Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Day 60 - On the Seventh Day of Nature

On the Seventh Day of Nature my true love gave to me Seven Swans a Swimming, 6 Geese a-laying, 5 Golden Eyes, 4 Calling Birds, 3 Brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

Seven Swans a-swimming

Hey everyone. I'm really glad that day 60 happens to be the seventh day of nature and the last day of 2014 as I get to cover a fantastic bird. Had this been my usual blog post I'd have called it Serene Swans.

If you follow my blog you'll know I'm doing my own take on the 12 days of Christmas. Today I haven't had to change the song. The birds in the first two photos are from Nosterfield Nature Reserve, the last ones are on the shores of Lake Windemere, they are really friendly and love being fed.

So here's some facts:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

  • There are 3 species of swan in the UK, the Mute Swan (featured here), Bewicks Swan and Whooper Swan. There are 9 species worldwide and sadly 4 extinct species too. For more on each species see the Swans Sanctuary website.
  • Large water birds, their diet is mainly water plants, insects and snails.
  • Swans fly by having their neck extended and they use slow regular wingbeats. Typically they fly at around 20-30mph but can reach up to 60mph!
  • The UK population has recently gone up probably because this species has had better protection. It has a Green Status and there about 5,800 - 7,000 pairs in the UK.
  • They are royal birds! The Monarch has the ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open water, though The Queen only exercises her ownership around the Thames.
  • There is a traditional ceremony, the Swan Upping, dating from the 12th Century where swans are marked for the Queen. You can see a video about this on the British Monarchy website.
  • In Scotland and Ireland they were thought to represent human souls so killing them was thought to be very unlucky.

  • The mute swan has more vertebrae in its neck than any other bird - 23!
  • They are one of our biggest birds weighing around 20-42lbs for a male (cob) and 18-25lbs female (pen). They have a wingspan of up to 2.4m
  • The oldest known swan was 28 years old but they typically live for 10 years.
  • They are very intelligent and can remember who's been nice to them (or not so nice) so I hope these guys remember me :-).

There's so much to tell about these birds I could write much more, but if you want to find out more information here's some useful links

Swan Whisperer

RSPB - Mute Swans

BTO - Mute Swans

Swan Sanctuary

Well, that's the last one for 2014. I hope you all have a great night tonight - Happy New Year to you all and thanks for all the awesome support in 2014.

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Day 59 - On The Sixth Day of Nature

On the Sixth Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 6 geese a-laying, 5 golden eyes, 4 calling birds, 3 brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.
Six Canada Geese (feeding not laying though!)
Hi all today's Day 59 or the Sixth Day of Christmas. If you don't know I am doing my own take on the 12 days of Christmas called the 12 days of nature. The original verse for the sixth day of Christmas is as follows. On the Sixth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 6 geese a-laying, 5 gold rings.... etc.

My version today is 6 geese a-laying, 5 golden eyes, 4 calling birds, 3 brown chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

So I see these geese a lot and they regularly fly over my house to a nearby pond. I love their formations and their honking, but they are not always so kindly regarded. So here are a few facts:

  • They are 168cm long with a cm wingspan. They are extremely heavy birds both genders weighing on average 4.6kg!
    Canada Goose
    (Branta canadensis)
  • They have no status as they are an introduced species from North America apparently first introduced in 1665 (to St James Park) and again in the 1950's and 1960's. From this they have bred well as there are 62,000 breeding pairs in the UK.
  • Its not always been the case. in North America in the early 20th Century they were in serious decline due to over hunting and loss of habitat. They had to be protected by law and conservation programs put in place to help them recover.
  • In some areas they are considered a pest. They are noisy, a bit grumpy if you get close to them and make quite a mess in numbers. According to National Geographic just 50 of these birds can produce two and a half tons of excrement a year (wow!)
  • That seems all the more incredible when you think that their diet is just roots, grass, leaves and seeds.
  • They form aerodynamic V shaped flying formations (kind of like the red arrows), Because of this they can fly up to 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometres) in a day if the wind is right!
  • It is said that they are one of the most inedible of birds, so you wonder why they were almost hunted to extinction!
  • The oldest recorded Canada Goose was 31 years 10 months old, but a typical lifespan is 6 years (BTO) to 24 years (National Geographic)
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 29 December 2014

Day 58 - On The Fifth Day of Nature

On the Fifth Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 5 Golden Eyes, 4 Calling Birds, 3 Brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a boardwalk.

