Sunday, 31 May 2015

Day 209 - Lovely Little Grebes

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
It was a bit far away to get really good shots, sorry
Hi all today's Day 209 and I have recently been at Blacktoft Sands (an RSPB reserve) where I definitely got some material for a few blog posts. Today's post features a bird that is closely related to one of my favourite birds which I covered in yesterday's post and on Days 68 and 206. Yes the Great-Crested Grebe. But today's post is not a part 4 of that 'series' but a completely different bird. From the title and pictures you'll know that today's post is about Little Grebes!

So, here are the facts:
  • They are resident all over the UK apart from South-West England, The Shetlands and Orkney. Interestingly, they are found right on the tip of Land's End.
  • They are an Amber Status bird as there has been a very recent population decline. You know it was very recently as they were a Green Status last assessment.
  • This population decline has taken them all the way down to between 3,900 and 7,800 breeding pairs and around 17,000 wintering birds.
  • One of their names 'dabchick' is the only bird name to have the three letters of the alphabet occurring in a row. dABChick.
    You can just make out its chestnut throat and neck
    - this is it's breeding plummage
  • They have a length of just 27cm and the small wingspan of 42cm. This is actually quite small for a wading bird.
  • Both Male and Female birds weigh a minuscule (for a wader) 140g. Their egg weighs a huge 10% of this at around 13.7g.
  • Still on the subject of size, the ring size that Little Grebes have is either E or F. Probably depending on the size difference in gender.
  • They have a couple of threats. They are susceptible to Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and they are hunted for commercial reasons - they are sold as food in Iran :-(  and also for recreation :-(((
    It didn't hang around when this Marsh Harrier flew over
  • As I said they are also know as dabchicks and Shakespeare wrote about them but he called them dive-dappers.
  • They are great divers and can remain submerged for half a minute. also if they are alarmed they will dive under the water or submerge themselves until just their head is above water.
  • Just like the bigger Great Crested Grebe their legs are quite far back on their bodies meaning they are not very good at walking on land. They rarely go onto land except to breed.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Day 208 - WARNING - Cuteness Overload in York Part 2

Moor Hen chick - is that a Moor Hen-ling?
Hi all today's Day 208 and I thought that I would carry on with the series that I started yesterday. If you didn't see it just click here and you'll be taken there. I think that people really enjoyed that post because of the reaction to it on Twitter.

I found all the material such as photos at York University and I really enjoyed it there and I had no idea how many goslings and ducklings there were.

I'll start off again with a little video of the various chicks I took around the lakes on the campus.

So, using the same set-up as yesterday, here are the facts:

Moorhen Chicks

Are you sure these are my feet Mum?
  • The egg weight is a relatively large one compared to their 320g adult mass. It's about 7% of the adult weight at 22.3g.
  • It usually has 4-6 siblings in its brood but across the parents' two broods it will have 9-13 brothers and sisters.
  • They start to breed after one year which is 1/3 of their life as they usually live for 3 years. I don't know how many get to this stage in life because I can't find the juvenile survival rate.
Mallard Chicks
  • Mallard eggs only weigh 5% of the average 1.1kg adult weight. The mathematicians that read my blog will already know that their eggs weigh around 54g.
  • They usually live with 10-13 siblings which normally fledge after 50-60 days in their nest.
  • Their first breeding age is, just like moorhens, one year old. Also like the above, this is 1/3 of their life as they live for 3 years.
  • Sadly and scarily, only about half of all mallards make it to this age. This is probably because of poisonings, diseases and people hunting them.

Great-Crested Greeb Chicks
A Greebe-ling
  • About 4% of the average adult Mallard's weight is an egg's average mass. All you quick thinkers out their will have figured out that the egg's weight is 39.5g.
  • The Great-Crested Grebe has around 2-3 eggs per brood and they can have between one and two broods.
  • The age that they first start breeding in is 2 years but I can't find their average lifespan anywhere.

