There has recently been an emergence of mayflies. These little winged insects aren’t just restricted to the month of May; one species or another can be on the wing throughout the summer. Mayflies are well known for their short adult life; some emerge in the evening and are dead by the next morning, existing in the adult form for the sole purpose of reproduction. I found several on the surface of a pond which were either spent, or had become trapped on the surface tension of the water. If they attempt to free themselves their struggling movements attract the attention of predatory pond skaters. Pond skaters use their feet to feel the water surface tension for the vibrations of struggling prey. They have specialised mouthparts in the shape of a tube, the rostrum. Pond skaters inject digestive enzymes into their prey and then suck out the resulting juices through their rostrum. The pond has as much action and gore as any horror film!
This Friday, Saturday and Sunday (15 – 17th Aug) I will be at the Rutland Water Birdfair, on the stand of the wonderful Aigas Field Centre, in marquee 1. Come along, say hello, and have a chat about wildlife. At 13:00 on Friday I will be giving a talk in Lecture Marquee 3 entitled ‘Three Years in the Wilderness'; highlights of my time working as a ranger at Aigas in the Scottish Highlands, and how this experience shaped my future path, leading to the creation of Wild Capital. Hope to see you there! Brenna
During the Birdfair Auction, there is the opportunity to bid on two places for the Wild Revival programme, running at Aigas Field Centre 23rd – 30th August 2014. Worth £2250, this is a chance not to be missed! The Wild Revival programme is a gentle introduction to natural crafts, field skills and sustainability, set in the stunning grounds of Aigas Field Centre in the magnificent Scottish Highlands. Including walks, hide visits and a raft trip down the river Beauly, there is plenty of wildlife to see and scenery to enjoy.
For more information about the Wild Revival programme here
Great indeed! What a big beauty of a water snail. Like me, you may well have come across smaller Ramshorns Snails in freshwater sites. But this species, the mighty Great Ramshorn Snail (Planorbaruis corneus) is really something to write home about!
The flattened coiled shell that resembles the characteristic horns of male sheep can reach 3 cm in diameter. This individual is living up to that sizable reputation.
This species isn’t particularly uncommon, but it does struggle to colonize new water bodies, so tends to be local to certain sites. Hence count yourself as lucky if you see one.
Ramshorn snails have special adaptations for living in small still water bodies, which often have low dissolved oxygen levels. Firstly they aren’t gill breathing snails (this strategy relies on high levels of dissolved oxygen in constantly moving water). Instead they have a lung within their shell, which means they can take in air from above the surface of the water.
Like other types of water snails with lungs, they can sometimes be seen hanging upside down on the surface tension of the water breathing air from outside of the water. However, unlike most other types of water snail, their body fluid contains the protein haemoglobin; the same substance which occurs in our blood and is responsible for absorbing oxygen and transporting it around the body. Haemoglobin is very unusual in molluscs, and means these snails make the most of utilising the oxygen they breath. It’s the red colouration of haemologlobin which gives our blood it’s pigment and gives these snails an orangey red tint to their shell and foot.
All in all, a pretty great snail!
I spotted this Treecreeper in Hyde Park the other day. Treecreepers have always been in my top five birds; I love to watch their secretive tree trunk acrobatics. They travel from the bottom of a tree upwards, spiraling around the trunk, then along the branches looking for insects. Once they have thoroughly searched one tree, they fly to the base of the next and the process begins again. It is almost as if the Treecreeper is magnetic, and someone is moving a powerful magnet within the tree trunk; sometimes the bird follows the imaginary magnet smoothly, and other times it gets a bit stuck and needs to jerkily jump along to catch up. In fact Treecreepers do make jerky hops with both feet at once when ascending trees, they use their tails as props to help them balance. Long, very sharp claws allow these birds to hang upside down from the underside of branches. Their long slightly curved beak is the perfect tool for poking into bark crevices and retrieving weevils, beetles, moths, woodlice, spiders and others small prey items. Their camouflage is superb, and very often it’s the jerky movement that gives away the birds presence. A true tree dweller living in the city!
