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David March / 76 items

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White Headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
Family: Anatidae.
Length: 43 to 48cm Wingspan: 60 to 70cm.
1 brood a year, March to May. (Southern Spain)
The rare White-Headed Duck is known as one of the “Stiff-tailed ducks.” The other being the more common Ruddy Duck. To distinguish the two breeds apart, the male’s head has more white plumage coverage around and above the eyes towards the crown. Females and immatures have mostly black heads with speckles of white plumage. Both mature females and males, have a strikingly coloured, light blue bill, although the females bill, is slightly darker.
Oxyura leucocephala is now rare in Southern Spain, North Africa, Turkey, Western and Central Asia.
Numbers have declined rapidly and is now considered an endangered species; this is mainly due to habitation loss and hunting. Also, the more common Ruddy Duck introduced from America, interbreeds with the White-Headed Duck.
Habitat: Large freshwater lakes and ponds, with tall reeds growing around the edges. Always needing dense growth of aquatic plants to provide shelter for nesting and cover.
This duck dives from the surface and swims many metres under water, although omnivorous (the ability to eat and survive on both plant and animal matter) they do however rely heavily on vegetable matter, to feed on. They are reluctant to fly, preferring to swim for the nearest cover.
The White-headed Duck is one of the duck species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed the status of this duck as “endangered”.

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Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta, Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Recurvirostridae.
Length: 42 to 46cm Wingspan: 67 to 78cm Weight: 250 to 400g. Lifespan: 10 to 15 years.
Tends to breed from February till July here in Alicante. 3 to 4 eggs 1 brood.
Found mainly in Southern European and North African countries, bordering onto the Mediterranean Sea. Also prominent in countries bordering the Black Sea in the East. With its special needs met, it has been able to establish itself further north into the UK, mainly due to management of habitats, it has been able to breed successfully.
Habitat: Mainly shallow, saline coastal water lagoons and estuaries, as well as areas having terrestrial habitation, near to large freshwater muddy pools and ponds.
I am fortunate that I only live a 15 mins drive away, from what must be one of the definitive conditions that serves the Avocet’s needs. A large expanse of shallow, temperate saline waters, all year round, here in southern Spain. The added bonus being, the islands situated in the middle, giving the Avocet the ultimate breeding conditions; with added protection from the would-be land predators, that could raid their nests.
A pied coloured bird beautifully marked, with its distinctive upturned bill; which it uses in a sweeping motion (side to side) for shrimps, various crustaceans and aquatic insects, that are living in the water. Also, it will dip its head under the water to disturb the muddy sediments, for worms, more insects and crustaceans.
Although will be seen in flocks, on my observation, they are usually seen feeding in pairs and become obsessive with their space, if another avocet or other bird (usually a Stilt) comes too close they will squabble and most times the intruder will be chased away.

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Leucanthemum vulgare, also known as Oxeye Daisy and Dog Daisy.
(Description for the Butterfly Aricia agestis follows below)
Family: Asteraceae.
Grows up to 1m tall, flower heads to 5cm across.
Flower season: May to September.
A widespread plant native to Europe and Asia. Plant was introduced to Australia, New Zealand and North America. It likes a temperate climate where the average annual rainfall exceeds 750mm (30 inches). Favouring soils that are heavy and moist, often grows in neglected pastures and along roadsides. Being a typical grassland perennial wildflower, it can be found growing in a variety of habitats. Meadows, fields, under scrub and open-canopy forests, edge of woodlands is also an ideal habitat for the Oxeye Daisy.
A mature plant can produce up to 26,000 seeds, it can also multiply itself by its under-ground root system which continuously puts out lateral shoots to spread away from the mature plant. By spreading itself this way, it produces a negative effect to other native plants growing close by.
In over 40 countries it is considered to be an invasive species, it is also detrimental in meadows where livestock are to graze especially cattle.
This plant was top-raked for pollen production per flower head, in a U.K. study of meadow flowers.
Aricia agestis. Common name: Brown Argus Average wingspan 29mm
Flight Season… May to September.
Unlike most other blue species, the Brown Argus has no blue scales on the upper-side.
Found mainly in southern England and in some parts of Wales not found in Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of man.
Habitat… Most commonly found on chalk or limestone, this is where the ground suits the main food plants. Will also be found on heathland and in open woodland. This species stays local and in small colonies, will not travel more then a few hundred metres from where it emerged.
Generally speaking this species has two broods a year in central and southern England, if the weather is favourable then a third generation is possible.
The Brown Argus Caterpillar’s main food is common Rockrose (Helianthemum chamaecistus)
Ants are attracted to the caterpillar’s “sweet juices” it produces, as it grows bigger. Eventually they will take it underground and continue to “farm” the secretion from the caterpillar, until it turns into a chrysalis. This in turn, protects the caterpillar from predators.