Coot Chicks
  • The eggs weight is quite similar to the Greeb's at 36.5g. Also quite similarly to the Greeb the egg is about 4.5% of the adults 800g mass.
    A Coot-ling
  • Coots have between 5 and 7 eggs per brood and they usually have between 1 and 2 brood every year.
  • Another thing they have in common with the Greeb is the age of first breeding, 2 years. This is about 40% or 4/10 of its 5 year life.
  • Sadly, only 70% of all Coots make it to this age as they have a survival rating of 0.701 unlike their parents who only have a 0.380 survival rating.

So, I hope you've enjoyed all the cuteness,


Friday, 29 May 2015

Day 207 - WARNING - Cuteness Overload in York Part 1

Canada Gosling amongst daisys at York University
Hi all today's Day 207 and as you know I've recently been at York University from yesterday's post. I showed some pictures of baby grebes and they weren't the only baby birds there. As you also know from yesterday's post there are lots of quite large lakes around the campus which are well populated by geese and ducks. Now I didn't realise exactly how many of these there were until I walked around the whole place. You can see exactly how many geese there were from this video here:

Today I thought Id'do a few facts on each type of gosling I saw, I've linked to my posts where I've covered these birds before. So, here are the facts:

  • Their eggs weigh quite a lot but it's actually only 3.5% of there usual 4.6kg weight. If you're extremely good at maths then you'll know that their egg weight is only 163g!
Canada Goose and gosling
  • The standard Canada Gosling usually only has between 4 and 6 siblings in each brood, there is only one brood a year.
  • Eggs hatch in 28-30 days and chicks fledge 40-48 days later
  • Goslings only breed once they reach 3 years which is half of their life as they live for an average of 6 years.

Graylag gosling
  • There eggs weighs a quite remarkable 5% of the average Greylag adult weight at 160g. (The average Greylag Goose weighs 3,300g.)
  • Just like the Canada Geese there are 5-7 eggs in a brood.
  • They hatch in a similar time, after 27-28 days but take a little longer to fledge 50-60 days later
  • Again like the Canada Goose they breed when they reach 3 years old but they have a slightly longer average lifespan at 8 years old.

Barnacle Goose and goslings
  • Barnacle geese are smaller than the first two at just 1.7kg. Their eggs weigh less too but at 107g they are over 10% of their body weight each!
  • I don't know if that is why but their average clutch size is smaller at 4-5 eggs.
  • They hatch a little quicker, after 24-25 days and fledge after 40-45 days later
  • These geese also breed when they reach 3 years old but they have a much longer average lifespan at 14 years old.

Snow Geese
  • Snow geese are smaller than the first two species but larger than Barnacles at 2.3kg but I couldn't find their egg-weight.
    Snow Gosling
  • In fact as they are mainly a North American bird I wasn't able to find out much about their lifespan or hatching time etc. either!
  • I will have to do more research and come back to a post  about these birds.  
  • So I hope you'll be happy with just a picture of a cute gosling.
If I get time to edit another video watch out for Cuteness Overload Part 2 tomorrow. Off for a great wild adventure though so it may have to be on Sunday.

Hope you enjoyed. 


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Day 206 - Graciously Calm, Great, Great Crested Grebes - The Sequel

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps crtstatus) in breeding plumage
Hi all today's Day 206 and, as you know, yesterday I was on the radio being interviewed by Steve Bailey. While I was at York, me and my Dad thought we might as well go and look for some wildlife. Luckily we knew the perfect place to do this. I went to an RSPB members weekend at York University. Yes, it may be a university but they have some lakes with lots of wildlife on them. One of these things is the beautiful Great Crested Grebe.

On the nest 
I had seen them on a nest on the RSPB weekend and wanted to go back and see if there were any greeblings, and even better if I could see any riding on their parents back They were very hard to photograph as they were mainly sheltering under a huge Willow Tree but we persevered and got some photos anyway. I did cover these birds back on Day 68 but I hadn't really done them justice as I'd only managed shots of a non-breeding juvenile. I hope these photo's and facts are a bit better.

So, here are the facts:
  • They are resident in the UK and we have about 5,000 breeding pairs, they are happily Green Status. In the winter we get more of them visiting and there are around 23,000.
  • One of the great things about these birds is their courtship display, this is a video I found on youtube. I linked this on Day 68 but it is wonderful and I think is worth watching again.
  • If you watch this video you'll think they are very elegant, which they are on water, but because their feet are really far back on their bodies they are quite clumsy on land.
Off out with a parent
  • There isn't any data on typical lifespan but the oldest Great Crested Grebe was recorded as 11 years, 10 months and 5 days old.
  • They start breeding at 2 years old and they lay three to four eggs which weigh around 40g each
  • Greeblings hatch around a month later and can swim and dive almost immediately.  
Hiding under the willow
  • I missed the really cute stage where they ride on their parents backs whilst the other parent hunt and feeds them.
  • Greeblings can feed themselves from about 8 weeks old.
  • If you read my last post you'll know it wasn't always like this as their short, dense waterproof feathers were used by the Victorians like fur and they were nearly hunted to extinction.
  • The Victorians weren't all that bad. In 1889 a group of women formed the 'Fur, Fin and Feather Group' to stop the deaths of birds just for clothing.
  • Within one year, the group had over 5000 members. From 1904 onwards this group gathered over 1 million members and turned into the RSPB.
So if you want to find out more about these lovely birds try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Day 205 - Happily Mischevous House Martins

Hi all today's Day 205 and before I start, I want to thank BBC Radio York for a fantastic opportunity today as I was able to go to an interview about my blog and my love of nature. You can listen to it here: Skip to 2:14:30 to listen to my interview only until Day 234!

House Martin (Delichon urbicum) starting on it's nest
Anyway, on with today's post. I have recently been to Northumberland on holiday and some migrants have been coming in there recently. Flying migrants from Africa! You'll probably know already what I am talking about and you're probably thinking about Swallows. Well, I've already done 'em. So today's post is about House Martins.

So, here are the facts:

  • They Summer in most of the UK apart from Northern Scotland, Lough Neagh and Lough Foyle which are both lakes in Ireland.
This one's about halfway through building
  • There are 510,000 breeding pairs in the UK. Even so, they are an Amber Status bird because since the 1996-2001 status assessment when they were a Green Status bird their population has been in decline.
  • The decline is rapid and is concerning to organisations like the BTO who are doing a 2 year survey on House Martins. This will help to record their numbers and find out more about them as it seems we don't know that much about them.
And this one looks finished
  • They are found in all habitats including bogs, marshes and coastal areas where they occur the least,  They are found the most in villages.
  • This is most probably because they nest in the little nooks and crannies in buildings. You can see this from the picture that they have nested in somebody's window frame in some cottages right on the seafront.
Whizzing down...
  • Still on the subject of nests, they do really do put a lot of effort in. When we got there, we saw a Martin starting to build its nest. 20 minutes later, when we'd finished photographing, he'd made quite a lot of progress going backwards and forwards lots of times fetching the mud to build with.
Swooping in...
  • They have a length of 15cm and a wingspan of 28cm. Both Male and Female birds weigh 19g and the egg weighs just 1.8g!
  • As you'll definitely know by now I have started to put in a new fact about ring size. In the case of the House Martin, it's A, the second smallest after AA.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 2 years but the oldest ever multiplied this by 3 and a half with 7 years, 1 month and 12 days.
  • They arrive here from Africa, south of the Sahara. It's a long way to come but it seems worth it as House Martins will raise two and sometimes three broods a year in the UK. They can still have young in the nest as late as September and sometimes October.

..and up to the nest
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Day 204 - Beauty of the Mini-beasts - part 8 - Green Tiger Beetle

Hey everyone, its Day 204 and I thought I'd do another episode of the Beauty of the Mini-beasts. Today's critter I found when walking around the forests on the west side of the North York Moors, a place where I often go to check on the progress of the tadpoles that hatched in a little muddy puddle (they're doing fine at the moment!). This little critter was off for a walk along the same path as me and was happy for me to grab lots of photos. It's quite a big and lovely beetle, today I'm looking at the Green Tiger Beetle.

