Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Day 148 - Exceptionally Elegant Eurasian Cranes

Eurasian Crane Pair (Grus grus)
Hi all today's Day 148 and I have been at Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Centre and there are two very large, lovely birds right next to the visitor centre. They do occur in the UK as they have been seen in a number of places that I have been to, but I haven't been lucky enough to see them yet. They have apparently been seen on the Norfolk Broads, which is where I go on holiday a lot of the time, and at Nosterfield so I'll be looking for them locally as well.

So, here are the facts:
Trotting along the grass

  • They are a very localised bird only living, in the Summer, in the Centre of Norfolk. I don't know where the Wintering birds go but I guess they're just dotted around.
  • There are only about 11 breeding pairs in the UK and they must will be concentrated in Norfolk.
  • They are lucky enough to be joined by 30 other birds in the Winter and then 40 birds migrating over.
    Up close
  • They are an Amber Status bird because they have declined massively over the last 300 years because of shooting, disturbance and drainage.
  • They are huge birds, up to 115cm in length, as well as their 232cm wingspan! This is probably the largest bird that I have covered in my blog.
  • For such a large bird you'd think they would weigh quite a lot, well you'd be wrong, they must have a lot of feathers on them. Both Males and Females weigh around 5.6kg!
  • They start breeding when they are 4 years old and that's quite elderly for a bird but not when you compare it to its typical lifespan of 13 years!
  • There's too few birds ringed to know what the oldest Crane was and they also have NO NEST RECORDS!
  • The average crane would raise 17.82 young Cranes to breeding years in its lifetime but we'll round that up to 18 ;-)
  • I managed to compile a video of the Cranes I saw at Washington, I got them courting, feeding, resting and just generally mooching around:

As well as this, there is a Nosterfield Highlight Video that shows the Cranes in it. You can see it below:

To see Crane, it's at two minutes.

So, here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 30 March 2015

Day 147 - Pointedlly Pintastic Pintails

Northern Pintail (Anus acuta)
Hi all today's Day 147 and I have been at Wonderful Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Centre again today and I managed to get some pictures of a lovely duck that I saw last time, but didn't manage to get a picture of. They are a lovely bird to watch and the length of their tail was absolutely astounding. From the clues, title and pictures, you'll know that I am talking about Pintails.

So, here are the facts:
  • Pintails are a very localised species. The 29,000 wintering birds occur in sheltered coasts and on Estuaries.
A very elegant bird
  • The other 18 to 66 breeding birds are in Eastern England and South Western Scotland all year and Central Scotland in Summer.
  • Their diet is a range of invertebrates and plants.
  • They are an Amber Status bird because of their small breeding population. They have been an Amber Status for at least the last 3 assessments.
  • They are quite a big duck with a 58cm length and an 88cm wingspan. Males weigh 900g and females weigh 700g.
Looking for dinner
  • The sad thing about breeding populations is that there aren't any nest records in the UK. Obviously more would be welcome as they are a lovely bird!
  • They have two local names. The first one is 'Winter Ducks' and the second is 'Sea Pheasant'. The collective noun for Pintails is a 'Flight'.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 3 years but the oldest ever Pintail was 15 years 11 months and 20 days old.
So, if you want some more information then here are a few links:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 29 March 2015

Day 146 - Stupendous Starfish

Hi all today's Day 146 and a while ago I went to the beach with my Dad. We mainly went onto a little detached island by hopping over some stones to get there. It's a Northumberland Wildlife Trust reserve called Cresswell Forshore.  The tide had probably just gone out as there were lots of rock-pools there and we saw more than we had ever seen in a rock-pool before. Talking to a local man on the beach afterwards he said the tide was unusually low and it might have been to do with the solar eclipse and the moon being quite close to the earth. Lucky for us as it had left behind some brilliant rock pools and I saw at least 2 things that I hadn't seen before. One of these was the majestic starfish, well I say majestic, all it did was sit there but anyway, it was nice to see.

