Your Wildlife Sightings - Autumn 2013- Winter 2014

Claire, Urban Heaths Partnership Senior and 'West' Warden, provided us with Parish Nature Notes - June 2013 on our local heaths. We miss John Wright's monthly notes but are very glad he is on the road to recovery . We had an excellent talk at our AGM on the National Trust's Cyril Diver Project from Project Officer David Brown learning about the huge range of work, volunteers and experts recording in the Studland Peninsular. Ben Buxton has organised a local talk on 'Where did heathlands come from' by the eminent heathland professor Dr Nigel Webb, so get along if you can! The talk is free with room hire provided by our Parish Council, donations are welcome, especially towards refreshments.

Gathering our sightings alongside these experts compliments our understanding of wildlife in Wareham St Martin and I love hearing about what has been seen and photographs are even better adding to our 'picture' of the local habitat and wildlife fluctuations. With the advent of smartphones it is becoming potentially easier to capture; although I managed to press all the wrong buttons when a hoglet crossed in front of us on Maple Drive one sunny November afternoon. 

Would a talk on nature photography be something our members would be interested in hearing or taking part in workshops next year?

We have a good level of reports for our little community however some of our 'regulars' have gone quiet and we would love to hear from them again. Any new spotters who might enjoy noting any details of wildlife on our doorsteps and contribute their sightings are always welcome! We hear from Lou Speer for the first time in this round up.  The delay of this report not getting your results up may have added to this dip in reports so my Apologies. We also respect if you want to be mentioned in the round-up or simply for us to note the report.

Email b.lagden@dorsetcc.gov.uk

Lena and I are developing a summary table of what has been spotted by us all to date which in draft form we displayed at the autumn half term 'Wildlife Gardening event.'

Amphibians and Reptiles

We were pleased at home to regularly find a female slow worm (Anguis fragilis) in the composter during  summer 2012 and summer 2013.  We now it was 'she'  due to the distinctive black 'vertebral' stripe down her back that many female slow worms have but males don't. She was a regular sighting through May to late September 2012 and the summer of 2013 as we dropped in kitchen scraps to feed the slugs and worms that she in turn would have feasted on.  Hopefully she made forays to other areas of the garden as most gardeners delight in the benefits of a slow worm in the garden! We hope to see her back after hibernating, probably in deeper layers of the compost, to resurface with increasing food supplies in the spring.

Adaptation always amazes me and this is a great example of a lizard  (Lacertilia) that evolved to loose legs to gain an advantage in borrowing in the leaf and upper soil layers to feast on snails, slugs and worms and possibly aid escaping predators. Do you know any of the other clues scientists believe that this creature and other legless lizards ancestry is from a separate evolutionary line than the incredibly successful snakes(Serpentes) evolved from? Now don't confuse me any more that snakes also once had 4 legs!

Lou Speer reported via Facebook 3 toads behind the rabbit hutch spotted by a builder next door in Cherry Close. Lou was happy to pass on the report of the sighting on 16 October 2013 but I don't think she was going to get as close as our pics of frogs we saw in the garden in May 2012 and the afternoon of 17 July 2013.

The first week back to school in September 2013 we also saw a dead toad in the road of Tyneham Close.

We also have information pages on our native frogs and toads

Common Frog in Garden, Woodlands, Sandford, May 2012

Please be on the look out for frog and toad spawn in February to March 2014 and tadpoles. We have several ponds on Gore and Sandford heaths and some in local gardens. The group are yet to have any information on frog spawn emergence recorded this of interest about the amphibians themselves but is also closely linked to pond temperature.  Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust have excellent frog and toad spawn advice pages and identification notes.

Birds

Sheila Watters had a delightful report of fledgling Skylarks on the wing in the summer that were trying to learn their unique skill of flight and song simultaneously! The young birds flutter upwards singing and this was in the fields near Sandford House.

I was lucky to hear Churring Nightjars on Sandford Heath, this time Station Road entrance, on a July evening this distinctive call occurring at dusk for these late summer visitors. Sheila Watters had heard them in May 2012. We can expect these late migrants around April time. Places like Sandford and Great Ovens form part of their Southern England strongholds for the period of their migration from Africa. Our lowland heathland or clear fell sites in forested areas provided their favourite habitat and they enjoy the odd scrub or tree to perch and churr from. These ground nesting birds are reasons to keep to paths and dogs under close control from May to September.

Recently in January 2014 Sheila and Cliff were also delighted to spot a Goshawk near Sandford House. I am not sure my raptor knowledge is good enough yet exasperated by the rareness of sightings of these delightful birds once hunted to extinction. A quick google and I see RSPB Goshawknest video footage in the New Forest is due up April to September 2014.

Personally I hope to go on more birdwatching courses that are stepping up at Durlston Country Park, Avon Heath Country Park, RSPB at Arne and Dorset Wildlife Trust sites who all offer events, sometimes in Wareham Forest and other local opportunities exist as migrants appear this spring.

Big Garden Birdwatch took place 25-26 January and if you have results they can still be submitted up to 16th February.

Redwing and Fieldfares are also winter visitors we would be interested to hear about.

Mammals

Reports came in for September to October of Bats at Woodlands Drive Play Park and we hope to gather the Monday Funday Group and Youth Group to build bat boxes and check the ones on Sandford Heath in March 2014. I am in touch with Rev. Jackie Maw but if anyone has a contact for the Sandford Wednesday Youth Group or what organisation it is please get in touch bev@sandfordheritage.org.

Hedgehog reports include sighting of one crossing Keysworth Drive 20 August 2013 at 9.00pm and later in early September around 2.50pm crossing Cedar Drive. Who will spot the first emerging from hibernation?  Always interesting to see when they emerge as it is linked to weather which does seem milder for the time of year(no I won't mention the 'R' word). Let me know if you see any hedgehogs!

The Sika deer are always of interest locally and the leucistic or 'cream' deer sightings were excellent in the last report.

Invertebrates

After the amazing Big Butterfly count this year our local success was a Sandford Heritage brilliant bug hunt with Tea Time Treats Sandford's Messy Church Group. Scientifically these are now called 'minibeast hunts' as we found other creatures than 'true bugs' which have a tube to suck up their prey, a short look into variety of the life of minibeasts we discover there is a whole lot going on under our local leaf litter layers! We hope some Tea Time Treaters were inspired by these important minibeasts! We would also quickly end up in piles of matter and loose our food supplies the 'rubbish' of dead matter wasn't recycled by these decomposers.

Jacob was inspired after the minibeast hunt to find a Forest Shield Bug, apologies it's blurred. Forest Shield Bug on a stick

I really noticed how evident Spiders appeared throughout September to October with some fantastic webs of the garden spider. There was, again, a panic in the National Press of the placid False Widow, essentially it has been here for 100 years and we are no more likely to react to its bite than the average person faces risk with Peanut Butter. I do respect them as I think the bite is painful but more sensible analysis is put forward by Kent Wildlife Trust's Greg Hitchock to the press.

Thanks again for all your reports, it will be great to hear any reports on hedgehogs, frog spawn  as part of the Sandford Wildlife Survey and anything else like migrating birds in Sandford area. The draft Parish Plan mentions local people's desire to learn more about the local environment so get spotting and the group hope to arrange a guided walk this September with Richard Sharp of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust who manage 'Great Ovens' Heath.