NWH Wildlife – observations and background information for wildlife enthusiasts

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David Beeson (Ex-biological sciences lecturer, small mammal and otter researcher) and John Solomon, an odonata and butterfly specialist, offer their information and knowledge to Hampshire and the world.

CONTACT: only checked monthly – dandabeeson@gmail.com

We live near Andover, a market town dating back 1500 years, and are surrounded by rolling chalky hillsides which are often clay-capped and support oak woodlands. The valleys are lush and contain famous chalk rivers – The Anton and Test.

With hazel coppice, ancient woodlands and reedy riverine fringes the small mammal diversity is good. We have dormice, wood and harvest and yellow-necked mice, common and pygmy and water shrews, water and short-tailed and long-tailed voles. Stoats coast around the woodlands and weasels also occur, but are seldom spotted. Fallow, red, roe and muntjac deer are found in Harewood, although the red may have been shot out. Foxes are frequent where the gamekeepers cannot reach. Martens occur south of here, in the New Forest, and hopefully will expand into our territory. Otters grace our waterways.

With a mostly hilly, rural environment the insect populations are holding on. Less so where there is arable farming. Our big bonus is Salisbury Plain – square miles of unfarmed grasslands, chalky hillsides and bronze and iron age fortifications that are protected. This year, 2020, saw an explosion of marsh fritillaries.

Clear running rivers and streams, wet meadows plus the inevitable water-filled gravel pits have donated a wealth of mayflies, damselflies and dragonflies to us.

Our flora is dominated by calcicoles – chalk-loving species, of which the orchids are possibly the stars. For acid-loving plants we can travel just an hour south to the New Forest or north to Greenham and Snelsmore Commons with their adders, carnivorous plants and heathers.

Sadly reptiles are seldom encountered on the chalky areas. Slow worms are common, yet finding other species is often unrewarding. Happily, frogs, toads and newts are still around, so there are ample food supplies for the snakes … but we have lots of non-native pheasants and they are known to predate young reptiles.

Birds – yup, we’ve lots of them! But, unless they keep very still John and I are not majorly interested! Sorry ornithologists.

David

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Riverfly 2

David Beeson, January 2022 “The Riverfly Partnership is a network of organisations, representing anglers, conservationists, entomologists, scientists, water course managers and relevant authorities, working together to: – protect the water quality of our rivers; – further the understanding of riverfly populations; – and actively conserve riverfly habitats. The Riverfly Partnership is hosted by the FreshwaterContinue reading “Riverfly 2”

Soils

David Beeson Soils drive the ecosystem. The plants live in it and their metabolism is the source of the energy and nutrients that feed the animal food chains and webs. It is always worth scanning any profile one encounters on our explorations. Soil is in layers, horizons. The A Horizon is usually a deep, darkContinue reading “Soils”

Odonata Roundup

Highlights of Andover’s Odonata 2021 We entered into 2021 with an all-out attack on Covid that, as the spring got underway and summer approached, seemed to be putting the disease on the back foot. Perhaps a more normal season was to be cautiously anticipated. The weather, however, had other ideas. February, and the first twoContinue reading “Odonata Roundup”

Riverfly Sampling

David Beeson, December 2021 In Hampshire, we have some unique river systems. With chunks of the county dominated by chalky geology the rainwater is held in huge aquifers and only slowly released. It emerges comparatively warm in winter ( and remains cool in summer) and is enriched with dissolved calcium. The waters are usually crystalContinue reading “Riverfly Sampling”

Life in the attic

David Beeson, November 2021 We live in the country with wild creatures all around, so it is inevitable that some will select to live with us. Some are benign, but ticks and fleas are certainly unwelcome. So, what has moved in? Let’s start with the attic – the space between the roof and the ceiling.Continue reading “Life in the attic”

Autumn has finally arrived

David Beeson, mid-November 2021 With three frosts throwing their silvery whiteness over our garden many of the plants have closed down for the winter. Probably these types are more southerly in their origins, yet many blooms are still attracting the honey and bumblebees, as well as the remaining wasps. While the light-absorbing pigments in chlorophyllContinue reading “Autumn has finally arrived”

Autumn at Hilliers

David Beeson, 26th October 2021 The Hillier Garden, near Romsey in Hampshire, is owned by Hampshire County Council and is a gem of a botanic and popular garden. The site was originally the home of Sir Harold Hillier, who established the small but, up-market, garden business that wins gold after gold at the Chelsea FlowerContinue reading “Autumn at Hilliers”

The English Cotswolds

David Beeson, October 2021 The Cotswolds are a limestone area in Central Southern England, a region of generally gentle rolling hills that were once dominated by sheep farming (now largely arable). It was rich in the middle ages, from the wool, and much of its character remains unsullied by C21. This is not an ecologicalContinue reading “The English Cotswolds”

A Journey Through Central Wales – The Cambrian Mountains

David Beeson, late September 2021 Central Wales is probably less visited than the north and south coasts, yet for wildlife it offers some gems. It is a largely remote area of high hills, although some people feel they are mountains. Sheep dominate the lower elevations, and their winter pastures are so improved that only grassContinue reading “A Journey Through Central Wales – The Cambrian Mountains”

Epipactis, the helleborines and other summer-flowering orchids of the southern UK.

