Saturday, 21 November 2015

Rain and more rain

It's been a bit of a changeable week! On Sunday, after the morning was largely dry, I popped to Martin Down, whereupon is immediately started to drizzle. However, even in these conditions, the views from the top of the reserve were still beautiful, and it seemed to make it even more tranquil (and of course, few silly people had ventured out like us).

I then spent much of the week indoors at various meetings (which was probably just as well, due to the sharp showers), but yesterday I finally managed to spend a day out in the North Dorset countryside with one of my members of staff. They were visiting farmers managing SSSI and SAC (nationally and internationally-protected) land. Having been born and raised on the chalk, going to the Blackmoor Vale, with its heavy clay soils, was a bit of a change - all the recent rain had certainly had an impact, with wellies definitely required! However, one thing that struck me was the patches of flowers still in bloom - see previous posts about the lack of wintry conditions. I spotted betony and devil's bit scabious, in particular, with the latter being of most interest on our visits.

The sites in questions were hotspots for dense breeding populations of marsh fritillary butterflies (a nationally-declining species), the caterpillars of which feed on the leaves of this flower. This year's monitoring of larval webs by Butterfly Conservation had yielded impressive figures, and a testament to the management being carried out by the landowners.

Well, today winter has certainly hit - glorious blue skies but a biting northerly wind. I think I'll try and find somewhere a bit sheltered to visit on tomorrow's walk!

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