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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wed 10th Dec 2014 - Munsley Bog, Godshill.

The first problem with our GG session this week was..... getting there! Due to a road traffic accident at Blackwater, it was a trip around the countryside to get from Newport to Godshill. Having (eventually) arrived, we were tasked with cutting back the bramble, willow and overhanging tree branches to the south side of the raised walkway. Considering that we have at least two sessions here each year, it is amazing just how much it grows between visits. Undaunted with what appeared to be a very overgrown area, Team GG were soon giving the area their full attention which resulted in a considerable improvement by close of play. Needless to say, the gooey mud was soon grabbing at peoples wellies, stand still too long at your peril. With Christmas getting ever closer, it was yummy mince pies at tea break and the majority were off to have a seasonal luncheon at a local hostelry once the hard work was over. This area of marsh has improved dramatically since we started here, many years ago, and is now home to a wide variety of wildlife. On a previous visit, Mark managed to photograph a colony of Common Lizards that were spotted here.  Try this link.....  see the photo on our Twitter page . Don't forget that next week is our final session for 2014, to be held at Shide Chalkpit, so  bring along your festive "goodies"!

Carrie's Nature and History Natter

The month of December is the start of winter, highlighted by bare trees and widespread frost.  It was originally the tenth month of the year in the Roman calendar, and gets its name from the Latin word “decem” which means tenth.  However when the Romans added January and February to the calendar it became the twelfth month, but they still kept the name.
Dormice will have started their hibernation in October, building a nest-like structure for protection from the weather and also predators. Their body temperature drops in line with the air temperature, but must be kept above freezing for the animal to survive, normally at least 1C.  This dip is so dramatic that their metabolism reaches an ultra-slow state where it is just ticking over, and they survive on the fat deposits from their feasting during Autumn, which have to last them until they re-appear in March.
Hedgehogs also create hibernacula from leaves, situated in a safe location, and maintain a temperature in the hibernacula of between 0 and 5°C.  This is the optimum for them to hibernate efficiently.  Bats are more complex in their requirements, and each species seeks out specific conditions such as caves, tree hollows or buildings, preferring a relatively humid environment where there is little temperature fluctuation.  Despite these winter strategies, between 30 and 60 percent of bats and hedgehogs do not make it through to spring.
Mistletoe is familiar to everyone, and is best seen in winter.  Although it feeds off its host, it also possesses chlorophyll and is able to create its own food through photosynthesis.  It is associated with the mistle thrush which is supposed to love the sticky white berries, and spreads the plant from tree to tree by wiping the excess seeds and berries from its beak onto a twig of another tree.  From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids, and in the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits, and in Europe placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches.
For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the centre of much folklore. There is a story it was the sacred plant of Frigga goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which alarmed his mother for should he die, all life on earth would end.  In an attempt to prevent this Frigga went to air, fire, water, earth, every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. He could not now be hurt by anything on or under the earth, but he did have one deadly enemy - Loki the god of evil.  He knew one plant Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe, growing neither on nor under the earth but on apple and oak trees – mistletoe. So Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave it to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who struck Balder dead. The sky paled, and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god.  He was finally restored by Frigga, whose tears were said to have turned in to the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant, and Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew.

Many thanks to Sue for the photographs and to Carrie for her editorial.

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