Thursday, 30 April 2015

Day 178 - Motivated Mistle Thrushes

Hey everyone, it's day 178 and the last few days are turning into a mini series of things I've seen recently on the wonderful North York Moors. I'm carrying on today with a bird I kept seeing when we were driving back from our visit to Garbutt Woods and  Lake Gormire. We took a lovely route home across an area called Snilesworth Moor. I know @HenryHenHarrier visited here recently too and sadly didn't find a girlfriend. It is a shame that the moors are managed for shooting game birds. It's such a lovely place otherwise and should be great for raptors like the Hen Harrier. Hope there's a girl friend here for you soon @HenryHenHarrier  - would be great to see you set up home here.
Snilesworth - it's very beautiful and would be great
for Henry and a girlfriend.

There is plenty of other wildlife to see though including today's lovely bird. I've only seen one or two before that I remember but on this journey I saw at least 12. I'm taking today about a lovely Mistle Thrush.

So I did my research and this is what I found:

  • The latin name for Mistle Thrush is Turdus viscivorus which is really descriptive of this bird. Turdus means Thrush, the visci bit comes from viscum, latin for mistletoe and vorus comes from vorare, which means to devour. So this is a Thrush that loves to devour mistletoe.
  • It not only likes mistletoe, it will noisily defend a fruit bush if it finds one from other birds that might want to eat some of what it has found! 
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
  • This isn't their sole diet though, they will also eat slugs, insects and worms.
  • You will find them all over the UK all of the year round except for some of our islands.
  • In 2013 the RSPB estimated from their surveys that there were around 170,000 breeding pairs in the UK. However this showed a decline from earlier years and they were missing in particular from gardens. They have an Amber Status because of recent population declines.
  • They also have local names such as Shrite and Stormcock. Stormcock apparently comes from their habit of singing through wet weather and winter storms.
This one has a beak full of something.
  • They are the largest of the Thrush family and are 27cm long with a 45cm wingspan and weigh around 130g.
  • Defending fruit bushes is something they do in winter and it is thought this is what helps them to be one of the earliest birds to breed in the UK, they lay eggs as early as February.
  • The Victorians thought that mistletoe would only grow if the seeds passed through a bird, this isn't totally true but some seeds do germinate better if they have.
So, quite an interesting bird I saw! If you want to read more try these links:

Hope you enjoyed.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Day 177 - Mutant Bird!

Hi all today's Day 177 and I have been up near the North York Moors in a forest where we see incredible amounts of wildlife. Just on the road up to it we saw rabbits, birds, horses (not wild, but they were tiny!) and the bird that I am covering today. This bird was one that we had never seen before (in this form at least). It was an interesting bird to see so I got my camera out straight away and started taking photos.

Blue Pheasant (Phasianus Tenebrosus)
Obviously you can tell that it's a Pheasant but Pheasants aren't blue are they? Well they are if they are mutants! They aren't technically mutants they are just oddly coloured 'Melanistic Morphs'. David Renwick told me this. Thanks for that Dave! They are very interesting birds to see so, even though I have already covered Common/Ring-Necked Pheasants in a previous post, I thought I'd do a post about them today.

So, here are the facts:

  • A black/dark blue version of a bird that is not the same colour as the rest of its species actually has Melanism. This is basically the opposite of Albinism. It causes the dark coloured pigment Melanin. The same sort of thing that gives you freckles.
  • This doesn't just happen in Pheasants, it happens in all animals. A good example of this is the Black Panther which is a classic case. They have an entire species named after them!
  • There has been an extremely rare black Flamingo spotted on Cyprus just recently in April. If anybody is reading this in Cyprus that knows where it was seen, please get me a photo!
  • Some people refer to these as both Black Pheasants and Blue Pheasants but they are actually the same thing. They are often mistaken for the Green or Japanese Pheasant which looks like a mixture between the Black/Blue and the Common Pheasant.
  • People refer to them as black, as they appear black from a distance but they are actually a dark blue-purple with an iridescent plumage (shiny feathers. Ooh shiny :-)
  • Sadly, Black/ Blue Pheasants are often introduced into Pheasant shooting ranges to give a little bit of variety :-(.
  • Golden Pheasants (Chinese) are another species of Pheasant like the Common Pheasant that we see daily. Here is a link to a website so you can see this incredible bird.
Here are some facts in general about Pheasants:
  • They are the same size as Common Pheasants being 71cm long and having a wingspan of 80cm. Males weigh 1.40 kilograms and Females 980g.
  • Pheasants can cope with bad weather by remaining dormant for days on end. This basically means they can sleep/hibernate but slow down their bodily functions so they hardly need to eat.
  • Speaking of eating (mmm :-) they like to nom on (nom nom nom :-) seeds, grains and shoots (nom nom nom??).
  • Pheasants have strong breast muscles that give powerful bursts to enable the bird to escape harm in a hurry.
  • They can take off almost vertically and can reach speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour! You often see them by the sides of roads so this, hopefully, helps them to get out of the way of cars.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Day 176 - A Particularly Pleasing Partridge