For the two bank holiday Mondays in May, Wild Capital have run Wild Road Shows at Fulham Palace. Here are a few pictures from yesterday. The rain forced us inside but didn’t dampen our spirits; we still had lots of folks coming to say hello, meet the residents of Fulham Palace gardens and get stuck into some wildlife themed activities. We were delighted to be able to show people stag beetle grubs, and an adult lesser stage beetle. Fulham Palace gardens have a good supply of dead wood, vital habitat for these rare beetles.
River surveying in the Thames today we found several mayfly nymphs; aquatic juvenile mayflies equipped with gills for underwater living. Mayflies spend most of their lives in this form.
The adult life of a mayfly is very short, sometimes as brief as a single day. They take to the air for the purpose of finding a mate, the females lay eggs in water and shortly after they die. This striking picture of an adult mayfly was taken by Claudia Innes. I love the detail of the wings, beautiful!
On Saturday we enjoyed the second session of the Oakwood Park Family Wildlife Club. Below you can read about the fun we’ve had over the first two sessions.
Club Session 1: Spring into Spring
On the 22nd of March Wild Capital celebrated the very first of our Family Wildlife Club sessions at Oakwood Park, Enfield. As I was setting up for the session the heavens opened with piercing horizontal hail stones! However it seemed the weather was ultimately on our side and once the session began hail blew over and the sun came out. The club is for children aged 5 to 12 and their families, with activities designed to be fun for adults as well as kids. We had a great turnout of 15 children and their families. This first session, “Spring into Spring”, focused on spring time goings on, particularly bird song.
We went for a bird spotting walk around the park and with a great team of spotters saw many species, including Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. We enjoyed a round of Birdsong Bingo, hearing a huge array of different bird sounds, and shouting “bingo” in our loudest voices! Next it was time to stretch our wings with a couple of running around games about predators and prey. There were a few very speedy Sparrowhawks in the group! After two hours crammed full of discovery and fun it was time to call it a day, until the next session.
Club Session 2: Beneath the Surface
On Saturday the 3rd of May, in the glorious sunshine, we enjoyed the second session of the Oakwood Park Family Wildlife Club. The club was full to capacity with 30 children coming along with their families! Our goal was to discover the watery world of Oakwood Park pond.
The session kicked off with a large scale pond dip. Adults and children were amazed at just how many daphnia were caught; uncountable numbers! They are an important part of the pond food chain. There were also water boatmen, water mites, pond snails, freshwater shrimp, worms, leeches and lots of larvae. Magnifying glasses provided close up viewing of the creatures caught. Pictorial keys allowed everyone to figure out what kinds of animal they were catching. Some wonderful observational drawings were produced. I particularly liked drawings of the “the squiggly larvae” and “the water mite who is celebrating his 6th birthday.”
After the pond dip we experienced what it is like to live as a pond creature, by acting out the different ways they breath. We used gills like a mayfly nymph and carried bubbles of air around with us like a water boatman.
Next we learnt about how mayflies begin life as an egg, live underwater as larvae then emerge as winged adults and make eggs themselves. This was a great excuse for a game! The “Magic Mayflies” took on the “Marvellous Mayflies” for a lifecycle relay race.
The day ended with the children putting out some seed for the ducks, coots and moorhens of Oakwood Park pond.Mayflies in flight!
The feedback from the first club sessions has been uniformly positive with all adults rating the club as a 9 or 10 out of 10 and all children describing it as “brilliant”. We look forward to future club sessions through the year. The club meets approximately every 6 weeks through 2014. Sessions are free, funded by Enfield Council, but booking is required. See the Upcoming page for more information.
Contact us if you are interested in setting up a Wildlife Club in your area.
Ring-necked Parakeets flying in to roost at Wormwood Scrubs park. A total of over 1000 birds roost communally in trees here each night. The parakeets first gather in a pre-roost sites, where they arrive gradually in one and twos. This is a sociable time for the birds, and lots of chattering and squawking can be heard. Once a good number of birds have gathered they then fly in large groups to the main roost site and settle in for the night. Quite a spectacle; both the sight and the sound.
Today I felt very privileged to witness a Small White butterfly laying an egg. The tiny yellow package of life in this picture had been in existence for less than a minute. What a powerful tribute to all the weeds which grow in the forgotten cracks and corners of London. We all need nature in our lives, look harder and you’ll find it.