Stephen Cheshire’s butterfly guide is a nicely designed site with good pictures for identifying all the butterflies you’re likely to see in the UK. There is also a very good online ID tool.
Amazing photos of British water voles by US photographer Terry Whittaker. More here
A couple of nice stories to celebrate April 1st from Wildlife Extra.
Trafalgar Square to be transformed into wildlife haven (the RSPB plans to create a giant nature park in Trafalgar Square, to mark the UN target of reversing declines in wildlife across the world by 2020.)
Flamingos sighted in Scotland According to the RSPB, this could be the first time Greater Flamingos have ventured this far north.
This is a bizzare story:
On closer inspection the object turned into a large swan mussel which was firmly clamped to the lower mandible of the bird, the coot lay down in the grass and appeared quite weak so this situation must have in place for some time, preventing the bird from feeding. More here
The Met Office has just announced that December 2010 was the coldest December since 1890 based on the Central England Temperature (CET) dataset which started in 1659, the longest such set of figures in the world. The month was also the coldest individual calendar month since February 1986, with temperatures dropping as low as -21.1C in Altnaharra in Sutherland, Scotland. There were 10 nights in December 2010 when the temperature fell below -18C somewhere in the UK. Northern Ireland also saw its lowest ever recorded temperature -18C at Castlederg, County Tyrone on 20th December.
Update from the BBC Met blog: Met Office provisional figures show that December 2010 with a mean CET temperature of -0.7C was the second coldest since records began in 1659, beaten only by December 1890 which had a mean of -0.8C.
2010 was also the coldest year since 1986.
“Remarkably, at a time when global warming remains a very high profile issue around the world, the 2010 UK CET figure is around the levels recorded from the years 1659 to 1758 – and well below the median figure for the whole series which runs from 1659 to 2009. For the UK at least, the climate in the last few years far from warming, has been very definitely cooling. This could be yet more anecdotal evidence that the prolonged solar minima which started around 2007 continues to influence the UK’s climate.
Above photo of Armathwaite in the Lake District by Rich Fraser on Flickr.
I thought this article by Michael McCarthy in The Indepedent was amusing:
“Reports of polar bears travelling to Britain made the news earlier this year. The RSPB suggested that one had been washed up still alive on the Hebridean island of Mull – the story was an April Fool. The second report came in September when Naomi Lloyd, a presenter of ITV’s West Country breakfast bulletin, excitedly informed viewers that a polar bear had been washed up dead at the Cornish seaside town of Bude. The animal turned out to be a cow, which had been bleached white by the seawater.”
6-minute video by David Attenborough on the weird and wonderful life cycle of the knopper gall wasp (Andricus quercuscalicis.) as it provokes an oak tree to produce a gall in which the wasp can lay its eggs safely inside. From the BBC’s ‘Life in the Undergrowth’. The knopper gall wasp is just one of 70 gall wasps which can afflict a single British oak, though many have only a negligible effect on the tree.
- Knopper galls develop as a chemically induced distortion of growing acorns on Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur (L.)) trees, caused by gall wasps which lay eggs within buds using their ovipositor. The gall thus produced can greatly reduce the fecundity of the oak host, making the gall a potentially more serious threat than those which develop upon leaves, buds, stems, etc. The Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris (L.)) introduced into Britain in 1735 is required for the completion of the life cycle of the gall
- The word knopper derives from the German word ‘knoppe’ meaning a kind of felt cap or helmet worn during the 17th-century; also a small rounded protuberance, often decorative, such as a stud, a tassel or a knob
Rather nice downloadable MP3 by the National Trust and published here by the Guardian of songs by winter birds “to help conquer the gloom of the shortest day of the year”, beginning with the UK’s smallest bird, the goldcrest with “its very thin song”.
The lowest ever temperature was recorded in Northern Ireland this week, dropping to -18C at Castlederg, County Tyrone on 20th December 2010. The previous record for the country was -17.5 °C on 1 January 1979 in Magherally (County Down).
See also: Record lowest temperatures in the UK
More and more nature reserves are providing audio trails for visitors. They were originally designed for the blind but there are increasingly used by other people. All are free and downloadable onto your Mp3 device.
Here are a few I’ve found, but most are produced by audiotrails.co.uk
This new BBC documentary on British butterflies looks well worth watching More here from the BBC’s Natural World including lots of clips. The documentary looks at the fascinating lives of Britain’s butterflies filmed in exquisite detail and “is also a celebration of their enduring appeal to the British people, ” but the country’s butterflies are also seriously threatened, with three quarters are in decline. The below clip shows an orange tip butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Continue reading BBC British butterfly documentary
Damn this quiz from Suffolk moths is difficult, but very well designed. Strictly for experts.
Sensationalist headline of the month goes to me. More on this story from the Guardian “Dartmoor ponies are now worth more dead than alive, and are being killed and fed to lions in the zoo. Sadly it may be the only way to save a habitat and an economy in crisis”