7 Apr 2014

Mating Snails

Colin Miles

This week we were very pleased to welcome Marie Evans to the group and she, during the course of the walk asked me, ‘what do you do when it pours with rain?’  To which I replied, ‘It doesn’t rain on Tuesday mornings.’  Not quite true since it has rained on two of the fifty eight mornings we have been doing these walks and we used one of these to explore the Great Glasshouse, and will do so again on the next wet morning. However, despite the continued fine weather the moth trap still refused to capture any moths, so Marigold has taken it home to see if she can discover what the problem is.

We then looked to see whether the Hedgehog was still in the posh hotel which Jane Richmond had placed in the woods next to the car park.  It was empty and, as the sticks which I had placed rather late in front of the exit hadn’t been disturbed, he or she had obviously moved out fairly early in the year.  Not surprising in view of the mild winter and the fact that the Hedgehog in my garden has been active for quite a while.

A major objective in doing these weekly walks is to build up a picture of the wildlife in the Garden and the Waun Las Nature Reserve, how it has changed and is changing over the years.  And, perhaps more important, what should be done in terms of development and conservation.  Of course, it is not always easy to determine what is development, whether natural or manmade and what is conservation.  Over the aeons that life has existed on this planets,  countless millions of life-forms have come and gone even before man came on the scene.  And this will continue to happen with or without our ‘assistance’ due to evolution and a wide variety of natural events, including climate change and natural catastrophes.  So looking at the habitat we have here and wondering why we don’t have Skylarks or Yellow Hammers, or Lapwings or certain Butterflies and so on, it is difficult to know to what extent we have been responsible, or whether steps should or can be taken to rectify these situations.

Because there is such a large area to cover and limited resources the main area we are concentrating on is Trawscoed meadow.  It offers a wide variety of habitats both in and around it and is conveniently close to the main buildings.  As part of this monitoring Howard took charge of the electronic GPS tracking device that we have and went around the area measuring it.  We have a 2006 vegetation map of the area and it will be interesting to compare any changes that have occurred since then.

[nggallery id = 549]On the walk itself the White and Buff-tail Bumblebees were very much in evidence as well as one Early Bumblebee, a small Bee with a red tail, and quite a lot of Seven Spot Ladybirds. At the Oak stump in the middle of the meadow where we had last spotted a Pygmy Shrew today Keith spotted a  Common Shrew.  The first Cuckoo Flowers, or Lady’s Smock were also appearing as well as lots of Dandelions and Lesser Celandines.  The only Butterfly that we saw was a Small Tortoiseshell  flitting  from one Dandelion flower to another – it ignored the Celandines.[nggallery id = 550]

Down at our Beech stump Keith rediscovered the Hornet’s nest which we had not been able to find on our previous visit as well as lots of new Turkey Tail Fungus.  But better still were the mating Snails that Michael pointed out.[nggallery id = 548]  The whole process of snail courtship is an elaborate process in which the two snails circle  and manoeuvre around each other for up to six hours.  Then, when they are ready they fire their love darts, sometimes so forcefully that the dart will pierce the body or head entirely and protrude on the other side. After both snails have fired their darts, the snails copulate and exchange sperm.  We didn’t wait around that long.

Being such a sunny day all sorts of birds were singing their hearts out and we spent quite a while trying to decide which was which.  Was that a Chiffchaff or a Great Tit?  Was that a Nuthatch singing and do the regional accents differ over just a few miles?  We really do need more lessons on song identification!

Thanks to John for his photos and Anne for carefully making the notes shown below.. If any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please  send an email to Colin Miles  – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested.   If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Survey blogs.

If you find an injured bird, hedgehog or other wild animal and want help and advice then phone the Gower Bird hospital. on 01792 371630.

1 April 2014    Dry and sunny TRAWSCOED MEADOW       (WW) Also seen in Welsh Wood

Bramble (with leaf miners), Dandelion, Hairy Bittercress, Ladies Smock in flower, Lesser Celandine   (ww), Meadow Buttercup, Meadow Foxtail, Purple Moorgrass, Ribwort Plantain, leaves and in bud, Sorrel, Stinging Nettle, Wild Garlic, leaves (ww), Wood Anenome (ww).

5   7 Spot Ladybirds, Buff-tailed Bumblebee,  Early Bumblebee, 5 Hoverflies, Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, 2  Brown Lipped Snails mating on log, Woodlice on log, Wormcasts everywhere.

Spiders – Spinner Type, Wolf, Possible Garden Spider but very young

Common Shrew, Signs of Field Voles and Moles

The birds were observed or heard in the Welsh Wood, the wooded boundary of the meadow, along the return lane and by the car park. The migrants Blackcap and Willow Warbler were heard for the first time in Garden this Spring.  Chiffchaff first heard in Garden 11 March. 2 Blackcaps –  One observed singing in tree top.  2 Nuthatch, 4 Buzzards circling over meadow – 2 pairs?, Blackbird, Pair Blue Tits, Carrion Crow, Chaffinches, Chiffchaff, Dunnock, Great Tits, House Sparrows, Pair Long-tailed Tits, Robin, Willow Warbler, Wren carrying nesting material (ww)