Diario del proyecto Meanwood Valley bioblitz

Archivos de diario de julio 2023

04 de julio de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 41: Housefly

The Housefly is magnificently successful, maybe the most successful insect in the world. You can find them breaking down organic matter, walking upside down and being generally annoying right across the globe.

If you have one buzzing around the good news is it's only going to live for two weeks. The bad news is females will lay around 500 eggs in that time and, 3 weeks later, 500 more flies will emerge. The adult flies then only take 24 hours to reach sexual maturity and the process starts all over again.

In addition to being annoying they can also carry diseases, and are very happy spreading typhoid, cholera, salmonella, dysentery, tuberculosis and anthrax around parts of the globe, when they put their minds to it. So don't leave your food out.

Luckily Houseflies are susceptible to a few nasty conditions themselves and have quite a few predators including spiders. I even knew an old lady who swallowed a fly.

But in 1958 spiders and hungry old ladies weren't enough for the Chinese who initiated a nationwide campaign to eliminate all Houseflies - as well as all the rats, mosquitos and sparrows (I've no idea what they had against the sparrows). It didn't work and the flies, and the other creatures, won.

In the absence of such a campaign in Meanwood you could try swatting them.

They are quite hard to swat for a reason. Compared to humans, they can effectively see in slow motion. Time doesn't fly for flies, it is the reverse. It is all due to a thing called the Flicker Fusion Threshold - its the same science that determines the frame rate on a movie which makes you think you are watching something in continual motion.

Not only that, but Houseflies have big compound eyes - so they can ALWAYS see you coming.

Maybe American poet Ogden Nash summed it up best in his two line poem:
"God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why"

Publicado el julio 4, 2023 08:40 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

10 de julio de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 42: Wood Mouse

We are very grateful to the Yorkshire Mammal Group helping us survey the small mammals around the Urban Farm and on Sugarwell Hill last weekend. It was part of our year-long Meanwood Road Bioblitz - which has identified 768 species so far. The Mammal Group showed us how to set and bait 50 of their Longworth traps, anticipating the arrival of some furry friends overnight.

Meanwood's Wood Mouse population did not disappoint with 13 of them venturing in for a feed, activating the pressure pad on the trap and closing the door of the trap behind them. The traps are waterproof and full of yummy seeds and the like so the trapped mice were comfortable overnight.

Wood Mice are a sandy-brown colour which, alongside their bigger eyes and ears, distinguishes them from the House Mouse. They can have as many as six litters every year which they raise in underground nests made of plant material. The nest burrows even have little doors made up of stones and leaves. Each litter has between four and eight young - which (rather shockingly) can be the progeny of as many as four different males.

With this level of reproduction you'd think we would be overrun, but predation by cats and foxes helps to keep the numbers down. and 30% of the Tawny Owl diet is made up of Wood Mice. (Little Rabbit FooFoo is also responsible for bopping some of them on the head of course).

Wood Mice have quite large territories - as much as one and a half acres for the males, females stay slightly more local. It must be very confusing for Wood Mouse to navigate their way around the undergrowth with its confusing mix of twigs, leaf litter, roots and plant stems. In fact I expect you also are wondering exactly how they do it?

Well, funny you should ask.

Wood Mice are super clever and are the only species in the entire animal kingdom (except for us) that are known to make and use their own actual signposts. They do this by positioning bright leaves and shells as a form of way-marking when exploring their local environment. High fives to the scientists Pavel Stopka and David W Macdonald who discovered this unusual and unique skill. They did an experiment swapping the mice's natural signposts for small white discs, and then watched how the the mice then moved them around and travelled between them.

Publicado el julio 10, 2023 02:28 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

17 de julio de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 43: Southern Hawker

This is levelling up in action. The 'Southern' Hawker has expanded its range northwards to Meanwood. Into my garden pond to be precise.

Two or three summers ago one must have turned up and laid its eggs in a bit of rotting wood. The eggs turned into nymphs and wandered around the bottom of the pond eating tadpoles and the like for a couple of years. This summer the mature nymphs have climbed the vegetation on a sunny day and emerged into glorious dragonflies, albeit in a process reminiscent of a scene from Alien. They leave behind the shell of the nymph which is called an exuviae - which is then only useful in Scrabble.

Despite their good looks dragonflies are carnivorous, catching other insects as they fly. There is a gruesome video of one eating a wasp on Wikipedia. Maximum flight speed is 34mph meaning they could theoretically overtake you on parts of Meanwood Road, assuming you are keeping to the speed limit.

Culturally people seem a bit unsure about dragonflies in general. Whilst appreciated for their colour and beauty the swedes think the devil uses them to weigh people's souls, and in Portugal they are known as eye-snatchers.

Some people in the USA have even developed a rather disturbing half-dragonfly half-robot creature which is a "living, slightly modified dragonfly that carries a small backpack of electronics. The backpack interfaces directly with the dragonfly’s nervous system to control it, and uses tiny solar panels to harvest enough energy to power itself without the need for batteries." Crazy

Publicado el julio 17, 2023 03:01 TARDE por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

24 de julio de 2023

Species Of The Week Number 44: Common Pipistrelle

The easiest way to identify a bat is by catching it. Good luck with that, not least as it is illegal. You need both the skills and a licence to even disturb a bats in the wild.

The next best way is by recording its call - which the bat uses to echolocate. Unfortunately bat calls are nearly always too high pitched for the human ear - although sometimes young people with really good hearing can hear those bat species which call at the very lowest frequency.

Nevertheless if you turn up the sound on the recent video on the Meanwood Road Project Instagram or Facebook pages not only can you see some of our Meanwood Common Pipistrelle bats but you can also hear them. That's because of a clever device called a heterodyne bat detector which changes the frequency of the bat call in real time, so that we can point it at them and hear their calls.

As well as having borrowed a bat detector to make the video we have also borrowed a posh device to record the calls. When you run these calls through some smart software it creates a sonogram from which it is possible to identify individual species. You can see the sonogram from one of our local Pipistrelles in the second image in the posts. There is another species of Pipistrelle, the Soprano Pipistrelle which was only discovered as a separate species about 25 years ago - discovered primarily by analysis of differing call frequencies.

Bats are the only mammals that can truly fly - Flying Foxes and Flying Squirrels are gliding rather than flying. They give birth to live young (as they are mammals) and the young are called pups. The Common Pipistrelle is our smallest bat and has a wingspan of around 20cms. They emerge about 15mins after sunset and start to gobble up insects - up to 3000 of them every night in fact.

There are 16 species of bat resident in the UK. We think there could theoretically be up to 8 species in Meanwood but so far we have only identified 2 of them so far, the Pipistrelle and the Noctule bat. If you do know of any local bat colonies please let me know and we can come and try and identify them for you.

Publicado el julio 24, 2023 07:36 MAÑANA por clunym clunym | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario