August, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The woodlands blog has reported on the pathogen that causes ash dieback.   Jasper has described the nature of the fungus, and Richard has commented on how the problem has developed.  

The disease has been variously referred to as 

  • chalara,  
  • ash dieback, and 
  • chalara dieback of ash. 

The fungus has an asexual phase, which was formerly known as Chalara fraxinea, hence the name of the disease; the sexual phase of the fungus was then associated with the asexual Chalara - this was called Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus. Putting the two together, the fungus was named Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (H.fraxineus).  The fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus is of Asian origin. Read more...

the hide

Buzzards at the Nest : More on birds from Woodcock Wood

by Chris Saunders ~ 3 August, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In an established territory the Common Buzzard is likely to have several nests which they will use interchangeably. Over the last two or three years of watching the pair over Woodcock Wood we decided to make an effort to find their nest. By the end of June we had located five nests, including their current one, high in the confines of Corsican Pines, and surprisingly close together.

We set up a small hide (featured image). The height of the nest meant an excruciating position for body and camera over many hours, and the position of the sun meant mornings only for photos.  Over the next three weeks, we spent many hours watching the activity around the nest.   Initially we were able to confirm there were two chicks which we estimated were about 30 to 35 days old. The female remained deep in the nest for much of the time, and was reliant entirely on the male.  Read more...

Barking up the wrong tree?

Barking up the wrong tree?

by Lewis ~ 31 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

In their natural environment, giant sequoias are to be found only in a high and narrow area on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.  Like, bristlecones, giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are a long lived species - their life span can be 3000 years.   However, their most spectacular feature is their sheer size - they can reach heights of 300 feet with a trunk that may be 20 feet  or more in diameter.  Indeed, the world’s largest tree (by volume) is General Sherman - a sequoia estimated to have a volume in excess of 52000 cubic feet.

The trees are not only long lived but ‘tough’.  They have protection against fire and rock fall, both of which are hazards in their home habitat.  Protection is afforded by their bark, which is very fibrous and can be up to 3 feet thick. Read more...

swift brick

Swift-bricks: fancy sex in a swift box or in flight?

by Angus ~ 24 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Swifts are amazing creatures - they migrate from Europe to Africa and back every winter, they cruise at 70mph and in a lifetime they might fly a distance equivalent to three return trips to the moon.  There is some question about where swifts actually mate - it is certain that they can copulate in mid-air, but they also routinely mate at their nest sites.  Possibly mating on the wing is a lightening quick liaison between individuals that are paired with someone else - a case of a 'swift quickie', that may have the effect of widening the gene pool - even if it's a long shot.  Despite all their aerial stunts, they spend about a month every year incubating eggs or brooding chicks on a solid surface such as a ledge or crevice, an old nest or a specifically designed swift box or swift brick. Read more...

PV Panels and Solar Farms boost wildlife

PV Panels and Solar Farms boost wildlife

by Angus ~ 18 July, 2020 ~ 3 comments

When we applied for permission to build a solar farm in West Sussex the planners initially worried about the impact on wildlife and insisted that we do surveys of the bats and newts, but in practice the solar panels, now installed there, have created a haven for wildlife.  

Several surprising facts struck me as I walked amongst the PV panels: Read more...

Big butterfly count - 2020.

Big butterfly count – 2020.

by Chris ~ 17 July, 2020 ~ one comment

The Big Butterfly Count is back and it starts today.  The people at Butterfly Conservation say that ‘this year’s count is more critical than ever’.  Following the good weather in Spring, some of the earliest average emergence dates of butterflies for the last 20 years have been recorded. It is important that they gain some understanding of how these weather patterns affect butterflies, so that it might be possible to protect them in the future.

Giving just a few minutes of your time and joining the count will help the Butterfly Conservationists understand how different species are faring in your area. This information / data will, in turn, help them to target research and conservation work where it is most needed Read more...

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