Tuesday 30 May 2017

Nature Notes.

Bog cotton at Kiltybranks
All done with guests and sheep shearing for the moment we have "time to stop and stare" for a while, so I thought I'd catch you up on some of our surrounding flora and fauna. I have been able to get back into some proper dog-walking and that has included the favourite cut-over (turf) bog, Kiltybranks.

Mountain everlasting (Antennaria dioica)
We are in early summer mode at present, so not much colour down there yet but the recovering tracts are white with bog cotton. The verges of the hard tracks are busy with one of my favourite bog plants, Mountain Everlasting (Antennaria dioica) which is fascinating because it is "dioecious", or separately sexed. There are male and female plants, with separate plants carrying the pollen/anthers and the stamens/style. Helpfully, in the case of Antennaria, the males and females are different colours, pink and white. There! "Some well-known Dioecious Plants include holly, asparagus, dates, mulberry, ginkgo, persmimmons, currant bushes, juniper bushes, sago, and spinach" (says that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia). It was worth getting up this morning, wasn't it?

Sand martin and nest holes in turf bank
I may have mentioned before how excited I was to discover a colony of sand martins down there, digging nest burrows into what I guessed was a very vulnerable 'cliff'. With no sandy river-banks to go at, these birds are reduced to using the sheer, 2-3 metre cliffs left by the big cutting excavators which harvest that year's fuel-turf, biting further and further back into the layer of turf each season.

This shot gives you some idea of how the
turf cliff rises out of the water-filled pit
In this case the 'cliff' is at the back of a 'bay' and the turf, having been cut is run through the extruding hopper and squeezed out in its rows all over the floor of the bay. This leaves no room for the digger to get back in at the cliff and no-where to spread more turf even if he wanted to, so I assume that once the cliff is cut, the birds can then use it undisturbed.

Sand martin alights on bank below nest holes.
When I went back to get these pictures an old boy was down there 'footing' the turf (stacking into air-drying stacks) and fascinated to learn about the martins. He'd obviously been going there for decades and they have never made any impression on him. If he is typical, then the birds are safe from turf-gatherers too!

An oak from a Tara acorn.
The birds have now been there long enough to be nearly at the stage where the young can fly, the dodgy looking banks have not collapsed and I guess no fox or other predator would be able to climb up/down the soft turf and get at the holes, so good luck you "turf martins" and I'll keep an eye on you, wish you well on your autumn migration and look forward to you coming back next year. I have, of course, reported them to the National Bio-Diversity Database.

We now have a thriving population of Smooth Newt
(Lissotriton vulgaris), Ireland's only newt, in our pond.
Closer to home we are pleased to see that some of "our acorns" have now germinated and are showing above ground.

Another newt.
These acorns were collected by our good friends (and fellow archers), Con and Niamh, out at the Hill of Tara (Ancient site and historic Seat of Kings) in County Meath. They had a bit of a rough start although I spoiled them with little hand painted labels. There are 16 of them across 4 pots, all of which were quickly tipped over by the then turkeys (this is prior to the Nov 2016 fox attack; we still HAD turkeys back then). I gathered them up but was not at all sure all 16 went back into the pots. Well, at least 3 have survived and there could well be more.

The twice-rescued peach is now thriving. Towser gets a look
in, or maybe OUT of the cat flap. 
In our pond we have now a thriving population of at least 11 newts. These will be the smooth newt as that is Ireland's only one, so no problem with the ID. We have seen 11 at one sitting and we can currently only see down about 3 inches into the water. It always brews up a bit in really hot weather and then heavy rain brings in muddy water from the 'catchment' which takes a while to settle out. If we can see 11 in the top layer of water, then there could be dozens down through the depths. We are delighted.

Sunset through the new kitchen windows.
Less 'wildly' a peach tree rescued my Mum-in-Law from the "sick, lame and lazy" racks of her local garden centre and re-potted but then nearly killed by us, is now doing well and on the mend. I left it outdoors through some unexpected frosty autumn nights and it lost all its leaves. In the poly tunnel it started to recover and even blossomed this spring, so it now has tiny pea-sized peaches coming on it. Liz has rescued it from my neglect. It has pride of place on a south facing wall just outside her new kitchen door and she assures me it will be rescued inside the kitchen as soon as frost is spoken of by the weather man. Poor tree. It deserves a break for sure.

New kitchen tiles all grouted up and
just needing skirting boards.
That is pretty much it, so I will just leave you with a couple more pictures. One of the new kitchen floor now all grouted up and then cleaned of residues and, last but not least, those Brexit-vote-day kittens Kato and Chivers.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Well done Matt on the Mountain Everlasting, it's rare in Ireland, we have never seen it here.