Specialized Habitats And Microenvironments

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophrys_apifera

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

Hampered by sciatica for - god help us - eleven weeks, I finally was able today to cycle out to my favorite swamp. The OP has one swamp photo, taken in the managed wetlands of Wakehurst Place. Todays swamp is a much more mature environment. It appears to exist thanks to the creation of Furnace Pond, which it abuts downstream. For some reason I had always assumed that the swamp was a reserve and was managed, but in writing this post I can find no evidence that it is. Interesting. I found this link (warning - spoilered as it downloads a PDF) which gives the location, some background and some aerial views: file:///C:/Users/John/Downloads/TNW012055351-en-brochure-1.pdf

I, on the other hand, was taking photos from ground level:

Google Photos

Google Photos

Google Photos

You really don’t get much of this sort of habitat in the south east of England. Just as I arrived and rolled to a halt a huge buzzard, annoyed at my presence, took off from a branch three or four meters away and flew out of sight - but not so far away that I couldn’t hear him shouting abuse at me.

There’s all the waterfowl you would expect here, and bird calls from everywhere - I get very annoyed that I can’t recognize the species from the calling. I even saw - on 2nd Nov! - a dragonfly doing its stuff.

Fun fact - the border between Kent and East Sussex runs through the swamp - the watercourse defines the border.

j

I just found this thread, hence commenting a couple months after the last time someone posted. Wanted to encourage you to keep us updated on the prairie re-creation.

There are two things that might be the reason (or I could be wrong - it happens)

  1. The took the cuttings away to avoid undesirable local weed seeds from getting a foothold.

  2. Too much stuff to leave on top due to either being a fire hazard or possibly smothering the growing plants.

Other than that… I dunno. Like I mentioned in the other thread, around here we don’t mow the prairie, we burn it every couple of years.

Thanks for the encouragement!

I had been thinking this last week that I need to post something in this thread from time to time - basically because I was planning to reactivate it in the spring; and we now know that if a thread gets bumped after six or more months lying fallow, everyone who posted in it gets pestered by Discourse, and I wanted to avoid that. As it turns out, you’ve saved me the trouble ( :wink:).

I had already taken a snap for posting a few says ago. Wakehurst, but not the prairie - the Loder Valley wetland which appears in the second photo in post #1. The swamp vegetation has died back over winter. Not the most interesting photo, but it was only ever meant as a placeholder.

Google Photos

We’ll get back to the prairie as shoots appear in the spring. In the meantime, if anyone has a habitat, this is your place - post it here!

j

Hmmm… wonder if I can remember to take and occasional picture of our Hoosier Prairie?