Posts Tagged ‘uk garden’

Tom Hird AKA The Blowfish

Hey Guys! Blowfish here, and those fantastic people at Meet The Species have given me freedom to blog about whatever I fancy! HA HA HA HA! The FOOLS! Don’t they know how much The Blowfish can gabble about crabs, waffle about whales or speak about sharks!? It’s a wondrous prospect and so full of choice, but I thought I’d tell you guys and gals about one of my fave marine creatures found in the UK. He’s small, he’s bland but he really packs a punch! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… the Dog Whelk!

Nucella lapillus, the Dog Whelk, can be found up and down the coast of the UK and if you saw him, you’d just assume he was another boring old snail, going about his business just munching on algae and slime. A dangerous mistake to make. This sniper of a snail is a ruthless predator and is certainly not squeamish. Its favourite prey is mussels. Although mussels might be considered a sitting duck (after all, they hardly move), they do have a super tough shell that even a human can have problems cracking.

So how do you make a meal of a mussel? Well, the dog whelk is not afraid of using a little chemical weaponry. There is a special patch on the whelk’s muscular foot that secretes a powerful acid that will start to dissolve the mussel’s shell. Backing up this acid attack, the dog whelk produces his most devastating weapon, a radula. All molluscs have radula and they are very wonderful things. A radula is essentially a long conveyor belt of teeth. In algal grazing molluscs, the teeth are flat and evolved for grinding, but in predators like the dog whelk, the teeth are long, curved and dagger sharp! Using the radula like a chainsaw, the whelk starts to saw through the acid-weakened shell. But the worst is yet to come!

Once the shell has been breached, the living mussel inside is slowly shredded to pieces by the buzzing radula. It can take up to a week for a dog whelk to eat a single mussel! However, one mussel’s sacrifice might not always be in vain. Chemicals given off by feeding dog whelks stimulate the surrounding mussels to defend themselves. Using strong sticky adhesive threads called byssus, the mussels will bind the dog whelk to the surface of the rock, holding it fast and leaving it to face a long drawn-out end.

You see! All this hardcore drama! All occurring right under your nose! So next time you’re down on the beach, don’t go looking for the fast scuttling crabs, or the darting actions of fish, why not spot the Dog Whelk and his slow but deadly methods! Great stuff!



To read more about Reptiles, Amphibians and Marine Life, you can visit the Blowfish’s blog here; www.school-of-fish.co.uk/blog

Or to contact Tom (Hird AKA the Blowfish) please visit; http://www.atwenterprises.co.uk

Many thanks for your great contribution Blowfish!


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A full day of furry fun comes to a close and I hoped you’ve enjoed all the amazing footage of our apprently media friendly mammals. We had a greta impromtue field lecture from Hugh Warwick on Hedgehogs, brilliant bats on this International Bat Weekend and remarkable footage of our British Mammal Species.

What’s on tomorrow?

Tomorrow is the final day of the Final Lap and we will be celebrating the great success of the last 18 months of Meet the Species. Can we get closer to completing our species list? Will those autumn fungi and late flying moths finally make an appearance? Who knows, but we’ll continue to fly the flag for wildlife and celebrate all of the weird and wonderful things that we’ve discovered along the way.

It may be the end of the road for us…but for YOU! You can keep on recording wildlife and meeting species and our pal Ed Drewitt will be telling you how!

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Pine Marten and Fallow Deer, caught on night camera!

And this Pine Marten feeding in daylight.

For more amazing wildlife footage visit, www.youtube.com/user/KindroganFSC

This video is courtesy of KindroganFSC on Youtube….All footage filmed at Kindrogan, Perthshire in Scotland. Many thanks chaps!

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Did you guess what Mammal species this morning’s picture was of? It’s a…. Long Eared Bat Pup!

Brown long-eared bats, as their name suggests, have strikingly large ears. These large appendages are three quarters the length of the bat’s head and body. When resting, the bats fold their ears and hold them backwards. They have a slow and fluttering flight, often close to the ground, which makes them vulnerable to predation from domestic cats. In the summer, they roost in tree holes, bat and bird boxes and attics. In the winter, they hibernate in cellars, tunnels and caves, usually alone.

Click here for some great BBC videos & information on Long-eared Bats.

Long-eared Bat Pup

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Dr Nancy Harrison, a Principal Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University, tells us about the many fascinating snapshots into the secret lives of the mammal kingdom they’ve caught on a hidden camera they’ve set up in their gardens.

“Most of my cameras are set up so I can watch nest boxes that are part of a long term study on problems faced by garden birds breeding in urban habitat. (You can find out more about Nancy’s studies into garden birds on the Cambridge University Botanic Garden web site.)

I am interested in predation on my study birds – and the cameras have alerted me to the danger from jays which sit on top of a box, and nab begging chicks when they put their head out of the hole.   But when I downloaded the first camera traps I used,  I was surprised to see a muntjac with fawns, and badgers walking around.  The footage was based on a series of nights I set the trap on a tree near the badger sett, to see if it was occupied!  I have never used bait, but the sett is clearly a good active site.  I have put cameras out in other locations where I have only seen evidence of the odd wood pigeon.  I think the discovery of the badger family at the CUBG sett is the best thing I’ve ever found using camera traps.  The worst was when I used one if my back garden and discovered a very large rat!

