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2006 fruitful season

Updated Friday, 22nd December 2006

Mike Dodd reflects on a bumper fruit crop and a scheme to track a dragonfly by mobile phone.

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The weather during 2006 proved ideal for a wide range of fruit, cherry trees were weighed down early in the summer then later apple trees were breaking their branches the fruit was so heavy. Finally the recent gales brought down the last of the apples providing a feast for magpies, but perhaps surprisingly, not yet for flocks of invading redwings or other thrushes. Some migrant thrushes have already arrived in Britain and they normally love new towns such as Milton Keynes with their millions of planted berry trees such as hawthorn and rowan. But this year hawthorns were one of the few species that missed out on a bumper crop, a few hawthorns are very heavily laden but there are also adjacent stretches of hedgerowwith virtually no berries. I’ve not noticed this extreme variability in yield of a single species before, although I have seen hawthorns re-flowering in autumn in recent years so perhaps they are just getting very confused with our changing weather.

Jams, Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Mike Dodd
Jams.
 

from hedgerow fruits and excess fresh produce from gardens or allotment. Cherry – 5 different varieties all with their own distinctive flavour, blackcurrant (from a friend’s garden), blackberry, apple and rowan, rowan, marrow and pumpkin (from our allotment), rosehip, damson…infact I have forgotten the full list as we have already finished some types, they are so nice on a bit of home made fresh bread.

Making jam is a way of storing food for the lean times and helping us humans to survive, but what about the tiny insects, how do they get through the harsh period of the year when there is little food about and being cold blooded they often can’t even move. There are a range of different strategies, some lay overwintering eggs, others such as dragonflies survive as underwater larvae but some such as many of the true bugs (Heteroptera) overwinter as adults often clustered together away from the wind and rain.ing about the year ahead, 2007, any ideas of items that will be the big nature news stories in UK? The harlequin ladybirds, horse chestnut leaf miner and few other invasive species are still rapidly spreading, perhaps the abundance of butterflies in 2006 will continue if we get another warm summer. Or will flooding come back to be a main story with all the drought forgotten and planners getting berated for letting people build in floodplains, or for allowing building near inflammable habitats such as heathland or conifer woodland. But I favour a news story of the first dragonfly to phone home, I’ve always wanted to stick a tiny transmitter on one of the migrant species and track it on its journey across Europe to UK and now I’m sure its only a matter of time before someone does it. The people in the office have heard me going on about this for 10 years and some dragonflies with tiny radio tags have been tracked from planes but as far as I know never using the mobile phone network or satellites.

 

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