Nature Notes

A monthly series of articles featuring seasonal highlights on the Roseland and topical issues relevant to wildlife.

July 2017

Common ShrewMigration is most associated in our minds with the long distance flyers such as Arctic terns or Swallows. However, migration takes place at virtually all scales of animal life and across much smaller areas. Within the Roseland several species move considerable distances seasonally in search of resources across the range of habitats here, including our tiniest mammals, the shrews.

There are three species of UK mainland shrew: Pygmy (Sorex minutus), Common (Sorex araneus), and Water shrew (Neomys fodiens). Similar to mice and voles in appearance, shrews are in fact related to moles and hedgehogs. They have very small eyes and ears, but large snouts, smell being the principal sense used in foraging. Pygmy shrew is the smallest of the three species, but its long tail is two thirds its body length, making it overall longer than the Common shrew whose tail is proportionately short. Both these species have rich brown upper body fur, and a greyer underbelly. By contrast, he Water shrew is considerably larger, and is easily identifiable by its almost black upper body fur and silver underbelly. All shrews are good swimmers, but the Water shrew has special adaptations for its more aquatic life, such as stiff hairs on the feet to help it paddle, and a keel of hairs on its tail for manoeverabillity.

Read more: Migrating shrews? You must be joking!

June 2017

Nare Head epitomises the wildest of our wild landscapes. Its rugged and unforgiving geology defies all attack from the worst of the weather above, and the crashing ocean waves below. So it may come as a surprise that delicate butterflies and moths can thrive here.
Nare Head is one of my favourite wild Roseland places, inspired by the dogged determination of living things to survive in this challenging habitat. No tall trees here. Any shrub other than gorse  grows sideways, battered by extremes of weather, or becomes bonsaiā€™d by the thin, nutrient-poor soil. Some plant species grow just a few centimetres in height in exposed areas; the gorse provides sheltered pockets for some of the taller ones. There is, nevertheless, enough nectar and pollen on tap to sustain many insects including butterflies and moths. As the spring and summer seasons advance, these animals appear in quite large numbers, even on the very tip of the rocky headland.
Butterfly Conservation has been recording butterfly species in the Roseland for a number of years. There is a special butterfly transect at Nare: a set route along which observers walk and record all the butterfly species they see. Observations are carried out throughout late spring and summer, so different species can be recorded as they emerge over time. I decided to get involved with recording, as it is a great way to learn how to recognise some of our more uncommon species and see them out in the field. It is only ever a fair weather activity, so all the more enjoyable.

Read more: The joys of counting butterflies


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