Hey everyone, today's Day 176. I've probably told you before that I live quite close to the fabulous North York Moors. I often get the chance to go up to a little forest for a walk at weekends or on these nice Spring evenings. I don't go especially looking for nature or new things but it's great to get out, get some wild time and hear the birds singing. I do always have my camera with me though in case I happen to spot something. I'm still looking out for Adders which I haven't seen in this forest for a few years. When I do I have a funny story about them.
Red Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)

One thing I did see, and I wished I had for my Christmas series - 12 Days of Nature, was a few lovely Partridge. As it was Christmas Day my first day of nature post was quite short and since I now have a picture I thought I'd do a bit of a better Partridge post.

So here's a few more Partridge facts:

  • They are an introduced species from mainland Europe where they are found mainly in Spain and France.
  • As I said in my First Day of Nature post they are a game bird and are often hunted - its hard to find bird facts on the internet about them as you get a lot of results for recipes for Partridge. I prefer mine running around the moors!
  • The ones I saw were Red Legged Partridges. They have no status as an introduced bird but seem to have had a small decline over the last 25 years. Numbers in Europe though also seem to be declining.
Looking for tasty seeds..
  • They are 33cm long, have a wingspan of 48cm and weigh around half a kilo.
  • It seems they don't get ringed enough to know how old they naturally live to as I couldn't find a typical lifespan or oldest recorded bird fact. Maybe there's not much point when most are bred and released for hunting :-(
  • They seem to live mainly in Eastern and Souther Britain, the Isle of Man and a bit of Northern Ireland.
Keeping low - just in case!
  • The North York Moors is a great habitat for them as they like open scrubby countryside and farmland. I'm sure a few must stay away from the hunters and really enjoy this beautiful countryside.
  • They like to eat seeds, roots and leaves and the young like to eat insects too for protein.
  • 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 they fly is different to your common garden bird. They fly with 'whirring' wings with the odd glide thrown in here or there.
So I hope you enjoyed the extended revisit of a Partridge. Here's a couple of links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 27 April 2015

Day 175 - Gracious Grey Plovers

Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) in winter plummage
- I must try and find one in summer plummage too!
Hi all today's day 175 and Sunday morning I was at Nosterfield helping a friend of my Dad's to sell some optics. The good thing about this is that I got to use them as well meaning I saw quite a lot of things. Of course, like any photographer, I had my camera on me so I could get a picture of anything I saw. Someone from the bird hide said there was a Grey Plover out on the water. I looked for it and eventually found it.

So here are the facts:
  • They are only found on the coast of the UK at Winter. They're not found in Northern Scotland and Western Ireland. It's not usual for them to be inland like this one.
  • They breed in the arctic and have never been recorded as breeding in the UK
  • They are an Amber Status bird with 43,000 wintering birds and 70,000 birds migrating over in Spring.
A view of it's plummage from behind
  • They are 28cm in length and they have a 77cm wingspan. Aslo, both Male and Females weigh 240g.
  • They are an Amber Status bird because they localised non-breeding population and they are also an important non-breeding species.
  • They have a 9 year typical lifespan but the oldest blew this away and stuck it out for 25 years 1 moth and 18 days.
  • They usually live on Tundra and on migration they live on pasture and estuaries. This is where they get their food.
  • Their diet usually consists of shellfish, worms and in Winter they eat mainly marine worms and crustaceans.
Did I see a worm over there?
  • The average pair of Grey Plovers will raise to adulthood 18 chicks. This is because each clutch has 4 eggs and their juvenile survival is 0.63.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Day 174 - The Mysterious Lake Gormire and a Creepy Resident - Leeches!!

