Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Hard Times

There was a significant overnight frost leaving the trees glistening with ice crystals and the ground iron-hard. My maternal grandmother would have much approved; in a mild winter she would shake her head. "Green Christmas, fat churchyard", was her inevitable comment. This is a very old saying, going back many centuries. Did people feel that a hard winter would somehow purge the land of pestilence, so reducing the mortality rate?                

For many of our birds these are hard times, with conditions particularly serious for tiny species such as the Long-tailed Tit. If this cold weather is prolonged the mortality rate could be high. Our garden pond is frozen but the stream is still flowing well so water is not a problem.

Holly leaves bore long whiskers of frost and the carpet of dead leaves under my feet crunched as I made my way through the Pocket Park. In these conditions tiny invertebrates tend to go deeper and deeper into the leaf litter so, scraping away the icy top layer, I brought home a bag of unfrozen material for examination. Among the species found was the extremely common woodlouse Philoscia muscorum and the equally common Carabid Notiophilus biguttatus.  The latter - a ground beetle with bulging eyes - has surprisingly not been previously recorded for the Pocket Park so the invertebrate total creeps up to 432 species.

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