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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A Brilliant Day!!!

Dormice David Beeson Hazel dormice are not common in the UK, but they are slowly being reintroduced, with some success. My area is a comparative ‘hot spot’ for the species and I have found live animals and nests in the past. The nearest nests have been within 1Km, but species-specific nest boxes and searching forContinue reading “A Brilliant Day!!!”

Dorset heaths

The Dorset Heathlands David Beeson My part of Southern England is dominated by a chalk geology. That results in thin, calcium-rich soils and a characteristic ecology. Much of south-east Dorset has sand and gravels beneath the surface, and these generate very different conditions. I was based a few kilometres north of the walled, Saxon townContinue reading “Dorset heaths”

An English Canal

David Beeson September 2020 The Basingstoke Canal (This is located in Central Hampshire, close to the M3) Serendipity led me to this spot. We had an appointment in the ever-enlarging town of Basingstoke, and, having completed this chore aimed somewhere new. Having arrived at Odiham, a Georgian-styled town, we explored: finding beautifully-designed houses, the villageContinue reading “An English Canal”

Early September

David Beeson A tour of the chalk landscape. For me, this is a quiet time. The male birds (except the pigeons)are non-territorial and mostly quiet, although the UK robin is his normal pugnacious self. Butterflies have largely vanished to dust, while a few struggle on. It is the same with the flora, some show theirContinue reading “Early September”

Plants are clever. 2

David Beeson September 2020 Seeds are crucial to the survival of a plant species. No viable seeds and the genetic line will die out, although some plants (e.g. English elm) mainly asexually reproduce from suckers forming a genetically identical cluster of plants. Seeds are a genetic mixture of DNA (genes) from the two parents, plusContinue reading “Plants are clever. 2”

Here be DRAGONS and DAMSELS! A major article.

A major article by John Solomon, August 2020 A guide to the ODONATA of the ANDOVER region. Introduction Odonata is the Latin term for the insects more commonly known as Damselflies and Dragonflies. While superficially very similar they do differ in several ways. Firstly, Dragonflies are larger than Damselflies and when they rest they alwaysContinue reading “Here be DRAGONS and DAMSELS! A major article.”

Nectar, food of the gods?

Firstly, some questions. Now, no cheating and you really should write down the answers. Question one. (An easy one to give you confidence) Does nectar contain dilute honey? Question two. Are nectar and honey of the same composition, even if honey has less water? Question three. Where is nectar made? (Precision needed here!) Question four.Continue reading “Nectar, food of the gods?”

Children

Freshwater wildlife July 18th 2020 David Beeson As much as many of us enjoy seeing and recording wildlife we need to engage others – especially young people. Big Butterfly Count and RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch are following that approach although the oldies tend to dominate. I do not believe the results are taken really seriouslyContinue reading “Children”

What do your insects eat?

A photo-essay 17th June 2020 David Beeson As you know Forest Edge aims to be an eco-friendly garden. It has a range of habitats that change through the year. It has a native and non-native flora. But, who eats what? Great project here for children? Our butterflies today are small, large and green-veined whites, redContinue reading “What do your insects eat?”

I poison myself

Euphorbias David Beeson, 12th July 2020 Now, I should know better. I write articles on plant toxicology and specifically know that euphorbias are poisonous … yet, I can be amazingly thick / uncareful at times. It was time to cut back some ‘spent’ plants in the garden. It’s a big area for the UK –Continue reading “I poison myself”

Something for the World

Picket Twenty Urban Park’s Wildlife – An introduction to Andover for non-locals! David Beeson July 2020 We all have an in-built tendency to complain and moan. I’m moaning now about people moaning! So, it must be true. Development has, especially in the past, been about destruction; fields into dense housing, hedges torn out, rivers canalised,Continue reading “Something for the World”

The most hated wildflowers?

Trampled, poisoned and mown to the ground. Are these the most hated wildflowers? Grasses and their allies David Beeson Delicately waving in the summer’s breeze, their leaves capturing the sun’s donated energy and using an alchemy to weave it into chemical bonds that trap the Kilojoules (Calories) into a usable form, grasses have a vitalContinue reading “The most hated wildflowers?”

You Should Read This! Ticks.

Ticks – what every wildlife enthusiast should know David Beeson If you wander the byways and grasslands almost anywhere in the world you will soon encounter one of these arachnids. Eight-legged little delights! Relatives of the spiders. They are common locally but I’m unaware of Lyme Disease here. There are over twenty different species ofContinue reading “You Should Read This! Ticks.”

