BBC Earth Promenade concert, parish habitats, spiders and grasshoppers.
Mary and I watched the spectacular BBC Earth Promenade Concert featuring David Attenborough’s pioneering adventures through to recent times with live music by Hans Zimmer and George Fenton. Stressed all along was the importance of habitat conservation.
Soon we are to get the next David Attenborough series ‘Wild Isles’ featuring our wonderful UK wildlife in five programmes and covering four main habitats. This brings me to Stroud. Our parish has an amazing network of medieval species-rich hedgerows (often containing lines of mature oak trees) and drainage systems, ancient woodland, smaller patches of recent woodland, hay meadows, wet and dry permanent grassland and domestic gardens all rich in wildlife, much of which wildlife I have shown on my village blogs over the years. All of these habitats need to be conserved and extended if we are to reverse our ever-decreasing wildlife biodiversity.
We also have many newly planted farm and other hedges, wildlife margins around our arable fields and other habitats all adding to the biodiversity riches of our parish.
Some years back I made detailed habitat surveys of the whole parish and prepared a parish Biodiversity Action Plan (lodged with Stroud Parish, East Hampshire District and Hampshire County Council) and gave several talks to the parish in the old village hall. Unfortunately, we still see many of our hedgerows severely cut back annually for no obvious reason (removing berries and shelter that would otherwise support our wintering and migrating birds) and with our best and most biodiverse hedgerows remaining alongside our lanes and footpaths and along the wetter parts of some ancient field boundaries.
Our parish gardens are of also course rich in wildlife with hedges, shrub and flower borders and other diverse habitats. We have managed our own garden for wildlife by encouraging native plants, establishing native species hedgerows, digging a pond, maintaining brambles and dead wood piles and left much of the wooded area to minimum intervention and to develop according to the soils and general hydrological conditions here.
Particularly pleasing has been the 60 bird species we have recorded in our garden and the many amphibians and reptiles and small and large mammals that we see. Grass snakes and small mammals use our wildlife refugia and just recently we have continued to see both male and female slow-worms (images 1 and 2).
To see other habitats, we need to travel out of the parish and Conford Moor, just east of Bordon, is a favourite location where there is wet woodland, valley mire, and both wet and dry heathland habitats. On our last visits we saw viviparus (or common) lizards amongst the grass tussocks and tree stumps (image 3) and the spectacular golden-ringed hawker dragonflies (image 4). I visited Woolmer Ranges (when the red flags were down) and on one of the acidic ponds found the specialist and unusual black darter dragonfly (image 5).
It is some years now since I prepared the management plan to convert the former Petersfield golf course to heathland wildlife habitat and just look at it now. From a one-time few lizards there is now a good chance of seeing them amongst the grasses and heather and, earlier in the year, there was a wide range of butterflies. Particularly, this autumn, look out for the spectacular wasp spiders (image 6) with their webs constructed to catch grasshoppers and also the large four-spotted orb weaver spiders (image 7) that hang out in small tent-like web retreats until an insect gets trapped in their web when they quickly rush out to deal with it.
Grasshoppers and conehead bush-crickets jump and fly out as you walk through the heathland and here are some of them: short-winged conehead (image 8) which cannot fly, long-winged conehead (image 9), field grasshopper (image 10), meadow grasshopper (image 11) and the common green grasshopper (image 12).
Finally it is blackberry time and our wasps are feasting on them (image 13). Adult wasps only feed on sweet fluids, either produced in the spring by their larvae or in the late summer and autumn by rotting fruit or by humans conveniently leaving jam sandwiches and sugary drinks around.