Sunday, 14 January 2018

Monarch of the Building Site

Hello and welcome to a rebranded blog. As you will no doubt have noticed if you are a regular reader, the blog is now called Ringwood Wildlife Diary and there's a new header too. In terms of content though it will be business as usual.

It's been interesting over the last few months to see how the roe deer are adapting to the building site on the field they used to graze in. The builders piled up the soil from the groundworks into a big mound which became covered in greenery. The deer seemed had discovered a new place to feed.

It's not just the deer that seem to like the mound- I've regularly seen the local buzzards on it. 

The mound provides a vantage point over the surrounding fields that didn't exist before and so the buzzards have taken advantage of it. Since Christmas more work has been done and fresh soil has been added to the mound- since then I've not seen any wildlife making use of it. 

Over on the River Avon I got a really close look at a pair of goosander

A woman saw me taking photos of them and asked me what they were and I was able to explain about them being winter visitors. It was really lovely to be able to share my knowledge with someone. 

It's proving to be a good spot for birds at the moment. I once again saw a grey heron with a rat in its beak in the same spot too. 

It still feels odd to see a bird we know for fishing to eat rats but they are opportunistic hunters. Because they can stand so still the rats don't notice they are there until it is too late. It was interesting to see that this heron had flown to the edge of the river with the rat. A second after this photo it dipped the rat in the water, lifted it up to swallow it and then bent down to take another gulp of water. I'm assuming it did this in order to make the rat easier to swallow. Compared to a slimy fish, a furry rat will not slide down the throat so easily- presumably making it wet makes it easier. 

All members of the heron family will do this and it was interesting to spot two great white egrets in the distance. 

I've never seen these birds on the area I consider my patch so it was a lovely spot. There is a fair amount of water on the floodplains at the moment and the egrets were making use of it- I wonder if they too were hunting for rats in an area where there is clearly a good number of them. 

Another winter visitor I've seen recently was this redwing, my first of the winter (clearly I've not been going to the right places). 

This redwing will have migrated from Russia or Scandinavia, arriving in the UK around October(1). It's a five hundred mile flight across the North Sea and in rough weather many come crashing down on the waves and drown. In the Autumn they spend their time in hedges and orchards feeding on fruit but as that food source runs out they move to fields to dig for earthworms. Clearly that's what this individual was doing as it has a very muddy beak. 

It may not be the height of the fungi season but I've spotted a couple of interesting species recently. This is a yellow stagshorn fungus(2). 

This species always grows on rotting wood- here it was on some wood used for steps on a footpath. Apparently it's not poisonous but is not worth eating as it's rubbery and tasteless(3).

Then there's this species which I think is an oyster mushroom

Oyster mushrooms are highly variable(4) which makes a positive identification tricky- I'm sure this is at least of the Pleurotus genus. Incredibly this is a carnivorous mushroom- it traps and ingests nematode worms which provide it with nitrogen and other chemicals(5). Oyster mushrooms are highly popular for eating and are regularly found for sale in supermarkets. 

That's all for today and I shall see you next week.

2: Sterry, P and Hughes, B. (2009) Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. Collins pp.248
4: Sterry, P and Hughes, B. (2009) Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. Collins pp.222

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