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Friday, 27 June 2014

Adders tongue fern

One of the little gems of the open grassland is the adders tongue fern.  This plant is classed as 'scarce' and we are lucky to have at least one site where it grows quite well, in spite of grazing by cattle and red deer.
To look at it you would not class it as a fern - more like a small cuckoo-pint (arum maculatum) which is a common sight beneath hedges throughout the country. 

The fern has one main blade from which the spore stalk emerges.

The adder's tongue fern.  Just one more of the special plants to be found on the Eastern Moors.

Common lizard

The Eastern Moors provide a great habitat for the common lizard. They like the damp moorland which is home to their prey of mainly insects, and the dry stone walls give good crevices to hide and a place to bask on the warm ledges in the mornings and late afternoons.  These walls also offer some protection from their main predators whether they be adders, foxes, kestrels, buzzards or crows.

An old fence post provides a perfect basking site as the wood warms up faster than the dry stone walls.  However a rusty old drinks can is even better, but could get too hot during the middle of the day!.

The mature lizards are mainly assorted shades of brown, varying from gold to nearly black, but many different shades can be found including dark purple and green. The best 'green' I have found is the one below but others have been found much greener than this:

Lizards are well known for casting their tails as a last form of defence and it is not too hard to find more than one that has had a narrow escape

Lizards hibernate from October until March but now is a good time to see them basking in the sun.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Curlew Update

I think I had to wait for some good news to go with the bad news before updating the blog again as it's been three weeks now since my last post.

So bad news first from the start of the month. Nest 4, with four eggs, was predated with just a week or so to go until hatching - and unfortunately the camera had been bumped and moved slightly (by one of the Highland cattle, I think!) so we missed catching the culprit. We know it happened in the night, so it's likely to be fox or badger again.

Adult curlew on the eggs at 21:44.
The next image captured is the bird returning to the empty nest at 04:14.
A few days before, Mike Gillett found a nest which was most likely predated by a corvid - the remains of eggshells still present in the nest cup.

Eggshell remains.

This left us with only one confirmed chick from five nests found - not very promising!

But all is not lost - we've had a couple of pairs pretty active around Barbrook over the last month, which started to become very vocal and agitated at anyone and anything moving through the area. This was a sure sign they had chicks nearby - three of which duly appeared scampering down the track as I left the cottage last week! Three adult birds were also wheeling about trying, with little success, to encourage the youngsters back to cover. I'm not sure if this was one pair joined by a third wandering bird, or if two pairs had chicks in the area - either way it looked like they had their work cut out!

And then in the last few days Rachel and I have been finishing off our last upland bird survey squares, and have managed to track down another nest with four eggs being incubated, which we put a camera on:

Nest 6. Probably at least two weeks in to incubation.
And also a nest we were (happily!) too late to put a camera on. Three chicks, probably only just hatched as they were surrounded by fresh egg shell remains, still in the nest cup. You can only just make out two, which flattened themselves to the ground as I passed, but this one obligingly stood up for a better view of what was going on:

Pretty cute, no?
So all in all, looking much more promising again now with at least seven chicks hatched, and another potential four on the way, from eight nests. This might not sound like a lot considering each nest could typically hatch four eggs, but bear in mind that (as a rough guide) in order to maintain a stable population only one chick per two nests needs to be fledged (which takes around 30 days from hatching).

With any luck we'll be seeing some more chicks before the month is out...

Kim L.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014