4 Common Golden eyes (Bucephala islandica) and 1 Barrow's
Golden eye and common Golden eye hybrid (2nd from the left)

Thanks to Benjamin Madison for the amazing picture.
Hi all, today's Day 58 and The Fifth Day of Nature. The verse of the song The 12 Days of Christmas for The Fifth Day of Christmas goes like this. On The Fifth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 5 gold rings, 4 Calling Birds, 3 French hens, 2 Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

My version of it goes like this. On The Fifth Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 5 Goldeneyes, 4 Calling Birds, 3 brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

The new item in the song is of course the goldeneyes. I have been looking for pictures for a while and I found another nature blog called 'Victoria Daily Photo'. Big thanks to the maker of the blog Benjamin Madison for letting me use this picture. Click here to see his blog. The birds in Benjamins photo are Barrows Goldeneyes and I saw Common Goldeneyes today at Bolton-on-Swale.

Anyway, here are the facts about golden eyes:

    Female Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
  • The most distinguishable part of the Golden eye is of course the golden eye. This is clearly visible in the photo you can see to the right of this text.
  • Golden eyes first nested in Scotland in 1970 and since then the birds have spread all over the UK.
  • Their most favoured nesting place is in specially designed bird boxes put up on trees close to water.
  • Golden eyes stay in their first nesting area (central Scotland) all year round but in the rest of the UK they only spend the Winter.
  • They are 46cm long with a 72cm wingspan. Male birds weigh 1kg and females weigh 750g, about the normal size for a wading bird.
Female Goldeneye at Bolton-on-Swale Lake
  • Golden eyes are an amber status bird because they have only 200 breeding pairs left in the UK. To qualify as an amber status bird there must only be between 1 and 900 breeding pairs. This means Golden eyes easily qualify.
  • They usually lay 8-11 eggs in a year as in one clutch they lay that many and they only have one brood a year.
  • It takes about 29-30 days incubation until they hatch and after 57-66 days, the baby birds fledge.
  • They eat insects, molluscs and crustaceans which they mainly get through diving. I saw one eating a fish and missed getting a photo of it as I was eating a mince pie at the time!
  • Goldeneyes have a great courtship ritual which includes a loud double whistle which can apparently be heard over a kilometer away.
  • The oldest known Goldeneye was 12 years old.
I hope that tells you a lot about these lovely birds but here are some links to some more information if you want to find out more:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 28 December 2014

Day 57 - On The Fourth Day of Nature

On the Fourth Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 4 Calling birds, 3 Brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

Four Calling Birds :-)

Hey everyone. It's Day 57 and my 4th day of nature. So my version goes like this today:

On the Fourth Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 4 Calling birds, 3 Brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

According to this article from BBC Earth, the calling bird in the rhyme is the much loved garden blackbird. It's not that surprising when you think about its lovely song. There's a great recording of blackbird song here on the British Library website

I did a blog post back on day 35 on Beautiful Blackbirds and I covered a lot of facts there. A new thing that I learnt from the BBC Earth article is that blackbird numbers have been in decline but then started to get better since 1986. However they aren't doing as well now it seems as the number of chicks that fledge has fallen to quite low levels but they still have a Green Status from the RSPB.

Blackbird (Turdus merula)
Here's a few more facts i didn't include before:

  • Length 24cm
  • Wingspan 36cm
  • Weight 100g
  • Newly hatched young take a week to learn to fly but fledge after 13 or 14 days, but can leave and survive sooner if they need to.
  • They learn what to eat by trial and error!
So, I hope that's plenty of information for you along with my last post but if you want to find out more try these links:

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Day 56 - The Third Day of Nature

3 Brown Chickens at our old
On the Third Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 3 Brown Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

Hi all today's Day 56 or the Third Day of Christmas. On Day 54 I explained that it was the First Day of Christmas and how I am doing my own version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I call it 'The 12 Days of Nature'. The 3rd verse of the original song goes like this. On the Third Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 3 French Hens, Two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. My version, as you can see at the top, is as follows. On the Third Day of Nature my true love gave to me, 3 Brown
Chickens, 2 Collared Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. Anyway if you haven't noticed the new line includes 3 Brown Chickens. So here are some facts about these domesticated and previously wild animals.

  • Chickens have their own complex communication that have specific meanings. That's a language to you and me. Some of their words include warnings to their friends or telling their mothers whether they're comfortable or not.
  • Chickens can remember more than 100 faces of their own species! This is just less than the amount that elephants can remember!
  • Chickens have full colour vision. Most humans have that!
  • Whenever someone calls you a chicken as an insult they are actually complimenting you. Why? Because chickens actually defend their young from predators. Next time someone calls you a chicken, you know what to say!
  • Wild chickens lay only 10 to 15 eggs a year. Chickens that are included in industry lay eggs daily.
  • Chickens are the closest living relative to the T.rex. The next time someone asks you the question 'what came first, the chicken or the egg?' you know the answer!
  • Chickens have something called 'object permanence'. This is an ability to know something is still there even though it is hidden. Even young children don't have this ability.
So there we are, you now know that chickens are. in some ways. as smart or even more smart than elephants and young children.

Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 26 December 2014

Day 55 - The Second Day of Nature

On the second Day of  Nature my true love gave to me, two Collared Doves and a Partridge on a board walk.

Hi all today's Day 55 or the Second Day of Christmas. In my last blog post I explained that yesterday was the First Day of Christmas and how I am doing my take on the 12 Days of Nature. To see this in more detail click here. Here is the actual verse for the Second Day of Christmas. On the Second Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a pear tree. I am trying to stick to the original song as much as possible so all I have done for today's verse is change Turtle to Collared. Here is today's verse of The 12 Days of Nature. On the Second Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Two Collared Doves and a partridge on a board walk. I changed this because I've never seen a Turtle Dove but I will keep a look out this year. I have done a post on Collared Doves before so see it here. I covered a great story about Collared Doves but I didn't do many facts so here is what's missing:

  • Collared doves are a pale pink-grey colour with a distinctive collar that is black in colour (as the name suggests).
  • The Collared Dove has a repetitive cooing sound that most of you may have heard. Their call sounds like they are saying Coll-ared Dove, Coll-ared Dove.
  • Although you'll probably only see them on their own or in pairs, flocks may form where there is lots of food.
  • Collared Doves are a Green Status bird because they haven't suffered any severe declines over the last few decades and also they have a healthy number of breeding pairs. This number is around 990,000.
  • The first breeding record of a Collared Dove pair was in the 1950's. This means their numbers have sky rocketed since then. From two to almost 1 million in just 65 years. I have to admit if I was one of those two doves I'd hate to think of all the grandchildren I'd have to buy presents for on Christmas.
  • Every morning since I was around seven years old when I wake up I go into my living room to the beautiful sound of a Collared Dove cooing down the chimney. I never found this annoying like many people do. I could probably sit and listen to a flock of Collared Doves for hours.
  • Their eggs hatch after fourteen days and the young fledge around seventeen days later.
  • They feed mainly on grains and small seeds but they will also eat berries in the Autumn and sometimes caterpillars and aphids in Spring.
Here are some links to more information including my original post:

BBC Nature - Collared Doves

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Day 54 - The First Day of Nature

On the first Day of Nature my true love gave to me, a Partridge on a board walk.

Hi all today's Day 54 also known as Christmas Day. There is a famous but long Christmas carol that you may of heard of called The 12 Days of Christmas. I have decided to do my take on it and do The 12 Days of Nature. The first line of this song goes 'On the first Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree'. My take goes, as you will be able to see at the top, 'on the First Day of Nature my true love gave to me, a partridge on a board walk'. The reason I chose this is because I have a beautiful picture of one that I took at an RSPB reserve called Fairburn Ings. (though i cant find it right now! Will post it when I do :-)

Anyway, I think it's about time to get on with the facts so here they are:
  • Partridges are game birds. They get hunted by people and then they eat them. I personally prefer mine flying around fields happily instead of on my plate, I hope you do too.
  •  Adding to this I found something I found an indicator to just how many people hunt and eat these birds. While I was researching them I typed in 'partridge' into Google. The top search result that came up was partridge but the second most searched thing that included the word partridge was partridge recipes. The amount of people that must have searched that for it to come up as the second most searched thing is incredible. 
  • Partridges are strictly ground birds and despite the line from the song they are never likely to be found in pear trees.
  •  Despite being a ground bird. partridges still fly and the way the fly is different to your common garden bird. They fly with 'whirring' wings with the odd glide thrown in here or there. 
  • They are a Red Status bird as they have suffered extremely severe declines. Also they only have 43,000 breeding territories across the UK.
  • They are 30cm long with a 46cm wingspan. Also both male and female birds weigh 390g.
Sorry there isn't loads of information here but seeing as today's Christmas, I didn't want to do loads.

 Anyway here are some links to more information:

RSPB - Grey Partridge

BTO - Grey Partridge

BBC Nature - Grey Partridge

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Day 53 - A Nature Ramble at Sutton Bank

View from Sutton Bank over Lake Gormire
Hi all today's Day 53 and even though it's Christmas Eve I've been out nature hunting. I went to a place in the North Yorkshire Moors called Sutton Bank. This is basically a big inland cliff, it's pretty awesome. Gliders launch from here and you can see for miles across the Vale of Mowbray and across to the Dales. On the side of the hills here is also a famous landmark which can been seen for miles around. I've seen it from York! That is the White Horse at Kilburn.