So I did my research and here are the facts:

Starfish (Asteroidea)
I think it is a common starfish (Asterias rubens)
  • Starfish are not actually fish as they have no gills, scales or fins. They also move completely differently to fish. Some scientists are trying to get these animals commonly called Sea Stars so people aren't confused and think they are fish.
  • They have hundreds of tiny tube feet and they move by walking. Their feet are filled with sea water which goes to their sieve plate.
  • Their feet don't only help them to move, they also hold onto their prey. My feet can't do that, I hope :-).
  • Doctor Who came to mind when I read this fact. Starfish can actually regenerate a lost arm... This, weirdly, also works vice-versa. Yes, a Starfish's arm can regenerate the rest of their body...
  • This is because their arms actually house some of their most vital organs. I think this is their brain but I'm not sure.
  • Staying on the subject of arms, some starfish have more than just 5 arms. Some, like the Sun Star, can have up to 40 arms!
  • Starfish don't have any blood, instead they have a system of tubes filled with water which they use to move their bodies. The sieve plate I mentioned earlier makes sure the tubes don't get clogged by keeping out any particles in the water.
The way star fish eat means they can tackle prey
much larger than them - look out whelk!
  • Starfish have to be able to see, right? Well, they can. They have an eye at the end of each arm, it must be confusing to have 40 eyes!
  • Starfish also have an amazing way of eating. They eat shellfish and they must have strong arms as they will wrap them selves around their prey and can pull open things like mussels just enough to start eating.
  • Once the shell is prised open they push their stomachs out of their mouths and into the shell where they digest it before they pull their stomachs back into their bodies! Impressive!

Amazing creatures! If you want to find out more here are some links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Day 145 - A Cracking Conference at the RSPB Member's Weekend

Vote for Bob!
Hi all today's Day 145 and I have been at York University at the RSPB Member's Weekend. It was quite a short drive over to York, only about three quarters of an hour, and it was quite an un-eventful trip in terms of nature. The only interesting thing that we saw was a Kestrel but other than that, it was just your usual, wood-pigeons, black-headed gulls that sort of thing. When we got there we made it over to the Exhibition Hall which is where registration was. There were a couple of stalls in there, one for children (of which I was probably the only one to visit but I'll get to that in a minute), there were lots of stalls with competitions on, I entered one in which you had to identify the bird from really close up. Keep in mind that each bird was from a completely different country or even a different continent! To make it easier for us, though, they gave us a book that had pictures of the birds. There was a stand for Vote for Bob and I got see him! You can see him in the picture to the right. Finally there was a stand for Yorkshire Coast Nature and I got to talk to another person that I am in touch with over Twitter which is always fun.

Now, onto the talks. The first talk was by Steve Rowland and was about The Wallasea Island Wild Coast Project. This was mainly talking about transforming plots of land into something that wildlife can thrive in, recreating habitats that have been lost or are threatened. The main example was Wallasea Island. This was one of the largest projects that the RSPB has ever undertaken. They were working with farmers and land owners. They are still working on this project now but when it is finished they are saying that is going to be one of the best reserves they have.

A Great Crested Grebe nesting in the middle
of the University of York
The next talk was about Ospreys by Ian Perks. The talk was called Ospreys in Britain: Back from the Brink. This was an extremely interesting talk as Ian was talking about how they became extinct in the UK but two Ospreys stopped off here when they were migrating and bred successfully. Sadly, egg collectors stole them. The next year the same two Ospreys stopped off and bred again successfully but this time, no egg collectors stole them and they fledged successfully. These then went on to breed. And so it continued, they kept breeding. Just from those two Ospreys we now have around 300 breeding pairs in the UK. A big part of this success was the RSPB getting involved to protect the birds and they had to do a lot of that - even rebuilding a nest when somebody cut down the branch it was on with a chainsaw! The other important thing the RSPB did was to tell people about the Ospreys and get them to visit and see these wonderful birds. The Osprey camp has over the years transformed from a caravan, to a potting shed through to a wonderful big modern building now with compost toilets!

After this it was tea and coffee break but all I really did was look at the birds outside as you can see in the pictures. I did notice though that there was a stand that was highlighting the investigation work the RSPB do into wildlife crime.

A gaggle of Snow Geese outside of the conference
The next talk was by Kara Brydson about Saving Scotland's Seas. She talked mainly about sea birds and there was a lot of figures like the UK has around 90% of all sea birds in Europe but this is declining rapidly. She was saying that sea birds are the most rapidly declining bird-type in the world. This is pretty incredible when you think about all the types, Garden Birds, Forest birds, etc. She also talked about new marine protected zones which are important as sea birds have had protection on land for some time but not at sea until now.

The final talk that I stayed for was by Dave Lamacraft the Senior Conservation Officer for Plantlife. The talk was called Working with Plantlife in Wales. The main aspect of the talk was how when the RSPB and Plantlife joined forces, they were able to help some of our lichen and plant species. He also talked about all the different types of plant in the Temperate Rainforest or Celtic Rainforest. These are very important to a wide range of lesser plants (lichens, mosses, liverworts etc.).

