Saturday, 28 February 2015

Day 119 - A Walk Around Yorks City Walls

A part of the wall going through one of the bars
- that's what the gates in the walls are called to make it
more confusing roads are called gates like my favourite
Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate - Yorks shortest street
Hi all today's Day 119 and today, I have been over at York. We walked along the city walls looking for nature. We weren't expecting to see much as we were in the city and it wasn't a nature reserve but, we did manage to see quite a lot as you can see below.

But before I get onto what I saw, I just want to say how much history the York Walls have and how old/important they were and are. The walls have lots of interesting things on and around them. One of the things I liked was a chess board that had been carved into the wall by the medieval people. The walls have been around since Roman times and have protected the City of York for just under 2,000 years.

Some of the birds I saw
Anyway, here is what I saw:
  • I saw at least 19 Black-headed gulls and two Herring Gulls in the Archbishops garden looking for food! See the picture below to watch them hunting in John Sentamu's garden (well we think it's his garden!)
  • Several Blackbirds
Some of the geese we saw.
  • Several types of geese which are as follows:
  • Canada Geese; 10
  • Canada x Graylag hybrid Goose? 1 (thanks @birdbrainuk)
  • Greylag Geese; 8
  • Barnacle Geese; 2
  • Magpies; 2 (sadly they flew off before I got a photo with them both in, but I did get the one in the group above)
  • Blue Tits; 2
  • Robin; 1
  • Carrion Crows; at least 2
  • Feral Pigeons; at least 2
    Looking over to the Minster from the walls
  • Wood Pigeons; 25
  • House Sparrow; 1
  • Robin; 1
  • Moorhens; 2
  • Swans; 2
Anyway, there aren't many links I can do for these birds but here is a couple for the York Walls:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 27 February 2015

Day 118 - Amazing Enigmatic Anemones

Hi All,

Day 118 and another little treasure from my rock pool exploration at Whitby.

Before I start though, I thought I'd mention another little fact about Whitby. Whitby was the place that Captain Cook, one of our most famous explorers, learnt most of his sailing skills. It was also where his ships HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution were built.

So back to my rock pools. I found another fascinating creature lurking in one pool. It was a bit more colourful than the Limpets or the Barnacles but hard to photograph as it was under the water. I'm talking today about sea anemones. What did I find out about these amazing creatures:

Beadlet Anemone (Actinia equina)

  • Anemones are closely related to corals and jellyfish.
  • As you can just make out in the picture they have a cylindrical body. This attaches itself to rocks using a sticky foot on its base. On top they have lots of tentacles surrounding a central mouth.
  • The species in the picture, the Beadlet Anemone, can have up to 192 tentacles arranged in 6 circles.
  • It is well adapted to living in tidal zones as it will stand high temperatures and some dessication (drying out). 
  • They are carnivorous and hunt for food by waiting for prey to pass and they use their venomous tentacles to sting and kill their prey.
  • Their tentacles are very sensitive and are triggered by touch causing a harpoon like filament to be fired into the prey. Once immobilised by the venom the tentacles move the prey towards the mouth.
  • New gene research has found that sea anemones are half plant and half animal though they are classed as animals.
  • There are over 1000 species of sea anemones and they range in size from half an inch to six feet!
  • The Beadlet Anemone is territorial and will fight with others to protect its patch. One will sting another until they crawl away or drop off the surface they are on.
  • They can live a long time, some species can live up to 50 years old.
  • Some species are invertebrates and do not have a backbone. Most of their body, like us, is made up of water.
  • There are some examples of them working together with fish. The clownfish has a covering of mucus which stops it getting stung by the Anemone. It shelters in the tentacles getting protection from predators. The Anemone benefits by feeding on the scraps of the fish's meal. This is known as symbiotic alliance.

Here's a few links to more information if you want to find out more about these creatures.