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Dipsacus Fullonum, commonly known as Wild teasel or Fuller’s Teasel.
(description of Bombus terrestris follows below)
Family: Caprifoliaceae.
Flowering from July to September.
The Wild Teasel is mainly a biennial herbaceous plant, sometimes growing perennially.
Prefers growing in damp grasslands and woodland areas, will also be seen along roadsides, pond margins, pastures, meadows and waste land sites.
A fully matured plant, can reach heights of up to 2 to 3 metres. The small pale lavender-coloured flowers grow in a mass, on a large cylindrical shaped cone, which can be up to 10cm in length, from base to tip. These become valuable seed heads, as they remain on the plant throughout the winter months, thus becoming an important food supply for many species of bird, mainly in the finch family, especially Gold Finches. Because of this, Dipsacus Fullonum is encouraged to grow in many Wild Life reserves and also the nature conscious gardener.
Wild teasel can be seen growing across Europe and south into North Africa, also into SW Asia. Wild teasel also grows in many other countries across the world, including the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Sometimes being regarded as a noxious weed in some of these later countries.
The Descriptive named “fullonum”, being known as Fuller’s teasel, refers to this plant was once used in “fulling” (a process of shrinking and weaving cloth after weaving), in the early days of wool manufacturing. By attaching the seed heads (covered with stiff, hooked points) to a spindle for the purpose of teasing (combing) cloth.
Bombus terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758) commonly known Buff-tailed Bumblebee.
Length: Queen 20 to 22mm Males 14 to 16mm Worker 11 to 17mm
Family: Apidae
Season: Queens appear as early as late February, workers from April, males and new queens appear from May. Mainly in the south a late third generation can be active throughout the winter months.
A widespread Bumblebee and one of the commonest species found in Europe. This species is very versatile regarding temperatures and is one of the main species used in greenhouse pollination. Because of this it has been introduced to many worldwide countries where it has not originated from.
The queen is monandrous (meaning she mates with only one male) The workers are very efficient in foraging, as they soon learn flower colours.
The workers very rarely travel more than a few hundred yards from the nest.
Nests are usually underground, sometimes taking advantage of abandoned rodent dens. The queen lays egg cells on top of one another each containing several eggs. Colonies averaging between 300 to 400 bees, with a large variation in the number of workers.
Also the workers will lay eggs late in the season and these eggs being unfertilised will become drones (male bees). The drones will leave the nest soon after reaching adulthood, mating is their sole role, when they leave the nest; they will not return.
Habitat… many and variable habitats you will see this bee, although it does favour wooded areas and waste areas with plenty of brambles growing. Also, commonly found in gardens and brownfield sites.
Flowers visited… The early queen bee visits sallows and a variety of spring-flowering plants and shrubs. Queens, workers and males all visit a wide variety of prunus (flowering fruit trees and shrub blossoms) earlier in the year. Then throughout the summer months, a wide variety of summer flowers are on the menu; brambles, thistles, Teasel, Buddleia and garden lavenders being some of their favourites. Well into October, the workers can be seen foraging on Ivy. In the winter months relying heavily on Oregon-grape and winter flowering honeysuckles.
This is a pollen storing species.

