Ranger Dan's Wildlife Diary
As I sit here in the wood writing this diary I can't help wondering where the year has gone as it seems only like last week that there was a thick blanket of snow covering the hills overlooking Macclesfield. Strangely the seasons seem to be merging into one big mish mash of weather fronts with no real beginning or end.
Spring was a couple of days of sunny weather followed once again by frost and snow and I can honestly say that this is the first year that I could not tell when the summer started. I just hope that we don't have the rain during the summer months as last year, I know farmers suffered, crops were planted late, the plants grew slowly through lack of sun and by autumn the ground was so wet, tractors couldn't harvest crops so unfortunately they rotted in the ground and lack of a good harvest can mean we pay more at the till for our shopping.
Last week I took a walk down the River Bollin and whilst watching brown trout darting and breaking the surface, a "hatch" began. What's a hatch I hear you ask? A hatch is when aquatic insects transform from the larval (baby) stage into nymphs and adult flying insects. The insects that I watched were the Caddis fly which live amongst the stones on the river bed for two years before wriggling to the surface to hatch out as adults. What is amazing about these insects is how they live so long on the river bed without being eaten. They protect themselves by gluing stones, twigs and bark and creating a tube around their soft bodies, blending perfectly into their environment. To reach adulthood they have to leave their protective shell, wriggle to the surface, break out their wings and harden them in the sunshine. During this race for survival many are gulped down by greedy trout. Indeed trout anglers tie artificial flies to hooks using deer hair, fur and feathers which imitate the nymph (wet flies) and adult (dry/surface flies) to catch trout during the hatch. Most river aquatic insects like Mayflies and Caddis flies only live for 24 hours once they become adults as they die after laying eggs.
Another beautiful sight on the river Bollin is the Kingfisher. On one of the bends is an undercut bank where the Kingfishers have a nest. I can see them darting in and out of the hole in the bank before zipping under the bridge below my feet. I know there are chicks in the nest as the birds are constantly bringing little fish back to the nest to keep up with the chicks' ever growing appetite. One really smelly fact about the Kingfisher is that they line their nest with poo! Trust me it smells of disgusting rotting fish, but it stops predators like mink and otters digging out the nest and eating the chicks.
Moving away from rivers and something which is connected to wet summers is the decline of bees. Colonies suffered badly last year with hives being flooded and the lack of flowers, so this year I want to ask you all to do your bit to help the bees. All you need to do is plant some flowers in your garden which the bees really love to collect nectar from. Foxgloves, Fuchsias, Roses and Cornflowers are all great for bees. The easy way to make a bee garden is to buy a few packets of wild flower seeds, mix them all together and sow them onto freshly dug and raked soil, it's really easy and the kids will love to help.
Enjoy your summer
Ranger Dan runs various events in the woods and can provide a range of birthday party activities as well as demonstrations at events or in school on a wide range of subject involving wildlife and the great outdoors.
For more information call 07765 890385 or go to www.rangerdan.co.uk