Here is the link to the page on the RSPB for the Member's Weekend:

It was a great morning, the talks taught me a lot. It struck me though that I was the only young person there which was a shame. There were lots of friendly people that obviously care about nature a lot. Young people though need to know about the work that is going on and to be inspired to care about our wildlife too - I wonder if there`s going to be a young members weekend sometime, RSPB?

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 27 March 2015

Day 144 - Stupendous Stonechats

A misty Dunstanburgh - very atmospheric
Hi all today's Day 144 and I had an amazing walk down by the coast over by Dunstanburgh Castle near Craster. I saw so much wildlife there and the views were absolutely incredible. It was a bit misty there but it sort of added a bit of atmosphere to it and I think it made it look like what I think a setting for a Medieval horror film would look like - spooky!

The walk was quite long but we passed it by hopping along the rocks by the side of the sea where we saw lots of lichens and a couple of water birds and explored lots of rock pools. It was an wonderful walk. Along the walk, though, we saw a bird that we couldn't think what it was. We thought it to be some sort of warbler, but it was in actual fact a Stonechat which was great as we have only ever seen Stonechats very briefly from very far away.

Fields of lichens
So I did my research and here are some facts:

  • They are Green Status bird but for the last couple of assessments they have been an Amber Status bird.
  • In breeding season, there are 56,000 pairs of Stonechats in the UK and they usually breed successfully.
A very accommodating Stonechat 
  • They tend to be resident around all of Ireland but not so much in central areas
  • In mainland UK they tend to be resident in the West in the summer visiting the East coast in the Winter, lucky for me :-)
  • They are quite a small bird, just 12cm long with a wingspan of 20cm and weighing in at just 15g
  • They eat mainly invertebrates but will take berries too
  • They are found in all habitats but they are most common near the coast (which is where I saw one) but they are also common in Grassy Heath-lands.
  • Among all 112,000 Stonechats in the UK, there are only 133 nest records! I haven't been able to find a reason for this but if anyone could tell me I would be very grateful.
Anyway, here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Day 143 - Brilliant Buffleheads

Hi all today's Day 143 and, if you follow my blog, you will know that I have been at Washington Wetland Centre. It was great to get a look at a lot of birds I haven't seen before, and learn how this charity is helping a lot of species. When I was there, I must have seen at least 21 species that I had never seen before. This was really fun to do and it also given me a lot of blogging material. One of the things that I saw there had a fabulous name. The Bufflehead :-) I know that they are not very common in Britain, as I will mention below, but I felt I had to cover them because of their great name :-p
Male Bufflehead ( Bucephala albeola )

So, here are the facts:

  • Its name comes from the two words 'buffalo' and 'head'. The reason for this is because this bird has an unusually large head for its size. You can see this in the pictures.
  • Males appear to be black and white but if you get close enough you will see they're actually purple and green!
  • Females are duller in colour and they have completely different patterns on their body to their male associates.
  • There are fewer than 20 RECORDS IN THE UK. This isn't too bad, though, seeing as they're actually an American bird.
Female bufflehead - hard to photo
- most of them were just showing ripples!
  • The last natural sighting that I have found was in Trimley Marshes in Suffolk in 2014. Several others have been sighted in 2007 in the Highlands and the Outer Hebrides of Scotland.
  • They are small birds being only 36cm in length and only having a wingspan of 58cm. Males weigh 400g and Females weigh 340g.
  • They feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insect larvae as well as some types of seed, along with crustaceans and molluscs.
  • Some collective nouns for the Bufflehead are a brace, a flush, a paddling, a raft and a team. That's for you Roy! You can remember this from the following rhyme that I have made up:
I saw a team of buffleheads paddling a raft in the bracing cold as they were flushed down a river.
Looking out
  • Buffleheads dive underwater and when courting females the Males swim in front of them, bobbing their heads up and down very quickly. They are also monogamous and usually colonise in small groups.
  • When one is fishing/diving, another will keep watch for predators. That's teamwork in the wildlife world!
  • You can identify them when they're flying because of their small size, fast wing-beats and they rock from side to side when they fly.
  • The oldest ever recorded Bufflehead was 18 years and 8 months old!
It's a cracking little compact duck and it's a shame they are so rare. If you want to find out more, click on one of the links.