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)
So what did I find out about this little chap?
  • They like to live on heathland and sandy banks and you can find them over most of the UK.
  • They are between 10-15mm long.
  • The tiger bit of this beetles name comes from its hunting habits, it will chase down its prey and crush it in its powerful mandibles.
  • It's one of our fastest insects, it's long legs help it to run quick quickly. If disturbed it will also fly off a little way before running off.
  • They will eat spiders, caterpillars and ants which they can easily eat with their big powerful mandibles.
  • You can see them as adults from April to September mostly on sunny days on sandy ground without much vegetation.
Beetle eye view - maybe that's a bit too big a prey item?
  • Bare ground and sunshine are important. This beetle likes sun and its probably because a warm insect can move faster, helping it to hunt. Bare ground also warms up faster in the sun and this helps the larvae to grow quicker.
  • They breed in the summer and the eggs are laid in burrows in the ground where they hatch an the larvae feed and burrow.
  • They also hunt when they are in the larval stage and will dig a burrow on paths as a pitfall trap for other insects.
  • The larvae also have strong mandibles and once something falls into the trap they grab it and pull it into the burrow to eat it.
  • An extra little feature they have is a spine on their back which helps to anchor them into their burrow.
  • They aren't completely safe in their burrows though. A very slender little wasp manages not to get crushed by the mandibles. It will sting the larvae, paralyse it and then lay an egg in the larvae. This then hatches and it has its own food source and burrow!
What an interesting beetle, and if it wasn't for the Wasp they have a great life sunbathing and eating! If you want to find out more try these links;

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 25 May 2015

Day 203 - Beauty of the Mini-beasts - part 7 - Alderfly

Hey everyone, Day 203 and I thought it was time to come back to some of the little critters I see when out and about. Today's beastie I saw at the fabulous Lake Gormire which is a really beautiful place to visit if you get the chance, it's become one of my Mum's favourite places since we've found a route that doesn't involve going up and down Sutton Bank!

Alderfly (Sialis lutaria)
Whilst we were there eating our sandwiches I saw a bug that looked like it was struggling to get out of the water so I had to investigate! It got to a small stick at the edge of the water and very kindly stayed put while I got a few photos. Today's post is on the Alderfly.

So I did some research and here's what I found:

  • They are a primitive insect and apparently one of the first to have developed a pupal stage to their lifecycle.
  • They are not very good at flying so they are mainly found around the ponds and streams that they emerge from and explains why the one I saw looked like it was struggling.
  • Adults only live for a few days. They emerge to mate and may not eat in this time just existing on reserves from the larval stage.
  • Once mating has taken place, which is often at night, the female will lay up to 200 eggs on vegetation over hanging the water. This isn't always on Alder trees
  • When they hatch the larvae fall into the water where they spend most of their life.
  • They live in the silt of the bottom of lakes or slow flowing rivers where they crawl around feeding on smaller organisms and insects. They hide amongst weed and under stones.
  • After a year or sometimes two they go to the pupal stage. They bury into the silt and pupate and after a couple of weeks emerge as adults.
  • They are part of the order of insects called Megaloptera which also has Dobsonflies and Fishflies in it. This order of insects has some of the largest aquatic insect larvae.
  • As larvae the eat a lot of insects but are themselves eaten by fish. Watching the lake while eating my sandwiches I bet the adults are good Swallow food too!
So, I hope you enjoyed this, here's a few links to more information -

Hope you enjoyed, 


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Day 202 - Resplendent Red Breasted Geese

Red Breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
Hi all today's Day 202 and you may know that I like to go to Washington  Wetland Centre run by the Wildfowl & Wetland  Trust. This is understandable as it's such as good reserve and it's also for a good cause which is partly to look after endangered species. An example of a type of bird that occurs quite a lot there is geese. Today's post is all about one of these geese which we don't often get here wild as far as I can tell. The Red Breasted Goose!

