Monday, 30 September 2013

Week 30: Hummingbird Hawk-moth (‘Macroglossum stellatarum’)

The hummingbird hawk-moth was @SpeciesofUK from 28th July to 3rd August, 2013.

There are over 2,400 species of moth in the UK.[1] The hummingbird hawk-moth is one of the most unusual-looking.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © wnd.andreas]

The hummingbird hawk-moth is a member of the Sphingidae family, alongside 1,450 other hawk moths, hornworms and sphinx moths worldwide. Most Sphingidae are found in the tropics, but seventeen are seen regularly in the UK.[2] 

Monday, 23 September 2013

Week 29: Water Boatmen (‘Corixa’ and ‘Notonecta’)

Water boatmen were @SpeciesofUK from 14th to 24th July, 2013.

Water boatmen are aquatic bugs that live in ponds and slow-flowing streams.[1]

Greater Water Boatman
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © JRxpo]

In the UK, water boatmen are grouped into ‘lesser’ water boatmen (Corixidae and Pleidae species) and ‘greater’ water boatmen (Notonectidae). The simplest difference between the two is that lesser water boatmen swim on their front and greater on their back.[2]

Monday, 9 September 2013

Week 28: Primrose (‘Primula vulgaris’)

The primrose was @SpeciesofUK from 7th to 13th July, 2013.

The familiar wild, pale yellow primrose is one of the early signs of spring. Its appearance coincides with the first daffodils. They appear together in damp grass or light woodland.[1]

Primrose Flowers
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © wwarby]

The name "primrose" is derived from "prima rosa" (first flower) because it blooms so early[2]

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Week 27: Starling (‘Sturnus vulgaris’)

The starling was @SpeciesofUK from 30th June to 6th July, 2013.

The UK's starling, Sturnus vulgaris, is also known as the Common Starling or European Starling.[1] It is one of 114 starling species worldwide, all members of the Sturnidae family.[2]

The Common Starling
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © David A. Hofmann]

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Week 26: European Mole (‘Talpa europaea’)

The European mole was @SpeciesofUK from 23rd to 29th June, 2013.

Moles are subterranean burrowing species of mammals. The European mole is one of nine mole species in the genus Talpa, all of which are found in Europe or western Asia.[1]

A Mole
[Source: Wikimedia Commons © Mousse]

Moles are found throughout Britain wherever there is deep enough well-drained topsoil. They aren't dependent on sunlight and so can be active day or night throughout the year.[2]

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Week 25: Dog Lichen (‘Peltigera’)

Dog Lichen was @SpeciesofUK from 2nd to 8th June, 2013.

Peltigera, the 'dog lichens,' is a genus of about 91 species of lichen. Peltigera is from 'pelta' meaning small shield, in reference to its shape.[1]

Dog Lichen
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © amadej2008]

Dog lichen can occur on moss, trees, rocks, but most often you'll see them growing directly on soil.[2] They are just one grouping within the diverse and wonderful world of lichens!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Week 24: Lapwing (‘Vanellus vanellus’)

The Lapwing was @SpeciesofUK from 26th May to 1st June, 2013.

The lapwing is from the Charadriidae family (plovers/dotterel/lapwings), which contains around 65 species. A lapwing is kind of a large plover.[1]

It is a very familiar bird, often seen in farmland across the UK.[2] In fact, the lapwing is the UK's commonest breeding wader.[3]

The Lapwing
[Source: Wikimedia Commons © Alpsdake]

Aside from in the UK, the lapwing is found across Europe, Asia and North Africa. It's quite a widespread bird.[4] Across the whole of Europe there are somewhere between 1.1 and 1.7 million breeding pairs of lapwing. Globally there are as many as five million.[5]

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Week 23: Large Blue Butterfly (‘Phengaris arion’)

The Large Blue Butterfly was @SpeciesofUK from 12th to 25th May, 2013.

The large blue is one of the UK’s 59 species of butterfly. It became extinct in the UK in 1979, but has since been successfully reintroduced.

Large Blue
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Lynkos Natura]

Our large blue is one of five species of large blue across Europe, all from the genus Phengaris in the Lycaenidae family, the second largest family of butterflies with about 40% of extant species.[1] The large blue is also one of 15-20,000 individual species of butterfly across the world![2]

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Week 22: Hogweed (‘Heracleum Sphondylium’)

Hogweed was @SpeciesofUK from 5th to 11th May, 2013.