Finally, this is probably my favourite fact that I found because I had to laugh;

Their beautiful song goes like this:  'Quack'

(I'm not going to mention the site I saw that on to protect the innocent)


Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Day 142 - Entertaingly Expressive Eider Ducks

Hi all today's Day 142 and as you know I was at Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Centre over near Newcastle and I saw at lots of species I hadn't seen before. There was a bird there though that I had seen the day before for the first time but it was in the distance just off the coast at Dunstanburgh Castle near Craster in Northumberland. I was glad to see it up close though as it makes a fabuloouus (you'll get that in a minute :-) noise. From the title and the pictures you'll know that I am talking about Eider Ducks.
Male Eider ducks (Somateria mollissima

So I did my research and here are the facts:
  • They have a very interesting range of territory. They are resident all over the Scottish Islands and have quite a range in the seas around them as well. 
  • They are also resident along the coast of Scotland as well as a short range round them. Their resident territory does stretch a small bit into Northern England and North Northern Ireland.
  • Finally, they Winter all around the coast of England apart from Central-Southern England. They also live on the coast of Southern Wales but that's it. Phew!
  • They are an Amber status bird because it is concentrated in one place in the Winter. This classifies it in the Amber List.
Male and female Eider duck
  • There are 27,000 breeding pairs in the UK. In the Winter, though, there are 63,000 birds in the UK.
  • They are 60cm long and have a 94cm wingspan. Both male and female birds weigh 2.2kg which is quite heavy when you think about it.
  • It is quite good that I saw my first Eider in Northumberland, they have quite a history there and were a favourite of St Cuthbert. There is a stained glass window in a church in Amble that shows St Cuthbert with his beloved Eider. Due to this they are known locally as Cuthberts or Cuddy ducks.
  • Their diet is molluscs and crustaceans which they dive for on the sea bed. The mollissima bit of their latin name refers to their favourite food of mussels. 
  • They live in colonies and their young are looked after in creches.
  • Eider ducks have been hunted and farmed in the past for their warm down or under feathers which were used for eiderdown quilts! This nearly led to their extinction in the 19th Century
  • They have one of the best calls that I have ever heard. It is basically just an ooh! You can hear it at this link, at a video on the RSPB linked page below or in my little film clip here.

  • They have a very large typical lifespan of 8 years! I'd say that's pretty good but one Eider went quite a step further and survived for 35 years 6 months and 26 days!
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Day 141 - Terribly Terrific Tundra Bean Goose

Bean Goose (Anser fabalis)
Hi all today's Day 141 and as you know I was at Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Centre. I saw at least 21 species that I had never seen before and amongst these was a particular goose. At the visitor centre I was told that there was quite an interesting bird visiting the reserve, a Tundra Bean Goose. We weren't told where it was because they probably didn't know its whereabouts so I was sent on a wild goose chase (there you go Roy ;-).

Well as you can see I found it! It's another lovely looking bird. As usual I wanted to find out more so here are some of the facts I found out:
  • There are two different types of Bean Goose, the one I saw at Washington (Tundra) and the one that I have never seen before (Taiga).
Is this my best side?
  • Bean Geese are an Amber Status bird as they have declined in the last 20 years. Possible reasons for this are, a Human population growth which puts pressure on their territory, a change of habitat and direct killing. Another Wildlife Crime.
  • They have a combined population total of 730 wintering birds which is comprised of, 410 taiga bean geese and 320 tundra bean geese.
  • Another possible reason for decline is that the maximum recorded age is only 2 years 6 months and 2 days. A single pair of Bean Geese would only get 1 mating season in their lifetime! There doesn't seem to be much data available on their lifespan.
  • They have a length of 75cm and a wingspan of 158cm. Males weigh quite a lot more than females weighing 3.4kg while females weigh 2.8kg.
    Showing the lovely colours in its wings
  • They have such a good flight co-ordination that they can fly at incredible speeds. Some have been recorded flying over 650km in just 7 hours 39 minutes averaging speeds of 85kph!
  • Their Latin name is probably one of the most apt I have ever heard. Anser meaning a goose and Fabalis meaning of beans. So Anser fabalis translates to: a goose of beans :-D. They get this name from their habit of grazing in fields of bean stubble.
  • Staying on the subject of names, the Bean Goose doesn't seem to have any local names but if I had to make one for it, it would probably be 'dark-headed chase' as it has a dark head and, as it's rare, it makes you chase after it!
I'm watching you
  • The species 'fabalis' or 'of beans' is actually a Red Status species as it is of international concern.
  • Even though they live near lakes and in tundras (a treeless, cold upland which usually house dwarf shrubs sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens) they eat grass, cereals, potatoes and other crops.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 23 March 2015

Day 140 - Smashingly Smart Smews

Male Smew (Mergus albelus)
Hi all today's Day 140 and as you know, I have been at Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Centre where I saw at least 21 species that I'd never seen before. One of these was one that I have wanted to see ever since I saw a picture of it and heard its name. My Mum thinks that their name sounds like Shmoo which is a cartoon character from a long, long, long time ago way before my Mum was even born.... I`m talking of course about a Smew!

