Throughout late October I tried to venture out a little more in search of interesting snippets for Hampshirecam, but I have to admit that it has been tough, with the heavy rain and gales conspiring against me.
Bracket fungi have shelf like fruit bodies that generally grow from trunks or branches, they usually have a skin like upper crust, and a spore producing lower crust that can often consist of tubes or veins. This Beefsteak fungus produces a tongue like annual bracket that gives the appearance of beef or liver, as it matures its colour ranges from pink through to a deep purple-brown.
Whilst rummaging around the woodland floor I came across this little critter, and have to admit that at first I was baffled by it. But as it jumped away with its powerful hind legs its identity was revealed. Ledra Aurita is one of the leafhopper family and is the only European member of its family. It lives in mainly Oak woodlands from May through to October feeding on lichen-covered branches. Its unique shape makes it unmistakable but its excellent camouflage makes it hard to find.
It's been a while since I last submitted images to Hampshire Cam and for those of you who look forward to seeing them I apologise. This year has been a very hectic one for me, with my spare time being shared between guiding trips and doing survey work. Although not strictly in Hampshire my subjects this time are sea birds and cetaceans, things that I have seen whilst guiding on whale watching trips across the Bay of Biscay. Whales and dolphins hold a magical place in many peoples hearts, but the chances of seeing any are considered to be far out of range in a distant sea. But not so, a three day mini cruise leaving from Portsmouth for Bilbao in Spain and back, can offer a diversity that is hard to match anywhere in the world.
Over a dozen species of cetacean have been seen in the Bay of Biscay by far the most regular being the Fin Whale. This great leviathan is the second largest mammal in the world, only the Blue Whale being larger which is very rarely seen in Biscay. They can grow up to 26 meters in length and their blow (exhalation of breath) can reach up to 8 meters in height.
Pilot Whales are not actually whales but large dolphins and are usually distinctive by their jet-black colouration. They tend to laze around on the surface of the water in large family groups and will often approach boats out of interest.
The three most common species of smaller Dolphins to be seen are the Common, Striped and Bottle-nosed. Common Dolphins have a distinctive yellowish patch towards the front of their body and an obvious hourglass shape under their dorsal fin. Bottle-nosed Dolphins are uniform grey in colour and are the largest of the commoner species. Striped Dolphins are uniform grey above with a pale grey blaze that runs down the flank and sweeps up towards the dorsal fin.
An occasional visitor to Biscay is the Killer Whale or Orca, the distinctive black and white whale is unmistakable, perhaps more familiar in a scene from a movie. They have a menacing air surrounding them and will sometimes approach boats to investigate them.
Seabirds give close and prolonged views as they drift alongside the boat, the Northern Gannet and Fulmar (below) being the most common...
...whereas the deck of the ship provides the ideal resting place for a migrating Turtle Dove before it continues on its journey.
Spectacular sunsets round off action packed days. If you're interested in more information about these trips check out the Company of Whales website. Photographs copyright - Trevor Codlin
With spring now in full swing and the air full of insects and birdsong, I can think of no better place to be in the world, than the English countryside. The gradually increasing heat of every day brings the emergence of all manner of flying insects, many of them with a striking array of colours that even the most vivid imagination could not put together, whereas others are simply plain.
The Brimstone butterfly is one of the first to appear with over-wintering adults appearing as early as February. By May they are in full swing and good numbers can be seen as they lazily patrol hedgerows and woodland rides. The uniquely shaped wing and brimstone yellow colour of the male should make this butterfly unmistakable; the female however can be mistaken for a large white.
At the other end of the scale is the Small Heath, this little brown and orange butterfly is still fairly common in its' preferred habitat of grasslands and meadows. At first glance you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a moth, but on closer inspection you can see the distinctive shape of a butterfly. It is slightly unusual in the way that it sunbathes, instead of sitting with its wings apart they lay sideways onto the sun.
The Large Red Damselfly is common and widespread over most of the country and can be found in almost any habitat near water, even if it is slightly polluted. They emerge from late April and can be found through to September or October. Males and females differ slightly in colouration, but the red abdomen with black markings should make it unmistakable.
Spiders play an important roll in the eco-system of the garden, but due to their fearsome reputation and predatory nature are not everybody's cup of tea. Pisaura Mirabilis is a common and widespread hunting spider that can be found in a variety of rural habitats. Its' body colour is usually pale brown with a yellow stripe down the centre of the carapace. This species is an efficient predator that hunts without the aid of a web and can be found anytime from April. The female spider can be seen carrying its' offspring in an egg sac underneath its' body, but before the young are due to hatch it will build a nursery tent.
Here we are three months into the New Year and I don't know where all the time has gone, but at least I have been able to get out and about and see what's on offer in the Hampshire countryside. With the current spate of very cold weather and even bits of snow here and there you could be forgiven for thinking spring is a long way off but it is actually well and truly on the way.
On the milder evenings I have been running my moth trap just to get an idea of what's around. Surprisingly there are several hardy species that are able to withstand the colder nights so that they can be active on the warmer ones. The Spring Usher can be active from January but is usually found on tree trunks between February and March.
Hazel Catkins are one of the first signs of spring with the male catkin and tiny female flower appearing anytime from January to March.
Some of our more local visitors may have read about Fluffy 2, a Chilean flamingo that's taken up residence at Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve at Hill Head. Although it seems to be a long way from its native home of South America this bird has actually only come from the Lymington area where it escaped from a collection. For those of you who enjoy seeing unusual birds it is well worth a visit to see this brightly coloured individual.
Another foreign visitor to our shores has made its home at a boating lake in Gosport. This adult Ring-billed Gull first turned up at the end of last year but decided to winter at this site were there appears to be an abundance of its preferred food...bread. In adult plumage it is easily identified by its yellow bill with a black band, yellow legs and pale iris. Photographs copyright - Trevor Codlin