Common hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium, is found all across Europe (except Iceland) and into Asia and North Africa.[1]

Hogweed is commonly found in UK hedgerows, meadows and woods. Indeed, it's familiar even to many who don't know its name.[2]

Hogweed, a common British plant
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Rhisiart Hincks >>> IPERNITY]

The genus name Heracleum refers to the Greek mythic hero Heracles, on account of the plant’s size. The species name sphondylium means 'vertebrae' and refers to the shape of its segmented stem.[3]

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Week 21: Great Crested Newt (‘Triturus cristatus’)

The great crested newt was @SpeciesofUK from 28th April to 4th May, 2013.

The great crested newt is the UK's largest newt and its most threatened.[1] Sadly, the population has been in decline across the last 40 years.[2]

Great Crested Newt
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Mike Richardson and Sarah Winch]

They are mainly active at night, spending the day at the bottom of ponds or hidden in vegetation.[3]

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Week 20: Wood ants ('Formica rufa' group)

Wood ants were @SpeciesofUK from 21st to 27th April, 2013.

What is a wood ant? Well, first, what is an ant? Ants (Formicidae) are social insects that form complex colonies.[1]

There are possibly more than 20,000 species of ants (they're still all being classified) in a multiplicity of subfamilies.[2] It’s thought that ants make up at least 15% of terrestrial animal biomass. They're a rampantly successful group of animals![3]

Wood ants
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Walter-Wilhelm]

Wood ants are part of the Formica ant genus, a genus that is also made up of other mound ants, thatching ants and field ants. Wood ants as a general rule live in wooded areas and create impressive thatched mounds.[4]

Friday, 24 May 2013

Week 19: Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebells were @SpeciesofUK from 14th to 20th April 2013.

Bluebells are one of the truly British wildflowers. Almost half the global bluebell population is found in the UK. Yes, half![1]

Bluebells in the UK
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Richard Parmiter]

Aside from the UK, bluebells are native to Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Portugal and Spain.[2]

Friday, 10 May 2013

Week 18: Pike (Esox Lucius)

The Pike was @SpeciesofUK from 7th to 13th April 2013.

There are seven species of pike and pickerel, which make up the genus 'Esox.' The UK’s pike, Esox lucius, ‘Northern Pike’ or just 'pike,' is the most widespread and well known of these.[1]

Northern pike, 'Esox Lucius'
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © katdaned]

Pike are found in fresh (and occasionally brackish) water throughout the northern hemisphere, across America, Europe, and Russia.[2] It is a large freshwater predator renowned for its hard-fighting qualities.[3]

Monday, 15 April 2013

Week 17: Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

The woodpigeon was @SpeciesofUK from 31st March to 6th April 2013.

The woodpigeon is a member of the Columbidae family, which contains all 310 species of doves and pigeons.

[Wikimedia Commons © Nick Fraser]

The woodpigeon appears right across the UK and according to RSPB data is our seventh most common bird.[1] In fact, it’s such a common sight now that in 2005 it even topped the BTO’s list of the UK’s most commonly seen birds.[2]

Friday, 12 April 2013

Week 16: Kelp (Laminaria)

Kelp were the @SpeciesofUK from 17th to 30th March 2013.

Kelp are an extremely important UK species. They are the backbone of our rocky, wind and wave-swept western coastline, and provide an important habitat for many other species, just as forests do on land.

Most people in the UK are familiar with kelp from finding washed up pieces on the seashore. Aside from going diving, live kelp can be most easily seen by visiting a rocky shore at low tide and spotting the fronds sticking out of the water.[1]

Kelp Fronds at Low Tide, Scotland
[Source: Wikimedia Commons © Anne Burgess]

Over the years kelp has served many uses, from providing kelp ash and iodine in times gone by, to kelp alginates in foodstuffs today.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Week 15: Grey Squirrel (Scuridae Carolinensis)

The grey squirrel was @SpeciesofUK from 10th to 16th March 2013.

Grey squirrels (or Eastern Grey Squirrels to give them their full name) are part of the family Scuridae which contains circa 285 squirrel species in total. The only other Scuridae species found in the UK is the red squirrel.

Grey Squirrel
[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © Dean Thorpe]

Grey squirrels are not UK natives. They were introduced to the UK from the USA in the late 1800s. They’ve been rampantly successful, out-competing native red squirrels and driving them into ever smaller outposts.[1]

Friday, 15 March 2013

Week 14: Springtails (Collembola)

Springtails were the @SpeciesofUK from 3rd to 9th March 2013.

Springtails are tiny animals named for their ability to jump. They aren't actually a single species. They're a large grouping, 'Subclass,' of several thousand species, of which about 250 are found in the UK.

[Source: Flickr Creative Commons © smccann]

Springtails are found all over the UK, most of the year round. They eat vegetation such as rotting leaves and bacteria, and so are often found in leaf litter and compost.[1]

Week 13: Sallow (Salix caprea and Salix cinerea)

Sallow was @SpeciesofUK from 24th February to 2nd March 2013.

Sallows are species of willow. Willows form the genus Salix. There's about 400 species of willow in total.

'Sallow' is the common name used for “Old World” (European) broad-leafed species of willow. In the UK, there are two species known as sallow, Great Sallow (Salix caprea) and Common Sallow (Salix cinerea), and these form the subject of this blogpost.

Great Sallow Catkins
[Source: juergen.mangelsdorf]

Great sallow and common sallow have various other names. Both are commonly known as ‘pussy willow.’

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Week 12: Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

The slow worm was @SpeciesofUK from 17th to 23rd February 2013.

Slow worms, despite their name, are not worms, and despite their appearance, are not snakes. They are lizards.

Slow Worm
[Source: Jonas Bergsten]

Historically all lizards had legs so the lack of them is an evolved characteristic. There are a number of families of lizards that have evolved leglessness, many independently of each other.

Week 11: Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)

The long-tailed duck was @SpeciesofUK from 10th to 16th February 2013.

The long-tailed duck is a sea duck. Other sea ducks found in UK waters include eiders, scoters, goldeneyes and mergansers.

Male Long-tailed Duck
[Source: Rictor Norton & David Allen]

The long-tailed duck is not resident in the UK; it's a winter visitor. It's most common in estuaries and bays in northern Scotland but is also seen as far south as Norfolk.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Week 10: Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris)

The Scots pine was @SpeciesofUK from 3rd to 9th February 2013.

The UK only has three native conifers - Juniper, Yew and Scots Pine. Of these, Scots Pine is the UK's only native pine.

Scots Pine is native to Northern Europe and Asia. It ranges from Ireland in the west to Siberia in the east and Portugal and the Caucasus in the south. In fact, the Scots Pine is the most widely distributed conifer in the world.[1]

Scots Pine, Glen Affric
[Source: Chris]

In the UK, the Scots Pine’s natural range is restricted to Scotland. It is the dominant tree in the UK’s only truly native pine forest, the Caledonian Forest in Scotland.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Week 9: Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)

The mountain hare was @SpeciesofUK from 27th January to 2nd February 2013.

The mountain hare, ‘Lepus timidus,’ is found from eastern Siberia to Norway. There are isolated pockets elsewhere, including in Scotland in the UK, the Alps, Ireland, the Baltics, Poland and, remarkably, the island of Hokkaido in Japan.

Mountain Hare, Scotland
[Source: Andrew Easton]

The mountain hare is also known as the blue hare, tundra hare, variable hare, white hare, snow hare and alpine hare. (Just don't mix the mountain hare up with the arctic hare! That's a native of Canada/Greenland and a different species altogether.) 

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Week 8: Sardine (Sardina pilchardus)

The sardine was @SpeciesofUK from 20th to 26th January, 2013.

Sardines are named after the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean, where they traditionally occurred in large numbers.

The sardine species Sardina pilchardus, which is found around the UK, is distributed across the NE Atlantic, from Iceland in the NW to the northern coast of Africa and as far south as Senegal.1 This species has a particular concentration around the British Isles and the North Sea, making it a true UK species.2

[Source: Etrusko25]

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Week 7: Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

The snowdrop was @SpeciesofUK from 13th to 19th January 2013.

Common Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are the most widespread of the 19 species in the genus Galanthus, all of which are known as “snowdrops.”

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
[Source: Caroig]

Snowdrops occur from the Ukraine to the Pyrenees, and from Greece to Poland. They are not actually native to the UK. The snowdrop wasn’t recorded wild in the UK until the 1770s.1

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Week 6: Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

The Robin was @SpeciesofUK from 6th to 12th January 2013.

Robins are the UK's third most common bird, coming behind the wren and the chaffinch and ahead of the blackbird and house sparrow.1

It is many people's favourite bird, and immediately recognisable even to people with little interest in wildlife.

The Robin
[Source: Ramin Nakisa]

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Week 5: Native Oyster (Ostrea edulis)

The Native Oyster was @SpeciesofUK from 30th December 2012 to 5th January 2013.

There are hundreds of species of oyster in the world. They are split into two main families – true oysters (which include edible oysters) and pearl oysters. There are also a few other smaller families.

The Native oyster is a species of true oyster.

Oysters are a type of bivalve mollusc. They're a mollusc because they have a mantle (or shell), and they are bivalve because the shell comes in two halves or 'valves.'