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Thursday, 26 June 2014

Natural History Week June 2014

The observation and pursuit of natural history does occupy much of my time, but occasionally there comes a week crammed full – this is one such.

Sunday 15th was my monthly Wetland Birds Survey.
Summer surveys don't record many water birds on Tamar Lakes and this month was no exception being dominated by the few breeders that use the lakes – families of Canada Geese, Mallard and Moorhen featuring. Terrestrial breeders were also present – Reed Bunting and Sedge Warblers were very obvious. It was a butterfly day too with a mass emergence of Meadow Brown, some Speckled Wood and a beautiful single Ringlet seen.

Large Skipper
Monday 16th – CWT meeting
We hosted an evening with friends on the committee of Cornwall Wildlife Trust Tamar Group where we planned the activities for summer and the forthcoming winter season. In advance of the meeting we took our dog around our usual walk and were delighted to see the first Large Skippers of the year. 

Tuesday 17th – Ponds and fields with year 3 of Bude Junior School.
Water Scorpion
72 enthusiastic 8/9 year old in four groups. It was a most hectic and challenging session, but the children were very adept at catching mud! They did catch lots of interesting creatures though ranging from Newts, through Eels, Damselfly larvae, Dragonfly larvae, water louse, freshwater shrimps, chironomid worms, water boatmen and backswimmer and the stars of the show, water scorpions. All were eagerly observed before finally being repatriated into the Bude Tourist Information Centre pond. 

Bee Orchid

Thursday 19th – Bude Marshes quarterly transect and annual Bee Orchid count.
Although circumstances left us with only 4 on the walk, and we were accompanied by the children from Adventure International in kayaks on the canal and bikes on the multi-use footpath, we managed to record 22 birds species,
The orchid count went well too – despite the vigorous grass growth, the Bee Orchids are maintaining their numbers 33 plants as compared to last year and the Marsh Orchids, previously uncounted were counted as 69 plants. It is obvious the preferred habitat of the latter is on the short sward between footpaths and the dense grassy layer, whereas Bee Orchids are happy in the mixed flower and grass habitat growing in loose groups of 2 or 3 plants.

Friday 20th – ERCCIS Dragonfly workshop.
Keeled Skimmer
What a fantastic couple of sites. Great Wheal Seton is a post industrial contaminated area with small shallow ponds but is host to Scarce Blue-tail Damselflies – the last remaining site in Cornwall where we were privileged to count around 30 of both sexes.
The old settling pits at Bell Lake Marsh in the Red River Valley have been transformed from overgrown Willow scrub to a shallow marshy area with scrapes and was host to Small Red Damselflies, Keeled Skimmers as well as patrolling Emperors. 13 different species was a very good workshop.

Saturday 21st – Sandymouth BBS butterfly transect
Hummingbird Hawk Moth
Vixen and 6 cubs
Accompanied by two naturalist friends we were able to count 8 species of Butterfly – 38 in total (Meadow Brown, Small Heath, Common Blue, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Large Skipper, Red Admiral and Painted Lady) 2 moths (5-spot Burnet and Hummingbird Hawk Moth) and a Golden Ringed Dragonfly. They agree that this is a Beautiful Square (op cit). To cap it all, as we finished the transect, we noticed that we were being watched intently by a Vixen about 400 metres away whilst her 6 cubs played!
Sampling at Marsland Water

Sunday 22nd – Fox Club “Dung Ho!” at Marsland Nature Reserve.
Together with a friend from Cornwall Wildlife Trust, a small group was entertained by his description of what pollutes our waterways. This was followed up by our catch of myriads of invertebrates kick sampled from Marsland Water. We used the excellent wildlife centre courtesy of Devon Wildlife Trust in the idyllic setting of Marsland nature reserve.

Marmalade Hoverfly
Monday 23rd - Equinoctial walk on Bude Aqueduct from Moreton Bridge to the junction with the Holsworthy branch is about 2½ miles of absolute quiet taking in woody shade and open walks and Bursdon Moor Nature Reserve. We were lucky to not only hear birds but to see them too – including two Treecreepers. The stars of the show had to be the dragonflies and damselflies along with lots of butterflies. We were fortunate to capture a picture of a strikingly decorated, striped hoverfly which we identified later as a Marmalade Hoverfly. 

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As I am writing this, over my left shoulder I am watching the wind ripple a field of grasses, docks and sorrel. The weather has been dry and very hot and as the wind stirs the stems of the plants, millions of seeds are blown from their heads into rolling, billowing clouds looking like smoke. They roll slowly over the field, a perfect demonstration of natural seed dispersal. They are now next year's plants in waiting.