Photo above Author - Alvesgaspar - Wikimedia Creative Commons
'Masting' refers to a natural phenomenon where exceptional amounts of forest tree fruit are produced, such as acorns and nuts.
Nature Observations: Mules Park – July 2019 by Catherine Locke
Saturday 13 July
I had a most exciting encounter just above Mules Park on Eastcliff Walk which is
part of the South West Coast Path. I was coming down the path towards the old
swing gate and farm gate combination. It was very hot that day and I was the only
one on the path. Suddenly ahead of me, a snake was writhing across the path from
the grass verge to the hedgerow on the other side. I walked quicker to get a better
look. It was an adult grass snake around one and a half feet long, very green, with
dark patches along its sides. I watched it in wonder and excitement as it pushed its
way into the dense hedgerow. Although it had disappeared I could still hear it there
as it pushed its way through. I think that it is the first time I've seen a whole, wild
grass snake as usually it's just the end of one disappearing into grass or bushes.
A rare encounter but great to know they are around.
Thursday 18 July
I was in the Rowdens, seeing what wildlife I could encounter in the tangle of
rhododendron and bramble bushes that form a kind of island there. I observed a
very large hoverfly with two bold black stripes against a bright yellow abdomen, a
yellow face and black thorax with orange edges to its wings when it landed. When
flying it buzzed loudly and was attacked by smaller hoverflies. Looking it up I think
it was a Volucella zonaria species, sometimes called the Hornet Hoverfly. I also
saw, on the brambles in The Rowdens, a lovely large bright orange fritillary
butterfly. Looking it up a believe it was a rare High Brown Fritillary. On another
section of brambles, not far from the old croquet lawn, I saw a Gatekeeper Butterfly,
and abundant Meadow Brown butterflies in the park, especially in the top meadow.
I've seen one marbled white, quite a few Small and Large Whites, Speckled Woods
in shaded areas, Holly Blues mostly in May and June but occasional now.
Birds I've seen recently are
Bullfinch several families
Blackbird very abundant
Robin very abundant
Dunnock mostly in hedgerow on Eastcliff Walk
House sparrow abundant in hedgerows
Blue tit many families in the park
Great tit several families
Goldcrest several families
Coal tit two families
Long-tailed tit several family flocks
Chiffchaff a few calling birds
Blackcap at least four families in the park
Wood pigeons abundant to very abundant
Magpies at least six family groups
Crows at least six family groups
Jays several family groups
Great Spotted woodpecker Two families
Wren abundant in the park (lovely warbling from the males)
Willow warbler Heard its 'hoo-eat' call on a few occasions, but I've only seen them skulking through bushes along the shaded, woody parts of Eastcliff Walk - lower end.
Wasps abound now. Bumble bees are not as common as they should be.
Honey bees are mainly on bramble flowers at the moment but also on the flowers in the large bed near the top pond in the Dell that has been planted by The Friends.
A lot of common blue damsel flies around the ponds.
Wildflowers about now:
agrimony, hemp agrimony, wood ovens, red campion, red and white clover (in the meadows), cow parsley, charlock, self-heal, purple loosestrife, many kinds of thistle in flower, ragwort (great foodplant for the cinnabar moth); I've also seen abundant soldier flies mating on ragwort plants. Yarrow, green altranet, field bindweed, hedge bindweed, red valerian, scarlet pimpernel, hedge parsley, hedge mustard, tree mallow, tutsan/St John's wort, cut-leaved cranesbill, herb robert, meadow buttercup, creeping buttercup, field daisy, dandelion.
A lot of beech mast* on the beeches at the top of the Rowdens. I have been hearing families of grey squirrels munching on the seeds and dropping the husks on me as I walked along Upper Beech Walk above the old croquet lawn in the Rowdens.