Ospreys, Devils and Adonises

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Monday, 6 September 2010 18:37

I had a great day out on reserves with the reserve team today, discussing grazing and management. We looked at the three central chalk-grassland sites, Ditchling Beacon, Malling Down and Southerham. The highlight of the day was an Osprey flying east along the north face of the downs. It was quite close and we were looking down on it, so it was not silhouetted against the sky. Bloody awesome! I did get a little over excited.
We went on to Malling Down and had a look at the grazing exclosures I set up in May 2009. The one where rabbits can graze but sheep cannot (top photo) now looks quite different to the one where sheep and rabbits can graze (middle photo). Almost all of the biomass has been removed (as in the sheep and rabbit grazed plot and quite unlike the rank, totally ungrazed plot - bottom photo). However, there are many many more flower heads of Devil's-bit Scabious showing how the sheep favour the flower heads while the rabbits ignore them. In mid summer, these plots looked almost identical.
Finally, we went on to Bible Bottom at Southerham where the chalk-grassland is looking fantastic. With many plants still in full bloom and dozens of Adonis Blues (the commonest butterfly there today), it felt like mid summer still. The highlight here was the discovery of some White Horehound in a big rabbit warren. I am pretty sure this is a new location for this plant.

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