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Rubus Fruticosus, (Bramble). Commonly known as Blackberry bush.
(Description to Bombus Pratorum follows below)
Family: Rosaceae.
Height: up to 4m. (can spread for up to 6m)
A dense, perennial bush growing widespread, throughout Britain, Ireland and most of Europe.
The Bramble produces biennial stems (known as canes) which can grow to and over 6m to 9m in length. It is these canes that produce the flowers to bear the fruits, of the plant. The canes have many very sharp, flat shaped thorns, these thorns and stems soon become woody. The leaf stalks and outer edges of the leaf also have small prickles that are very sharp.
Flowers appear in late spring to early summer, the flowers are usually white, or light pinkish in colour, 2 to 3cm in diameter. They are a valuable early source of nectar for many flying insects, especially bees and hoverflies.
Within the flower head, drupelets develop around the ovules, these are fertilised by the male gamete, from a pollen grain. To be able to produce the fruits, they mainly rely on bees for pollination
Weather conditions, causing extreme temperature fluctuations, or intensive wet conditions can significantly affect a bee’s chances to be able to visit the flower heads. The fruits known as “blackberries” first become green in colour, changing to red from orange and eventually become black when ripe.
The fruits are a valuable source of food for many fruit eating animals and birds. Many insects will feed from the juices of damaged fruits, some flies will lay their eggs onto the over-ripe fruits, for their larva to feed from.
Brambles are found growing vigorously in many places, including, woodlands, woodland edges, scrub land, hillsides, ditches, waste ground and hedgerows.
When left unmanaged, the mature plants form many arching stems, when reaching the surrounding ground, they will easily take root from the node tip. Overtime, the Bramble will start to dominate over most other wild plants as it can tolerate most poor soil conditions, in sun or shady places. It can become a “habitat shelter” for many types of insects and small wild animals. Many species of moths feed on the leaves and birds will take advantage of the dense protective canes, to build their nests; hedgehogs will also take advantage of the cover and fallen debris of rotting leaves to provide protection for hibernation. Also, the Comma and Brimstone butterflies, will take cover to hibernate throughout the winter months within the Bramble.
Blackberries have been eaten by humans for thousands of years and the leaves have been used for medicine purposes,(especially for mouth ailments like bleeding gums and sores in the mouth, soothed if not healed by chewing the leaves) the fruits contain a high content of vitamin C.
Bombus pratorum (Linnaeus, 1761) Early Bumblebee. 13MM Queen, 10mm worker, 10mm male.
Body lengths in mm , queen 15-17, workers 10-14, male 11-13.
One of our commonest and widespread bumblebees, males are very attractively marked with abundance of yellow hairs; the workers are smaller colour versions of the queen. Once a male has left the nest he does not return, his sole aim in life is to survive the cold in the early spring months of the UK, (by sheltering under a nectar giving flower) and mate with a new queen.
Flight season… In the south... Queens can be seen from March, workers and males from April; new queens are on the wing from May so in most cases two and possibly three generations are created.
In the far north…Queens appear later, so only a single generation is possible. Bombus Pratorum can be on wing till September and sometimes into October, very rarely winter-active.
Habitat… many and variable habitats you will see this bee, although it does favour wooded areas and waste areas with plenty of brambles growing. Also, commonly found in gardens and brownfield sites.
Flowers visited… The early queen bee visits sallows and a variety of spring-flowering plants and shrubs. Queens, workers and males all visit a wide variety of prunus (flowering fruit trees and shrub blossoms) earlier in the year. Then throughout the summer months, a wide variety of summer flowers are on the menu; with brambles being one of their favourites. This is a pollen storing species.
Nesting…. B. Pratorum nests are shorter lived than other bumblebee nests, averaging just 14 weeks, with a population of up to one hundred bees. B. Pratorum will nest practically anywhere, from underground in old rodent burrows, on the surface under vegetation material. They also favour old small bird nesting boxes as well as holes in trees and roof spaces.
Images below you will see the Queen and male B. Pratorum. ( males are more dumpy in appearance and has more yellow hairs on head)


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