Monday, 31 August 2015

Day 292 - Wonderful Whinchats

Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra
Hey everyone today's Day 292 and I have recently been over to the Lake District to look for Bee-Eaters. Those of you who saw yesterday's post will know I did see them. Now, when I was looking at the map, I saw the RSPB sign. We Googled the reserve and it was only about 4 miles away! Once we were finished with the Bee-Eaters, we headed straight over there. It was a lovely reserve called Geltsdale. It was a lovely area of uplands, very picturesque and very, very peaceful. I hardly heard a sound as Dad and I walked around. We saw 2 (maybe 3) 'lifers'. One of which was the beautiful Whinchat! This one was quite a way away but got a couple of ok shots!

So, here are the facts:

  • They are found all over the UK apart from the ROI and South-East England. They are found in inland East-Anglia though.
Looking around for dinner
  • They are an Amber Status bird because there has been a recent population decline, between 1995 and 2008...
  • ...This was more than a small decline. Between these two points, we lost more than half of our Whinchat population...
  • The reasons/causes for this are unknown but, from what I have found on the internet, there doesn't seem to be any threats to them.
  • There are about 47,000 breeding pairs in the UK so before the decline, there must have been over 200,000 birds!
  • The live mostly in upland moors but they can be found in Heathlands, Marshes and Bogs. Rarely in Towns and Villages.
  • Now, usually when I research their local names I can understand where they are coming from, sometimes less so. But the 'Furzechuck'? No idea on that one?!
  • They are usually about 12 cm long and they have a 22 cm wingspan. Both Male and Female birds weigh 17g.
  • They first breed at one year and their typical lifespan is 2 years but the oldest was 4 years 11 months and 19 days.
Off to catch another bug.
  • They usually lay about 5-6 eggs and have 1-2 broods. They fledge 14-15 days after their 13 day incubation.
  • Whinchats are a migrant bird and arrive in Britain in the Spring from central and southern Africa.
  • Their latin name roughly translates to rock dwelling small bird.
  • Their diet is small invertebrates and sometimes berries. They generally hunt from a perch which fits what this one was doing - it would occasionally launch itself off of the wire to catch something and then returned to the fence.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Day 291 - Beautiful and Elegant Bee-Eaters

Bee Eater (Merops apiaster) in the centre -
the bird on the post was a Great Spotted Woodpecker
Hey everyone, today's Day 291 and instead of keeping you waiting on what today's species is, I am just going to say that I am covering my favourite European bird. The Bee-Eater! Now, I know what you're thinking. But, no. I didn't go abroad. There is actually a pair nesting in Cumbria so I took the opportunity and me and my Dad drove up there. It took two hours but we went though some amazing countryside and knew that when we got there there would be an amazing bird to see! We managed to get some good(ish) pictures. It was incredible to see the different colours on them and how they would take Dragonflies almost the same size as them! Watching them fly and hearing them call was really lovely. We stayed quite a while as the adults hadn't been feeding them for a while, The RSPB were expecting that they would fledge today and it seems that the adults were trying to encourage them out but we didn't get to see them fledge. My photos show these birds off very well, they are really colourful, very beautiful, but they were too far away really  for my camera to capture them well.

So, what did I find out about these amazing birds?:

  • There have been only four records (including this pair) of European Bee-Eaters actually nesting in the UK. This makes them a 'Schedule 1 species' and it's illegal to disturb them.
Both parents were around - one here has an insect
  • They were recorded in Cumbria in 2015, The Isle of Wight in 2014, County Durham in 2002 and the first time was 1994 in Sussex.
  • They are usually found in Southern Europe, Spain and Portugal sort of area, because of this, they aren't actually assessed (green, amber and red) here.
  • The reason they are up here is because they have been pushed up by climate change and are able to stop and nest here.
  • There isn't just one type of Bee-Eater, there are actually 26 species of them, 23 of them are in the family 'Merops'.
A grainy digiscoped shot - with the Golden Ringed Dragonfly
  • The European Bee-Eater doesn't just stay around the South of Europe, it can be found in Africa and as for North as Sweden. An incredible 11 million square kilometres.
  • They are called Bee-Eaters but they don't just eat Bees. They have BEEn (:-) seen eating Dragonflies. You can see the photo to the right of one eating a Golden Ringed Dragonfly.
  • One reason that they may have nested in a Quarry is because they have a lot of dust. Apparently they do something called 'Dust Bathing' to keep down parasites.
  • Bee-Eaters need to catch around 225 bees a day to feed their family (including themselves). I'm not sure how this ties in with Dragonflies but I'd say they must be worth at least two.
  • To get rid of the sting on the Male (because Female don't have them) they will actually rub them against a fence post or something.
In flight
  • They are about 28cm in length and they have a wingspan of 46cm. Both Males and Females weigh about 61g.
  • The juveniles will actually weigh more than the parents when they are a couple of days from fledging as they will eat more.
  • The reason I say a couple of days before is because the to encourage the youngsters out the parents effectively starve the chicks out of the nest by tempting them out with food and not actually giving them it.
  • There are between 280 to 600 thousand pairs in the Summer in all of Europe and in the World, between 2,940,000-12,000,000 can be seen.
  • The nest is up to 3 metres long (I think) and apparently the Males will lose about 30% of their beak when they dig it out.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Day 290 - Superly Perfect and Magnificent Swallow Prominent Moth

Lesser Swallow Prominence (Pheosia gnoma)
Hey everyone today's Day 290 and as you know, I was recently at the Nosterfield LNR reserve working as a volunteer. I was put on the morning job of helping with Moth trapping which was quite popular and had quite a good crowd. I loved seeing the amount of Moths and the variety. From the first-for-Nosterfield Feathered Gothic to all of the 284 Yellow Under-Wings. Another of my favourites that I saw was the lovely Swallow Prominent.

View from above of the Lesser.
This post will be about the two similar species, the Lesser Swallow Prominent as well as the Swallow Prominent.

So, here are the facts:

  • The Lesser Swallow Prominent is actually more common in England, Scotland and Wales but it is less so in Ireland.
  • The Swallow Prominent can range from 40mm - 55mm while the Lesser Swallow Prominent is (of course) Lesser and ranges from 45mm - 50mm.
Swallow Prominence (Pheosia tremula)
  • The Lesser Larvae feed, very specifically, on birch. They then overwinter underground in their cocoon.
  • The Swallow Prominent larvae eat Poplar and Willow and also overwinter underground, the same as the Lesser.
  • They both eat, as Adults, Nectar from most plants.
  • They are found in Woodlands, Meadows (where they will find most of their food from), Heathlands, Parks and Gardens.
Hairy head close up
  • They were first recorded in 1854 although they will have been around way before that time.
Wings spread
  • The way to tell the difference between the two of them is by looking at the white wedge toward the top of their wings. In the Lesser Swallow Prominent it is a chunkier, shorter wedge.
  • Both species may well have two broods. They are generally on the wing between May and June and then also again in August.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Friday, 28 August 2015

Day 289 - Gloriously Spectacular Gold Spot Moths

Gold Spot Moth (Plusia festucae)
Hey everyone, it's day 289 in my year of nature hunting. A few days ago I did a post on my time at the open day at Nosterfield. I had a great day volunteering, helping out with various things around the reserve. It was all great but I have to say my favourite activity was the moth trapping and today's species was probably one of the favourite species that was caught. I have to say thanks to Jill Warwick, one of the creators of Nosterfield and Charlie the County Moth Recorder. They are so amazingly knowledgeable about moths and very patient with me asking lots of questions.

A total of 13 of today moth species were caught in the four traps and it was one of the most eye catching. The spots you can see in the photo really were like spots of gold. If I hadn't given it away already I'm talking of course about he Gold Spot Moth!