Anyway, here are the facts:

  • A male Smew (a Drake) is unmistakable as its black and white feathers have been described as 'cracked ice' because of the patterns on their bodies.
Female Smew
  • If I didn't know already, I'd probably think that the male Smew and the female Smew were a completely different species because they look so different.
  • Smews only live in the South of England in Winter and don't live anywhere else at any time of the year. We saw them in the North of England in the Spring because it was a wildlife sanctuary of sorts.
  • They come from Denmark and Holland to escape the freezing temperatures of those countries. This only happens occasionally, though, as the majority come from Scandinavia and Russia in Winter.
  • They are an Amber Status bird even though there are only 180 wintering birds in the UK. It's also because there is only a small European population as in the Summer there are 1,300 - 2,000 breeding pairs.
  • They are 41cm in length and they have a 62cm wingspan. Males weigh 700g while females weigh 580g.
A pair of Smews
  • Smews have 2 local names, one for each gender. Males can be called 'White Nuns' and females can be called Redheads.
  • This is probably the first bird, apart from Herons, that I have covered in my blog whose diet consists of fish. The fish goes alongside insects which they find through diving.
  • In the wild they can live for 6 years while in captivity they can live for 8-10 years. I couldn't find the maximum life span of a Smew, sorry.
  • There have been fossils found dating back to the Pleistocene period that`s half a million years ago!
Here are some links to some mo' information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 22 March 2015

Day 139 - Brilliant Birders Against Woeful Wildlife Crime

Chris and Henry the Hen Harrier
Hi all today's Day 139 and before I start today's post I just wanted to say I'm sorry that I didn't do a post last night. The reason for this was, I was at a Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC for short) conference. This was an amazing conference so much so that I have decided to write a post on it.

I got there by winning a sponsored ticket competition by writing an essay about wildlife crime. My essay was mainly about littering and how it can harm animals. You can see the essay I did on my guest blog on thewildoutside.com. Click here to see it.

I was the youngest person at this conference followed closely by the other sponsored ticket winners, Sophie Bagshaw, Findlay Wilde and Georgia Locock. Click on their names to see their blogs. They were all very friendly to talk to and it was fun to meet some of my fellow wildlife bloggers.

As well as us younger people, there was also a lot of people that follow me on Twitter there. I met Rob Sheldon, who I am 'in touch with' and Mary Arnold, another Twitteree. They were all really nice and some of them were very generous like @Animal_Watch who gifted me a book called 'Inside Nature's Giants' which was actually signed by Simon Watt! Also Steve Mills (@shepster55), from Birdwing.eu who very kindly gave me a pack of playing cards which had birds on them! The best part, though, is that they'll help me to learn a bit of Greek as the names are in Greek! I'm learning them Steve!
We must look after natural treasures
as well as national treasures

So, down to the actual conference. The first speaker of the day was Chris Packham who's lecture was probably the most fun one of the day, as part of his talk he compared destroying a Constable painting to wildlife crime - they are both treasures that need to be protected for everyone but some people are getting away with destroying our wildlife treasure. You can see it to the right. -----}>

The main message that Chris was trying to get across was that you don't just care about Wildlife Crime you actually have to DO something about it.

Mark Avery doing his talk
#Haveyouseenhenry - I have :-)
Another favourite speech was by Mark Avery who was talking about Hen Harriers. One of the main things that he was talking about was Britain's Favourite Bird Vote. He was saying that the Hen Harrier is the only bird that will benefit from winning this vote as not many people know the strife that the Hen Harrier is going through because of Wildlife Crime and how, because of this, not many people will be able to help with what's happening. He said that there is only a small group of people that know about the Hen Harrier (about 4% of the UK's population) and half of these absolutely loathe Hen Harriers and the other half love them. If we can get the other 96% interested then we will completely out-weigh the people that are harming the harriers.

Please vote for the Hen Harrier here.

A nasty Fenn trap! 
Anyway, I have definitely learnt something at this conference and that is to help stop Wildlife Crime by reporting anything I see to the Police by calling 101. I also now know some of the law to do with Wildlife Crime like even just setting a Fenn trap (a trap that is legal under certain conditions but illegal under others) and putting it on a post where a bird could sit to get a good look-out to see prey. I learnt a lot about all of the work that a lot of groups do to protect species like bats and badgers.

