Friday, 26 June 2015

What goes round comes round

The Safari has been explaining to the youngsters for many years now that all life on this planet is interconnected, usually as part of the food chains and webs they have to study. We have told them that making one species extinct is like cutting a  thread that holds us up and if we're not careful and we send more species to extinction then another thread is broken and another...until the rope snaps and we along with everything else comes tumbling down. Last week it was announced that the planet is in the midst of the 6th great extinction with background rates far in excess of what would be predicted and it looks like it's humans causing the problems.
A cartoon spotted on Twitter illustrates our metaphor in a slightly and maybe more dramatic way.
Gratuitously nicked from Twitter - apologies to the original artist

The Extinction Symbol below very quickly needs to become as widely seen and as instantly recognised as the Coke or Nike logos. You can download it free for non-commercial use from their Flickr site
How many of you have seen it before?
One of the problems facing wildlife is invasive non-native species which get a foothold and out-compete or predate the natural flora and fauna, there are countless examples from all around the world but we found one with the children recently, Wireweed, the seaweed from the Pacific Ocean. One way to perhaps control these invasive species to reduce their impact may be to find a use for them and over-harvest them like we do with many other species. Not sure if Wireweed grass skirts are the way forward though.
Yesterday we were able to have a late start at work due to an evening meeting so we had a look at the sea at Patch 2 for much longer than normal finding a bit of a feeding frenzy which had attracted a good number of gulls about 20 Manx Shearwaters and a few Gannets, best of all was a Harbour Porpoise which was very active and hard to spot, second guessing where it was going to surface next was nigh on impossible so we only got a few fleeting glimpses as it rolled but fleeting glimpses are much better than no glimpses at all.
We then had the plan of visiting two or three sites we've not really had time to visit properly for a while to check them out more thoroughly. First up was the nature reserve but not the orchid end, we've not been down the east end for a while so gave that a go after a good chat with AH in the new Visitor Centre which is looking very smart and will be 'officially' opened amid much pomp and ceremony very soon.
We set off for the bridge and once across it hadn't gone more than a few paces when we heard a Water Rail screaming from the reedbed. Not a sound you hear often here during the summer months, we wonder if they have bred again...'twud be nice! The warm sun and lack of wind meant we were well overdressed but we persevered. There weren't many folk out and the bird song was surrounding us as sweetly as Sedge and Reed Warblers can sound sweet. We were on a mission to find Hop Trefoil and a few other species of plants we didn't see at the other end of the reserve on our last visit and had a tip off. Before we got to the location we had yet another look for Bee Orchids on their 'usual' place but hadn't been seen there yet after the winter construction works. And there was one poking its pink flowers through the denser vegetation a little further from the path than we'd been looking on earlier visits.
A search for any others proved fruitless but a call from BD later after we'd told him of our success said there were several others too. There was a good bit of our favourite meadow 'tool; too; Yellow Rattle a hemi-parasite that does o great job of weakening the grasses which allows more 'interesting' wildflowers to flourish.
From there we had a wander down the brand new path to the Panoramic Hide where a screen is about to be constructed for viewing when the hide is locked. A recently predated Pigeon probably abandoned by a disturbed Sparrowhawk, lay close to the path but we not seen any raptors at all.
Then we had a mooch across the new plateau made from the scrape excavations. The ground was dry but we thought there must be some wetland species coming up from the seed bank and it wasn't long before we'd found a few that we've not seen for a good while. In recent years the generally persistent wet weather has kept water levels high so there haven't been prolonged drop down margins for the marshy plants to appear. We'd already been 'warned' about Celery Leaved Buttercup and it didn't take long to find plenty of it.

Also there was the bluey grey Marsh Cudweed
and the very pretty but not really a wetland plant Common Fumitory.
This plant is more of an arable weed than a wetland species but it was good to see it in some numbers. If the area doesn't vegetate up too thickly too quickly then it should be around setting lots of seeds for a year or two more yet.
We did find our Hop Trefoil, only to discover once photographed that it's Lesser Trefoil, the former has a more Pineapple shaped cylindrical flower than this. Ah well an excuse for another visit!
By now it really was summer and we were  totally over dressed and sweating cobs. Butterflies fluttered and damselflies flitted as we checked the track edge for more Bee Orchids and Hop Trefoil without success. We looked for Yellow rattle alongside the path to the Viewing Platform but couldn't see any although the wildflower display there is going to be awesome in a week or so when the Hardheads open. Looking down the mere from here we could see the far end was a mass of pink from the flowers of Amphibious Bistort so we went on a mission to get a pic. By now we realised we were running short of time and wouldn't get to the other two sites and might not even get to work on time! Putting on a bit of a shimmy we reluctantly bypassed the Marsh Orchids and butterfly zone and didn't stop at the hide to look over the water but did notice the Snake's Head Fritillary meadow had grown up like a jungle.
At the bottom corner we couldn't see the lovely Amphibious Bistort through the reeds where the kiddies feed the ducks but were relieved when we got to the small platform which s just high enough and the reeds less dense to give a bit of a view...not the full monty we'd hoped for but still impressive.
Almost all the bottom fifth of the mere is covered with a pink haze, it's worth the visit just to see that!
Some of the joggers get round the circuit in a few minutes we had taken a little over two hours and still not had time to do the site justice we missed so much in our mad dash round the second half. So slow down take your time and look closely, the wonders and the beauty are right there in front of you.
Back at work we spotted a small solitary bee on a patch of Sea Campion but haven't a clue which species it is so we've asked all round bee-meister and jolly good fellow @RyanClarkNature for help.
Where to next? nothing planned for the weekend but anything could happen.
In the meantime let us know who's put in a welcome reappearance in your outback.

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