Looking towards the Dales from Sutton Bank
At the top of the bank is the start of the North York Moors National Park and they have a visitor centre there and lots of walks at the top.
Along the top of the bank is a place where they have what they called 'the finest view in England'. I have to admit, at least to me, it probably is the best in England. We took a couple of pictures of it and I thought I'd post a couple, but check out the one below from the parks website as it was a bit dull when i was there.

View from Sutton Bank across Lake Gormire (Thanks to NYMNP & Mike Kipling)
At the visitor centre are some feeders which mostly have garden birds visiting them but some of them are quite rare. There has been sightings of waxwings on their feeders which is something I have never seen. Anyway here is the list of my sightings with links to my blogs where I've covered the species:

Willow Tit:

Willow Tits have an almost identical cousin called the Marsh Tit. Click here to see a video that explains how to tell the difference between the two birds. A Willow Tit has a 'zee-zee-zee' or an equally thin 'zi-zurr-zurr-zurr call which is sometimes.

Coal Tit:

Coal Tits look a little bit similar to the Willow and Marsh Tits but they have a white stripe over the back of their head. They also have white cheeks without a yellow out-line which is another give-away.


Dunnocks used to live in the Himalayas so they have travelled a very long way to come and live with us here in the UK. Some people think these are dull and boring but they aren't as you can see from the picture. They have a lovely light-grey breast and face and brown plumage over the rest of its body.

Blue Tit:

In the Winter Blue Tit families meet up with others to search for food. This sometimes means that a garden with four or five blue tits could be feeding 20 or more birds! They are one of the commonest UK birds we have 15 million birds over winter!


It was a surprise when I was doing some research and I found out they are the second commonest bird in the UK but then again 6,200,000 breeding territories is quite a few. They are resident all over the UK.

There was also some great fungi there. I saw lots of puffballs as well as the bracket fungi here which I haven't identified yet.

Anyway here are some links to some information:

North York Moors National Park



Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Day 52 - Another Nature Ramble at Nosterfield

Hi all today's Day 52 and I went to one of my favourite nature reserves today. This reserve is Nosterfield. It is run by the Lower Ure Conservation Trust or LUCT. It's a fabulous place and has so much wildlife you can't see it all in one trip. I was sent a link to this video yesterday made by the conservation trust which shows exactly how much there is:

My last post from the reserve didn't have many photos so I thought I'd make up for it today to try and show why I like it so much. So here are some pictures and facts about some of the things I saw, some of which I will cover in more detail in future, others I covered already & I've put links to my posts:


Buzzards are now the most common of the UK birds of prey. They live in most of the UK all year round. Western Ireland doesn't have many.


Curlews are Europe's largest wading bird at 55cm long with a 90cm wingspan. Males weigh about 770g but females usually weigh 1kg! Even though they are a wading bird they are also commonly found in moorland, I often see them on the North Yorkshire Moors.

Carrion Crow:

The Carrion Crow is one of the most smart birds on the planet. Some scientists have proclaimed that they are as clever as a seven year old child. Click here to see an article by the Daily Mail. Also Carrion Crows have an enormous understanding of water displacement.

Grey Heron:

Herons are unmistakable as they are one of the biggest fishing birds as you can see from the picture to the right. They also have some vibrant colours like their grey body and yellow legs and beak.


Lapwings have many nicknames like the 'peewit' or the one I find quite interesting, the 'hornpie'. The name 'peewit' originates from the noise they make which is a (you guessed it) a 'peewit' like sound.

They are also know as the Green Plover :-)


Lichens are not actually one thing. They are a combination between a fungus and an algae. I read somewhere that this makes them a challenge for taxonomist as it's extremely hard for people to name them as they are two different things.

These are just a few things that we saw today. There will be another blog on Nosterfield in the future so you will know what else there is at this amazing reserve. If you want to know some more things about Nosterfield then have a look at these two links:

My Nature Ramble at Nosterfield - This Blog - Nosterfield

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 22 December 2014

Day 51 - Laudable Lapwings

Hi all today's Day 51 and I have a bird for you today that I see a lot of round where I live (North Yorkshire.)  If you haven't guessed already (to do so would require a lot of guess work) it is the Lapwing. Lapwings are beautiful birds, as you can see from the picture, with their black and white plumage so I'm glad I see a lot of them. Their flight and calls are also impressive. Anyway, I might as well get on with the facts so here they are:
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) in reeds