Hey everyone, well today is day 174 and I have been to a fabulous part of the North York Moors today. I've posted before about the views from Sutton Bank, well if you look one way from the top you can see a Lake. I've walked down to it before with Dad from Sutton Bank and its a great walk but very steep. Did it today a different way with Mum and Dad but came from the village of Thirlby and it was a lovely gentle ramble through Garbutt woods to reach it.

Looking out over Lake Gormire
The lake is fabulous and mysterious, a lovely place to take in nature. It is one of only a very few natural lakes in the UK formed from melting glaciers. It's mysterious as there are no streams going in or out of it to keep it topped up. Some people think it must be fed by a spring some where in its depths and drains through the limestone.

There's lots of local folklore about it too. There's supposed to be a lost village in it, others say its bottomless. A goose was meant to have dived in the lake and wasn't seen again for 12 days until it popped up featherless in a well in a village 12 miles away.

I did make an interesting discovery there though. In the shallow water at the edge of the lake were a couple of Leeches!

I usually do facts in my posts so here are a few about Leeches:

Leeches (Hirudinea)
  • They are a segmented worm and like the earthworm are hermaphrodites.
  • As you probably know, leeches suck blood. They were once believed to get rid of a disease/illness that someone had, this was a long time ago and doesn't work. Amazingly they do still have a place in modern medicine - see the links below.
  • Leeches are very hungry creatures and they love as much food (blood) as they can get. The way they do this is by releasing an anti-coagulant which stops the blood from getting clotted.
  • Another clever thing that is built into them is that they are attracted to warm bodies which they can detect and hone in on. Kind of like heat-seeking missiles.
  • A way that they can catch their victims is by climbing trees and then dropping down on to them when you pass underneath them.
  • When they are in a hurry, some leeches are capable of fast movement by doing a sort of cartwheeling somersault. This can be rather distracting when they are doing it after you.
  • There's a lot of folklore about leeches which is quite interesting. I read one and have linked it here. It is Indonesian Folklore and it only has a small reference to leeches right at the end.
If you encounter a Blood Sucking Leech
    Attached to a stick, you can see its segments in this shot
  • Firstly you need to know if you have one on you. Leech bites are almost painless which means it's hard to know if there is one on you.
  • There are several ways of doing this. They are most likely found in your shoes as they are mostly a ground creature so one way of knowing is if you hear a 'squelch' in your boot. Blood of course. You can also identify one by seeing a red stain in your clothes.
    Swimming away
  • Once you have found it you'll need to get it off. There is one strict rule to this. DON'T PULL IT OFF! This will make them regurgitate their digestive juices and any parasites in there will go into your body, that's a bad idea!
  • Some ways of getting them off are using  something such as a lighted cigarette to get it off as well as using salt which makes them shrivel up, die and drop off. You can  use alcohol to get it off as well.

Here are a few links to some more information:

Interesting little critters! Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Day 173 - Tree-Mendous Champion Cherry Tree :-D

The Studley Cherry
(Prunus avium)
Hi all today's Day 173 and today I have been up at Ripon looking for Nature. If you live around there you will know that Fountains Abbey is only about 3 miles away from the centre of Ripon. We mainly walked on a riverside walk we know of but just before we went back home we thought of something at Fountains Abbey that would be good to do a post on.

There are a number of Champion Trees (I'll explain below) in the Studley Royal area of Fountains and one of them isn't too far away from the car park. As it's Spring we knew that it would be in bloom and would be beautiful to look at, which it was. The only thing that didn't make it look as nice as it could be, was the weather. If you live in North Yorkshire you'll know that today started lovely but ended up this afternoon a pretty grey day, still, this didn't keep this little nature fanatic back and me and my Dad were out taking photos like billy-o.

From the pictures and the title you'll know that I am talking about the Champion Cherry Tree (Prunus avium),

You can see how big it is with me in the pic :-)
You might not know what a champion tree is, well, I'm here to explain. To qualify to be a champion tree it has to either be the tallest or to have the largest trunk circumference (girth) of its species. The Cherry Tree we've got here doesn't look like the tallest or the widest but, for its type, it is the widest. It's girth at chest height was measured as 5.8m. The tallest Cherry Tree is in Leicestershire at Belvoir Castle and is 32m tall. These Champion trees tend to be ancient trees and Britain has some great ancient trees.

Its lovely blossom
As you can see from the photo's the Cherry is a pretty gnarly thing and only has one main branch left. This is because it lost a lot of its crown in a storm in 2008. It's pretty spectacular now so it must have been amazing before the storm!

So a little bit about cherries:
From the otherside - really gnarly!