We are using camera traps of various designs on our course – using them to study the behaviour of animals.  We now run an MSc programme , including a module on how to use camera traps for scientific investigation.

For more information, please visit MSc;



I am glad more folk will be able to see some of the great wildlife stalking the garden at night.  There’s one clip of a fox cub.  Just a fleeting appearance, but interesting to see how many creatures come in to see what is happening at the sett.”

With great thanks to  Dr Nancy Harrison, the Anglia Ruskin University & Cambridge University Botanic Gardens for their kind contributions.

And here are Nancy’s wildlife clips;

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Our cities and countryside are leading a double life, as the sun goes down and you draw the curtains, different species are emerging, there are different predators and different prey, with different shapes dominating the skies.  Being glimpsed dimly at dusk makes it all too easy for this nocturnal wildlife to be overlooked or even misunderstood and feared.  And arguably bats are the most mysterious and misunderstood mammals of all. But for the curious it is this mystery that attracts you, in the bat world discoveries are still to be made and adventures are on your doorstep.

As recently as 2010 a new species, Alcathoe bat, was found to be living here in the UK, doubtlessly it had been here unnoticed for years, having been mistaken for its similar looking cousin.  It seems bats keep a lot of secrets. In the Bat Conservation Trust’s mission to secure fragile bat populations, volunteers and staff set out to discover more about bats and how use the landscape.  Each summer thousands of people go out at night to experience this nocturnal world first hand and count bats for the National Bat Monitoring Programme.  Some volunteers will use a bat detector to pick-up and listen to the different echolocation calls bats make to find their way and catch their insect prey,  the different frequencies and sounds can help identify the 18 different UK bat species.   As well as taking action to conserve bat populations and landscapes we also work to inspire people about bats and their environment.   I often find that once people are out face to face with the nature of the night it soon dispels myths and misunderstanding without losing any of the magic and mystery.

Bat flying at night in Baildon UK by sgwarnog2010 Flicr

That bats have remained mysterious (even to those that study them) is unusual given that bats have adapted to live right alongside us in rural and urban areas.  Some species share our homes and buildings, and there aren’t many rare and endangered mammals that will grace your home with their presence (a panda in the porch anyone?) but bats will.  In this and in so many ways bats are unique, the only true flying mammal, masters of the dark skies, how could you resist a visit to their night-time world? And just imagine the mysteries and secrets that are waiting to be revealed when you get there.  To share bat sightings, find local bat hotspots and events visit at www.bigbatmap.org

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The British Isles are a special place for special mammals. We have around 60 native species. Our mammals all play a vital role as keystone prey items for our our carnivore species and birds of prey. Also, where mammals thrive, we tend to have high quality habitats. The iconic otter and water vole are key indicators of water quality in our rivers and riparian habitats, hedgehogs and harvest mice of the biodiversity of our agricultural and rural landscapes, and dormice and bats of the quality of our woodland.

Red Squirrel (c) Rolling Verlinde

While we have a smaller number of species than Europe, we form the north western limit to many species’ ranges, seperated from the continent, and as such the British Isles are a vital stronghold for many which are scarce or threatened elsewhere.

For example, the Grey seal world population is estimated at only 250,000, with 101,500 living around the coast of the British Isles alone, and are of international conservation importance. Similarly we have nearly 30% of Europe’s Red deer, and the only thriving national badger populations with larger family groups.

Badger (c) Rollin Verlinde

We also have species that, while abundant on the continent, are of conservation concern here, and whose loss would impact heavily on the balance of our islands’ ecosystems. Two scarce predator species include the pine marten, limited to north England and Scotland, and the Scottish wildcat, a sub-species unique to us, numbers as few as 400 animals.

Some mammals are now recovering from declines such as the polecat, otter and dormouse, while others are still vulnerable, including the harvest mouse, brown hare, water vole and red squirrel. For other species we still know too little.

Mammals in Britain are critically under-recorded. To address this, The Mammal Society is compiling a National Mammal Atlas, the first for over 20 years, which will provide a detailed, up-to-date picture of mammal distribution and abundance across the British Isles. Records submitted to us will build the atlas and provide vital information about mammals over the last 15 years. Without this, we can’t effectively advocate and develop policy and guidance for mammal conservation.

Mammal trapping

Small mammals in particular suffer from lack of information. We introduced the urgently needed, ongoing, multi-species Mini Mammal Monitoring Programme to better understand the distribution and abundance of small mammals in the British Isles and provide long-term reliable data on population trends of this keystone group of mammals. The MMM Surveys run every Autumn and you can find more information online.

Visit www.mammal.org.uk to get involved in mammal monitoring and conservation.

With great thanks to Laura Drake at the Mammal Society for her contributions. You can also follow the Mammal Society on Twitter & Facebook

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