So, here are the facts:
  • They are a threatened species and they are listed on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation for Nature) as endangered.
  • This is because in 2000 there were around 90,000 of them but over the next few years numbers crashed by around half.
In a little group
  • Possibly this is because they come into conflict with farmers, as they eat their crops and are disturbed by hunters after White Fronted Geese. In some places they are hunted too and hunting tourism is increasing which won't help their number!
  • Because of this, a campaign called 'Safe Ground for Redbreasts' was started. This is a project funded by the EU which cost 3 million Euros. This is working in Bulgaria where around 90% of the global population winters. They are satellite tagging the geese to understand them better.
  • They go to Artic Russia to breed mainly on the Taimyr, Gydan and Yamal peninsulas. 
  • When migrating they don't fly in a V formation like most geese, instead they fly in a big dense flock.
  • They are a very colourful, pretty goose and are also Europe's smallest goose at only 53-56cm tall.
  • Their diet is plant based and they eat grass, winter wheat, maize, barley etc.
And another little group
  • Despite being small they live quite a long time, up to 15 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.
  • As they are small they are sometimes prey for foxes and other predators. So they cleverly nest near birds like Peregrine Falcon, Rough Legged Buzzards and Snowy owls as these provide protection from predators.
  • They have good breeding seasons when Lemming numbers are high as predators are well fed then and don't eat as many geese!
Well, this little bird is lovely and I hope it has a few good breeding years to help it out. If you want to find out more try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 23 May 2015

Day 201 - Especially Elegant Elephant Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor)
Hi all today' Day 201 and today I thought I'd do a species I've not done before with my post today. As you know, a little while ago I went bird ringing with the East Dales Ringing Group, but not only this, the night before the ringing day, some moth traps were set up. We didn't get much as it was very cold during the night. The leader of the group had a moth trap set up at her house a few nights beforehand and managed to get quite an exciting moth. From the title and the pictures you'll probably know that today's post is about Elephant Hawkmoths.

So, here are the facts:
Close up of head and bald patch!

  • They are found throughout Britain and Ireland as well as: Europe, Russia, China, India, Korea (not Taiwan though) and finally British Columbia.
  • In most of where they live, the adults are found throughout May and July while the caterpillars are found through July and September.
  • You're probably wondering what they do from September to May. Well they feed up and go into a chrysalis or pupa over the winter ready to emerge as moths in the spring.
  • Now when I first saw the moth and heard its name I thought why is it called and elephant hawk moth? It doesn't look much like and elephant or a hawk. Well it gets the name from its caterpillar - I don't have a picture of one but you can see in the youtube video I found that it really does have something like a trunk for a nose!

  • As you can see they are a big caterpillar and quite a tasty meal for a bird. To try and protect itself the caterpillar will suck its 'trunk' into its head and that makes it look like a little snake with four eyes. Sometimes this puts the birds off, well it must work often enough as there are still the moths around!
Antennae and eye
  • The caterpillars seem to like fuchsia plants according to a few sites that I found, and when they are adults they have a sort of fuchsia colouring. I also read that they like Willowherb and Bedstraw.
  • The adults drink nectar probably from plants like Honeysuckles as these release scent at night to attract moths.
  • It seems the adults aren't safe from flying predators at night either as Bats quite like to eat them!
  • I found out too that they have very good night vision, handy for a moth I'd have thought!
Anyway, short and sweet today as I'm off to my grandparents to watch Eurovision. If you'd like to find out a little more about them try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 22 May 2015

Day 200 - Time for action - A letter to Mr Cameron

Hey everyone, well its Day 200 and I thought that mile stone deserved something special. I know what I've decided to do has been done by others but I wanted to add my voice too as I guess every little helps. As you know from the title I've decided to write to the Prime Minister, but that's not all, I will also write to the Secretary of State for Education and my local MP, I'm not sure but he may be more likely to support my viewpoint than Mr. Cameron. I read that the PM had a lot of support in his campaign from hunt supporters and he didn't hang around in saying thanks to them once he knew he has won the election. Anyway I think fox hunting is horrible and I wanted to tell him so! Here's the letter I'm sending (with some random  photo's to make the post look prettier!).

