A mixed blessing
23rd Jul 2014 by jools
The image (on the top row below — OOPS! MISSING IMAGE!) shows Epichloe spp. infecting some of our grass. It is a fungal grass infection commonly known as “choke”. Neil Mahler, Suffolk County Fungi Recorder, says,
“This is in fact beneficial to the host plant overall in that it causes more seeds to be produced, despite strangulating the infected tiller, preventing flowering and seeds being produced. An 80% increase of seed production in infected fields is often mentioned.
From a grazier's point of view however this is similar to ergot, and can have an effect on cattle and sheep called ‘ryegrass staggers’. The more intense the grazing, more toxins are produced, according to a study of Soay Sheep in the Hebrides (Bazely et al.,1997) in which poisonous alkaloid production in ungrazed grasses was considerably lower than in grazed grasses.”
Our cattle have wisely avoided it, and the grazing intensity is very low – hopefully improving our seed crop!
Big Butterfly Count: 19th July – 10th August
20th Jul 2014 by jools
Sir David Attenborough is encouraging nature lovers to embrace the UK’s long heritage of amateur natural history by counting commas, marbled whites, small coppers, gatekeepers and other common butterflies between 19th July and 10th August.
He explained, “The UK is a nation of amateur naturalists, and we have a proud tradition of celebrating and studying our wildlife. By taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer, you can contribute to this heritage, and discover the fantastic butterflies and other wildlife that share your garden, parks and countryside. Butterflies fought back last year after a terrible 2012, but, despite this, butterfly numbers were still below average. Three-quarters of the UK’s butterflies are in decline, and one-third are in danger of extinction. This is bad news for butterflies – and it is bad news for the UK’s birds, bees, bats and other wildlife. This is because butterflies are a key indicator species of the health of our environment – if they are struggling, then many other species are struggling also.”
You can download the app – now available for iOS and Android – onto your smartphone.
Taking part in the Count is easy – find a sunny place and spend just 15 minutes counting every butterfly seen, and then submit sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org .
19th Jul 2014 by jools
This week, the Fromus meadows are loud with the hissing of common green grasshoppers.
Biological pest control
17th Jul 2014 by jools
Our "Meet Your Neighbours" project is starting to see some mini-fauna on the flora – here is the wonderful sight of a 7-spot ladybird excited about his dinner of aphids – you can even appreciate their iridescent wings! Have a look at the new images from July in the MYN gallery to see small skippers, soldier beetles and the glorious tufted vetch, found festooning a bramble hedge.
16th Jul 2014 by jools
We want to know what species love our wonderful reserves: like this Nicrophorus investigator beetle identified for the first time at Fromus Valley last night. We regularly survey and record species, but are planning a “bioblitz” for our next open day weekend. If you’re coming, bring a notepad and pencil to record what you find – could you add a new species to our list?
13th Jul 2014 by jools
What’s been happening in July at our Fromus reserve? Lots of rain! However, insect life has not been deterred and three intrepid photographers set out to capture the summer goings on on 8th July. See their images in the Summer and "Meet Your Neighbours" galleries.
Don’t forget, you can visit the reserves for yourself on our open days.
11th Jun 2014 by jools
Richard Fisk, our bryophyte recorder, provides us with these images of the moss Climacium dendroides. Although common in Great Britain as a whole, there are only two other Suffolk recordings, making it a special find at our Orchid Glade reserve – a unique site.
C. dendroides often grows in patches, with erect stems 2–3 cm tall, arising from the prostrate, usually hidden, rhizome-like primary stems. The individual shoots resemble miniature palm trees, with rather rigid, stubby, yellow-green branches at the tip of the stems. The erect stems may be very short in dry sites, whereas shoots are much more tree-like in moister places. Leaves are about 2–3.5 mm long. The stem leaves are well-spaced and rounded at the tip; the branch leaves are narrower, acute, coarsely toothed near the tip and often have longitudinal folds; the leaf cells are elongated. Capsules are rare because male plants appear to be much less frequent than females.
C. dendroides is most frequent in damp places, especially where water levels fluctuate during the year. In its favoured habitats it can compete well with flowering plants in short turf. It grows at the edges of lakes and reservoirs, in dune slacks and turloughs (seasonal lakes over limestone), flushes, wet grassland, damp scrub and woodland. It is sometimes found in drier, base-rich or sandy grassland. It occurs rather rarely as a colonist of gravel pits and damp colliery spoil.
Open day reports
10th Jun 2014 by jools
Two open days, two surprisingly sunny days (after a thundery start), two wildlife havens buzzing with life – both seen and unseen under the pond surface. See the images in the "Meet Your Neighbours", Summer and Orchid Glade galleries.
5th Jun 2014 by jools
They’re out and just waiting for you to come and visit them this Sunday! Check our new images in the "Meet Your Neighbours" and Orchid Glade galleries, for a sample of species you can find at our open day.
4th Jun 2014 by jools
We’re looking forward to our open days this weekend – bring your wellies if you plan to visit Orchid Glade on Sunday: there are lots of puddles in the rutted ground, but on the plus side they bring a host of gorgeous amphibians to pique your interest!