  • Lapwings have a nickname which is the 'peewit'. This is because of its call which consists of (you guessed it) a 'peewit' like sound. This is a very distinctive call. Click here to hear this distinctive call. Its proper name, the lapwing, refers to its flight which quivers an awful lot.
  • The males flight is even more impressive when courting when it will perform aerobatics like twists, turns and somersaults trying to impress the females.
  • Even though there is 140,000 breeding pairs and 650,000 birds wintering it has a red status because of the severe declines it has suffered over the last few years.
  • Declines are linked to the loss of its habitat, damp grassland mainly, due to changes in the way land is farmed.
  • Its black and white appearance along with its round wing shape in flight make it a very distinctive bird in the air and on the ground. This bird also has a very short beak some long feathers on the back of its head.
  • The lapwing is 30cm long with a 84cm wingspan. Both male and female lapwings weigh 230g. 
  • Lapwing feeding habits are unlike most birds. They eat invertebrates from the ground (e.g. worms.) A lot of birds eat these but unlike these birds lapwings feed at night especially when the moon is bright. Imagine how many there would be when there's a supermoon.
  • The lapwing has lots of nicknames: as I mentioned earlier, the 'peewit', the 'flopwing' and the two that I have no idea where the name comes from, the 'green plover' and the 'hornpie'
  • The longest a lapwing has ever lived is 21 years 1 month and 15 days. This record was set in 1987.
  • Lapwing chicks are normally know for being able to run around moments after being hatched!  
Here are some links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 21 December 2014

Day 50 - Brilliant Banded Demoiselles

Hi all today's Day 50! And for the occasion I thought I'd do a piece of wildlife that is not only beautiful but I haven't done its species before. That species is the demoiselle. If you don't know what they are the you're not alone as I didn't before I did this article, but from the evidence I've collected it's basically a damselfly. It's a damselfly it's almost in a category of its own called, as I mentioned before, the Demoiselles. Today I'll look at the Banded Demoiselle and will certainly be keeping an eye out for the other type the Beautiful Demoiselle.

Anyway enough talking here are the facts:
Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)
  • They are 45mm long with a wingspan of 55-70mm.
  • They live for about 2 years. Most of this is spent as a larvae or an the second stage of a dragonflies life:
          (Egg ---> Larvae ---> Dragonfly.)
  • They are found mostly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and are found in slow flowing rivers, streams and canals.
  • The Banded Demoiselle is the largest of our native damselflies.
  • The males have a dark-green body with dark blue patches on their wings. Females do not have the patches on the wings but the wings have a pale green tinge all over. You can tell from this information that the Demoiselle above is a male.
  • In the air Banded Demoiselles look like butterflies with their gentle, fluttery-type flying. They are very sensitive to pollution and so when you see them it's normally a sign of good water quality.
  • Their larvae are aquatic meaning the adult damsels lay their eggs in water.
  • Males compete on the wing for breeding territories and the winner will court any visiting females by doing a special display for her.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 20 December 2014

Day 49 - Lovely Little Egrets

Hi all today's Day 49 and getting close to Christmas. As the colour white is associated with Christmas I thought I'd do a piece of wildlife that was white. As birds are my favourite part of nature I thought I'd put up a white bird. The final challenge was figuring out which white bird. There are loads of them e.g. Swans, Doves or maybe even Albino Blackbirds which seemed like a good idea but I've already covered them in My Blackbird Post. Eventually I decided on possibly the most beautiful of all the white birds, the Little Egret. Anyway here are some facts about them:

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
  • The Egret part in Little Egret is not technically true as this bird is actually part of the heron family.
  • It has white plumes on its head, back and chest with black legs and bill and yellow feet. It also has orange eyes.
  • It is an amber status bird as it is a rare breeding species with only 660-740 (we don't know for sure how many it actually is.) Also over winter there are only 4,500 birds in the UK.
  • The best time to see them is in the Winter as birds that stay in the UK all year round are joined by others from the rest of the continent. You can also figure out from the numbers above that this is true as well as there are only about 700 breeding pairs meaning there are about 1,400 breeding birds.
  • The best place to see them is along South and East coasts of England. Another good place to see them is all over Wales. Also the estuaries of Devon and Cornwall; Poole Harbour and Chichester Harbour hold some of the largest colonies. East Anglia is also a common place to see them.
  • They eat a varied diet including fish, molluscs, insects and small mammals and birds!
  • Adding to this they are probably the liveliest hunters of the herons and feed mostly by wading through water and using their beak to snap and catch prey.
  • They are 60cm long with a 92cm wingspan. Both male and female birds weigh 450g which is a fairly small size for a heron but then again it is the Little Egret.
  • Their first UK sighting was in East Yorkshire 1826 and their first breeding record was in Dorset 1996.
Here are some links to some more information

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 19 December 2014

Day 48 - Lovely Long-Tailed Tits (Fluffy Lollipops!)

