Two-tailed lizard

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Two tailed lizard

This was a surprising find under one of our reptile sampling squares – this lizard has two tails.

This is a female lizard (females more stripey, males more spotty) and at some point her longer tail has been lost and has regrown. If a predator catches a lizard by its tail, there are weak points between the vertebrae in its backbone enabling it to contract muscles and shed the tail.

The tail twitches for a while after it is shed to hopefully entice the predator away from the main bit of the remaining lizard. Within a month, the tail regrows although the regrown tail rarely matches the rest of the body in colour – in this instance it has regrown black. Also, the regrown tail now has cartilage in it rather than bone and that bit cannot be reshed, although the tail higher up that still has bone can be lost again.

So the female in this picture was probably born with a long tail and a stumpy extra tail and this apparently is not uncommon (I sent this photo to the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group for their interest – and, actually, they weren’t particularly interested!) They can also sometimes have an additional limb or, very rarely, a second head.

I looked on the internet to see what a lizard with two heads might look like and I did find this one:

two headed lizard

Not viviparous lizards but I’m sure thats the general idea. Should we ever find such a lizard here I will for sure let you know.

Out on Bale

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The farmer has come back with his son:

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A tractor dance

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Spitting out a bale

One tractor rowed up all the grasses that had been cut a week ago and the second tractor came along the row and sucked it all into the baler. Within half an hour both meadows had been completed and 47 bales stood where once there were 6 acres of flowers and waving grasses.

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This is the first time we have reached such a high pinnacle of achievement by actually getting both meadows cut and at more or less the proper time. It will be interesting to see what happens to the meadows during the next couple of months when things are still growing. Correct meadow management would require that anything that subsequently grows (the ‘aftermath’) should be grazed off by animals.

And it will also be interesting to see if this achievement now means that there is a consequent improvement next year in the quality of what we have here.

Old Man’s Beard

I’ve always hated Old Man’s Beard. It seemed to be far too vigorous, sprawling itself uninvited over large sections of hedgerow such that things underneath are smothered. And its not as if its particularly beautiful.

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Old Man’s Beard growing over a large section of the hedgerow.

However, I just have to think again when I see it teeming with life here.

The meadows have been cut and all the flowers and their nectar cataclysmically made to disappear in a sweep of a tractor’s blades. The bees and butterflies are now concentrated onto what is left – and there is so much visiting this plant:

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Meadow Brown female
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Meadow Brown male
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Gatekeeper
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Red Admiral

Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies are specialist on Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba). Also, many moths use the plant for their caterpillar stage and in fact there are two moths for which Old Man’s Beard is the only food source for the caterpillar, the Small Emerald and the Small Waved Umber – I regularly catch both these moths in my moth trap and now I know why because we have got lots of this plant in our hedgerows.

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Small Waved Umber
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Small Emerald moth

A lover of chalky soils, at this time of year the plant has white spiky flowers:

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The flowers of old Man’s Beard

But in the autumn and early winter these turn into very hairy seed pods, earning the plant its common name:

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Its not just the butterflies and the moths that love this plant, it is covered in honey bees and bumble bees as well:

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Honey Bee
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Buff Tailed Bumble Bee

And, standing watching the plant as I was, I noticed other things just sheltering on the plant:

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Common Carpet Moth
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Grasshopper

So as is the case with many prejudices, my hatred of Old Man’s Beard was founded on a lack of knowledge of what it is about – this plant is not the unattractive bully I thought it was. Or, actually, if it is, then it has also got good sides that I hadn’t considered and more than earn it its place in this calcareous ecosystem.

 

 

Making Hay and the Sun is Shining

The relief is immense – both meadows have been cut:

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Eleventh hour final checking for Ragwort before the farmer arrives. This lovely corner of Lesser Knapweed was not cut in order to leave something for the birds and insects.
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Tractor cutting the meadows
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The cutting blades
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The next day dawns after cutting
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Foxes, magpies, crows and seagulls check to see whats been left exposed by all this activity. This fox lost half his tail to mange but now seems fully recovered.

 

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Two days later the farmer is back in a different tractor to turn the hay.
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Turning the hay.

If it stays fine, the farmer will be back in a couple of days to row it all up and then to bale it and will take the bales back to his farm near Sandwich. Each time he visits he has to trail through the centre of Deal with all this stuff but he remains very positive and upbeat about it all.

Not only has this meant that the meadows have now been harvested of their bounty which was, for them, the most important thing to get achieved this year, but also we have had a chance to spend some time talking to a man who has been farming the land round here all of his life, which is now nearly 80 years, as his father was before him.

Looking forward now to seeing what happens next after the bales have all gone but there is still months of growing time left in the year.