. . . is the Swallow.
Bird of the week simply because come September and October these birds will start their migration.
For now though, they're still to be seen and enjoyed at Dove Stone . . .
The answer is slime mould.
You might think that slime moulds, also known as members of the group Mycetozoa, are fungi. In fact, they did use to be classified as such but it is now recognised that fungi and slime mould are unrelated.
Autumn is a good time to see slime mould. And, of course, you can see them at Dove Stone. One of the really interesting things about slime moulds is, in the life cycle stage known as plasmodium, they move ! During this stage slime moulds are feeding on bacteria, spores and other organic matter.
Four of the most common slime moulds are Fuligo septica ( known attractively as Dog's vomit slime mould ), Enteridium lycoperdon and Lycogala terrestre ( feeding mostly on dead and rotting wood ), and Mucilago crustacean ( feeding on grasses ).
At some point in relation to the availability of food slime moulds leave the plasmodium stage of their life cycle and, resembling the appearance of fungi, go on to release spores to reproduce, at which point the life cycle starts over. Fascinating stuff. Many thanks to Ken for suppying us with some fantastic photos of slim moulds.
For those interested here is a link to a really quite amazing film of slime moulds made by John Bonner:
As you may have heard Peregrines have been in the news recently.
Last week Jeffrey Lendrum pleaded guilty of attempting to take fourteen Peregrine eggs out of the UK and of stealing these eggs from four nest sites in Wales. The Peregrine eggs destination was thought to be Dubai, where falconry is a national sport.
Lendrum received a two and a half year jail sentence.
Luckily for these Peregrines, eleven of the fourteen eggs were incubated and seven chicks were introduced to existing Peregrine nest sites in Scotland, with the remaining four being re-introduced to the wild by falconers using alternative methods. All the birds have now fledged successfully.
In recent years the Peregrine population has made a recovery, with the last UK survey showing a population of fourteen hundred breeding pairs. Despite this, the Peregrine is still clearly a persecuted species.
If you’d like to learn more about this story have a read of one of the RSPB’s wildlife crimes senior investigator’s blog: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/blogs/investigations/archive/2010/08/20/falcon-smuggler-caged.aspx
If you've been down to see us at the Peregrine Watch at Ashway Gap or stopped off at our information point at the main Dove Stone car park then we might have asked you if you'd like to sign the RSPB's Letter to the Future campaign. A big thank you to everyone so far who has given their time to talk with us about the campaign and who have lent their support through signing the campaign letter. So far the RSPB has collected over 270562 signatures.
Come October there will be a government spending review. Expected cuts are between 25% and 40%. Defra's budget is proportionally a very small percentage of overall government spending; I think the figure is 0.5%. Budget cuts between 25% and 40% will have an impact on our countryside and wildlife. Will, for example, schemes that support landowners to manage land in a way that is sensitive to the environment and wildlife be protected ? Surely somethings are just too important to take a short-termist approach without recognition of the huge costs in the future.
If expected cuts to schemes such as the Higher Level agri-environment Scheme go ahead then it's likely that Bittern, Black grouse and Black-tailed godwit numbers will decline to dangerously low levels. For the Twite there is possible extinction within England within a decade. Ten years. And it's not just the Twite. Cirl bunting and Turtle dove could also be lost from our countryside this decade. The wildlife we see now really might not be here to be seen for future generations.
With recent news of proposals to potentially sell English National Nature Reserves ( of which there are 224 in England, two thirds of which are owned or managed by the government agency Natural England, which itself has put forward cuts of 400 staff next year and up to a potential 400 after that ) campaigns such as Letter to the Future need as many signatures as possible.
The RSPB will be stepping up the action through a campaign that targets the Prime Minister, MPs George Osborne, Caroline Spelman and Oliver Letwin as well as the Star Chamber ( including online action through which you can email the Star Chamber ) and the Treasury. If you're interested in finding out a bit more about these individual MPs then have a look at this really useful site http://www.theyworkforyou.com/.
For more information from the RSPB then have a look at www.rspb.org.uk/spendingcuts. Mark Avery's ( the Conservation Director of the RSPB ) blog can be found at http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/blogs/markavery/default.aspx.
Other useful links are to the Wildlife and Countryside Link http://www.wcl.org.uk/ which is a collective of environmental organisations, including the RSPB.
Finally the Guardian's environment pages are always informative: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment.
Let's see if this coalition government is, as they claim, '' the greenest ever '' . . .
This afternoon has given us good views of one of the young Peregrines perching on a ledge on Dove Stone rocks, as well as some good aerial displays of two Peregrines together. One of these birds clearly had food in its talons and there was some calling going on between these two.
The young Peregrines will be about three months old now. On Sunday early evening I saw one of the young birds fly onto a ledge on Dove Stone rocks with a kill and although I couldn't see for sure what this particular prey was I did get a good look at the wing and would hazard a guess that this bird was feeding on a gull, perhaps a Black Headed Gull ? The pigeon, of course, is the number one prey for the Peregrine.
In fact, Sunday was a good afternoon for Peregrine watching with the birds pulling quite a crowd at Ashway Gap ( with the help of the warm weather of course ! ). We had great views all afternoon of two of the young birds on the crag as well as views of three Peregrines flying earlier in the day. In short, the good news is that the Peregrines are very much still with us at Dove Stone ! At some point in the near future of course these young birds will no longer be seen at Dove Stone as they will head off to find their own terrritories, but until that happens lets enjoy watching them whilst we can.
Peregrines aren't all that Dove Stone has to offer though. Elsewhere around Dove Stone there have been recent sightings this week of Kestrel, Linnet, large groups of Goldfinches ( the collective noun of which is, I have learnt lately, a charm of Goldfinches ), Buzzard, Treecreeper, Swallow, Cormorant, Grey Wagtail, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper to name a few.
Don't forget our next Wildlife Disovery Walk coming up on Sunday 22nd August, meeting at the main carpark at 10.30. If you fancy leaving the car behind then here's a bit of a plug for the Saddleworth Hopper which you can pick up at various points between Uppermill, Greenfield ( including the train station ) and Dove Stone. It runs a view times an hour and the hopper will drop you off in the main car park. It's a useful service that's included in the price of your train ticket. If you haven't come by train and feel like leaving the car and having a walk to Dove Stone the cost is just £1. It's quite a pretty walk from the Clarence along the brook by Tanners Mill which again takes you right into Dove Stone. If you're lucky you might get to see a Kingfisher along the way. Why not give it a go; it's got to beat driving, surely . . .?!