Long-Tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Today is the turn of mine and my mum`s absolute favourite bird - possibly the most adorable of all birds the little ball of fluff that is of course the Long Tailed Tit! Always guaranteed to get an awww! whenever we see one!

They have a call that it easily recognisable  - a tssee tssee tssee or tssirup so you can often hear them before you see them.  They tend to flock together in groups of between 10 and 20 and chatter to each other while they hop from branch to branch. They like woodland, farmland and parks and gardens.

Some facts:

  • There are 340,000 breeding pairs in the UK giving them a healthy Green Status
  • They can be seen all year round.
  • Long-Tailed Tits have a distinctive wavy flight pattern.
  • They have a pink, grey-white and black plumage .
  • Shaped like a fluffy ball with a disproportionately long tail hence Long-Tailed Tit.
  • One of our smallest birds. 13-15 cm with 7-9 cm of that being the tail!
  • The tiny little thing weighs less than a pound coin at just 9g.
  • To get through cold winter nights they huddle together in their roosts and can loose up to 10% of their body weight overnight keeping warm. See a picture of them roosting here on the BBC Radio 4 website.
  • Long-Tailed Tits have a small beak and find it hard to break into large seeds so instead of this they eat peanuts and suet, but they also like grated cheese and breadcrumbs (must try that!)
  • As well as this they eat insects and larvae and spiders.
  • Both the male and female build their nest together in a gorse, bramble bush or somewhere similar and it can take up to 3 weeks to build! They use webs, moss and lichen to make the nest and it's lined with up to 2000 feathers! 
  • Long-Tailed Tits are cooperative breeders which means that they help each other out especially if inexperienced parents or nest builders are struggling. Parents and chicks that have helpers have a higher survival rate.
  • Winter is a difficult time for such small birds and if it's a very harsh one up to 80% of long tailed tits can perish. However the survivors seem to bounce back quite well and numbers aren't decreasing 
  • In the winter they huddle together in flocks to try and keep warm, all facing inwards with their tails pointing out! (I'd just love to see that and get a photo!)
  • To help these gorgeous little birds leave out their favourite foods on the bird table and possibly leave roosting pouches or nest boxes in nearby trees to try and attract them.
Anyway here are some links to even more information:

BBC Nature - Long-Tailed Tits

Wild About Gardens - Long-Tailed Tits

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Good Godwits!

Hi all,

I thought I'd come back to a wading bird today and one that I've seen in a couple of places and didn't know  much about, especially how much we should be concerned about them.

Black tailed Godwit (limosa limosa)
I'm talking today about Black tailed Godwits. They are a bird that's of real concern. Numbers are very low particularly with as little as 50 breeding pairs in the UK. They have an RSPB RED status and Species of Conservation Importance, and in some areas their habitats are protected with a Special Protection Area designation. 

There are a number of different theories for their low numbers, mainly focusing on a lack of habitat. Due to drainage of wetlands and marshes for agricultural or development reasons their natural habitat is declining. Here's a few facts I found about them:

  • They are a long legged long billed wader with grey brown plumage in winter months and orangey brown breast,  belly and head in the summer. The female is larger than the male and has a much longer beak.
  • They like a particular type of ground and if the reeds and grasses aren't to their liking they don't want to nest there. They can get trampled on, and in some areas wetlands can flood and wash their nests away. 
  • There are two types of Black Tailed Godwit - the Icelandic (limosa limoa island is) and the European (limosa limosa limosa). While the Iceland type breed in Iceland and come here to winter, the European type breed all over Europe.
  • Length 42 cm
  • Wingspan 76 cm
  • Weight - (m) 280g (f) 340g
  • There are 54-57 breeding pairs in the UK, some in Norfolk and I have seen them at Titchwell & I've also seen them at Nosterfield 
  • There are 44,000 wintering birds in the Uk and 99,000-140,000 pairs in Europe 
  • Mostly seen in the UK late summer to winter
  • Commonly mistaken for their cousin the Bar tailed Godwit - but the Bar has a much shorter neck and legs than the Black, the Bar doesn't have striped wings and the Black is more orangey in the summer. The Bar's bill is also slightly curved.

  •  Make nests in marshes and grasslands made from a shallow scrape lined with leaves and grasses. 
  • The male and female Icelandic Godwit will winter separately and will then amazingly meet up in Iceland within a couple of days of each other! How they do this no one really knows. They will then find each other, breed and incubate their eggs before the female flies off, the male stays with the chicks until they fledge and then migrates too.  Male and female pairs will do this throughout their lives unless one of them fails to arrive. The chicks are gorgeous little balls of fluff with really long legs and toes and they are dsigned this way because they are out wading almost as soon as they're born! European godwits breed all over Europe. 