  • It is thought that Cherries arrived in Europe from the forests of central Asia.
  • Cherries have been found to be part of the diet of Europeans since bronze age times (around 2000BC)
  • They were first cultivated in Asia around 800BC
  • In Japan people celebrate the arrival of cherry blossom as the beginning of spring.
  • Cherry blossom has had a special significance in Japan for centuries and have been grown for their beautiful blooms since 794AD in the grounds of the nobility in Kyoto.
  • Cherries don't live as long as some species so an ancient cherry tree is one that is over 100 years old

Now this is a big oak tree - there is a small dude at the bottom!
There is another champion tree that I saw at Studley, just behind the Cherry. This was the Champion Oak they have got there. I don't know why it is a champion tree but it is quite large as you can see from the picture so it's probably the girth. It isn't mentioned in the UK lists so it might just be a Yorkshire champion but that's still quite an achievement. The National Trust say this tree is a pre 18th century Oak so it must date from the 1600's - wow!

A bit closer up - there's a little hole
and you can see into the hollow trunk
These aren't the oldest trees I've seen though, I have seen possibly Britain's oldest tree, the Fortingall Yew. I've linked my post to this fascinating tree.

Here's a few links including some walks you can do around the country to see some ancient trees.

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 24 April 2015

Day 172 - The Big Spring-Watch & Tadpole Rescue!

Hi all today's Day 172 and recently there has been a special edition of BBC Springwatch called Easterwatch. On this show they were trying to figure out how Spring travels across the UK. To do this they asked the viewers to do a lot of this for them. They called this 'The Big Spring-Watch'. Me and my parents jumped to the idea and have been searching ever since. There are 5 things that they have told us to look out for which are all listed below:
An Orange Tip Butterfly at Fairburn Ings
  1. Hawthorn
  2. Swallows
  3. Seven-Spot Ladybirds
  4. Orange-Tip Butterflies
  5. Oak Leaves bursting
I have seen all of these things but I haven't been able to get pictures of Swallows (yet)here to see it). This is a fun thing, it's kind of like a treasure hunt but even better, and it's great to know that you are helping track one of nature's out-there mysteries.
, which happily arrived back above our garde today and Seven-Spot Ladybirds but everything else I have got pictures of and I have even done a post on the Butterfly (click

The Big Spring Watch was actually started by the Woodland Trust but they are working with Springwatch to help promote it.

To take part in the Big Spring Watch you have to do 3 things. They are all listed below along with links to them:
  1. Register for Nature's Calender (it's free!)
  2. Find out what to do and download some guides (that's optional)
  3. Record what you have seen (it's as easy as 1 2 3!)
Small puddle with a big tadpole population

Like I said above, I have seen all of the things and a lot of others that Springwatch isn't asking to be recorded, like Chiff Chaffs, Willow Warblers, migrating toads and Frogspawn. I actually saw Frogspawn as early as March which baffled me, intrigued me and interested me all at same time - I didn't realise the frogs would start so soon, especially as I had been waiting for the toad migration to start so I could do toad patrol (see my post on this here), they were quite late this year.

Me helping the puddle not to dry out
We saw frogspawn and tadpoles in a puddle that we saw last year as well. Obviously, because it's a puddle, they were in danger. My family are almost obsessed with saving animals (see my Prickles post) and we just had to save them. We waited until they were tadpoles and took some home but we still left some there so there was a population there as well as at my house.

I am not going to go into the details of all this but I will probably going to do a post on them sometime in the future.

Here is a link to the Big Spring Watch page

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Day 171 - Wonderfully Windswept Willow Warbler (well, this one was :-)

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Hi all today's Day 171 and I have been at Fairburn Ings recently. We went to both the main reserve and something just off to the side called Lynn Dike. We saw a number of things but the final thing that we saw just before returning to the car park was something we were told to look out for by Matt Collis over Twitter. He will definitely know what this bird is along with the rest of you from the title and the pictures. Yup, that's right, today I'm covering Willow Warblers. This little chap was singing away at the very top of a willow tree in quite a windy place, almost out of range of my camera. It did well to hang on let along sing so nicely.

