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To look at the Isle of Wight Green Gym web page (contains details of sessions etc) please use the following link :-

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Wednesday 24 June 2015

Wed 24th June 2015 - Arreton Down, Arreton. GG # 590.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Bee Orchid.

Our run of GG sessions involving the Pulling of Pesky Plants (PPP) continued with Ragwort pulling on Arreton down this Wednesday morning. For the majority of GG members, getting to the work site consisted of parking down in the village and a considerable workout to climb up the side of the down! Lots of puffing and panting later…… everyone assembled for a chat about where we would be working and the perils of inadvertently pulling wild parsnip. This looks very similar to ragwort but the sap gives a nasty skin rash which we were told was very painful. So, kitted out with gloves, forks and collection bags, we were soon strung out along the down side in search of the dreaded ragwort plants. Although a considerable amount were pulled, it was far less than we collected here on previous years, so perhaps we are finally managing to control it? The variety go butterflies spotted plus the likes of pyramidal orchids around makes this area very special indeed. Add in the excellent views across the Island and a nice sunny day - what a perfect venue for a GG session.

Carrie's Nature Find.

This week’s find was the beautiful Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis Pyramidalis) - this stunning flower was chosen as the County Flower of the Isle of Wight in 2008, where it abounds on our extensive chalk landscape. Like many orchids, it requires a specific fungus to be present in the soil in order to bloom.
It reaches on average about 10-25 centimetres in height, with an erect and unbranched stem.  The arrangement of hermaphroditic flowers in a compact pyramidal shape is very distinctive, and gives the orchid its common name. The colour varies from pink to purple, or rarely white, and the scent is described as "foxy".
Originally a flower of chalk and limestone grasslands, the pyramidal orchid has shown a liking for more artificial environments in recent times. Colonies have appeared along motorways and ring-roads, canals, marinas and even at one time at Stansted airport.

Many thanks to to Carrie and Mark for the photographs and to Carrie for her Nature Find.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Wed 17th June 2015 - The IoW Donkey Sanctuary, Wroxall. GG # 589

Mark's Photographs.

Alison's Photographs.

Wild Mint - such a wonderful aroma!

Can it only be three weeks ago when we were last at the Donkey Sanctuary, pulling Himalayan Balsam? In that relatively short time, the small plants that we had missed had grown considerably so we went back to try and eliminate them. Gone was the huge piles of plucked pesky plants that we had experienced in the past (see archived photograph below from June 2013), this time we were really having to work hard to spot the HB prior to pulling. 

The warmth of the sun was offset somewhat by a rather cool breeze but that didn't stop a good number of GGmers turning out. Those who did go along were rewarded with several hours in a perfect meadow setting - so many plants and insects to see along with the sheep with their new born lambs and, of course, the donkeys. All in all a very enjoyable experience. On thing that did catch everyones attention was the numerous banded demoiselle that were flitting around by the babbling brook.

A Male Banded Demoiselle.

Carrie's Nature and History Natter - June.

In June summer is in full swing, with mid-summer officially heralded on the 21st of this month, and the countryside lush with hedgerows, meadows and woodlands bursting with growth.  Trees are now all fully in leaf, although most have begun to lose their spring freshness by the end of May, with the bright green exchanged for a darker and mellower hue.  The hawthorn blossom starts to fade, but the elder blooms light up the roadsides with their big disks of creamy pungent flowers.
In the more open grasslands ox-eye daisy provides a wonderful show, mixed with vetches such as the yellow bird's foot trefoil.  Where walls line field boundaries herb robert shows of a cloud of small pink flowers, but don't put one in your button hole as this brings on rain. Wall pennywort clings to the walls with round fleshy leaves and an unusual single flower spike and the biting stonecrop (this plant tastes bitter), pushes up a mat of attractive bright yellow flowers next to the elegant pink bindweed.
The birds sing less now as the breeding season is in full swing, and they are very busy finding enough food to satisfy their nestlings. Young birds can be seen relentlessly demanding food from the worn out adults, especially the dowdy young starlings, who stomp around with indignant squawking.
Our cliff tops can show us riotous colour providing they are not overgrazed or trampled by walkers, with a specialist of such habitats being thrift and sheep’s bit with their bobbles of flowers growing from tight mats of green leaves.  They grow amongst grasses and vetches, but it is often thrift that finds the tiniest ledges to perch on.
The length of the grasses determines, in many cases, which butterfly species are able to breed.  If long the meadow brown and marbled white can be abundant, while our family of blue butterflies can only tolerate short tufty grass.  In May and June the fritillaries are also in flight, with the marsh-fritillary's caterpillars feeding on devil's-bit scabious which is a species of grasslands, wet hollows or shady woodland edges and meadows.
In history, the month of June is probably named for Juno, wife of Jupiter and queen of the gods.  It was held sacred to her, and believed by the Romans to be the luckiest month to get married, since she was also the goddess of marriage.  Juno is usually represented as a tall and beautiful woman wearing a crown and bearing a sceptre in her hand.  She is often accompanied by a peacock, since this bird was sacred to her.
The Angles and Saxons called June the dry month and sometimes the earlier mild month, July being the second mild month.

