Specialized Habitats And Microenvironments

I think these are the same, or related to the lizards we see here. Central Switzerland tends to be a bit cooler than sunny Italy, but theree are plenty of these lizards hiding along the paved paths and rocky areas. We saw a slow worm in our own garden last week, which we had never seen before, and we’ve been here 20 years.

Not my own pictures, but Vitznau in central Switzerland has a microclimate, which means it has palm trees and other plants which prefer a warmer climate. Link

What? This time of year is great for fynbos. The pincushions are blooming and plenty of flowers.

Granted, it is harder to motivate climbing the mountain in rainy weather but it is really beautiful.

As for microclimates, to address the OP. The Cape Floristic Region is one of the most diverse regions in the world. You can hardly go anywhere on Table Mountain (and the various nearby nature reserves) that is NOT a specialised microclimate suited to one or other of the 9 000 or some endemic species.

The afore-mentioned pincushions ( Leucospermum cordifolium) are a great example. I saw one or two on my last hike, but I know of a small forest of them on a different part of the mountain.

Not so much here at the moment. I’m fairly far south in the Southern Peninsula.

But you’re right that I don’t feel motivated to go walking up steep and muddy mountain paths in the cold and wind right now! :slightly_smiling_face:

Around here are “goat prairies” steep areas where the low moisture content of the slopes, the winter freeze-thaw cycle, and the thin layer of soil help to keep goat prairies free of trees.

Brian

I remember going to the Desert of Maine as a kid.

Wow, that’s a complex network of habitats. I’m envious.

Following up on @N9IWP’s and @Paintcharge’s posts, turns out each of those habitats has a wiki page.

j

My mom maintains a little patch of milkweed, about 6’ wide by maybe 30’ long, for the benefit of monarch butterflies. It’s on city-owned land, and I don’t think she ever formally asked permission, but she’s managed to get the city grounds maintenance folks to not mow it under.

Among her many other acts of guerilla gardening.

A decade or more ago I fought my way (by phone, you understand) through layers of local government bureaucracy to find The Guy who could reschedule the mowing of road verges to protect a tiny microenvironment I had found - bee orchids growing many miles from the nearest obvious chalk. None came up this year, but that happens - and as I keep saying, the weather round here this year has been weird.

j

I just found a couple of 2015 photos of my bee orchid microenvironment. As ever with Google Photo links, you need to click on the photo to see the full image. Even then, they’re not very good photos. But Damn! I found these flowers, and I love 'em.

Google Photos

Google Photos

j

I’ll add the Mink River Estuary:
https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Lands/naturalareas/index.asp?SNA=218

Confession: my description of a goat prairie came directly from the wikipedia entry.

Brian

There are an awful lot of shingle beaches not far from us; and having posted about the vegetated shingle of Shoreham, that sort of habitat had been on my mind. Surely there must be other examples out there? So I had been doing a bit of google earthing but finding nothing - apart from at Worthing. We were there yesterday.

Google Photos

Google Photos

So the habitat is there - just not as rich or extensive as Shoreham. However, what Worthing is more notable for, in terms of habitat, is something I have never seen; nor am I likely to see it. It is, however, very interesting. MCZ = Marine Conservation Zone.

j

Wakehurst American Prairie Update. It’s got a lot more colorful:

Google Photos

I keep hanging around, hoping to accost a gardener in that area, in order to ask if there will regular burning. No luck so far.

j

A pleasing reed bed on the shores of the lake in Petworth Park, Sussex.

Google Photos

And here’s a surprise - today I learned of the existence of this place:

A second prairie in Sussex - lordy. I will try to visit and report back

j

Prairie update: we got out to the Sussex Prairie Garden and… it’s a garden. I suppose it’s an homage to prairie, but that’s as far as it goes. A nice enough place, but not what I was hoping for.

Google Photos

One thing I will say though - they have created a fabulous environment for butterflies, and especially for bees. Just the sheer number of bees was wonderful, and it was fascinating to be able to see how different bees specialized in exploiting different flowers.

