The rough weather battering the coast in January will bring in lots of flotsam and jetsom on to the beaches. This will be a mix of different seaweeds, natural debris and man made rubbish and is known as the strandline. It provides an ideal habitat for many invertebrates such as sand hoppers and seaweed flies which provide a valuable source of food for birds and mammals. Search through the strandline and you will find all manner of interesting objects like marine animal egg cases, such as mermaids purses (which are from sharks and rays) and cuttle fish bones.
To find out more about strandline surveys click through to the WellyZone
If you look closely at some of the strandline debris it may have marine sealife attached. Goose Barnacles are one of the more unusual looking creatures found. These have a stalk which attaches them to the debris and a ‘head’ or capitulum which is enclosed by 5 white or blue shell plates. They are usually up to 15cm in length but can reach up to 80cm. They get their name from the belief that they were a juvenile form of geese. They feed in the same way as other barnacles by waving feathery legs from the head to filter food from the sea water. They are often found attached to pieces of wood.
The best places to explore strandlines are Kimmeridge, Chesil Cove, Ringstead and even some of the tourist beaches as the strandlines are not cleared away at this time of the year.
In the Towns and Countryside
Watch out for starlings in large and small flocks called "murmurations" in January (especially if the weather gets colder). They come into roost in trees at dusk in towns and villages, and in reed beds by the sea and next to rivers.
This video was taken last January in Poole, so you never know a flock may appear in a town or village near you!
This bird was once a common sight in gardens, but sadly its numbers have fallen over the last few years. However, you might still catch its song when you are out walking.
These birds nest early and start singing by the end of January to establish their territories and attract mates. This wonderful video gives you an idea of what to listen out for!
If the weather stays mild you may see Snowdrop flowers by mid January (or earlier!) poking their heads above the ground.
This introduced, but much loved plant is usually seen flowering next to streams, in woods, along the edges of fields... and in gardens.
Badgers are still busy feeding at night during this mild weather, they don't hibernate, but if the weather gets very cold (and it becomes difficult for them to find food) they can last for several days on their fat reserves (built up in the Autumn) and stay underground.
Female badgers can also start giving birth in January, so it's a busy time for these mammals underground in their grass and bracken lined setts.
Watch out for their black and white outline in towns at dusk, or if you go for a walk in the countryside. The tap, tap, tap of their claws on tarmac is unmistakable!
Strandline at Ringstead by Julie Hatcher
Goose barnacles by Martin Raper
Starling "murmuration" above Poole, Jan 2011,
video courtesy of the Bournemouth Echo
Song thrush singing,
video courtesy of Austin Animal Magic