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Day 117 - Becalmed Barnacles

Hey everyone,

Whitby Abbey high up on the cliffs
Day 117 today and I thought I'd do a little bit more on my visit to the coast at Whitby and the rock pools. Before I do though Dad told me an interesting fact about Whitby.

Whitby has an Abbey which sits high up on the cliffs, there's a great walk up 199 steps to get to it which we've scampered up and down lots of times. But there have been buildings there at the top for a long time and in 664 St Hilda held a meeting there called a Synod where it was decided how the date of Easter should be worked out!

There's another cool story that starts in Whitby called Dracula too. More on that another day.

Anyway. back to Barnacles. What did I find out about these creatures. Well like Limpets there's more to them thank you might think.

  • The first surprising thing I found out is that they are not molluscs, which you might think they are because of their shells when you see them on rocks, they are in fact a crustacean and are related to crabs and lobsters.
  • There are over 1000 species of barnacle some of which can live over 20 years...
    Acorn Barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides)
  • ...Which means, because their average clutch size is 1,000, that one barnacle can potentially produce 20,000 young!

  • Barnacles are hermaphrodites, so can make male and female reproductive cells, but they are usually fertilised by another barnacle rather than self fertilised.
  • Once fertilised a barnacles egg turns into a larvae called a nauplius. This swims about, usually with planton as it is soo small,and feeds They go through 6 stages before the turn into a cypris larvae. This doesn't feed but finds a place to settle before turning into the adult barnacle.
    Barnacle hitching a ride on a Limpet
  • Barnacles will grow on lots of things, rocks, ships and animals like turtles or whales and even limpets (see right).
  • They are mostly harmless to animals if they do grow on them.
  • A barnacle shell is made up of plates, usually 6,  plus two moveable plates which they use to protect themselves when not feeding.
  • Barnacles feed on mainly plankton which they collect by straining them out of the water with feathery like legs that they extend from their shells. 
  • They do have predators, but mainly at their larval stage, which include worms, snails, starfish etc.
  • Charles Darwin studied barnacles for 10 years - he must have been fascinated by them
  • Scientists are very interested in how barnacles attach themselves to rocks. They have a very firm grip and this is being investigated to make glues that work well on wet surfaces where most glues don't work.
So, I hope you found that interesting. Here's some links in case you want to find out more.

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Day 116 - Resplendent Red Kites

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) soaring over
Fairburn Ings
Hi all today's Day 116 and yesterday I didn't do much of a post so I thought I'd make up for it with a good post today. I thought today that I'd do an amazing bird of prey which I have been seeing more of recently. I love seeing them glide around the sky with their lovely red and white bodies. I am of course talking about the Red Kite.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts:
  • This is an Amber Status bird because it has had a 'historical decline' although there are 1,600 breeding pairs in the UK...
  • ...This is probably because they have been re-introduced to England and Scotland to save the species from national extinction.
  • Still staying on the subject of population,they have gone from Red Status in 2001 to an Amber Status. so that probably explains why I have been seeing more of them.
It was fabulous to watch
  • They were nearly extinct as they had a tough time in the 16th Century when there were laws which classed them as pests and called for them to be killed. Gamekeepers in the 18th Century also killed lots of them.
  • So these birds disappeared from England and Scotland and only just managed to hang on in Wales. Happily they have been successfully re-introduced as part of long running conservation programmes.
  • They are big birds and are 63cm long, with a wingspan of 185cm. Despite their size males only weigh 1kg and females a little more at 1.2kg
  • Their diet is mainly carrion (dead animal flesh) though they will take small prey as well. They apparently eat worms too! They are not very strong though so when feeding on big animals like sheep they have to wait until stronger birds like buzzards or ravens have opened up the carcass. There is a great video below of them hunting in slow motion as well as my video from a feeding station in Scotland.
  • Red Kites tend to pair for life when breeding though some cases of 'divorces' where the birds have found other partners are known.
  • The collective noun for Red Kites is a wake, quite fitting since they mainly eat dead stuff. See a Wake of Red Kites in my video below

  • The typical lifespan of a red Kite is four years but the oldest recorded one was (brace yourself!) 23 years 10 months old.
  • They were a very common bird in London once because Shakespeare mentioned them no less than 15 times in his writing.

This video by the Slo Mo guys is amazing.

Well I loved finding out about these amazing birds and if you want to know more try these links:

Hope you enjoyed, 


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Day 115 - My Nature Birthday Present and Some Future Posts

Hi all today's Day 115. It was my Birthday recently and as I'm being taken out for a birthday meal with my Granparents I didn't feel like doing a very big post today but I do have a few things that I think would be good for future blog posts.

The first thing is something that I saw at the beach on Saturday, as I have mentioned in previous posts I did a little nature hunt there. I was rock-pooling but I was also looking at the rocks. The largest things that I saw were Limpets, but if you looked closer you could see little versions of the Limpets growing on them. They turned out to be Barnacles, I hope these little guys turn out to be as interesting as the Limpets!

What's this Goose?
Another thing is something that my Dad saw at his work today and I was very intrigued. There were some Geese. I think there was two types there but I'm not sure one might have been a juvenile version of one of them but it looked bigger than the rest. I need to do some research but please Tweet me or comment on this post if you know what they were. You can see it in the pictures marked 'What's this Goose?'
Field Vole skull close up

Field Vole teeth extreme close up
The final thing I wanted to tell you about is a Birthday present I got from my Grandparents. It was a Microscope. As soon as it was set up I got out my field vole bones, of which I have obtained from dissecting owl pellets, and put them straight under the Microscope. You can see them in the picture to the right. I managed to get some really good pictures of them as the Microscope hooks into the computer of which you can use to take photos, videos and time-lapses. In future posts I will do plants or bacteria growing, I'm thinking of lots of great posts to do with it :-)

Anyway, I'm sorry this wasn't a very long one as I'm off out for a celebration, I hope you don't mind and I'll try to make tomorrow's extra special to make up for it,

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 23 February 2015

Day 114 - Lovely Lumpy Limpets (easy for you to say)

Common Limpet (Patella vulgata)
Hi all today's Day 114 and in Saturday's post I said that I went to the beach. I loved it there because we were rock-pooling and when you do this you can never be sure what you're going to find. I also like it as it's an activity that anybody can do at any time, providing they keep an eye on the tide and are careful not to slip on the rocks.

When I was there one of the most common things that I saw were the lovely Limpets. Now I didn't know this but these little critters are far more fascinating than they first appear (just sat there). You can see the evidence below in the facts I found:

  • You may have seen in the press recently that Limpets have teeth. But more to the point. their teeth are made up of the strongest biological material ever tested by scientists! That means they are stronger than spider silk and most man-made materials!
  • "So," you say, "why have limpets got teeth? Especially such strong ones, especially as they are vegetarians?!" Well, they feed on algae which they scrape off of the rocks that they live on. They do this with their tongue which has teeth that are no more than 1mm long. These teeth are so strong that they don't just pull the algae off, but some of the rock as well!
  • Limpets are Molluscs just like snails that you will find in your garden but specially adapted to the sea. The distinction is that Limpets have a conical shaped shell that they have developed for a very special reason. As the breathe water, the conical shell gives them a bigger space to store the water when they are stranded at low tide. They also slow down their metabolism to reduce the need for water. 
  • Limpets can live deeper at sea and those that do have flatter shells for the above reason.
  • Limpets that do live in tidal zones have to withstand all sorts of tough conditions, not least attacks by other animals, the heat of the sun and the force of waves crashing onto them every day.
  • What helps them to do this? Well, it's the strong shell again along with their strong muscular foot which they use to sucker themselves onto the rock. 
  • They have a 'home-spot' on a rock and as they bed down they rotate their shell and grind into the rock. As they can live for up to 20 years their shell adapts to the rock and becomes the same shape as the rock which helps to keep them safe from predators. The suction of their foot is helped by a chemical they make and creates a very strong force to hold them in place.
Limpets amongst barnacles and seaweed.
  • Another clever thing about Limpets is that when they are moving around to feed they leave a slime trail. Scientists have now discovered that they can follow the trail back home as the trail contains special chemicals that the Limpets recognise.
  • Limpets will fight any other Limpets if they see them in their 'home-spot'. The way they do this is by bumping into the Limpet that has invaded their home-ground.
  • Their shell is also a defence against carnivorous Molluscs such as Whelks. When a Whelk tries to drill in to their prey's shell the Limpet will use its shell to trap the predator's foot.
Anyway, here are some links to some more information,

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 22 February 2015

Day 113 - Building a Nest Box and National Nest Box Week

A nest box we bought in our apple
tree with a roosting pouch
full of nest material
Hi all, today's Day 113 and to mark the end of National Nest Box Week I thought I'd make a Nest Box. It was really fun to do and I hope to get some lovely little birds in the box. So, what did
I need?

  • The first and most important thing was some instructions. I've put some links below to some websites that have instructions on them.
                RSPB - How To Build a Nest Box

    I've hung nest materials around the
    garden too
  • A plank of wood to make the actual box out of. This needs to be 150mm wide, 15-25mm thick and from 1350mm-1600mm long depending on the pattern you use.
  • Something for a hinge. We used some old strong kitchen carpet (Flotex) but you could use an actual hinge or a piece of rubber.
  • Some tacks for the hinge and some nails/screws.
  • Tools - A Hammer, A Screwdriver, A Tape Measure, A Pencil, A Set Square, A Drill and A Saw.
  • A grown up! I couldn't find one so I had to get Dad lol :-)
So, how did I go about doing it? Rather than put lots of text down, although I will put a summary below, I made a little video:

It was quite simple really. I had to measure out on the wood the bits that would make up the box. A good tip to save time is to write on which panel is which. Then Dad came in handy and he used his big saw to cut up the pieces including some which needed to be cut at angles. After that it was just a case of drilling pilot holes and screwing the pieces together. 

Finished and in place
The hole at the front has to be high up and you can choose what size you make it to attract different types of birds. I did a 25mm hole which should be great for blue tits. coal tits and marsh tits.

Last job was to put it up. Dad helped again here as it had to be at least 2m up. The RSPB have a page on siting the boxes so it's best for the birds, it has to be facing between North and East so we found a nice wall to put it on.

All done! Now just to wait and see if we get any birds that want to use it. I'll keep you updated.

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 21 February 2015

Day 112 - A coastal ramble and beach clean at wonderful Whitby

Hey everyone,

Well today I was on the other side of the North York Moors out at the coast at Sandsend near Whitby. The drive over there is fantastic. There are lots of lovely moorlands and some amazing valleys as well.

One of the fabulous views on the North York Moors

Just on the way over I saw so much. There were Lapwings displaying, Pheasants pheeding and Grouse gliding across our path. You have to drive carefully too as there are sheep loose all over the moors, they are there all year so they must be very tough.

Finds from beach clean
So we went over to look at some rock pools and to do a beach clean. We always try to do one when we're near the coast as we don't get there very often. Today the beach was very clean compared to our last beach clean a bit further up North where we filled a bin bag in just a few minutes! We did find a fair amount of rubbish though, especially fishing line, as you can see from the pictures. The squid fishing lures and the scrabble tile were funny to find:

Anyway, while we were picking up rubbish we went rock-pooling. We didn't find as much as we were hoping for but we did find some lovely things.

  • Sea anemone.
  • Limpets
  • Winkles
  • Several different types of seaweed (see the picture)
Sea Anemone
It's not much but we were happy with what we found because we weren't there very long before the tide came in. I will return to some of these species in more detail for future posts as they are fascinating!

I also saw quite a few gulls and other sea birds which I'll cover in other posts.

There aren't many links today but here's a couple about Whitby:

Lots of seaweeds

The whole coast here though is fantastic so check this out too :

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 20 February 2015

Day 111 - A ramble by a big white horse

The White Horse at Kilburn
Hey everyone,

Well it's day 111 today and today I went on a lovely walk. We started off at the White Horse of Kilburn and went up the 151 steps to the top of it where we were rewarded with an amazing view:

The climb is well worth it!

A bit of its history

As you can see from the stone in the picture the horse dates from the mid 1800's. What it doesn't say is that it is the largest chalk horse in the country and it covers over an acre. It measures 318 feet long by 220 feet high.

Dunnock was singing nicely on the way

Anyway, now for the list and facts about what I saw:

  • Dunnock. (Click on the links for my post on that bird.)
  • Robin. They are one of the most tame birds and I have had them eating out of my hand on several occasions.
  • Yellowhammer. These birds have a lovely call of 'a little bit of bread and no cheeese'.
    How does a tree grow out of a rock?
  • Chaffinches. They are an extremely common bird as in 2014 they were the 2nd most common in the UK.
  •  Marsh Tits and Willow Tits. These birds are so similar that only a few decades ago they were classed as two different species.
    Female Yellowhammer

    Inquisitive Robin
  • Coal Tits. They are the smallest of the Tit family being only 11cm long and weighing only 8g! That's the same as a 20 pence piece. Long-Tailed Tits, however, weigh less.
  • Goldfinch. These birds seem to be getting tamer as every year people are recording seeing more and more on their feeders and tables.
  • Wren (I haven't done a post on these yet.) Wrens are the 2nd smallest bird in the UK but they have a very loud and lovely voice.
Whilst I saw quite a few birds along the way a lot of these birds were on the feeders at the Sutton Bank visitor centre. All these birds on the feeders created a bit of excitement as a Sparrowhawk took interest and swooped in twice trying to get its dinner. The times we saw it, it didn't manage to get its lunch but did send all the birds scattering in every direction. 

I really enjoyed the walk but the reward at the end of it was incredible:

Reward at the end of the walk

Well, I've included a couple of links here in case you want to find out more about the White Horse or Sutton Bank.

North York Moors - White Horse & Sutton Bank

North York Moors - Sutton Bank

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Day 110 - Marvellous Murmurations

Hi all today's Day 110 and on Twitter I recently heard that there was a large nature event that was happening near me at a place called Flask Lake. I have seen this event at a couple of places in the past but the most memorable one before this was at the RSPB reserve Leighton Moss.

From the title, video and pictures you will know that I am talking about murmurations. Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts:
Single starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
  • Murmurations are fabulous displays created by Starlings. Basically they fly around in groups of tens of thousands of birds to scare of predators but more about that later.
  • The reason they do this, as I mentioned above, is to; scare off predators, find a place to roost and exchange information such as good food sources.
Up to 50,000 in two groups - one looks like a tadpole
  • One of the most incredible things about murmurations is that every single Starling knows where to go. People have been wondering how they do this but research suggests that they haven't rehearsed it, they don't say what they are going to do next, oh no. Each Starlings watches each bird around it and watches where it moves. They instantly copy each others moves and them respond to any changes in speed or direction therefore, any one tiny deviation by one bird makes the flock go where that one bird does. They do this by using their incredible reflexes and eventually create an amazing 'feast for the eyes'.
  • They face predators in every murmuration that they do but one of the most common ones is the Peregrine Falcon. I actually saw one of these when I was watching the Murmuration. You can see it in the video below:

  • Roosting begins as early as September but usually October and November. As the weeks go on more and more birds join in the murmuration and there can be as many as 100,000 birds in a single display.
  • They normally occur just before dusk and they usually are over Reedbeds, Woodlands, Cliffs etc. basically places where all of them can roost safely together.
The arrow shows where the Peregrine is.
  • They can create things called murmuration art where all the Starlings create one big picture like a cloud looking like a Crocodile. Some people think that they are forming big animals such as dragons, foxes or even bigger Starlings. In this picture it looks like the starlings are making a big bird shape to scare off the Peregrine. There are more photos below of shapes they made yesterday.
  • It is an example of the mathematical Chaos Theory. I.e larger shapes formed by many smaller patterns, in this case Starlings.

This one looks a bit like a Dodo or penguin,
the Peregrine is the black eye dot
a random shape
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 109 - Rambunctious Rats

Hi all today's Day 109 and a while ago I was at Staveley Nature Reserve and I saw something that, in the past, has had a lot of bad press but now has a bit better reputation. These furry little critters are something that I love to watch clean up what the birds have left behind. Yes, I am talking about the Rat. Here's a video of one I saw that obviously gets to clear up a lot!

Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts:

  • Rats are one of the most social and affectionate animals as they will take care of sick or injured animals in their group. They are one of the only animals that will do this...
  • There might be a reason for this though. They need to keep friends. If they don't then they might get lonely and depressed. Yes, that's right, Rats can actually get depressed if they don't have companions. :-(
  • Rats show feelings very well. When they happy they have been seen to grind their teeth. This is usually followed by their eyes vibrating quickly.
  • Rats don't have very good eyesight, instead they rely on their whiskers to get around and to 'see' what their surroundings are.
  • If anybody tells you that Rats aren't clean animals then show them this facts. Rats are very clean animals. They're even cleaner than cats!
  • Just like Squirrels their tails give them an extremely good sense of balance. This also makes them really good climbers.
  • Rats are very good swimmers and afterwards some have been seen to grind their teeth. As I have mentioned above, if they do this it means they are happy.
  • African Rats are one if the biggest types of Rat. This type of Rat has been trained to detect deadly land-mines. They are small enough as to not set them off but large enough to be distinguished from non-trainable Rats.
  • Rats have lots of folklore and phrases associated with them. There are many sayings such as 'to smell a rat', 'to rat on somebody', 'rat race', 'drowned rat' etc.  
  • A weird bit of folklore surrounds the Rat-King. It seems sometimes rats get their tales knotted together, maybe stuck by poo or blood, yet they are able to survive. There's lots of info if you google rat king.
  • Rats were blamed for the Black Death or bubonic plague in medieval times. This killed a quarter of all the people in Europe. However it wasn't the rats that carried the disease but the fleas that lived on them. The rats did carry the fleas around though so it has been said that rats have been responsible for more deaths than all the wars in history. It's no wonder really they have lots of bad folklore linked to them!
  • However, domesticated rats are very intelligent and social. They can be rewarding pets and form close bonds with humans.
Anyway here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Day 108 - Whonderful Whooper Swans

Hi all, today's Day 108, and I have recently been at some wetland nature reserves near York and I saw these lovely swans. They weren't Mute Swans they were Whooper Swans. You can tell from the pictures how a Whooper Swan looks different to a Mute Swan or any other swans.

Anyway, here are the facts:

Group of Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus)
  • As I said above, it is hard to differentiate Whooper Swans from other types of swan. I have created one way of differentiating them from knowing that Whooper Swans travel in groups. A group o' Whoopers. :-)
  • You can distinguish Whoopers by their yellow beaks from mute swans which have orange beaks. Whoopers are larger and have more yellow on their beaks than Bewicks Swans.
  • The Whooper Swan's Latin name, Cygnus cygnus, means something quite obvious. Cygnus means The Swan so literally translated their Latin name means, The Swan The Swan.
  • As I mentioned in my Mute Swan post, they are royal birds and are protected legally by the monarch whether it be a king or queen. It is actually illegal to kill a swan on the Thames.
  • They are very large and heavy birds being 152cm long and having a 230cm wingspan. Both male and female birds weigh 9.3kg! That's a heavy swan.
  • They are one of the few large birds that are not commonly eaten. I read this is as they are hard to domesticate. I think it helps that your not allowed to kill them, though. 
  • The UK only has 9-14 WILD breeding pairs in the UK. Although they do have an Amber Status which is probably because they are joined by another 15,000 birds in the Winter...
  • ...There is, however, a reason for this. They are only found in parts of the UK. Also they only live here in the Winter.
  • Whooper Swans are very hardy as they have been recorded to fly at heights of 8,200 metres! The temperatures up there are around -40*C!
  • While we're on the subject of flying, they fly in groups just like a flock of Geese, in a V formation. Every-so-often they will change the leader so he-she can have a rest at the back of the flock.
  • They are a visitor from Iceland where they come down for Winter. I don't know why they would come down if they can survive temperatures of up to -40*C but it's still nice to see them anyway.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 16 February 2015

Day 107 - Phantastic Pheasants mk2

Male Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Hi all today's Day 107, and today I have a bird that I covered in December but I think I have better information, facts and videos for it. They are beautiful birds that most people can identify. I am of course talking about the Pheasant.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts:

  • Even though there are around 2.3 million breeding females in the UK, they have no status as they have been introduced to the UK a long time ago by the Romans for sport and hunting.
  • There are 30 sub-species of the pheasant in the world but here in the UK we only have 6: colchicus, torquatus, mongolicus, principalis, pallasi, satscheuensis
  • The are large birds being 71cm in length and having an 80cm wingspan. But they are very heavy birds with males weighing around 1.4kg and the females weighing a more dainty 980g.
  • Even though there beak is quite short, they can dig up to 8cm depths in the ground for their food...
  • ...Which consists of seeds, berries, leaves, roots and small invertebrates. See Pheasants feeding in my video below.

  • As I said above, Pheasants were introduced by the Romans to the UK but they also live in other parts of the world too: Western Europe, Central Asia and China.
  • Pheasants can be found across all of the UK except for the North and West parts of Scotland. They are most common in Arable Farmland so if you want to see a Pheasant, go to a farm in England.
  • Their typical lifespan is unknown and I can't find the oldest Pheasant's age. The BTO think it's 2 years, 1 month and 1 day but I don't know if that could be a mis-print for 20 years.
  • The reason for the typical lifespan being unknown is that they are not ringed or studies and probably as they won't come back for the next year as they will have been shot. :-(
  • Males can breed with more than one female Pheasant and the female Pheasants will undertake all of the duties, like incubating the eggs and feeding them, on her own.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Day 106 - Barn Owls Part 2

The pellets.
Hi all today's Day 106.

Yesterday in my Barn Owl post I said that I would do a post on Barn Owl Pellets. So, I went and found out some pellets which my parents had found a few days earlier and started dissecting them. I recorded this and I have embedded the video below:

As I showed in the video above, I found a lot of bones in the pellets. We found 7 field voles in the pellets and I even managed to construct one out of the materials I found. We identified the pellets to be Barn Owl Pellets from the size and shape of the pellet. We knew they were all the same because of the contents of the pellets.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts-highlights of the pellets:
The sandier pellet
  • Barn Owls usually swallow their prey whole but can't digest the feathers/fur and the bones so they regurgitate them in pellets.
  • One of the highlights was when I saw the first skull in the first pellet. I wasn't very good at dissecting the pellets so I broke a small bit of the bone off but it was still in good condition.
  • As Barn Owl Pellets have been examined for years, the diet of a Barn Owl is easily figured out. From research people reckon that the most frequent food eaten by a Barn Owl is the Field Vole.
    Some of the field vole bones
  • The Field Vole is the only animal I found in the pellets which is secure evidence of the fact above.
  • In the course of one year a breeding pair of Barn Owls needs around 3,000 prey items to survive. This converts to around 4 prey items per Barn Owl every night. I think either the Pellets I got were dropped by two Barn Owls that were resting in the same place after hunting or possibly from one Owl visiting the same spot over a couple of nights.
  • One of the pellets was quite sandy and I read that this means it the owl probably had more Earthworms in its diet. I thought one of my pellets was different because it looked different, it was just sandier than the others but they all turned out to have the same prey items
Here's a few links that you might find useful if you ever find any pellets and want to do your own dissection.