So taking up Chris Packham's point what am I going to DO? Well, I will do what I can to get more people interested in wildlife and realise that we can all help prevent wildlife crime by looking out for it and reporting it. I will also try and get to Hen Harrier day to learn more and show support and I'm definitely going to get in touch with my local bat and badger groups to see if there is anything I can do to help them. I helped set up a bird club at school and I'll definitely be telling my friends there all about the day and how they can help as well.
One of the blokes I met there.

The last thing to do is to say a big thank you to Charlie Moores, Lawrie Phipps and all the Birders Against Wildlife Crime team for organising a brilliant day. It was the first conference I have been to and if I hadn't have won tickets I may not have gone. I wouldn't have realised it wasn't like a day sitting in class, what a great experience it would be and how many fantastic, friendly and caring people I would have met. Thank you!

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 20 March 2015

Day 138 - A Nature Ramble at Wonderful Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust (Say that 5 times fast!)

Hi all today's Day 138 and I have recently been at an amazing Nature Reserve over near Newcastle, the Washington Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust site, which helps endangered species over in other countries by taking them over here and breeding them . This is really good as you get to see birds that you won't see anywhere else in Britain, as well as helping foreign birds out. I saw loads of species that I had never seen before including one that I have always wanted to see. (You can see which below).

Anyway, here is the list of birds:

British Woodland Birds:
  • Bullfinches, 4 (I love seeing the vibrant colours on these).
  • Blue Tits, 6 (These are a common garden bird but still great to watch).
  • Great Tits, 3 (Very similar to Blue Tits but bigger and they look more manly [That's what I think anyway]).
  • Greenfinches, 2 (Quite big for a garden bird but not as big as pigeons, blackbirds etc).
Long Tailed Tit
  • Coal Tits, 3 (I don't see these very often and they are very nice to watch).
  • Long-Tailed Tits, 4 (These are one of my favourite birds).
  • Robin, 2 (One of the most common and tame birds).
  • Dunnocks, 2 (They are hard to differentiate from some other birds but are lovely to watch).
  • Wrens, 2 (They are actually the smallest bird in England!)
  • Great-Spotted Woodpecker (I have done a posts on these very recently, they must be common this time of year!)
Ducks, Geese and Waders:
  • Mallards, 10 (These are probably the commonest duck in England).
  • Common Sheldon, 25 (I don't see these very often but they have beautiful colours on them).
  • Ruddy Sheldon, 5 (I have never seen one of these birds before. New Species: 1).
  • Tufted Duck, (I see these most times I go to lakes and I mistake them for Goldeneyes a lot of the time!)
  • Eider Duck, 12 (They make one of the best noises I have ever heard, ohh! New species)
  • Hooded Merganser, 10 (They are beautiful birds and have a huge tuft on the top of their head. New species: 3).
  • Bufflehead, 5 (New species: 4).
  • Mandarin Duck, 5 (They are probably the most colourful bird that I have ever seen in my life. New species: 5).
  • Black Swan, 1 (Seeing a Black Swan really messes with your mind, you expect it to be white, but it's black! What?! New Species: 6).
  • Trumpeter Swan, 2 (They have another great call, they are aptly named as it is a sound exactly like a trumpet! New species: 7).
  • Pink-Footed Goose, 2
  • Greylag Goose, 5
  • Bar-Headed Goose, 5
  • Barnacle Goose, 7
  • Ross' Goose, 20 (New species: 8).
  • Red-Breasted Goose, 15 (New species: 9).
  • Hawaiian Goose, 4 (New species: 10)
White Headed Duck
  • Hawaiian Goose Gosling. 4 (New species: 11)
  • Andean Goose, 1 (New species: 12)
  • White-Headed Duck, 5 (Looked more like a Blue-Billed Duck to me! New species: 13)
  • Pintails, 6 (New species: 14)
  • Smew!!!! 6 (This is the bird I have always wanted to see. New species: 15)
  • Black-Bellied Whistling Duck (Dad really liked these, they have a very quiet soft whistling call and they are quite a shy bird. New species: 16)
    Bean Goose!
  • Tundra Bean Goose, 1 (This bird is not usually seen in the North of England so was very interesting to see. New species: 17)
  • Toulouse Goose, 2 (These were very inquisitive birds but they were huge! New species: 18)
  • Avocets, 6
  • Lapwings, 20
  • Canada Goose, 10
  • Heronry, had about 50-60 birds in it. (I have never seen one of these before).
  • Ferruginous Ducks, 2 (New species: 19)
  • Bronze Winged Duck, 3 (New species: 20)
    American Wood Duck
  • Argentine Red Shoveler, 2 
  • Goosander, 2
  • Redshanks, 8
  • European Cranes, 2 (We saw what was probably their courtship dance and I managed to record it! Watch out for a post soon. New species: 21)
  • American Wood Duck, 2 (New species: 22)