Dear Mr. Cameron,

Hello, my name is Zach. I'm 11 years old and a nature lover. I love nature so much that I decided to set myself the challenge of researching a different aspect of nature every day for a whole year and writing about it in a web blog ( I'm currently on Day 200 and as this is a milestone I wanted to do something a bit special.  So I'm writing this letter to you to express my concern about two things. The first is the proposal to have a vote to try and make fox hunting legal again, the second is the position of the natural world at the moment. 

I understand that sometimes populations of animals need to be controlled, but I think there must be a better way to manage fox numbers. To me a big group of people on horses with a big group of dogs chasing one fox until it is exhausted and can run no longer so is caught and ripped apart by the dogs is unbelievably cruel. I just can't understand why this is an acceptable thing to do to an animal. If a pet cat or dog was treated this way, people would be appalled and it would be a criminal offence, so why is it acceptable to do this to a fox? They are also sentient creatures that will feel great fear, pain and suffering at the hands of what some people would call 'sport'. There is a tremendous resource and effort needed just to hunt and kill a single fox. This tells me that people see it as 'fun' which I see as quite horrible. There are more humane ways to do this if population control is the real reason. I would be so grateful if you would actually vote AGAINST this proposal and so would many other people around the country.

The other thing that concerns me is the consideration of the natural world in our society. I know that in my school I haven't ever had a single lesson about nature. Our family has supported the school and helped to set up a Birdwatching Club, but apart from that, nothing. I know this isn't fault of the school, as they are given (and have to stick to) the curriculum. I would ask you and Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education, to put a lot more emphasis on the natural world and the future of the planet in Primary School curriculum. The reason for this is that we are facing challenges such as global warming and deforestation as well as losing entire species at an alarming rate and everyone needs to understand the importance of nature and that once it's gone, it's gone forever. It seems that at my age I am in the minority being a nature lover and that is worrying because it's my generation that will need to take over at some point, and I'm worried about the state of what will be left if we carry on as we are. It needs to be on the agenda - somewhere.

I hope that you would take my opinion into account.

Yours sincerely,

Zach Haynes.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Day 199 - Beautifully Beaked Barnacle Geese

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) on the York City Wall Walk
Hi all today's Day 199 and almost at 200! But anyway, yesterday I covered Greylag Geese so I thought I'd carry on the theme and cover another type of geese. I've mainly seen these geese around York, like on my York City Wall Walk and Dad has seen them quite often at York University. I don't see them very often so when I do see them I think it's a bit of a treat. I am talking today about Barnacle Geese!

So, here are the facts:
  • They are found around the West Coast of Scotland, and the top half of the coast of Ireland. They also Winter in the Netherlands.
  • They breed in Spitzbergn in Norway as well as Greenland and Northern Russia. Finally they Winter in most of Western Europe.
  • They are found on both Marshes and Estuaries. On migration to the UK, they are also found in Estuaries. 
Searching for dinner.
    Two Barnacle Geese having a chat
  • In Europe, there is around around 370,000 wintering birds and in the UK there's around 94,000 wintering birds.
  • Weirdly, there are 900 pairs of lost geese who breed in the UK. There are also over 58,000 breeding birds from Greenland.
  • This goose was once thought to start life as Goose Barnacles which grow on drift wood. This, obviously, is not true and they start from eggs like all other birds but no-one had seen the nests of these birds as they are found in the Arctic.
  • They have a length of 64cm and a rather large wingspan of 138cm. Both Male and Female birds weigh 1.7kg.
  • They eat mainly shoots and leaves
  • As you'll probably know by now, I have recently added in a new fact to do with a birds' size. The ring size! In this case it's J.
Having a bit of a stretch
  • They have a huge typical lifespan of 14 years! But the oldest Barnacle Goose was an absolutely giant 26 years, 11 months and 11 days!!
  • Now I'm never sure if some of these are just made up as the collective nouns are sometimes quite funny. I looked up the collective nouns for Barnacle Geese and found that they may be called an encrustment or hull of Barnacle Geese, sort of appropriate if you believe they start life as a Goose Barnacle!
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Day 198 - Gracious Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese (Anser anser) with two Goslings
Hi all today's Day 198 and, yesterday, I went on a walk at a reservoir called Cod Beck. While we were there, we saw quite a lot of lovely pieces of nature. As it's quite far into Spring some birds will have already laid their eggs, and then they have hatched and the babies are even walking around with the parents. An example of this are Geese. Specifically, Greylag Geese. We just saw a couple of adults and then we glanced to the side and saw quite a large huddle of babies!

