Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

WELL...I had to write it on one forum\website\tweet\via email\text, banner behind a light aircraft, so why not here?

Thanks to all those who have read my blog offering over the last 12 months.  Also a special thanks to those who have left comments; I can't tell you how much I appreciate them...well I could but I don't want you to shed a tear of pity!

Just so that there is an element of wildlife in this blog, here are a few of my favourite photos of the year:

Roll on 2012 and more wildlife adventures.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A song thrush sings

WE live on a main road, so the chances of hearing bird "song" are confined to tawny owls in the middle of the night and a passing gull.  However staying at my parents' over Christmas, I was not sorry to be woken at dawn by the flutely tones of a song thrush.  Joining it was a robin and a wood-pigeon.

The song thrush has had a hard time of late.  I have heard the theory that this may be due to the reduction of snails through the use of slug pellets in our gardens.  This seems somewhat unlikely to me, as I sometimes use pellets and our snail population is still overwhelming...maybe we have a particularity tasty garden.

The song thrushes song is half way between a blackbird (clear, tuneful, structured and strident) and a mistlethrush (melancholy, high pitched, unstructured and strident).  The song thrush repeats every phrase that it sings, and this is the big give away that helps you to identify it, even when half a sleep!

Robert Browning wrote:

That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!*

(*Copied from British Garden Birds)

The mistle thrush seems to love singing in the worst of wild and gusty weather, and hence has acquired the name "storm cock".

Anyway, hearing the song of this song thrush certainly fills me with optimism for a spring that is just round the corner, however we all know what February and March can be like and I do want that snow shovel that I bought my dad to have some use this year!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Shaking off some early Christmas excess

I have already reached a point where exercise is critical for survival now its the party season.  A short walk in the southern extremities of the Cotswolds was enjoyed by the boss and me on Sunday last.  There is little wildlife to see at this time of year, but tramping up and down hills does you the world of good and helps justify that extra mince pie.

The frost had all but gone by the time we ventured out, but this mushroom was still capped with a thin layer of melting ice:

We have taken walks through these valleys many times.  There is flower rich grasslands, a wonderful stream with crayfish, dippers and even lampreys apparently.  Many of the slopes support beech woodland - in the winter sunshine the trunks of the trees literally shone:

Its very rare nowadays that we don't see buzzards as they nest locally - this time was no exception.

There are a number of small villages which are straight out of a fairy tale - this house nestling in the valley was not too shabby either!

One new feature were on the walk was a small holding, where some saddleback pigs have made a home - they were happy pigs...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Westonbirt late fungi & Somerset Mistletoe

THE National Arboretum at Westonbirt (Gloucestershire) was surprisingly quiet last weekend, except for people (like us) buying a Christmas tree, or partaking of the hot soup in the restaurant.

The recent mildness and wetness has meant that there was a good show of toadstools, in spite of the time of the year.  We were impressed by some super large fairy rings surrounding a number of trees.  The fungus in these cases probably has a close (ecto or endo-mychorizzal) association with the trees, where the fungus gains a free home and the tree gains nutrients obtained through the fungus's hypha.

Wood blewit


As its getting towards Christmas I thought that the mistletoe found on Saturday on the Somerset Levels would be worth sharing:

Kiss anyone?