It was a great place and here is the link to their website if you fancy a visit:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Day 137 - Delightful Deer at Super Studley Part 2

Sika Deer stags locking horns
Hi all today's Day 137 and yesterday I did a post on Deer. I reviewed Deer in general yesterday but didn't focus on the species of Deer that I actually saw. For those of you that didn't see my Deer post or can't remember it, here is a link to it. The types of Deer I saw at Studley were Red, Sika and Fallow Deer. They were all very interesting to watch especially the Sika Deer when two of the Stags were fighting! Oh deer! (another one for Roy :-) You can see a picture of that to the right. When I do my facts I will do a few facts on each type of Deer I saw.

Anyway, here are the facts:

Sika Deer (Cervus nippon):
  • Sika Deer do not usually sleep as they are active throughout all 24 hours of the day. They are most active at night, though.
Sika Deer hinds
  • Sika Deer usually graze on grass and small shrubs their favourite being Heather. Coniferous tree shoots can also be eaten as well as bark, both in small quantities.
  • Sika Stags can weigh from 40kg to 70kg and are 70cm to 95cm at their shoulders. Sika Hinds are considerably smaller weighing 30kg to 45kg and are only 50cm to 90cm at their shoulders.
  • They are an introduced species first brought to Britain from the far east around 1860.
  • I may have been lucky to see such a group as they tend to be fairly unsocial, preferring to be solitary most of the year and only form small groups in winter

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)

  • Red Deer are active, just like Sika Deer, throughout all 24 hours of the day. They are most active, though, at dawn and dusk.
A Red Deer stag having a scratch
  • The eat roughly the same as Sika Deer, grazing on grass and small shrubs, their favourites being bilberry, though. They can eat woody browse and tree shoots as well.
  • They are the UK's largest land mammal. Stags weigh 90kg to 190kg! They are up to 105cm to 120cm long at their shoulders. Hinds weigh 65kg to 120kg and are the same size as males.
  • These deer have only been here for around 11,000 years! As man developed from hunter gathers to farmers they were pushed into the wilder higher parts of the country.
  • In woods they prefer to be solitary or small mother and calf groups. In more open land like Studley larger mixed single groups may form only mixing during the rut (deer breeding season).

Fallow Deer (Dama Dama) :
  • Sadly I didn't get any pics of these guys as I was too far away
  • Fallow Deer are active at the same time as Red Deer, all through the day and they are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • They eat the same things as Sika and Red Deer - grass, although they can eat tree shoots in Autumn and Winter when there is a limited food supply.
  • Stags weigh 46kg to 94kg and are 85cm to 95cm at their shoulder. Hinds weigh 35kg to 56kg and are 75cm to 90cm long at their shoulders.
  • These are another introduced species though they have been here since the Normans introduced them in the 11th Century.
  • Social grouping varies with habitat, in places like Studley they are likely to form mixed sex groups most of the year.

Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


P.S. I hope to do a post tomorrow but I may not get time as my Mum is in hospital for an operation.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Day 136 - Delightful Deer at Super Studley Part 1

Herd of deer under a fabulous old tree
Hi all today's Day 136 and as you probably know I was at Ripon at the weekend and I saw quite a lot during my day out there. We made a little stop at Studley Royal, part of the National Trust site which includes the fabulous Fountains Abbey. This is full of fantastic old trees in lovely parkland and we were not surprised to see loads of Deer as it is home to over 500 wild deer. The ones we saw were just sat next to the road feeding.

