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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How well do you know your birds? A Bird Anatomy and Physiology Quiz, 1.

David Beeson, June 2022 ANSWERS WILL BE IN A SEPARATE POST … so, you cannot cheat here! QUESTION ONE Name the three types of feathers on a typical bird, such as a sparrow. QUESTION TWO In mammals, skin hair cells have muscles attached to change their orientations. For example, when they are cold. Does thisContinue reading “How well do you know your birds? A Bird Anatomy and Physiology Quiz, 1.”

Bird Quiz, the Answers

David Beeson, June 2022 ONE There are three basic feather types: 1) The PRIMARY FEATHERS which provide the left in flying, 2) CONTOUR FEATHERS that often have a more downy lower part and 3) DOWN FEATHERS that are for controlling body temperature – the bird’s underwear! Down feathers can be plucked in birds such asContinue reading “Bird Quiz, the Answers”

YOU SHOULD READ THIS ————-SOIL – an article from the UK GUARDIAN newspaper.

From David: Worth reading. The author is a well-known environmentalist. The newspaper is straight and factual (unlike some others). Don’t dismiss soil: its unknowable wonders could ensure the survival of our species by George Monbiot Sat 7 May 2022 09.00 BST Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of ourContinue reading “YOU SHOULD READ THIS ————-SOIL – an article from the UK GUARDIAN newspaper.”

Newts on Patrol

David Beeson, April 2022 We have Palmate Newts, Lissotriton helveticus, in and around our pond. These are amphibians and are rather like lizards in appearance, but with moist, unscally skins. They are often missed by gardeners as they keep a low profile, especially in weedy ponds. They are not organisms I associate with rivers, althoughContinue reading “Newts on Patrol”

Algal Microscopy

David Beeson, April 2022 A bit of a specialist topic, I agree, but stay with me and perhaps I will change your mind about algae … they can be quite interesting. And, as for a microscope, well, mine cost only £105 and it is first-year university standard, but cheap as an unwanted present bought fromContinue reading “Algal Microscopy”

Stock dove courtship

David Beeson, April 2022 Wood pigeons are common here, with our resident pairs that court and mate on our garage roof and nest in our trees and thick hedges. Those birds are joined, overwinter, by flocks of perhaps sixty migratory wood pigeons that roost in our walnuts and graze the meadows. The two types ignoreContinue reading “Stock dove courtship”

Small Mammal Carnivores of the UK – Martens, polecats, stoats and weasels.

David Beeson, March 2022 This article will look at the pine marten, polecat, stoat and weasel. The former pair are very unequally dispersed, while the latter two are mostly found across the British mainland. I have only seen one live, wild marten, and that was in France as it hurtled across a road. Many areContinue reading “Small Mammal Carnivores of the UK – Martens, polecats, stoats and weasels.”

The Mole

David Beeson, March 2022 I could have started with a question: Which mammal is often around us, yet we seldom see? Because it is true. I have moles in the garden, they tunnel through the flowerbeds, under the lawn and, this winter, ploughed up chunks of our wildflower meadows, yet I’ve not seen one inContinue reading “The Mole”

The Home Lives of Fungi

David Beeson, March 2022 The fungi are the organisms that form the Kingdom MYCETEAE, and are neither plants nor animals, and bear very little resemblance to bacteria or algae. So, they are fascinating when you get to know them. And, that is my task today – to enable you to see life from a fungal’sContinue reading “The Home Lives of Fungi”

The Invasion of Land, and the first land plants … The Bryophytes (Mosses and Liverworts)

David Beeson, 28th February 2022 About 450 million years ago, in the Silurian era, plants invaded the land. With water and land / air being such different habitats evolution had to throw up some divergent life forms to survive there. It would take millions of years for the complete colonisation of land. The first trueContinue reading “The Invasion of Land, and the first land plants … The Bryophytes (Mosses and Liverworts)”

Growing your own Fungi

David Beeson, 28 February 2022 Fungi are everywhere and are said to be found higher in the atmosphere than any other organism. Indeed, with their light spores spreading so easily some species can be potentially found worldwide. There are over 50 000 fungal species and they occur everywhere – land, soil and water. They areContinue reading “Growing your own Fungi”

To my Russian Readers

GET OUT OF COUNTRIES THAT ARE NOT YOUR OWN. Why can your ‘so-called’ leader not grow up? We all lose empires – Britain, Spain, Portugal and The Netherlands to name some. So, you’ve had to give people their freedom back. (They did not give it, you took it.) So what. You’ve a huge country, liveContinue reading “To my Russian Readers”

Gallery 2 – 2021

John Solomon John & David have a number of articles on INVERTEBRATES. Riverfly Sampling and Riverfly 2 Odonata Roundup Perhaps Butterflies are not as nice as you think Small red-eyed Damselfly Emerald Dragonflies of Bentley Wood Simply Hoverflies Southern damselflies The Barberry Carpet Moth Secret Pond in Late June Butterflies of Salisbury Plain Or HowContinue reading “Gallery 2 – 2021”

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”

Peat and pollen analysis

David Beeson, January 2022 For us, northern hemisphere people, the year is edging towards longer days and shorter nights … and about time too! And there are signs that life is at least starting to think about spring. We have snowdrops just coming into flower, the Tulipa sylvestris have popped up above soil level andContinue reading “Peat and pollen analysis”

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”

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