Monthly Archives: April 2013

TEN ECOLOGICAL MYTHS

  1. Spraying wood chip all over the place is natural.

If the greater abundance of decaying smallwood is partly behind the massive increase in bramble, how is all the chipped wood being sprayed over our verges and wood edges going to help??

 2. Lowland nature reserves are not dog toilets.

A council census of visitors to The Moat Car-park, Thursley, to ask why they were there, didn’t have ‘so dog could crap on the NNR’ as an option! The log jam caused by the clipboard wielding jobsworths caused several wicked dog fights!! Is there anything funnier than middle class southern ladies trying to stop the pampered mutt she thinks is so civilised from doing what comes natural??

3. Water Voles are rare because of habitat loss!

Water Voles are rare because mink eat them, and  consultants like it that way as it is something else big and charismatic they can then get paid to look for them.

 4. The New Forest isn’t overgrazed.

 

 5. Parakeets are a welcome addition to our fauna.

 6. The Basingstoke Canal is Britain’s richest waterway.

Not anymore! I shunned the Royal wedding to survey the Hampshire section: Didn’t see a dragonfly, and only 2 damsels! Found 4 water beetles species in 40 samples, In 1997 I found 17 species in one! In all cases on the open unshaded side!!

 7. Sycamore is a native species.

 8. Shoving 200 French Partridge out into a field doesn’t make it less suitable for Grey Partridge!

 9. Humans are not part of ecosytems.

 10. Ecology is less prone to ‘fashion trends’ than other walks of life.

 BTW I don’t listen to radio 4 news anymore but isn’t it that time of year when the TODAY programme get that nutter (who clearly never uses any part of the British Transport network, at least not the bits that requires wheels) on to tell us cowslips are going extinct?

INDOOR INSECTS OUTDOORS

In recent years I have come across several insects usually regarded as commensal species associated with heated habitations, remote from any buildings in ‘wild’ situations.

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Silverfish-  Lepisma saccharina occur commonly in log piles and inside hollow trees in Bushy Park (2006) and Home Park, Hampton Court (2013) but the capture made on the 10.iv.2006 was bizarre to say the least: Whilst excavating an old quarry at Cuxton, Kent, amongst a  pile of old scrap cars and debris I found a single large adult Silverfish inside an old milk bottle. No others were seen despite a steady search. The locality must have been amongst the coldest places in Southern England being at the foot of a north facing vertical cliff over 50m tall!!

   In the same pit in open chalky ground a pitfall set to capture amphibians trapped a single adult female Oriental cockroach Blatta orientalis. I can only assume it escaped from one of the earth moving machines or excavators busy on site at the time?

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On Canvey Island on Roscommon, I found an adult female House Cricket Acheta domestica in an amphibian pitfall over 200m from any buildings.

  All these captures bring forth thoughts of global warming but a look through the literature showed that Acheta domestica had been found outdoors on many occasions. My friend Don Tagg tells me that in the blackout in WW2 they were frequently seen on Hampton High Street!

Jay mimicking Buzzard

We live and learn!!   Today in a Sussex wood I heard the distinctive ‘mews’ from a pair of buzzards circling overhead, a little later,  another appeared to be calling  close by from up in an oak tree, but it looked a bit small. Found my binoculars and to my amazement it was a Jay,doing a perfect imitation of a common Buzzard, over and over for at least 5 minutes!! Though reported by others, this was a first for me …or was it? Hard to tell! I’ll never call Buzzard again unless I can see it!!

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TOADS ON ROADS (AND IN RIVERS)

The rain and mild air finally enabled toads to get a move on, with the associated carnage as the poor amphibians attempt to cross our busy roads.

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This peeping heap were spread out along 300m of roads approaching my local breeding site. Frogs don’t loiter on roads and are less vulnerable, but male toads use the open road surface as a vantage point to look for incoming females. It is easy to tell the sexes apart on roads, the males sit head held high intently watching whilst the ladies keep low and tend to move swiftly across. It is obvious that although thousands of males move to the pond to join the melee,  a good percentage prefer to adopt a terrestrial interceptor method. Along the roads from up to 400m away from the ond the males were clearly spaced out at intervals of c.3-5m, with puddles being favoured (and the only places where males tolerated a closer neighbour). The question is: How do they decide on such spacing? It seems likely that an unsuccesful attempt to amplex, ie ending in a peeped ‘get off I’m  a bloke’, ends in an ‘embarrassed’ retreat in order to avoid a repeat!

