Friday, 29 April 2016

Catching it while I can

One of the downsides of watching (or checking) an area over a number of years is that you sometimes observe a slow (and at times sudden) demise of a species. My visit to Epsom Downs this morning (un)helpfully illustrated this.

I have known a spot at the base of Juniper Hill where Early Purple Orchids grow - not many spikes, but reliably flowering each April. A half-hearted attempt last year failed to find any, and today's more thorough visit had the same outcome. In fact, where I was hoping to find the orchids I was confronted by a mound of dumped soil.  Now gone?

Another place I checked was an area of compacted, stony ground, at the northern end of the downs. This is where I can expect to find Rue-leaved Saxifrage (below). Year on year there are fewer plants. Today there were fewer still. How much longer will this species keep a toe-hold here?


4 comments:

  1. Not a plant I'm familiar with, Steve. Will keep an eye out for it now though (those succulent-like leaves are pretty distinctive).
    I guess unless you’re in a position to initiate some kind of conservation measure, the best you can do is make the most of these small, vulnerable populations whilst they’re around. Sad and maddening, I know…

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    1. It's very small Lucy. Hands and knees job I'm afraid.

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  2. Steve, I've just finished reading Dave Goulson's "A Buzz in the Meadow" which is another fantastic book (after "A Sting in the Tail") which I'm sure you've read. He discusses the work done on population size and islands. Species are coming and going all the time, but smaller islands and more remote islands have fewer species.

    Our land is becoming a series of small remote islands amongst a sterile and poisonous farming landscape, so unfortunately there is going to be more of this kind of disappearance i think.

    Cannot recommend both books highly enough.

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    1. Hi DD. I have read both of those Goulson books, both of which I enjoyed very much indeed. This 'island' effect is very worrying - you can see it everywhere you look. In some places there are efforts being carried out to link up existing hot spots, such as Filsham - Icklesham - Rye - Walland - Dungeness. Bloody sad all the same...

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