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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wed 4th Dec 2013 - One Horse Field, Totland.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

The GG session this week was out in the wilds of West Wight, One Reindeer Field (note the seasonal touch!) at Totland. This time we were working on the quadrant to the north west of the site and.... as you might have guessed, it was grass raking time. The area concerned had been mechanically cut before our arrival so it was all hands to the rakes and material transport bags, gather up as much as possible and then dump it at collection points. We also tackled a rather overgrown area on the perimeter, cutting back brambles and blackthorn bushes to open up the grassland meadow.
The predicted rain held off until around 11:00 then the damp mist rolled in, eventually turning to drizzle which was heavy enough to get the Needles fog horn whistling away! Perhaps not the most exciting job on the GG work schedule but rewarding to see the area cleared at the end of the session.

Carrie's "Nature Natter" (something new!)

December - what to see in the countryside

December is the month when winter finally arrives, the countryside is gripped by frost and the trees are bare.  Until the Spring animals will battle to survive, as food sources are scarce and temperatures low.  Some of our wildlife migrates to warmer climes; some use their stored food reserves and what is still available; others sleep it out, although only hedgehogs, dormice and bats truly hibernate.

This month is, perhaps more than any other, the time we bring plants from the countryside into   our homes.  Evergreens such as holly, with its rosy berries (only on the female plants) are used in wreaths, along with ivy and fir cones.  However, holly berries form an important food source  for many small mammals and birds, so make sure you leave them some.  It is also vital to feed garden birds and supply them with fresh water, maintaining the food supply until spring once you start the process.  In order to entice a variety of species, ensure you feed a variety of food (e.g. sunflower hearts, suet fat, seeds, fruit and peanuts). The robin, so often associated with the festive season, can be particularly tame during the colder months, and are one of the few birds that can be heard singing during winter.  Both males and females maintain territories for feeding during this period, and around Christmas-time begin exploring other robins' territories looking for a mate.

In the wider countryside and woodlands tawny owls may be heard staking out their territory, and occasional flocks of small birds will travel through otherwise quiet woods on a search for food.  This moving together gives them more chance of disturbing insects that would otherwise be unnoticed.  In fields where winter wheat has not been sown, you may find arable weeds such as shepherd’s purse, scented mayweed and scarlet pimpernel, whose red flowers only open on bright mornings.
Estuaries and inland lakes now have more waders and wildfowl, while ducks such as wigeon, teal, tufted, pintail and shoveler are particularly abundant. Both badgers and foxes can be seen at any time, although the population of smaller mammals such as rabbits, shrews and mice drops considerably, so food availability is the restricting factor to survival. All our amphibian and reptile species are hidden away underground until spring, sometimes in mixed groups.  Only the common frog chooses the different approach of hiding at the bottom of a pond.  Very few insects can be found flying around during December, the exception probably being clouds of male gnats dancing in the hope of attracting a passing female.  If you look into your shed or attic at this time of year, you may find adult small tortoiseshell or peacock butterflies waiting out the winter.

Many thanks to Carrie for her photographs and new editorial and to Mark for his photographs this week.

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