Unfortunately, a dog scared them all off before we could get any photos. They were on the water and they eventually came back onto land and we got some pictures both with them on the water, and on land, the best of both worlds. At one point they started to walk on the path right in front of us!
Six Geese a-resting

So, here are the facts:

  • They are very picky about where they live. They are resident over the Western side of England and North East England.
  • Also they Winter both in South and West Scotland and in East and parts of West Ireland. 
  • There are 46,000 breeding pairs in the UK and there are 140,000 wintering birds and 88,000 in Iceland.
  • They have a typical lifespan of 8 years! Well, I put an exclamation mark, the oldest lived for 18 years, 8 months and 2 days!
  • They usually have an 82cm length and a 164cm wingspan. Also, Males weigh 3.6kg and Females weigh 3kg. This means that they are sexually dimorphic as Males weigh more than Females.
Most of the goslings together in a creche
  • They are found in all habitats but mostly in reedbeds. In fact, they are hardly found in the other habitats.
  • As you'll probably know by now I have recently added in a new daily bird fact which is the ring size. In this case it's L*
  • They usually eat plant material including roots, tubers, shoots and leaves both in water and on land.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Day 197 - Black Beauties, lovely Black Swans

Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) sat on eggs.
Hi all today's Day 197 and, as you may know, I sometimes go to a lovely place called Washington Wetlands Centre run by the Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts. They are specially managed reserves where endangered species are reared and bred but also attract a lot of our local wildlife. They have a very large area to roam, there aren't even any enclosures!

As I said they help endangered species such as the bird that I am covering. Well, technically it isn't an endangered species it's just one that doesn't really get seen very often.

A dodgy iphone shot of one at York
So, from all the clues I have given you, the title and the pictures you'll have figured out that today's post will be about Black Swans. I don't just see them at Washington Wildlife Trust, I also see them where my Dad sometimes works at York University. They are really nice to watch and it's a bit of variety from all of the white Swans.

So, here are some facts:
  • Black Swans are of Least Concern as they have a very large range but they aren't usually found in England...
  • ...Following on from this, they are usually found in Australia and Tasmania. They have also been introduced, and are well established in, New Zealand.
  • They are usually about 125cm long and usually have a 180cm wingspan. Males usually weigh from 3800g - 8750g while Females usually weigh from 3700g - 7200g.
  • Their Latin name (Cygnus atratus) means something (contrary to yesterday's bird) very related to it. Cygnus means 'The Swan' while Atratus means 'clothed in mourning' (black) so their full name means The Swan Clothed in Black.
Black Swan with white cygnets.
  • Yesterday I started a new fact, because I have recently been bird-ringing, about what ring size they have, in this case they have a M* ring size. (Here I'm going off Mute Swan because I can't find the Black Swan ring size anywhere).
  • Around 1/4 (one-quarter) of all Black Swan pairings are homosexual. This is mostly between Males.
  • Still on the subject of breeding, Black Swans are Monogamous and usually pair up for life. They do have a 6% 'divorce' rate though.
  • One final word on breeding, although they are called Black Swans, their under-wings are white along with their cygnets.
  • They do not a have a migratory pattern but are instead nomadic and move around in response to drought or rainfall.
    That long neck comes in handy for getting a snack
    when you can't leave your eggs!
  • Relative to their size Black Swans have the longest neck of all swan species.
  • The collective noun for a group of swans on the ground is a bank, but in the air they are a wedge, probably as they often fly in a V formation in flight, though they will also fly in a line.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,