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, October 2022 On land, they are everywhere – the teeming hordes of life. So, their biology and lifestyles must be a big evolutionary success. In the UK we have over 22 000 species of insects in all manner of shapes and sizes. They range from the inquisitive dragonflies, through the singing grasshoppers withContinue reading “Some Biology of Insects”
John Solomon, October 2022. The Emerald Damselflies are often called the ‘Spreadwings’, as they habitually perch with their wings open in a delta position. There are five European species, including the Common Emerald (Lestes spoons), Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis), Scarce Emerald (Lestes dryas), Southern Emerald (Lestes barbarus) and Winter Damselfly (Sympecma fascia). The Common EmeraldContinue reading “Willow Emerald (Chalcolestes viridis)”
David Beeson, September 2022 Evolution is powerful. If you fail to fit in, something else will take your place, and freshwater is today only filled with the fittest of plants. Yet, those plants originated as marine organisms that migrated onto the then uncolonized land. Here the conditions were very different, and evolution forced them toContinue reading “The Biology of Freshwater (flowering) Plants”
David Beeson We set out to make our 1.25-acre garden wildlife friendly. It was one of the first in the UK to ‘hit the media’ – and that was 30 years ago, and it is 20 years since being on the BBC, The Garden magazine and other major outlets. We feel we were part ofContinue reading “Our Wildlife Garden in late September”
David Beeson, September 2022 For those of us living in northwest Hampshire we are used to a chalky landscape cut through by clear rivers and streams. The river valleys are lush, alkaline and covered in the remains of C17, C18 and C19 water meadows (see article). So, my ecology group opted to visit South DorsetContinue reading “An Ecology Fieldtrip”
David Beeson, 19th August 2022 Southern England, and much of Western Europe are having a hotter and drier summer than average. Rainfall for the year is well down and, with river levels dropping, local hosepipe and sprinkler bans are in place. Our water is pumped out of our underlying chalk bedrock and, when extraction exceedsContinue reading “I Hit the Headlines!”
David Beeson The name John Lewis is synonymous with quality department stores in the UK. It has a subsidiary, Waitrose, that is its supermarket chain. However, unlike many similar companies, JL has other sides. It owns arable, dairy, mushroom and apple farms in Hampshire and its vineyards produce quality wines. Yet, there is more: itContinue reading “Longstock Water Garden in July”
(Now called lake Turkana) Aspects of Africa 1 – The El Molo of Kenya David Beeson July 2022 In 1998 our family spent some time exploring Kenya for the first time. Perhaps one of the most interesting journeys was to the far north-east of the country, to Lake Turkana, beyond the lands of the SamburuContinue reading “A Journey to the Jade Sea”
David Beeson June 2022 Annette and I embarked on a two-week exploration of the coastline at the start of June. Our first stop was just west of Newport at the Tredegar House caravan site. This allowed easy access to The Newport Wetlands which are partly managed by the RSPB and dominated by present and pastContinue reading “Some wildlife in South Wales”
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.”
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”
Remember: you can access any of over 150 articles from ARTICLES above, Free knowledge. David Beeson, May 2022 While nearly everyone you meet on a nature exploration can identify most of the birds they encounter, few know much about how they work. This article is an introduction to some aspects of their physiology. For thoseContinue reading “The Physiology of Birds, 1. (How birds work)”
David Beeson, May 2022 If you are a subscriber and receive all the articles, do look at the NEW HOMEPAGE at http://www.nwhwildlife.org as all the posts have been reorganised to make searching easier. The placing of organisms into groups some people think is a rather boring topic. I agree; yet understanding some aspects of classificationContinue reading “Plant Families”
David Beeson I grew up not far from The Forest, as we called it. It was only later, when I had travelled the World, did I understand just how special it is. Lowland heath, its ecological label, is rare … really rare, so its plants and animals are treasures. It was first a royal huntingContinue reading “The New Forest National Park in April”
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.”
David Beeson, April 2022 I’ve always been a fan of the underdog. If some creature is being ‘got at’ then I’m prepared to put in some effort to attempt to right-the-wrong. That was how it was when I started working with the Mammal Society and then the Otter Trust to stop the hunting of theContinue reading “The Ecology of the UK’s Snakes”
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”
David Beeson, April 2022 Spring in the mid-uplands of Crete is the main time for seeing the flowers on wild orchids. The mild winters, hot summers with winds often coming from the Sahara and the calcareous soils all add to making this a favourable environment. This last winter the rain and snow exceeded expectations, soContinue reading “The Wild Orchids of Crete in Early April”
David Beeson, April 2022 Earlier this month we embarked on a botanical visit to the Greek island of Crete. We have been there twice, previously both walking and seeking plants, but this time headed for the centre of the island, to Rethymno. We had not been to this part of Crete. Crete is a mountainousContinue reading “The Coastal Communities of Crete”
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”
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”
David Beeson, March 2022 UK deer have antlers that are shed yearly, while sheep & goats have horns that grow and are not shed. Although you are unlikely to need that fact in the field! Deer are Ungulates, having hooves instead of claws and they are in the Cervidae family, being ruminant browsers and soContinue reading “The Deer of Southern England”
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.”
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”
David Beeson, March 2022 I’m about to sell my microscope, as a new one is on its way to me. So, I thought I would give the old one an outing – a sample of pond water. Oh, what wonders! If you have access to a microscope and have never looked at pond water doContinue reading “I had forgotten just how magical a drop of pond water can be.”
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”
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)”
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”
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”
David Beeson, on the RED ALERT for high winds day. 18th February. We have three English walnut trees, Juglans regia. Two are over 100 years of age, the third probably 50 years old. We now have two in the ground. Today has been a most unusual day as the strongest storm winds in over 30Continue reading “We Cannot Believe Everything in Books, and other events.”
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”
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”
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”
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”
David Beeson December 2021 We all do it. We explore the world around us and look for that special insect / plant / view. I do. If an orchid is in around my eyes zoom in … perhaps too rapidly. Perhaps it is not that one special plant that should be taking my notice butContinue reading “Wildlife and its environment”
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”
David Beeson, December 2021 Some friends alerted me to a programme (The Blob) on BBC IPlayer about a most unlikely topic – slime moulds. If you have any curiosity about the oddities of this planet, this is the one to watch. You will be amazed. I have grown these organisms in the past, but theContinue reading “The Blob – slime moulds / molds”
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”
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”