Showing posts from January, 2016

Snipey Hat-Trick

Common Snipe The recent deluges have turned parts of the patch into a mire of quag – in other places a marshy morass. On Monday morning I was picking my way through the puddlesome bog (enough synonyms already – ed), when a bird took off, almost from under my feet. I immediately recognised it as a Jack Snipe, distinguishable from  its common cousin by the much shorter beak, size, markings and behaviour.  I was delighted to encounter this scarce and elusive bird – a patch first. On Wednesday I had a similar encounter with a Common Snipe allowing me to compare the contrasting escape strategies of these two waders. The Jack Snipe is much harder to flush, relying on its camouflage – they will occasionally even, allow themselves to be picked up rather than take off. They rise silently and half-heartedly then drop down again, fairly nearby. The Common Snipe, on the other hand is “as flighty as a feather”, once flushed they shoot skywards, seemingly in panic, letting out

Sterling Mosses

In which area do the British Isles contribute most to the global fauna and flora? You could make a strong case for our wintering wildfowl and waders or our breeding seabirds, but take a look at this list - percentages of the world’s species which we have in Britain. Bryophytes: 7% Vascular Plants: 1% Fungi: 1% Mammals: 2% Birds (breeding): 2% Reptiles: 0.2% Amphibians: 0.3% Insects: 0.5% Arachnids: 0.6% (these figures are subject to caveats as discussed below 2 ) I vote for Bryophytes (and indeed would literally vote for a moss if one were to stand in a general election). Britain is a global hotspot for bryophyte diversity. With 65% of European species, but only 15% of vascular plant species, these figures are also impressive if looked at from a European perspective. There are some species which in Europe only grow in parts of the British Isles -  the next place they grow being the Himalayas or Tropics. They like it here as they really enjoy being cold, wet an

Willow titivation

Willow tit The Willow tit – the member of the Tit family that thinks it’s a woodpecker.  They prefer to hollow out the stump of an old, well-rotted tree – rather that going down the more conventional route of nesting in existing cavities. The D.I.Y. tit in fact. They are famously difficult to separate from Marsh tits and, in fact, ornithologists didn't realise there were two species until 1897. One difference however is the 'bull-necked' appearnce of the Willow. You don't get to do all that excavating without being a bit beefy in the neck region This year Willow tits successfully nested on the patch.  As it is a Red List species, with just 3,400 UK pairs – this is probably the patch’s star bird. With a view to helping them and hopefully increasing the population, I’ve been carrying out some D.I.Y. of my own.  I’ve been stalking the patch, power-drill in hand, like some crazed, latter-day…person with a drill. The Willow tit nesting box is filled with sawdust