Archives for the month of: June, 2013

If you were to manage to get out for a walk in winding meadow at valewood on the north western flank of Black Down in the next week or two you would find something really rather special. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by the sight of 10 000 (I haven’t counted them, I’m guessing!) orchids.

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The whole field is just stuffed full of them. It’s always pretty amazing there at this time of year, but this year it is breathtaking.

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They are a mix of Common and Heath spotted orchids. There are plenty of places you could go to see them. But not many places where you could see such a profusion of them.

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The Pheonix I’m referring too is what I like to think of as a Pheonix tree. In the middle of the meadow is an old dead oak. It has been slowly rotting away for years providing a habitat and home for any number of bugs and creepy crawlies. But over the past few years a Pheonix has started to rise out of its ashes. The feather light seed of a birch tree settled in its branches and 15 feet up in the air a young birch has started to grow.

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It’s roots take their nutrients from the decomposing heart of the old dead oak and it gets its water from the rain that collects in a fork in the stag like branches.

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It is a pretty special place. Well worth seeking out.

In her mind, Willow (my dizzy collie) is the best sheepdog in the world. Sadly, in the real world she is a bit rubbish. But, any day when there is work to do with the sheep is definitely a favourite day for her.

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With the summer here and warm sunshine (intermittently!) making an appearance, today was shearing day.

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My shearing is about as good as willow’s rounding up, so a call was made to Susie the Shearer. She did a grand job.

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They look about half the size with their wool off, and a bit shocked too, but when the sun shines you can almost feel the sense of relief that the massive jumper is gone.

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Susie gave me the phone number of a local sheepdog trainer, so who knows, maybe willow could be about to make herself useful after all!

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I love working in the countryside, come rain or shine there is always the potential for something interesting to appear around the next corner. You are also never short of something new to learn about. Regular readers will remember that for the last few years we have been undertaking a reintroduction scheme for sand lizards on Black Down.

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We have been working with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust releasing hatchling lizards (seen above) to an area of specially managed heathland in the hope that this fascinating and rare species would manage to reestablish itself on the hill.

Natural England estimate that they have been lost from over 80% of their former range, they are a classic heathland species and we really wanted to do our best to provide a safe refuge for them.

So for the last three years each year we have released handfulls of pretty tiny lizards onto the heath wondering if we would ever see them again.

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Trouble is the little perishers are pretty much impossible to find until they get to maturity at about 3 years of age. This is when the males develop their fantastic vibrant green colouration. So… this year is the first time we have had chance to see whether the reintroduction has worked…

The winters have been pretty harsh, and various predators were bound to have had quite a few of them, but had any survived?

Well, yesterday, whilst working on the hill Matt discovered the answer, tucked in amongst the heather was a little green wildlife wow, a male sand lizard decked out in his mating finery.

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It is great news for our largest and rarest lizard that it is establishing itself in a new home, and great news too for Black Down and all the people who worked so hard to make it happen.

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