Damsels

Chilbolton Common, June 25 John Solomon Thursday, mid-afternoon, and the summer has returned with a vengeance. The degrees “C” begin with a three and it is heavy and humid with not a hint of a trace that this sky ever saw a cloud. I pass the Mayfly on my right, West Down sweeps up toContinue reading “Damsels”

Wild Gladiolus

Searching for the UK’s wild gladiolus David Beeson, 23rd June 2020 Gladiolus illyricus is found only in the New Forest. This is no garden escape; it is a true wild UK plant, just very rare. The plant was only ‘discovered’ in 1856, but must have been hiding away for hundreds of years and ignored byContinue reading “Wild Gladiolus”

Harewood in Summer

An ancient UK oak woodland in summer David Beeson. 21st June 2020 In the end the important thing is to add it all together. Most of us enjoy spotting things. As a kid it happened to be steam locomotives and then, thankfully, young ladies. I didn’t keep a ‘black book’ but I can recall allContinue reading “Harewood in Summer”

A Wet Meadow

Not a water meadow, just a wet meadow. (But, I’ll attach the Water Meadow article at the end) This John’s SECRET MEADOW. The River Test is one of the most beautiful lowland rivers in the world. It is not pristine because it does have fertilizer run-off and the cleaned effluent from sewerage works added. ButContinue reading “A Wet Meadow”

Edge of the A303, part 2

The UK has left the odds and sods spots for nature. We should be ashamed. Yes, France, Italy, Spain and the USA have some great locations to view wildspaces and the natural inhabitants that occur there. For example, the limestone meadows of the Dordogne, the Italian Dolomites with their iconic mammals, Grazelema and the lynxContinue reading “Edge of the A303, part 2”

No Cut (lawn) in May

Results from my non-cutting of my main lawn in May David Beeson 2nd June 2020 Sure, this is an eco / wildlife garden and we do attempt to be as positive as possible – yet, the flowers that have emerged this year have been a delight. The clay-over-chalk soil has been impoverished by cutting (andContinue reading “No Cut (lawn) in May”

INDEX

Current articles – oldest first Harewood Forest – an introduction to an ancient UK oak woodland Along the river valley – the early stages of a crystal-clear chalk stream Harewood Butterflies – high summer delights Bluebells – the iconic English spring bulb Heathland – acid lands near to Andover UK. Contrasting ecology. God’s Ponds –Continue reading “INDEX”

Secret Meadow

Secret Meadow John Solomon 29th May 2020 A field. Not a large field but, then again, not a truly small one. Roughly square and perhaps four hundred yards along each of its sides. Orientated just a little clockwise from North to South. A third of the way up from its Southern edge a line ofContinue reading “Secret Meadow”

Ladies, you probably will not believe me, but being a male can be hard work.

A Common Blue butterfly David Beeson May 26th … still in isolation from Covid-19. We are familiar with male elephants or giant North-American buffalo fighting to hold prime mating territory. Birds are singing to proclaim both fitness and territory – all to lure the female of the species into their lair. Or is it theContinue reading “Ladies, you probably will not believe me, but being a male can be hard work.”

Foreign Travel – Wiltshire! Sidbury Hill Fort near Tidworth.

Sidbury Hill 6th May, 2020. David Beeson and John Solomon David Flora Sidbury Hill Fort is across the Hampshire county boundary and is located in Wiltshire, just west of Tidworth. It is mainly Iron Age in construction but earlier settlement remains have been found. If you visit, you’ll encounter two substantial ditches and the fortContinue reading “Foreign Travel – Wiltshire! Sidbury Hill Fort near Tidworth.”

The Edge of the A303

Wayside and Woodland Flora David Beeson 5th May, 2020. Sunshine and showers are designed to make plants grow. Add a touch of nutrients (Nitrates, phosphates and potassium salts – NPK) and a well-structured soil and they romp away. However, local soils are not the best and only the worst are bad enough to be leftContinue reading “The Edge of the A303”

Of Dukes and Men

John Solomon Harewood Forest, 2 May 2020. A butterfly exploration. I make no apologies for this probably being the shortest blog I’ll ever post. Ileft the house around three o’clock with one target species in mind, driving uppast Walworth Industrial Estate and taking the B3400 towards Whitchurch.Here, driving past the Arbory rest home on theContinue reading “Of Dukes and Men”

Today in the Garden

David Beeson May 2nd 2020 With a traditional garden you see mostly what you expect. With a wildlife (eco-friendly) garden you always have surprises. Sometimes they are beautiful and have one jumping for joy. Today was another one of those. Being May, the traditional aspects of Forest Edge’s garden look lovely. The trees and shrubsContinue reading “Today in the Garden”

29th March, Longparish

John Solomon Longparish – 29 April It’s been raining all morning but as the afternoon appears the precipitation fades away and I begin to think about escaping somewhere more interesting. There is no sunshine but the temperature is well into the mid-teens and there will be creatures about. I set off for Longparish and theContinue reading “29th March, Longparish”