Parish Nature Notes for August - John Wright


August could hardly be described as settled, but amongst the cloudy and wet days there were also a reasonable number of sunny days to enjoy. The diversity of plants to be found within our parish still continues to surprise me and the total number found in 2011/2012 now exceeds 700 species, of which 650 have been seen this year.

One summer-flowering species which occurs in damp grassland and disturbed heathland around the Poole Basin is Yellow Bartsia. It has glandular hairs, which make it very sticky to touch, and it occurs at several locations on the western side of the parish but also at Holton Lee.

Yellow Bartsia

Yellow Bartsia

Photograph: John Wright

My usual walk through Wareham Forest and Morden Bog on the 4th provided me with the sight of a freshly emerged Peacock butterfly. In a normal year they would be very common in August. A Hobby in Morden Bog was a welcome sight but I was also pleased to see the yellow flowers of Lesser Bladderwort appearing above the water surface of a trackside ditch. This carnivorous aquatic plant captures minute creatures in underwater bladders and then digests them to provide energy for flowering in late summer.

Lesser Bladderwort

Lesser Bladderwort

Photograph: John Wright

On the 9th, as I was walking through some oak woodland just east of Wareham Golf Club I saw a doe Roe Deer walking through the bracken, not 10 metres from me. I then realised that it was being closely followed by a buck and although I was in full view of them, neither had noticed me. But then the buck stopped, peered at me for a few seconds and bolted. Only then did I remember that early August is the rutting season and both animals had other things on their mind.

Roe Deer

Roe Deer

Photograph: Ken Dolbear

Autumn Ladies Tresses, an orchid in which the modest white flowers spiral up the stem was very abundant on the Holton Heath Industrial Estate in 2011. On the 12th August this year I looked at one particular area and found just one spike where I had seen over 300 spikes on 14th August last year. (A second visit on 2nd September this year yielded around 100 spikes so clearly flowering was later this year and not so successful).

Autumn Ladies Tresses

Autumn Ladies Tresses

Photograph: John Wright

The next day I was puzzled to find a dead Smooth Snake on the pavement a short distance from our house and perhaps 100m from the southern limit of Great Ovens Heath. The snake was around 35cm in length and lacked any obvious signs of injury. Perhaps it had been caught by a cat, but I have no firm evidence for this suggestion. I picked it up and took a few photos of it in the garden to show the distinctive markings around the head (see below).

Smooth Snake

Smooth Snake

Photograph: John Wright

On a walk around Great Ovens Heath a few days later, I was surprised to see three quite freshly-emerged Silver-studded Blue butterflies when in previous years these butterflies have first appeared at the end of May but are gone by the end of July. A small group of white cattle are now back on the heath and cropping the various grasses that have done so well in this wet season. They are very placid and make a great sight against the heathland colours of late summer.

White Cattle

White Cattle

Photograph: John Wright

At last, on the 22nd August I saw my first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year and before the end of the month, several more were seen. This once common butterfly has varied greatly in numbers over the years and low numbers of adults in recent years have variously been ascribed to insects which parasitise the caterpillars and/or hot dry summers which influence the nettles on which the caterpillars feed.

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Photograph: John Wright

As a postscript to my notes on the pair of Great Crested Grebes which have attempted two broods on Morden Park Lake this year, I saw one adult with a fully grown juvenile bird on the 24th, so it appears that the second attempt was partially sucessful after all. Another visit on the 26th, when we had a Sandford Heritage walk west of Sherford Bridge gave us opportunities to see two Hobbies in hunting mode over the lake and a wide variety of plants associated with the Sherford River and the nearby heathland of Morden Bog.

Hobby

Hobby in flight

Photograph: Aidan Brown

The next day I was at Holton Lee and had good views of an Osprey with a fish flying over the heathland. With well over 200 pairs now breeding in Britain, their autumn migration south brings a few to Poole Harbour where they can take Grey Mullet in the Wareham Channel before continuing their journey south. Artificial nests placed in trees around Arne and in Morden Bog may encourage them to consider breeding in this area in the next few years.

Osprey with Fish

Osprey with fish

Photograph: Aidan Brown

On the 28th, another visit to the Trigon Estate with Harold Gillen, mainly for plant recording, also gave us an opportunity to look at the dragonflies around the duck ponds. Amongst several species seen were Black Darter, which seems particularly common this year, Small Red Damselfly and to our delight a Ruddy Darter, a species known to occur within the parish but which we failed to locate last year.

Ruddy Darter

Ruddy Darter

Photograph: John Wright

And finally, on the last day of the month, I managed to spot my first Marsh Gentian in flower within Morden Bog. This particular plant had just one flower, but some of the plants in Morden Bog which flower later are very impressive with seven or eight flowers on a single stem. Dorset and Hampshire are major stronghold for this beautiful plant, which can live up to 20 years. 

Marsh Gentian

Marsh Gentian

Photograph: John Wright