A poorly studied aspect of Common Toad breeding is the use of river edges. In Cumbria I regularly heard and saw male toads calling from the edges of wide slow flowing rivers (and saw spawn). These were always well spaced >20m apart, and calling very late in the season April-early may.

Finally my dad reports perhaps the ultimate evidence of how  bizarre this cold spring has been, for in South Yorkshire his local Frogs spawned on the same day as his resident breeding Swallows returned!!!

TERMINOLOGICAL INEXACTITUDES

Passed a sign outside a Dorset pub the other day. It said

DROP IN AND TRY OUR AWARD WINNING COFFEE

(and had a picture of a steaming cup just so you could remember what this is)

What award I thought? ….

Dorset Innkeeper’s Association award for highest Anthrax content

Which dont touch with a barge-pole 2013

Wessex metalwork society best buy for rust treatment.

Amnesty International’s First up against the wall come the revolution medal.

BTW have you seen the awful ad for that laser hair remover thing. It actually says ‘recommended by 90% of the 39 people tested! Would you buy anything from a company who cannot find 40 guineapigs?, or indeed a Nation who allow international distribution of products with such potential for pain after such skant testing. I guess they are in league with all those claims companies!

Dont get me started on the racial stereotyping of certain ‘confusing’ insurance adverts.

Deep breaths J, deep breaths!

Ten hot tips on how to succeed in eco-consultancy

1. Never find anything!

2. Learn how to look busy not finding anything.

3. Never put your failure to catch anything down to the fact you are covered from head to foot in fluorescent yellow or orange.

 4. Position dormouse tubes where your paymaster can see them (which of course means they won’t catch squat!)

5. Ditto reptile refugia.

6. Believe the low capture rate of reptiles on your freshly strimmed site is down to emmigration not the local Magpies and Kestrels.

7. Gas badgers for money.

8. Believe a hole full of water is ready to be a GCN breeding pond

9. Pretend that bottle trapping newts in the summer is safe

10. Be willing to claim that your failure to find 13 badger setts along a 1km pipeline route (including one which regularly blocked the local road) was down to recent immigration.

If you do any of the above please either;-

A. re-train as an accountant

B. jump off a cliff (Obviously after checking to ensure that no protected species will break your fall)

WHAT WILL THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS OF THE FUTURE MAKE OF THIS??

I’m fascinated by Archaeology, especially prehistoric stuff, but when I watch the likes of ‘Time team‘, I often roll my eyes as some boffin or other gives the mandatory ‘ritual’ explanation for why this and that are in this particular hole! A few years ago I came across a sight so extraordinary and puzzling that it made me think; How would the the trowel wielding types of the future interpret such a discovery?

I was sampling a lake for aquatic insects in Surrey, where, amongst the trees on the shore I came across baseball caps, teddies, and other soft toys. Hundreds of them!  As I followed the shoreline more and more came into view. The newest flotsam was dominated by the logos of the latest boy bands, Disney movie, and England cricket and football team sponsors.
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Up the beach  the offerings got tattier, so that amongst the tree roots all that remainded were the plastic reinforcing brims and a few strands of coloured cloth. Clearly this had been going on for some time, but what on earth was going on? I took off my own hat and scratched my head, and imagined the 35th Century Time team gang, digging up this bizarre collection,
‘I think they are some kind of votal offerings to the sport and pop gods, to bring good fortune to their favourites’, says Francis Pryor of the 35th C.
Then I heard a lot of wild screaming!! Peering through the trees I saw the mad contorted trackways of the rides at Thorpe Park! PING! The lightbulb moment!! All this bizarre flotsam had been dropped or ripped from the terrified punters on the rides in the park, landed into the lake and been  carried by the prevailing wind and deposited on the shore.
In isolation I doubt anyone uncovering the scene could have realised this was the explanation, votal offerings it would have been!!  Maybe some of those Roman finds were just next to Alton Turres maximum terrorum ascenditis!!