So, here are the facts:

  • The Willow Warblers have made it very easy to tell you where they live and when which is in the Summer and everywhere in the UK.
Here it is at the top of the tree when it was still
  • Even thought they have a huge amount of breeding territories, 2,400,000, they are still only an Amber Status bird.
  • This is because they have had a recent breeding population decline. It was VERY recent as in the last assessment (2002 - 2007) they were a Green Status bird.
  • The Willow Warbler is a very unique bird as in sheds all of its feathers twice a year. Once on the Breeding Grounds, and once on the Wintering Grounds.
  • They are small little birds being only 11cm long and only having a 19cm wingspan. Both Male and Female birds weigh 10g.
And here it is clinging on and still singing in the wind
  • They are found pretty frequently in all habitats but mostly in Scrubs, Coniferous Woods and Deciduous Woods.
  • Their local name (Willow Wren) is probably linked with their Latin name which is A Leaf Watcher mentioned by Aristotle probably a Wren.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 2 years but the oldest smashed this (in comparison) with 10 years, 11 months and 18 days.
  • They have a lovely set of collective nouns including a fall, a wrench, a confusion and a bouquet
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Day 170 - Gorgeous Great Black Backed Gulls

Great Black Backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Hey everyone, today's Day 170 and I found this beauty when I was looking over my photos yesterday looking for a bird to do. It was another bird I saw on the coast at Craster on my way to Dunstanburgh Castle. It was very happy to be photographed and sat nicely on a lovely rocky outcrop so that I could get in the waves breaking behind it. I did a similar bird a while ago - the Lesser Black Backed Gull - but today I'm covering the Great Black Backed Gull.

So I did my research and here's a bit of what I found:

  • They are quite a big bird 71cm in length with a wingspan of 158cm. They weigh, both males and females, on average 1.7kg.
  • They are resident all over the coast of the UK and they Winter over Eastern Scotland and Eastern and Central England.
Loved getting the waves in the background
  • Number wise there are 17,000 breeding pairs and 77,000 over wintering birds. Despite this they are an amber status bird as they have suffered recent non breeding population declines.
  • They don't have many predators or natural threats but they are hunted for sport in Denmark :-(
  • The population decline with this species has occurred since 2007 when they were a green status bird.
  • They like most habitats except reedbeds and moorlands but they are mostly found on shorelines except when wintering when you will find them in more habitats like lakes and rivers.
It was only so patient and then has a sit down!
  • Few of these birds get ringed so data on their typical lifespan isn't available. In 2012 only 7 juvenile Great Black Backed Gulls were ringed.
  • Of those that have been ringed the oldest recorded Greater Black Backed Gull lived to 24 years 11 months and 25 days.
  • They are omniverous eating shellfish, carrion and even birds. They are happy scavenging on rubbish tips!
  • Their global distribution range (resident or breeding) covers 1,070,000 square kilometers - this is mainly based around the Atlantic and North Sea.
Well that's a little bit about the, if you'd like to find out more try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Day 169 - Really Splendid Redshanks

Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Hi all today's Day 169 and I have been looking through my photos and I saw a bird that I haven't done before. I have started this post quite late today and haven't got much time to do it so I'm sorry if it isn't such a good quality as it usually is but I will try my best to do the best post that I can do. I have seen this bird in a lot of different places, from Norfolk to Northumberland. Anyway, as you can see from the title and pictures today I am covering Redshanks.

So here are the facts:
  • They are resident all around the coast of the UK. 
  • You will also find them in Southern Ireland and South-West England where they Winter and in the summer you'll also find them in Northern England, North and South Scotland Central Ireland.
Love this shot of a calm Redshank against a wild sea.
  • Despite having 25,000 breeding pairs and 130,000 wintering birds, they are an Amber Status bird as they have had a recent breeding population decline.
  • Despite what I said above, they are found in all habitats, including towns and cities! They are mostly found in estuaries and on the coast.
  • They are built for wet places an hunt for food is soil and mud for insects, earthworms, molluscs and crustaceans using their bill to probe into the ground.
  • They have an array of local names, including Ebb Cock, Pool Snipe and my all time favourite 'Watery Pleep'.
  • They do have another name, the Sentinel of the Marsh. This is very apt as they are usually the first birds to fly of the marsh if disturbed.
Group of Redshanks and Lapwings
  • They are 28cm in length and they have a 62cm wingspan. Also, Males weigh 110g while Females weigh 130g.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 4 years but the oldest blew this away and stuck it put for 5 TIMES LONGER! Yup, that's right, the oldest Redshank survived for 20 years, 1 month and 15 days.