They are fantastic creatures and I thought I'd do a mini series on them, so here's a few facts to start off with:
  • Studley Royal is near to Fountains Abbey which is one of the 4 main abbeys in North Yorkshire, Bylands, Rievaulx, Jervaux and of course, Fountains. They're all fabulous!
Taking an interest in me and my camera
  • The Deer Park at Studley is, of course, where we saw the deer. The park was formerly home to Studley Royal House which was largely destroyed by fire in 1716 and then restored 50 years later. This restoration was then destroyed again by fire in 1946. This was then demolished shortly afterwards.
  • The Deer family has 44 species in it! At Studley we saw Red Deer, Sika Deer and Fallow Deer.
  • Apart from the Chinese Water Deer which have tusks, all male Deer have antlers. With Reindeer though, both genders have antlers.
  • Hybrid deer are apparently very fertile animals and in The Origin of Species Charles Darwin mentioned them.
A fantastic stag
  • He wrote 'I do not know of any thoroughly well-authenticated cases of perfectly fertile hybrid animals, I have reason to believe that the hybrids from Cervulus vaginalis and Reevisii are perfectly fertile'.
  • The two types of Muntjac Deer mentioned above are currently considered the same species.
  • There are at least 20 coats of arms that have deer on them. These are a few of them: Chile's Coat of Arms, Northern Ireland's Coat of Arms, Dassel, Germany's Coat of Arms, Voss, Norway's Coat of Arms and Umea, Sweden Coat of Arms.
Stag relaxed amongst a group of hinds
  • The expression 'eat humble pie' obviously comes from the Humble Pie. This is actually made out of Deer Organ meat called Humble. This can go nicely alongside of Venison which is the main meat of Deer.
  • Deer in the U.S.A cause a lot of economic damage. The collisions on roads cause on average $1.1 billion in damage annually.
Here are some links to some information:

Hope you enjoyed, more to follow in part 2.


Monday, 16 March 2015

Day 135 - A Nature Ramble at Ripon

Hi all today's Day 135 and as I have mentioned in my last posts I had a great walk at Ripon along the River Skell. It's a great riverside walk through some lovely woods and fields. It's only just down the road from Fountains Abbey too, another place I really like to visit.

It was a lovely day and I saw lots of things there. I've already covered two of the species I saw already but I saw so much I thought it needed a Nature Ramble post.

The woodland starting to green up again
So, here is the list with links to those I have already covered:

  • 2 Herons (they were lovely to watch and one actually flew directly above us!)
  • At least 3 Tree-creepers (I saw one at one point but them some more caught my eye a bit later).
Flowers were starting to come out too
  • 2 Long-Tailed Tits (These are one of me and my mum's favourite birds [fluffy lollipops]).
  • 1 Redwing (I have only seen these birds once before in my life).
  • 6 Mallards (Common birds but they are very interesting and I like that they nearly always come over to see you to see if they will get fed :-).
  • 1 Goosander (I have never seen one of these in my life,  and only just caught this out of the corner of my eye when we were getting back into the car, still managed to get a photo good enough for a future post)
    Heron stood on the riverside with a
    carpet of Ramsons behind
  • 1 Song Thrush (I have only seen one at Bird Club, at school, and out-side our house in a tree).
  • 1 U.F.O (An unidentified flying object - definitely a bird, not an alien spacecraft - possibly a wood warbler)
It was a really nice day and great to see some flowers coming out and the Ramsons were starting to smell quite nicely so it really felt like spring.

Anyway, sorry this was quite a short post but I will make up for it with a good post tomorrow. See if you can guess what it is in the comments below.

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 15 March 2015

Day 134 - Gorgeous Grey Wagtails

Hi all today's Day 134 and yesterday I was at Ripon walking along the river Skell and I saw something flitting about on the rocks by the side of it. I knew it was some type of Wagtail and it looked like a Yellow Wagtail but, after further inspection, it turned out to be a Grey Wagtail. I had never seen one of these birds before so it was quite exciting to see.

Of course I came back and did my research and here are the facts I found :

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea)
  • They are found throughout most of Britain though not in the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland.
  • In the summer they prefer the uplands and hills of England, in the winter they move to lowland streams and sometimes urban areas too.
  • They can make nests in very unusual places. For example, on the BBC website there is as video that shows Wagtails setting up home inside a boat-gate.
  • Speaking of habitats, they will live in any habitat apart from Estuaries where they are not found at all. They are also very uncommon on Shores but they can still be found there...
  • ...They are most common along rivers which is where I found mine but they are also common in Moorland.
  • Their diet is made up of ants, midges and other insects they find by rivers. In shallow water they will also take snails and tadpoles.
  • They are an Amber List species as they have had recent declines all the way down to just 38,000 breeding pairs. They also find it hard to survive in the Winter but as this one was quite mild I wonder if they'll have done a little better? Cold Springs and wet Summers are thought to have not been helpful to their breeding.
Looking for bugs on the riverside
  • They will normally live for 2 years but the oldest Grey Wagtail was 7 years and 1 day. Well done to it for getting to 7 years!
  • It has the local name of Barley Bird which is weird for two reasons. One, they only eat insects, and two because they're not very common in farmland.
  • The collective noun for Wagtails is a volery - that's one I don't quite understand.....

Well I hope these guys have a better time in the future as they are really lovely to see and to watch flitting up and down the riverside. If you want to know more about them here's are a few links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,