Monday, 30 March 2015

Oh Dear Poppy.... WHAT Have You Done?!

Pop has a lot of energy.

A Lot. 

If she doesn't have a good hour's run off the lead of a morning she is liable to become disruptive, which usually takes the form of raiding upstairs or chewing the nearest shoe/ newspaper/ toy/ Teddy.

On Saturday morning she came with me first thing to check the sheep and ran up and down the Down, then in the afternoon she had another good scamper about in the forest with Ted and her four doggy cousins, while my nieces practiced Judo Moves on M which ended with him lying on his back on the wet earth.....





Sunday, M took her and Ted out for an hour across the fields, and this morning she had her hour's run through the woods and along the footpaths.

My point in recounting Poppy's Recent Exercise Regime is to demonstrate that she has not been without opportunity to run about to her heart's content during the last three days. (and while we're on that subject I would like to share with you all that I, CT, ran FIVE MILES with my husband on Saturday afternoon. Well, OK, I ran most of five miles, I did walk a little bit of it. Given that my regular runs are about two miles I felt Very Saintly Indeed afterwards, although admittedly the plus points for fat-busting were probably cancelled out by the large G&T and two packets of crisps I ate while waiting for steak, chips and chocolate to arrive).

Anyhoo, I left Pop gratifyingly sound asleep on her bed beside Teddy this morning while I went off to eat cake with my friend Mrs M. 

When I got back an hour later, however, this was the scene that met my eyes...



One chucked about and eviscerated bed.

Who on earth could have done that? I wondered.

Not me, said Teddy anxiously. 

In fact, it only needed one glance at Poppy for her to run immediately to the back door and out into the garden. An admission of guilt if ever I saw one.

It took a while to collect all the bits of stuffing, shove them back inside the bed, sweep the floor and restore the bed to its rightful corner. When I straightened up I got the distinct impression I was being watched. I turned round. Guess who I saw.....?


SITTING ON THE TABLE!!!! 

As Bold As Brass,

JRs have absolutely no sense of shame whatsoever. 

CT :o)
 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sea Creatures At Low Tide: Shoresearch & Marine Conservation Zones

The Wildlife Trusts are working hard on Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) right now. This follows the passage of the Marine & Coastal Access Act here in the UK in 2009. The Act makes provision for the designation of a certain number of protected marine zones around the English coast and the aim is to safeguard a range of nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and geomorphology. Public consultations are up and running right now, so go to the Defra website and the JNCC website to find out more and have your say.

As part of this, and because we don't cover much in the way of Marine Ecology on my course and I wanted to know more about it, I booked in to a day's Shoresearch course with our local Wildlife Trust and so spent last Saturday morning in a classroom learning all about it, and then the afternoon out on the beach surveying for marine organisms and recording everything we found.

All sorts of people attend these courses, from professional ecologists to ecology students to divers to people who are simply interested in the sea, so if you're interested the cost was £25 for the day and once you've done the training course you can then get involved with helping out on the surveys. All the info gathered on the shoresearch goes towards informing decisions on marine conservation, and at present on the designation of marine conservation zones in particular, so it's both interesting and valuable. Check out your local Wildlife Trust website for more info and to find a course near you.

I won't rattle on, instead I'll let you enjoy the photos of some of the wonderful creatures we found. Last Sat was a particularly low tide, it being both the Equinox and the Eclipse and I've never seen the sea go so far out, we almost felt we could walk to the Isle of Wight opposite!

My buddy Dave appeared in the late afternoon as he's a seasoned Shore-searcher, so I latched on to him and learnt more from him in the afternoon as we picked up various Interesting Small Squishy Sea Things :o)

My favourite was probably the Sea Slug, all pink and cute with little antennae that poke out once he's stopped feeling worried, although I do also have a bit of a thing for Snakeslock Anemone, and come to that you can't beat a good crab either :o) Our bit of sea was flat, pebbly and muddy and I think you would get a different set of sea people in a rock pooly type beach (which I wish we had nearer us).