Here are some links to some more information:

RSPB - Redshank

BTO Birdfacts - Redshank

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 20 April 2015

Day 168 - Resplendent Ruddy Shelducks

Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) at Fairburn
Hey everyone, Day 168 and whilst I was at Fairburn Ings at the weekend I saw quite a few interesting things. I saw a lovely Willow Warbler in the very top of a willow tree singing it's lovely song. My Orange Tip Butterfly in yesterdays post was another lovely sighting.

The best, most unusual sighting though was amongst a group of Shelducks. In the middle of them was a lovely rusty coloured bird. Looking through some binoculars I could see it was a bird that I had seen before - it was a Ruddy Shelduck. I recognised it as they were a lovely bird I saw when visited Washington Wetlands Centre.

Pair of Ruddy Shelducks at the
Washington Wetlands Centre
So seeing it at the weekend gave me good reason to look it up and do a post. Here's a few facts I found:

  • They have an average length of 64cm (25 inches) and they have an average wingspan of 123cm (48 inches).
  • They are of least concern as they breed quite a lot in other countries. They are not native to Britain.
  • Since the 1950's, there has only been around 100 records! Weirdly, though, there HAS been 1 or 2 breeding pairs in some years!
The males have a black ring around their neck
  • In some countries, like Tibet and Mongolia, the Ruddy Shelduck is considered sacred by Buddhists.
  • Their scientific name name has celtic roots, Tadorna means 'Pied Waterfowl' just like the British Shelduck.
  • While they inhabit a variety of habitats they prefer inland fresh water, you won't find them in coastal waters.
  • They look really placid but can actually be quite aggressive. They also have a call described as a wild loud honking.
  • From what I've read this bird is probably an escaped bird or a feral bird as the European population has declined and visitors from their main breeding areas of Asia are less likely.
Well, a lovely bird but not very common in the UK. I didn't find lots of information out there on them but here's a couple of links to some sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 19 April 2015

Day 167 - Ornamental Orange-Tips

Hey everyone, as I mentioned yesterday I had the chance to pop to the lovely Fairburn Ings yesterday. I was really pleased to get some reasonable Kestrel shots which I put in yesterdays post. I was also pleased to get a couple of shots of this little guy as it was flitting around quiet a bit and most of the shots were a bit of a blur.

Orange Tip ( Anthocharis cardamines  )
Now its a lovely butterfly but it's also the first one I have seen this year. If you saw Easterwatch you'll know that this is one of the species that they are asking people to record in the Big Spring Watch.  This was the only species that they asked us to watch out for that I hadn't seen so far so it was good to find it.

So, as usual I did a bit of research and here's a bit of what I found:

  • They are found across much of the UK except the far north of Scotland. 
  • Most often you will find them in damp grassy areas especially hedgerows, road verges and gardens.
  • If you have Lady's Smock, Garlic or hedge mustard in a damp place they will love this as it is what the larvae mainly feed on.
  • When a female is laying eggs she will only lay one on each plant, and will check or sense if there are any other Orange Tip eggs on the plant. This is because each plant can only manage to feed one orange tip larvae as they only eat the developing seed pod.
    I like this shot as you can see the orange tip on top
    and also a little bit of the green speckles underneath
  • If an emerging Orange Tip larvae finds other Orange Tip eggs it will eat them - yes they are cannibals! :-#
  • The butterfly in the pictures is a male as it has orange wing tips, the females have a black wing tip. Both have speckly green underwings. This helps with camouflage when they are resting  
  • Unlike the Brimstone I covered a couple of days ago they do not overwinter as adults but instead emerge in the spring and are one of the earliest butterflies.
  • They have a small wingspan of around 45mm.
  • The orange tips are a warning sign telling any potential predators that these butterflies won't taste nice. The food they eat as larvae builds up oils in them which make them taste unpleasant.
  • The females are more secretive and are found mainly around the larvae food plants laying eggs. As they tend to be more hidden away this might explain why they don't have the orange colour on their wings.
  • The pupae form in June or July but do not hatch until the following spring, though if conditions are really good they might hatch in July and have a second brood.
Here's a couple of links to other sites with more information, the UK Butterflies site has loads of photos of the different stages of their life:

Hope you enjoyed.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Day 166 - Kingly Kestrels

Hi all today's Day 166 and I have had a lovely day at Fairburn Ings and I saw a lot of things. I saw a Ruddy Shelduck which aren't even native to this country (I'm guessing it was migrating or may have escaped from somewhere but if I'm wrong please tell me), I saw an Orange Tip Butterfly (this is something that Springwatch has asked people to look out for but I'll cover that in tomorrow's post). But today's post is about the Kestrel I saw. I have seen these lots of times but I haven't actually managed to get any pictures of them but this one was quite accommodating and I managed to get a some of pictures today although it was quite far away for my camera.
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

