November, 2013

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Monday's Magic Moment: Rustling in the leaves...

    Happy Monday!

    When thinking up today's Monday Moment, I discounted foxes, kangaroos and kiwis on account of various dismal sporting results over the weekend. So, if like me you need a little pick me up, how about a picture of a cheeky weasel poking his head up through some autumnal leaves?

    UK weasels are the smallest of the weasel (or mustelid) family - it also includes badgers, stoats and otters. Don't be confused with weasels and stoats - stoats are bigger and have a black tip on the tail. Weasels might be small, but they certainly pack a punch! They'll happily take on a rabbit, despite these being 5-10 times the size of our feisty weasel. If only the sporting teams I follow fought as hard as this little guy!

    Weasel in leaves. Photo by Danny Green (www.rspb-images.com)

    Danny Green took this image - it's one of thousands on RSPB Images. The perfect place to forget about your troubles and remember how amazing nature is. 

  • Amphibians in winter

    Amphibians are some of our most primitive land animals to own a backbone. Unfortunately for them one of their primitive traits is an inability to regulate body temperature which means that in the UK they have to take action before it gets freezing cold!

    toad by Dan Tentler

    The best way to do this is to hibernate or ‘go dormant’ through the cold months.

    Many frogs swim to the bottom of ponds and partially bury themselves in mud. This poses two problems: first, frogs have lungs so when under water they risk drowning, second, if the water freezes solid it will probably kill the frog.

    The first issue is solved by the frog getting oxygen and releasing CO2 through its porous skin.  this works here when it doesn't normally because the frog’s metabolism has slowed down so much the body doesn’t need much oxygen.

     The second problem is avoided by finding a pond deep enough that the ice doesn't reach it.

    Great crested newt

    The alternative to spending winter underwater is to find somewhere suitable on land. Toads and great crested newts favour this option often hiding in compost or burrowing into the ground; I’ve heard stories of people digging in their gardens and finding newts two feet down!

    Despite all this effort to stay frost free there are some northern species (not in the UK) that do actually freeze on the outside, but their blood becomes a type of anti-freeze laced with sugars which means the ice only freezes around them and leaves their cells unharmed!

    Amazingly clever, these amphibians, for such a ‘primitive’ kingdom. 

    There are many ways you can help frogs and other amphibians in your garden. Why not check out our Giving Nature a Home site to get you started? 

  • Monday's Magic Moment: magic mushrooms!

    There are stag's horns and stinkhorns, waxy caps and rosy bonnets. You might even find an Amethyst deceiver or come face to face with a chicken of the woods.

    What am I talking about?

    Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of toadstools and mushrooms.

    This is a great time of year to go on a fungi foray as these fascinating organisms add a splash of colour to a woodland walk.

    Even with all those great names to pick from (it sounds like they had fun naming them!) my favourite is still the fly agaric. What's yours?

    Fly agaric close up