  • Because numbers are so low, work is being done to try to support them in increasing their numbers again. This is done by protecting their habitats and encouraging farmers not to interfere with the land around these sites, or by providing artificial habitats.  Numbers of breeding pairs in the UK are extremely low but they are slowly increasing due to the fantastic work of conservationists. You can find out more about this on the site and you can record sightings at bird

  • Also known as black wits or red godwits
For more information on these birds try

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Day 46 - Brilliant Bramblings

Bramblng (Fringilla montifringilla)
I thought I'd look at another beautiful bird today that we are lucky to see this time of year, the Brambling. They are similar in size, shape and colouring to a chaffinch and can be mistaken for one - especially as they make it hard for us as they tend to flock with chaffinches too! 

Cousins of the chaffinch, the males are brighter coloured than the females.  They are not a native bird in the UK they only come here in the winter months (generally late September to March) where they like to feed on beech seeds.  They come from Scandinavia and travel over the land rather than over the North sea.  Some interesting facts:

  • They have a distinctive orange breast and wing patches and a white belly.  They have a bill similar to a finch
  • They make deep cup shaped nests lined with moss, feathers and grass near to the trunk in a conifer tree.
  • They decorate the outside of the nest with lichen so that it blends in better with the tree and is less noticeable to predators
  • They don't tend to breed in the UK 
  • In the UK sees approx 48,000 - 1,800,000 birds passing through often arriving in huge flocks.
  • They travel straight to their favourite food the beech seed and when they have eaten it all or if crops are poor and hard to find, only then will Bramblings visit garden bird tables.
  • They particularly like black sunflower hearts so leave these out if you want to try and attract a brambling.  They also like berries and other seeds and in the summer they eat insects too
  • They are about 15cm long.
  • The BTO has given them a medium alert due to a decline in breeding numbers however they have RSPB green status as in Europe numbers are still good 

I can only remember seeing one Brambling which is the one in these photos. This was at Fairburn Ings and I was really lucky to get a couple of photographs as it was quite far off and was quite shy just popping out very quickly to get a bite to eat and diving back into the brambles. I would love to see more as they are such a gorgeous little bird with fabulous colours!

You can find out more about these birds at: 

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sensational Siskins

Hi all today is day 45 and I have a beautiful bird that I absolutely love. That bird is the Siskin. You can see it feeding on the right of this text and I'm sure you'll agree that it's a very nice bird. Anyway I think it's now time to get on with the facts:
    Siskin ( Carduelis spinus)  feeding
     (the male Siskin is the top one females are the
    bottom ones)
  • With 369,000 breeding pairs in the UK it is a safe green status as it has had no declines recently. Most of these birds are found across Scotland and Wales but there are some in England in the Winter.
  • They are a small bird about 12cm long with a wingspan of 8-9cm and they weigh 12-18g or about the same size and weight as a Blue Tit.
  • It has a forked tail and yellow stripes on its black wings. It also has a narrow bill as it is a member of the finch family (Fringillidae). 
  • Because of its yellow-green streaks the female in particular can be confused with the Greenfinch however the Greenfinch is much bigger. 
  • Siskins love seeds especially those found on Conifer, Alder and Birch trees. They will also come in search of nuts and seeds on bird tables if they live near by. A good way of attracting these birds to your table is by putting out thistle seeds. 
  • These birds nest in Conifer trees, the female builds a small neat nest high in the tree. This is built from twigs and lichen and lined with feathers and roots. 
  • The female lays 2 clutches of eggs a year which usually consists of 2-6 eggs and she incubates them herself. 
  • They are monogamous birds which means the pair stay together for life although they can colonise with different Siskins. 
  • Siskins remain close to their breeding sites unless food is hard to find so they may have to travel further South. 
  • The Siskin is sometimes known as the Pine Siskin or the Pine Chirper because of the noise they make (if you haven't figured out already this is a chirp). 
  • They are little acrobats and often hang upside down when eating although sadly I've never seen one on a trapeze. (lol).
Here are some links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 15 December 2014

Day 44 - Patterns in Nature

Bark on a gnarly old Chestnut at
Fountains Abbey.
Hey everyone, I was out walking at Fountains Abbey at the weekend and I saw lots of patterns that were brought to life in the frost. So today I thought I'd look at patterns in nature

Everywhere we look there are patterns in nature. We can sometimes take them for granted and hardly even acknowledge them, other times they take us by surprise and make us stop in our tracks and take a photo. Natural patterns have fascinated people for centuries. Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras studied them and tried work out order in nature.