So, here are the facts:

  • They are resident all across the UK except for some of the Scottish Islands as well as Lough Neagh which is a rather large lake in Northern Ireland.
  • They are a very familiar sight hovering at the side of a road but they are not as common as you might think. There are 46,000 breeding pairs.
  • This number would make them a Green Status bird but because they declined in the 1970's, they are an Amber List.
    Hovering looking for vole urine?
  • They are pretty common in all habitats, mostly in Scrubs and Arable Farmland but they can even be found in Coastal and Reed Bed areas.
  • Their Latin name, Falco tinnunculus, translates to Shrill Sounding Falcon. Falco = Falcon (L) and Tinnulus = Shrill Sounding.
  • Their Latin name doesn't lie. They do have a very high, shrill 'Di Di Di Di' call whcih I haven't actually heard before because I have either been in the car when I saw one, or too far away. Below is a video of one calling:
  • They have a lot of local names such as Red Hawk, because of its feathers, Mouse Falcon, because of its diet, and Hover Hawk, Wind fanner and Wind Hover because of its ability to hover when hunting. An ancient name for them is Crecele which in old French means rattle. and is referring to 
  • They are small falcons being only 34cm in length and only having a 76cm wingspan. Males weigh 190g while Females weigh 220g!
  • They have a typical lifespan of 4 years but the oldest one almost quadrupled it! It was 15 years 11 month and 1 day old.
  • I found this final fact amazing, so I hope it's accurate - Kestrels can see into the ultra-violet spectrum which means they see ultra-violet light reflected in a vole's urine which is left as it marks its trail. That's a very handy adaptation!
Here are some links to more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 17 April 2015

Day 165 - Brilliant Brimstones

Hi all today's Day 165 and, as it's Spring, I thought I'd do something that highly relates to Spring. It will be the first ever Butterfly I have ever done in my Blog so it's a great 'honour' for this interesting insect. The title and the pictures will have given it away. Yes, that's right, today I am covering Brimstones. I have seen them in a number of places but the first place, I think, I have ever seen one was the RSPB Reserve, Titchwell Marsh. One fluttered past when we were driving to Nosterfield recently so it was a lovely reminder to do a butterfly post.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
So, here are the facts:

  • The word 'butterfly' is actually derived from the phrase 'butter-coloured fly'. This phrase is from the Butter-Coloured Brimstone. So all butterflies are actually named after the Brimstone!
  • The Brimstone has a rather perfect wing-shape. It perfectly matches up with a leaf when it roosts over-night.
  • They are often one of the first butterflies to be seen in spring. The buttery life cycle goes egg > caterpillar > chrysalis > butterfly. Brimstones emerge from their chrysalis in July and then spend the rest of the year feeding up ready to hibernate in woodlands. They then emerge from hibernation on warm spring days.
  • They live for around a year making them one of the UK's longest lived butterflies.
Feeding and showing off its leaf shaped wing
  • Outside of the butterfly family Nymphalidae they are the only species to hibernate as an adult.
  • There have been most sightings of these in England but there have been a few in Eastern Wales as well. There are also one or two scattered around Southern Scotland.
  • They have a minuscule wingspan of just 6cm. Sadly, no-one has yet put a Brimstone on some scales so I can't share their weight with you.....
  • They are not threatened in the UK and they have spread mainly to Northern England but it seems parts of Scotland too.
  • Males are much 'yellower' than Females as Females only have a very pale green that is almost white on them.
Very helpfully spreading its wings for a photo
  • They are usually found in open areas such as open Grassland, Woodland Clearings and Gardens.
  • You know how I said their wingspan is small? Well their eggs are minute compared to it at only 2.5 millimetres! Tiny!
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Day 164 - Marvellous Meadow Pipits

Hi all today's Day 164 and today's bird has a funny story. I did a post on Skylarks just after looking up what the bird was in the Collins Bird Guide and me an my parents weren't 100% sure that it was but we went with it anyway. We put a caption on the picture saying 'am I a Skylark?' Over Twitter lots of people told me that it was a Meadow Pipit (thanks guys) which is the bird that I thought it might be if it wasn't a Skylark. We looked it up again and it was confirmed. So here is the post on them.