Bladder Wrack (Fucus vesiculosus)

Chiton (a type of sea mollusc)

Cockle

Common Whelk

Common Whelk Eggs (dried- you find these washed up on beaches all round the UK)

Dahlia Anemone


Edible Crab (Cancer pagurus)

Dahlia Anemone out of the water (the bits of stuff - rock/ shell - stuck to its sides are diagnostic of this type of anemone)


Flat Periwinkle

Green Shore Crab (Carcinus maenas)

Oyster Catchers

Scallop



Sea Mat (a type of Bryzoan, or 'moss animal'). They are in fact interconnected tiny animals who live together to form colonies.

Sea Spiders (very annoyed when first moved, then utterly immobile afterwards)


Sea Slug (Acanthodoris pilosa)

Sea Slug rolled in a frightened ball

Sea Slug eggs

A Sea Squirt (as M says, what's not to like about a creature whose name contains the word Squirt?) 


Shanny (Liphophrys pholis)

Shanny


Low Tide

Shore-Searchers Searching.... reminds me of 'she sells sea shells...'

Snakeslock Anemone (Anemonia viridis)




Far Out Tide....

And finally, a cropped version of my favourite picture of the Shoresearchers....

 
Another great wildlife day with lots of things I hadn't seen before. I shall be helping out on the surveys again, particularly for the Isle of Wight as that is where all the rockpools are :o).

Cambridge post tomorrow, or maybe Monday... :o)

Hope you're all having a nice weekend,

CT :o)

 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Great Crested Newts After Dark

This isn't actually a Cambridge Post- somehow I managed to accrue a couple of days' worth of Interesting Activities to share before we even made it to the Fens, so I am Posting Them In Logical Order for the sake of recording neatness :o)

A few night's ago I went into the Forest after dark to look for Great Crested Newts. The Wildlife-Savvy among you will know that these little amphibs have maximum protection under European and UK law- it is illegal to search for them, disturb them, move them, pick them up etc etc without a licence, and their presence on development sites can cause mega delays and disruptions and sky-rocketing costs involving the putting up of long lengths of exclusion fences to protect them and their habitat.

In the UK they are not particularly scarce- their protection status seems to originate in the fact that there aren't all that many of them across the rest of Europe.

Anyhoo, we had two members of staff with us who had the necessary licenses and so a group of us met up just before dusk in the forest to do an egg search in some calcareous ponds that formed there on the back of the marl industry, and then to wait till night had well and truly fallen before we searched for the newts themselves in earnest, them being mainly nocturnal and all.

I had never seen a GCN before and was amazed at how enormous they are in comparison to the Smooth and Palmates which are our other native newts here in the UK.

MONSTER NEWT!




 
The crest pops up when mating season is here (a bit of classy showing off for the ladies). They also eat the smaller newts, although not, thankfully, on this particular night :o)

I'm jumping slightly ahead of myself, because before dark fell and we saw the newties, we found what we were looking for- GCN eggs. These are the two small white dots on the leaf in the third pic down. GCNs lay their eggs on submerged leaves and then fold the end of the leaf over the egg to protect it. Needless to say you can't search for GCN eggs without holding a licence either. The silvery-grey egg in the fifth pic is a Palmate newt egg.





 
Once night fell we found an enormous number of all three UK native newts in all the ponds we were looking at, as well as toads, dragonfly nymphs and caddis fly larva. It's another world there in the woods after dark....

Caddis Fly Larva- the insect is inside this elaborately constructed tower of interwoven sticks

Mr Toad floating serenely in the water

Because we had licence holders with us, we were able to net some of the GCNs and turn them over (carefully) to show off their amazing firey tummies. Gorgeous, aren't they?
 
 


And then one eagle-eyed student spotted a female GCN ovipositing (laying her eggs) in her pond...


By then it was pitch black and (typically) my head torch decided to give up the ghost, so I contented myself taking atmospheric shots of everyone else staring into the ponds....






It was a fab evening, and in fact I am off this Sunday to do a proper training course and get myself a GCN licence :o)

Tomorrow, I have a post to show you about the Shoresearch course I did before Cambs and all the amazing sea creatures we found on one of the lowest tides of the year, and them after the Cambs posts (which are coming soon I promise) I've got the results of yesterday's water vole survey to show you....

Hope you're all well. I am off to have a read of what you've all been doing.

CT x