A 're-constructed' field vole

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Day 105 - Beautiful Barn Owls

Barn Owl (Tuto Albus) looking for food
Hi all today's Day 105, and today I have a lovely owl for you which I don't see very often but are one of my favourite birds. I love to see them hunting. As you can see from the title and the pictures I am talking about the Barn Owl. I've seen them most often in Norfolk but am off hunting for them on Monday in a spot Mum and Dad found not far from me where they got these pictures.

I love these birds and I think it's time to get on with the facts:
  • Barn Owls look lovely with their heart-shaped face but this is for a reason. The face acts like our inner-ears and directs sound towards their ears which makes them better hearers than they would be. You can see their heart-shaped face in the picture to the right.
Barn Owl in flight
  • They are white birds with brown wings and head. Their Latin name refers to all the white on their body. Tuto means 'an owl' and Albus means white. Altogether this means 'A white owl'.
  • Barn Owls have many local names which are, 'Yellow Owl', 'White Owl', 'Screech Owl', 'Billy Wix' and 'Ginny Ollit'.
  • Their name 'Screech Owl' probably comes from their call. It is basically just a panicked scream. This easily heard from the video below.

  • They are an Amber Status because they have been on the rise slightly (after declining since the 1930's).
  • ...Adding to this there are 4,000 breeding pairs in the UK which are shortly joined by another 4,500-17,000 wintering birds.
Taking off from its vantage point
  • Barn Owls have over 30 subspecies which are distributed world-wide. Here in the UK there are only 2 subspecies of Barn Owl, the White Barn Owl (the one I am covering today) and the Portia Barn Owl.
  • They are 36cm in length with an 89cm wingspan. Both male and female Barn Owls weigh 300g.
  • They have an expected life span of 4 years but the oldest Barn Owl ever was 15 years and 26 days old.
  • Their diet consists of small mammals such as field voles, shrews and mice. In tomorrow's post I will disect a Barn Owl pellet to see more deeply what they eat.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 13 February 2015

Day 104 - Y'all gonna love Yellowhammers!

Hi guys today's Day 104 and, as I have mentioned in previous posts, I have been at Stavely Nature Reserve and saw lots of things. One of the highlights, though, was when I saw a vibrant yellow bird. I had never seen a bird like this before but from what I have heard about birds, I immediately identified them as Yellowhammers. They are beautiful birds as you can see from the pictures and were a pleasure to watch feeding.

Anyway here are the facts:
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)

  • They are resident all across the UK apart from North and West Scotland where they are only found during the summer.
  • Despite the fact that they have 710,000 breeding territories in the UK, they are a Red Status bird as they have had population declines recently. 
  • They are small birds being only 16cm in length and only having a 26cm wingspan. As well as this, both male and female weigh only 31g.
  • They are most common in arable areas but also can be found in scrubs, pastures, broadleaved areas and villages.
  • They first breed when they are one year old in April-June and lay 2-3 clutches which usually consist of 3-4 eggs.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 3 years but the oldest recorded Yellowhammer was 11 years 9 months and 28 days old.
Feeding on muddy ground really makes them stand out
  • They have a distinctive call which is known as 'little bit of bread and no cheese!' It has enough syllables to fit several things like 'sweet and sour chicken, fried rice!'
  • One of my favourite authors named Enid Blyton made the above statement popular in one of her books. (By the way, I don't mean the chicken one...)
  • The Yellowhammer's nest is a large egg cup shape. It is made by the female with grass and moss which is then lined with hair and more grass. The nest is usually built near the ground in hedgerows.
  • The first record of Yellowhammers was in the Anglo Saxon times. There is also fossil evidence from 10,000-120,000 years ago.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,