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 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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David Beeson Bet you are as fed up with 2020 as I am. I want some sunshine and non-muddy trackways … and a tasty vaccination. Most of the plants are in hibernation – hiding their resources away from herbivores. Only the fruits, with the plant’s seeds inside, are being offered – and there is anContinue reading “Photo essay – a frosty 1st January”
December 2020 Forest Edge is an eco-garden, in that we attempt to optimise the wildlife, whilst still delivering a beautiful garden AND a play area for the grandchildren. We cannot do everything in the area we have, so there are limits. We have had herds of fallow deer (30+) in the garden – that hasContinue reading “Photo Essay – Winter and Summer in our Eco-garden”
Encounters David Beeson, 15 /12 /20 It was in my early days of wildlife watching and I had a brand-new telephoto-lens. And I needed mammal photographs for a lecture course I was about to teach. So, I drove out to a stream just outside Salisbury – near Odstock, where watervoles had been spotted. Now, myContinue reading “Wildlife Encounters”
Like nowhere I had seen before – The Florida and Georgia Wetlands Everyone seems to rave about Florida. Not me, and I’ve been there too. Now, I admit to no longer being a youngster, so I am not ‘into’ theme parks, over-crowded beaches or built environments. Yup, I am an old grouchy! But, give meContinue reading “A Trip to South-east USA”
Plant metabolism David Beeson, 24th November 2020 Posh words, like metabolism, frighten some folks. Not you, I’m certain. This word just means the total chemistry inside an organism. And we, plants and even our friend Covid-19 are bundles of chemicals, and they all work via chemical reactions. Yup, you and me are bags of chemistry.Continue reading “Plants are Clever, 3”
Inside plants – the stem Let us face it, the stem must provide multiple functions for the plant. It supports the leaves in suitable positions to allow them to photosynthesise, carries water and possibly nutrients up to the leaves or flowers and sugars down to the roots, it may store useful materials such as carbohydrates,Continue reading “What is inside a plant? Stems.”
David Beeson, 7th November And, yes, as it was a dull day, and I wished to raise your spirits, so the images have been enhanced a bit.
David Beeson 4th November Muscardinus avellanarius As I have mentioned before, dormice are declining and generally rare or uncommon in the UK. They are southern in distribution and have been one of the mammals I look out for more than most. Less than a month ago I found what I thought were dormouse nests inContinue reading “Dormice”
A Walk through an Ancient Forest, 1. RE-posted 1st November 2020 A walk from the B3400, south along the footpath from Andover Down to the Middleway. SU403463. Pisa Cottage stop on the 76 bus route from Andover to Whitchurch and Basingstoke. Harewood Forest has been woodland forever. It is in north-west Hampshire near the marketContinue reading “Harewood Forest”
Wild Justice statement on gamebird licensing 30th October 2020 12:23 pm Wild Justice secures an historic environmental legal victory Just days away from facing a barrage of legal arguments in court (on 3 and 4 November) DEFRA has agreed to license the release of Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges to control ecological damage to wildlife sites. WildContinue reading “A Win for UK Conservation”
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!!!”
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”
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”
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”
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”
David Beeson August 2020. A section through the mid-rib of an Acer plant. A section through the mid-rib of an Acer plant. The mid-rib is the central support of a leaf and has both structural support and the transport (vascular) tissues. The cells are visible as they have firm cellulose walls which hold their shapeContinue reading “What do plants look like inside? Part 1, leaves.”
Plants are well adapted to life, part 1. David Beeson, August 2020 Annuals, biennials and perennials Evolution, through Natural Selection (Survival of the Fittest), is a powerful force. Death does that! If a plant’s strategy is poor, it dies and fails to pass on its genes. On the other hand, if it gets everything perfect,Continue reading “Plants are clever. Part 1.”
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.”
August always feels a quiet month to me. Yes, the wood pigeons are still flirting and the stock doves singing their cooing lullaby, yet the other birds are back into their teenage groups and flittering around the trees and shrubs. Gulls are around here in never-seen-before numbers, and flocks fly in to roost on ourContinue reading “This and That in the Garden”
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?”
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”
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?”
Harewood’s fringe and Longparish in summer – a photo tour David Beeson The woodlands that now form Harewood Forest once spread far and wide. They joined south to the New Forest, west to Great Selwood and north-east to join The Windsor Forest and east to The Wield. So, there’s not much left! Not much IContinue reading “The fringes of an ancient English forest”
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”
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”
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?”
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.”
Longparish Mill or the Hunt for a Golden Bloomed Longhorn Beetle John Solomon What am I doing here? There is a blustery breeze and nobody would describe it as warm, perhaps 19C but not over 20C. I didn’t get rained on driving out but some of the heavier clouds threaten to spit on me beforeContinue reading “Longparish on the River Test”
Wildlife recording and sampling David Beeson, June 2020 You are interested in the natural world. You keep your eyes open or go out actively looking for organisms. So, what do we do with what we see? How useful is that data? Here are my thoughts on wildlife data and an encouragement for us all toContinue reading “Sampling and Recording Data”
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”
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”
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”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2020/jun/10/spiky-hairy-shiny-la-abuzz-with-new-insect-discoveries-in-pictures-aoe Just a link to a UK Guardian photo article.
Legless lizards in your garden David Beeson June 2020 Life is amazing. From the Covid-19 virus (merely a stand of genetic material in a coat), through bacteria that can feed off plastic, to the tonnes of a massive whale or giant redwood, the diversity of life on our blue planet is mind-blowing. New forms ofContinue reading “Slow-worms and the Moths of Harewood Forest”
Secret Pond John Solomon 4th June 2020 While David was sampling the historic and exotic delights of Salisbury Plain I was off hunting a puddle. I get all the best gigs, but bear with me! I was on the trail of a conundrum. Rooksbury Lake is one of the most productive sites locally for DamselfliesContinue reading “A Secret Pond – Damselfly Hunt”
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”
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”
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”
David Beeson 31st May 2020 Salisbury Plain To the west of Andover, the north of Salisbury and south of the M4 is Salisbury Plain. Worldwide this region is known for the enigmatic Stonehenge, Woodhenge and the other world-quality archaeological sites. They themselves merit a long journey, especially if you take the area seriously i.e. understandContinue reading “Like Southern England 200 years ago”