Via google photos - click for the full photo.

Google Photos

Google Photos

Returning to the subject of actual faux-prairies, we were at Wakehurst yesterday and discovered that they will be cutting (rather than burning) the prairie. This information came from someone in the ticket office (“See it while you can!”) so I didn’t get any more detailed information. Cutting was scheduled for today or tomorrow. Here’s a last look (for this year):

Google Photos

j

There are flowers on my farm that are pretty micro-climate.

Nashville breadroot grows in only a few counties in the American Southeast. “found only in limestone cedar glades in two northwest Georgia counties, four counties in Alabama, and in several counties in middle Tennessee. It is considered rare in both Alabama and Georgia.”

Cedar Gladecress, found in wet cedar and limestone glades. Only found in a handful of Tennessee counties. And the creek bed on my farm.

StG

The Baie de Mont Saint Michel is a strange place. As I noted elsewhere, for $20 or thereabouts you can get yourself hauled at low tide right out into the bay to inspect the habitat more closely. I have to say, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

You would have thought that what is, broadly speaking, a vast mudflat (well, sandy mudflat), would be stiff with wading birds. Not so - we saw a few oyster catchers, an egret and a heron. Most of the birds we saw were uninteresting gulls, hanging around there because of the other species that exploits that environment, humans.

[Photos cropped to remove close-ups of faces and, in one instance, for reasons of artistic pretension]

Google Photos

In the part of the bay where we were taken, there is a great deal of mussel farming. You would have thought that seabirds would be sitting atop the farmed mussels, scoffing away. Not so, but there are two species of crab which will eat them and are a problem. OK, so I was expecting mussel farms. I wasn’t expecting fish traps.

Google Photos

You need to click on the photo to get a better idea of how this works. There are continuous wooden hurdles on either side of a bottle trap, extending for perhaps 50 meters each side. The retreating tide gathers fish into the trap - which is pretty indiscriminate as to the size of fish caught. A hundred years ago you would have said, fine, hungry families need fish, and this is a matter of subsistence fishing. We watched our guide (and trap owner) pick out four dorade and then throw several kilos of undersized fish into the shallows, where gulls fought over them. Jesus.

There used to be 20 of these traps in the bay, now there are eight. The government rule is that a trap can be inherited but ownership may not be otherwise transferred so, given the hard work of maintenance required, they are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Personal view - it can’t happen too soon.

One of the oddities caused by the extreme flatness of this part of the bay - the tide retreats for miles - is that you can have very shallow water at high tide (I got the impression that there is very little tidal reach or variation.) Hence, odd little islands of samphire surprisingly far from “shore”.

Google Photos

Lastly, wading birds (slight return). This adds nothing material to the post (and I posted it in the Today In Nature thread as well). But damn, I like it so I’m going to post it again.

Google Photos

j

As usual, very nice to read, thank you!
If you are into that kind of food, you are at the right place to try the local lamb, the mouton de pré salé

Keep enjoying!

Thanks for the feedback!

…at a price.

j

Yes, it is not the kind of food to eat often. It is luxury, but also part of the local history and culture, so I said: “what the hell!” and tucked in. Once. I liked it.

English Prairie Maintenance 101

Kinda. We were at Wakehurst today for the first time since the prairie was cut. This is what it looks like now - for no very good reason I had assumed that the cuttings would be left in situ, but evidently not, looks like they were taken away.

Google Photos

Google Photos

Elsewhere on the estate, more habitat maintenance is underway. It’s a thing to bear in mind that many habitats require maintenance - the wetland area would be overgrown with scrub if theft to itself. There has been some scrub clearance carried out.

Google Photos

Perhaps management is more accurate than clearance. What strikes me is that the scrub appears to have been originally planted in straight rows - so perhaps this is an exercise in keeping it under control at a certain level rather than removing it.

j