 There are absolutely loads of places we can see patterns in nature. Why do we get such patterns? Well in the animal world it could be through natural selection and animals may have evolved this way as survival mechanisms (camouflage) or attracting a mate, mimicry (taking on the appearance of its surroundings for protection) or scaring off predators with bright colours indicating poison. In the natural world think sand dunes, waves, leaves, bark, petals, rocks and crystals.

I`ll run through a few of the more common formations now:
    Snowflake - courtesy of
  • Symmetry: some things are perfectly symmetrical - a tiger`s face (bilateral symmetry), a starfish (fivefold symmetry), a snowflake (sixfold symmetry) or a sea anemone (rotational symmetry)
  • In my Fibonacci post I explained that he discovered that there is a natural sequence called the 'Fibonacci Sequence'. This turned out to be the largest example of Patterns in Nature.
  • Tessellations: patterns caused by repeating a smaller pattern over and over, such as a honeycomb, fish scales, crystals etc.
  • Cracks: hot, dry desert land cracks and splits creating patterns, similar to the leathery hide of an elephant or rhino in a hot climate.
  • Waves and dunes:  created by winds blowing over expanses of sand and forming domes, ripples or crescents, rivers meandering through the land, like a snake, taking along the river bed sand and rocks and over time causing erosion.
    Poison Dart Frog
  • Spots and stripes are found very often for camouflage reasons - a leopard hiding in grass, a chameleon blending in with its surroundings.  Bright patterns and colour tell predators that they taste bitter or have a secret weapon inside them like poison like the poisoned dart tree frog in the picture.
  • Snowflakes: each and every snowflake is different - that never fails to amaze me!  Yet every single snowflake is completely symmetrical.
  • Self similar - this means that although the pattern isn`t exactly the same as something else of its type, it is the same as the rest of itself (if that makes sense!) i.e petals.leaves of a fern, coral etc.

Dew on a spider's web
Spider`s webs fascinate me, especially when they are covered with dew or a light frost.  They are so intricately spun, and every thread has a function.  At this time of year when the ground is covered with frost and ice the patterns are amazing, even fallen leaves on the ground and grass takes on a magical appearance when covered in tiny white crystals.

Frost brings out the lines on
fallen leaves

Frost shows up waves in a
fallen tree
Patterns in Nature are found in animals as well like Tigers, Leopards and, of course, Zebras.

Anyway here are some links to some more information:

Wikipedia - Patterns in Nature

35 Examples of Patterns in Nature

Here is the Google Images result for 'Patterns in Nature'

Google Images - Patterns in Nature

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Day 43 - The Pinosaurs

Wollemi Pines (Wollemia nobilis )
in the wild
Click here to see picture from
Hi all. Today I thought I'd revisit the theme of how we can 'rally for nature'. I wanted to share a story about how a species of tree was brought back from the brink of extinction. I found out about this at Kew Gardens when I visited recently.

This tree, or if not ones very similar, would have covered much of the Earth's surface in the age of the dinosaurs. It was thought to have been extinct for millions of years until a park ranger in Australia out abseiling was puzzled by a tree in a gorge he couldn't recognise. If you know the story you'll know I'm talking about the Wollemi pine. Here's some more facts about this tree:

    Wollemi pine at Kew Gardens
  • At the point of discovery they were only known to exist in two sites in gorges in Australia, in the Wollemi National Park, discovered by park officer David Noble.
  • In 1998 there were only 40 mature trees and around 200 saplings so it was very close to extinction! 
  • Scientists at Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney confirmed it was a tree thought to have been extinct for millions of years.
  • They can live a long time, the oldest and largest one is named King Billy, it's thought to be 1000 years old...
  • Seeds were collected from the wild group of trees to grow more and preserve the species.
    Wollemi pine bark
  • To raise money for the care of the wild trees and to help make sure the species survives saplings have been sold around the world. This is really important as they could be under threat in the wild from a water mould, other diseases or fires.
  • It has a brown bubbly bark as you can see from the photo to the right. 
  • New leaves are apple green but they go blue-green as they age and some times a small bit bronze in the Autumn.
  • It produces male and female cones on the same tree.

I read at Kew that it was the breakfast of dinosaurs and it has now been helped by us to survive even longer. It is a very interesting tree and has unusual features that have probably helped it survive this long:

  • It can survive in temperature from -5 to 45 degrees Celcius, and probably colder still.
  • The trees develop lots of trunks as they get older, a natural coppice, which may be a way it tries to survive drought, fire and rockfalls.
    Fossil and living Wollemi pines
  • In the cold months it becomes dormant and forms waxy coatings on its buds. In the spring new buds grow from out of the caps. This may have helped it survive ice ages!

Now that all sounds like an amazing tree to me. Anyway here are some links to some more information on these wonderful trees:

Kew Gardens - Wollemi Pine

Hope you enjoyed,