Meadow Pipet ( Anthus pratensis )
Well, here are the facts:

  • They are resident all over the UK apart from in Central-Southern England in the Winter and in Central Scotland in Summer.
  • They are an Amber Status bird even though there are 2,000,000 breeding territories. This is because of a recent breeding population decline.
  • Despite their name, they are actually found in all habitats but most frequent in Bog and Moorland. They are found in Towns the least, though.
It was very patient !
  • They are small birds being 14cm in length and having a 24cm wingspan. Both Males and Females weigh just 19g.
  • They eat insects like flies, beetles and moths. In Winter they eat seeds. They almost always feed on the ground for these meals.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 3 years but the oldest doubles that and more with 7 years, 1 month and 30 days. This is probably because the adult survival rating is only 0.543.
So was this one on the North York Moors -
Snapped this before Toad Patrol - thin it's a Meadow Pippet
  • They have an array of local names which are 'Titlark' , 'Hill Sparrow' and, my favourite of all, 'Moss Cheeper'.
  • They've got a very 'catchy' scientific name. Anthos (Gr) = A small grassland bird described by Aristotle and Pratensis (La) = Found in Meadows. So the catchiest name for a bird ever is: A small grassland bird described by Aristotle found in Meadows. Phew!
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day 163 - A Bit More About The Amazing Anatomical Adaptations Of Beautiful Birds Part 2

Hi all today is day 163 and I`m going to be completing my post on the Anatomy of a Bird. Birds are specifically designed for and have evolved for flight. Yesterday we focused on the outside of a bird, today we`ll be looking in a bit more detail at the inside of the bird before finishing off with feathers.
So without further ado, here are the facts:
  • Even bird`s brains are designed for flight.  The Cerebellum is responsible for co-ordination, and so because birds make so many quick movements this part of the brain is very big. 

  • The Cerebral Hemisphere which is responsible for repetitive movements or behaviours is also very big. Some birds are known to be very intelligent, for example the study of a crow learning to solve puzzles to access food. Here's a video about that:

  • Their digestive system is complex and includes a gizzard which isn`t found in other animals.  The gizzard is a thick-walled part of a bird`s stomach responsible for breaking down or grinding food. As birds use so much energy with all their constant movements, they need a lot of calories from their food and may need to eat a third of their body weight per day.

  • This is why it`s incredibly important to help them with their diet especially over the winter. Birds can be herbivore, carnivore or omnivore, and birds with a mostly plant / seed diet actually need a more complicated digestive system than those who eat meat.

  • Birds have a different type of breathing / respiratory system too.  Their lungs have extensions to them called air sacs, so inhaled air passes through them and through the lungs, this means that oxygen is transferred to the blood during both inhalation and exhalation. 

  • This means the bird has a better use of oxygen for flying and allows them to get by with comparatively small lungs for the size of their body.  It also helps them to be able to hold their breath when they go under water to fish.

I'm watching you!
  • Bird`s eyes are huge in relation to their heads which gives them the ability to see more detail and can detect movement much better than us.  They turn their heads to be able to see all around them.  Their eyes not only work together, but can also work independently of each other!  So when a robin cocks its head to one side, it is looking in that direction! 
Barn Owls have orange eyes as they hunt at
dusk and dawn

  • So birds have a much wider field of vision than other animals, which helps them to survive.  Some birds have very little forwards vision (binocular) e.g. some water birds only have sidewards vision (monocular) , and some raptors such as owls have eyes on the fronts of their faces so have very good binocular vision which helps them judge distance, but of course owls also have the added advantage of being able to turn their heads almost all the way round!

  • Incidentally, an interesting owl eyesight fact: some owls have orange eyes, which means they hunt in the dusk and dawn, while others have brown eyes which means they hunt at night.

My feathers are for camoflage
  • A Bird`s feathers not only enable flight, but they also give important messages to other birds.   Females choose a mate depending on the brightness and colourfulness of their plumage. His colourfulness will decrease when breeding season ends.  Females are often less colourful and less bright than males, but do you know why? It is so she is less conspicuous and more camouflaged when she is incubating her eggs in her nest! 
My feathers are for showing off!

  • Birds tend to have counter shading as a means of protection - the gradual changes of shade make them more camouflaged. Birds molt once a year at least, where they shed their outer feathers, so if you see a bird that looks quite shaggy and raggy, it is probably molting.
Here are some links to some more information:
Hope you enjoyed.