Many thanks to Carrie for her contribution and to Alison and Mark  for their photographs.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Wed 10th June 2015 - The Bee Fields, Newchurch. GG # 588.

Linda's Photographs.

Carrie's Photograph.

A good turnout of 30 people at Martin's Wood (or Bee Fields as we've know it before) this week. Now under the protective ownership of the Hants and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, thanks guys for welcoming us back.
This 21 acre field, once in arable production, was converted to plantation woodland and with public access in 2001 by local farmer Martin Boswell, sadly no longer with us.  Through this  act of linking nearby Lynch Cope and Youngwoods Copse and creating what was thought as woodland habitat a most remarkable thing occurred.  As a consequence more stable undisturbed bare ground was created around the trees which encouraged ground nesting bees to colonise the site and now over 100 species of bees and wasps have been recorded here.  An amazing total.  As the ground vegetates over however so the bare ground available reduces so for the past few years we've been involved in creating bare areas for the bees to burrow into.  This is what we've been up to this week along with removing unwanted tree guards and path trimming.

Carrie's Nature Find.

This week’s find was in the bottom of one of the plastic guards we were removing from the trees at Bee Fields - some hazelnuts that had clearly been eaten by more than one woodland resident.
The nuts you can see split neatly in half have been feasted on by squirrels, while common dormice leave a smooth, round hole in the side of the nut, with tooth marks running round the inside of the hole.
Wood mice leave tooth marks on the surface of the nut and across the edge of the hole, which may be either circular or ragged in shape; while bank voles create a round hole with tooth marks across the edge, but not the surface of the nut.
Our woodland bird residents such as great spotted woodpeckers break the nuts into pieces or leave large, irregular holes, and even jays are not averse to a tasty snack of hazelnuts.

Many thanks to Linda and Carrie for the photographs, Mark for the editorial and Carrie for her Nature Find this week.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Wed 3rd June 2015 - Brading Down.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Cuckoo Spit.

This substance is actually produced by the nymph stage of the Froghopper.  These young bugs mix air with the sap from plants which they've eaten and then excreted to generate the foam.  It is used as a defence mechanism against predation.  The timing of all of this just so happens to coincide with the return to our shores of the Cuckoo. (So now you know!)

As I was preparing the opening sentence for this blog, it suddenly struck me what a strange language English is - I was going to write "Today we went up the Downs...." how that would sound to a foreigner??? Anyway, we all headed off to Brading Downs for the first of our Ragwort pulling sessions. As per our Pesky Plant Pulling last week, it is still early in the season for the plants so they are quite small which makes them hard to spot. To add to our problems, there is a very similar plant that grows in the same area which we were told NOT to pull - so each plant had to be examined carefully before deciding if it was friend or foe. Trying to eliminate as many Ragwort plants before they get a chance to really establish themselves should reduce the amount that we have to deal with later in the year (a sort of a pre-emptive strike!) we will see...! Any plants that showed signs of eggs, caterpillars or moths were left alone. Fortunately, the rain and gale force winds that we had on Tuesday had moderated considerably and we had a sunny day with a pleasant cooling breeze - nice. The Downs are always a popular GG venue and today was no exception - it was very well attended.
Yet another one of our GG members has decided to emigrate across to North Island - hopefully she will be reading this blog to keep up with our weekly adventures. Moving to the mainland reminds me of the story of an elderly resident from West Wight who was asked "What do you think of the mainland"? His reply was " I did go over there, once, had a look around and then I caught the next boat back home"....!

Carrie's Nature Finds.

Our first find was some very pretty common bird’s foot-trefoil.  One of its common names is  'Granny's Toenails' which gives an instant impression of the claw-like seed pods of this abundant and sprawling species.  Other common names include 'Butter and Eggs', 'Eggs and Bacon', and 'Hen and Chickens' which refer to the egg-yolk yellow flowers and reddish buds. It is very widespread and found in all kinds of grassy places from lawns to downlands, roadside verges to heathlands, and flowers from May to September. It is a member of the pea family, and its yellow flowers appearing in small clusters look like little slippers.  These are then followed by seed pods that look distinctly like bird's feet or claws.

Our second find is what my Dad used to tell me was cuckoo spit, and I was fascinated as a small child at the thought of cuckoos being able to spit! It is actually a froth created to help protect the developing nymphs of froghoppers.  The nymphs drink more plant sap than needed for growth and health and the undigested excess is then blown out of the back end producing the froth, which hides them from predators.  Froghoppers (Philaenus Spumarius) are between 4 and 12 mms depending on species, and commonly found throughout the UK from April to June in woodland edges and grassland. The name comes from the appearance of the insect when viewed from above, which is quite frog-like, and this similarity is enhanced by the insects ability to jump incredible distances.

Thanks to Carrie and Mark for their contributions.