David Beeson, August 2021 PLUS: photographs of plants on Eastern Salisbury Plain Army Training Area. But, firstly let us separate the two different genera of ‘helleborines’. There are Epipactis and Cephalanthera helleborines. The Cephalanthera genus contains the white, red and narrow-leaved helleborines. The white helleborine I find locally, sometimes in good numbers. I associate itContinue reading “Epipactis, the helleborines and other summer-flowering orchids of the southern UK.”

Conservation? What conservation? Britain is a land of shooting – pheasants in the south and grouse in the north.

Article stolen from the Guardian newspaper. Britain’s national parks dominated by driven grouse moors, says study Exclusive: Area twice the size of London devoted to grouse shooting in UK’s parks, threatening efforts to tackle climate crisis Patrick Barkham@patrick_barkhamThu 5 Aug 2021 06.01 BST National parks supposedly at the heart of efforts to tackle the climateContinue reading “Conservation? What conservation? Britain is a land of shooting – pheasants in the south and grouse in the north.”

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

John Solomon, 24th July           The UK’s three commonest Damselflies are the Common Blue, the Blue-tailed and the Azure, and they can be found throughout our islands, even up into Scotland. In the lower half of England, not so much into Wales, broadly below a line drawn across between Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Hull, they are joinedContinue reading “Small Red-eyed Damselfly”

Living in Fresh Water

David Beeson, July 2021 Living in fresh water sets up challenges for organisms. It is quite a different environment from dry land or from salty marine places. And it is a rare space on Earth – 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh. Yet most of the earth’s fresh water is unavailable: locked up inContinue reading “Living in Fresh Water”

Simply Hoverflies

July is hoverfly season. David Beeson, 11th July. References: https://bna-naturalists.org/id-guide-hoverflies/ and https://www.naturespot.org.uk/gallery/hoverflies Flies have a single pair of wings and, before them, a pair of halteres (shown). Halteres are a pair of small club-shaped organs on the body of two orders of flying insects that provide information about body rotations during flight. They have compoundContinue reading “Simply Hoverflies”

Southern Damselflies

John Solomon, 10th July 2021 On 23 June a friend of mine, Brain Cartwright, a local birder who haunts Anton Lake, sent me a series of photographs he’d taken that day. There was no special reason for this, he’s keen on local wildlife and a very keen photographer, so he regularly emails the latest cropContinue reading “Southern Damselflies”

Waste ground?

David Beeson, 1st July 2021 North-west Hampshire’s non-urban areas are dominated by three land uses. 1) Forest on the alkaline, chalky clay caps, 2) Damp riverine meadows, some of which were proper water meadows until the mid-1900s and 3) Traditional farmland, which is mostly arable, growing grass crops – wheat, barley and blue ryegrass forContinue reading “Waste ground?”

Ox Drove Meadows

It is a small meadow ‘given’ to the local population to compensate for the urbanisation of other local habitat. The meadow will end up as a dog-running area but the thick hedges will supply additional dormouse habitat, nesting sites and food for many other creatures. Good to see the additional planting around the site. MyContinue reading “Ox Drove Meadows”

Plants Fight Back

David Beeson, 31st May 2021 If someone attempts to steal your money would you be happy? Here you are, have another £1000. I doubt it. So, plants will feel the same about being eaten … the organism is taking the plant’s resources and giving nothing in exchange. Okay, what do you do to stop theContinue reading “Plants Fight Back”

Carbon dioxide removal and no-cut May

David Beeson, 24th may 2021 Firstly, an article from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/24/trials-to-suck-carbon-dioxide-from-the-air-to-start-across-the-uk This looks at a trial, about to start across the UK, into the most effective ways of removing atmospheric carbon dioxide – critical in reducing Global Warming. Worth scanning to give your day some optimism. We fitted solar PV panels some 11 yearsContinue reading “Carbon dioxide removal and no-cut May”

Spring? What Spring?

John Solomon, mid-May 2021 So here we are, still grinding our way through the coldest spring I can remember with those long, hot days of summer feeling like a foreign country that we shall never reach. With the welcome exception of a stray warm and sunny day it seems to have been a relentless paradeContinue reading “Spring? What Spring?”

Botany 2 – They eat like animals and look (a little) like plants. And some wander around, as well. Amazing organisms! What are they?

David Beeson, mid-May 2021 Yes, you’ve guessed it … they are FUNGI. At one time the fungi were considered as part of the plant kingdom. Sure, they do produce spores (as are pollen grains and those liberated by ferns, horsetails and mosses) and a few have cellulose cell walls, but they contain no chlorophyll, andContinue reading “Botany 2 – They eat like animals and look (a little) like plants. And some wander around, as well. Amazing organisms! What are they?”

BOTANY 1: The world’s commonest green organisms

And they are not what you possibly think they are! David Beeson, mid-May 2021 Biology is currently dominated by the FIVE-KINGDOM concept of organism diversity: plants, animals, fungi, protista and those organisms without a nucleus, such as bacteria – the prokaryotes. Generally, plants, animals and fungi are mostly easy to recognise. Protista contains those nucleatedContinue reading “BOTANY 1: The world’s commonest green organisms”