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Mollyblobs

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Monday 5 March 2012: The circle of life...

The day started well, with a brisk spring walk round Ring Haw under a brilliant blue sky, though it was chilly and very windy. I found a perfectly formed sea urchin fossil in the woodland which we were able to identify as Clypeus ploti. This species gives its name to the Clypeus Grit, a type of limestone that formed around 170 million years ago in Middle Jurassic times when the area was occupied by warm shallow seas.

Clypeus is a type of irregular echinoid. Irregular echinoids have a strong bilateral symmetry, unlike the regular echinoids that are round and have a radial symmetry. Irregular echinoids live in burrows in the sediment on the seafloor, and burrow and eat their way through the sediment to get nutrients. Clypeus had spines, but their spines would have been more like hair. Because irregular echinoids stay in the sediment, they didn't need the spiky and sometimes poisonous spines that the sea urchins we can see on the seafloor today have for protection.Clypeus fossils were often called 'pound-stones' because in the past they could be used as a measure of weight because of their very regular size and mass.

Although the walk was interesting I didn't take any photographs, so when I got home I scoured the garden for something of interest. I was surprised to find this solitary white crocus, with delicate purple feathering, growing in the lawn. It's clearly a different species from the usual Crocus tommasinianus, but we didn't plant it and I have no idea how it arrived in the garden. I tried to identify it, and the closest seemed to be Crocus versicolor 'Picturatus', but I'd be interested to know whether any viewers can name it for me.

Just before lunch I went to visit a recently bereaved friend, and when I returned I heard the chickens squawking in alarm. I rushed out into the garden just in time to see a large dog fox with the little speckled hen in its mouth. I chased him and he dropped her. He was so bold, and stood at the bottom of the garden for a moment or two before running off. I almost wonder if he was the one I photographed in the snow.

The speckled hen was bruised and very scared, but didn't seem to have sustained any serious damage, though the trauma could have longer term effects. Unfortunately I was too late to save our beautiful brown silkie cross, whose demise was marked by a pile of feathers at the end of the garden. It seems that the hens' days of roaming freely have gone, and I shall need to decide what to do next. I really hate keeping them confined in their relatively small run, so if I want to continue to keep them we shall probably have to build a sizeable fox-proof cage, a quite serious undertaking....

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