So, what did I find out when I researched them:
  • They are a reasonably large moth with a wingspan of 34-46mm
It has a wonderful tuft on its head
  • You can find them in most areas of the UK.
  • It likes damp habitats and it favourite places to live are fens, water meadows and river banks.
  • The adults are found generally at night between May and September.
  • In the south there may be two generations a year but there is only one.
  • Its scientific name is Plusia festucae which translates as a rich eater of fescue grass.
  • This isn't its only diet though the larvae will eat a range of plants found in the damp habitats they like.
  • It is a really colourful moth but it's underwings are quite plain. I didn't get a photo of that though as this one didn't want to move of this stick.
View from above.
Well, for such a nice moth it was hard to find out information about it. Try these sites if you want to see more photos.

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Day 288 - Fabulously Super and Brilliant Forest Shield Bugs

Hey everyone, today's Day 288 and I thought I'd look at a little insect today that I saw at Kelling Heath while I was on one of my walks around the site. This beastie was found in part of the pine woodland there. I was busy looking at all of the bits pine cone that were all over the floor, the squirrels had been very busy, when I saw it.

Well I did my research and its surprising that I should find it in pine woodland as it seems they feed on deciduous trees. It must have got lost! Well, as you'll know from my photo and title, I'm covering the Forest Shield Bug or Forest bug today.

So, here are the facts:

  • Despite being called the Forest Shield Bug, they are also found in Towns and Gardens as well as Heathland.
  • Kelling Heath has every single one of these habitats meaning it's a pretty good place to see them. 
Head on with the beastie
  • They are found from June all the way to November. Believe it or not, these are the same times that the Yellow Under-Wing (another post I wrote today) are seen.
  • They have also been seen in early spring so it might be that they have two breeding cycles.
  • When I saw this one I had to look twice, they camouflage perfectly with the Forest floor. This is probably why they are called the Forest Bug.
  • This Shield Bug is part of the Family 'Spiked Shield Bugs'. This family has (you guessed it) Spikes on their shoulders!
  • The way you tell apart this Shield Bug apart from others is that the Shoulders are 'Square Cut' and Rounded at the front.
  • This species spends Winter as a young nymph and eats mainly Oak and other trees such as Alders, Hazel, Apple and Cherry.
  • When looking at some pictures on the internet of these, I found what their eggs look like. They are perfect smiley faces! (See the pic on the British Bugs website.)
  • They are around 11-14mm long so sometimes quite hard to spot along with their camoflage!

Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Day 287 - Mystically Mythical Magpie Moth

Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata) that flew off
rather than let me photograph it!
Hey everyone today's Day 287 and as you probably know, I went to the Nosterfield open day. When I was there, the morning job that me and my Dad were put on was Moth trapping. This was really fun as it was really good to see all of the different Moths, you do get a bit tired of Yellow Underwings though... Because I saw so many different types of Moths, there was about 60-70 species, I thought I would cover one that I really like. The Magpie!

This one was a bit of a tricky customer, I expected it to sit nicely on a piece of wood for me to photograph it but instead it flew off into the hedgerow. Still I was able to follow it and get a couple of shots. The rest of my moths shots are much better!

So, here are the facts:
  • They have what's actually quite a large wingspan. It can be all the way up to 45mm or 4.5cm. That's only 5mm shorter than my little finger!
  • Their caterpillars are almost the same colours and patterns as the actual Moth so if you see one of them, there's going to be no confusion!
  • It has a White base colour with wavy lines made out of Black spots, there is a small Yellow- Orange stripe down the middle and one in across the middle of its wings.
  • Another thing about the caterpillars, their colours, White, Black Yellow and Orange, are actually made to warn of predators.
  • They are only commonly found from June to August, this is one of the smallest time periods that I have seen in this blog.
Scuttling into the undergrowth!
  • They are found quite a lot in England but not much in Wales. Also, they aren't found in South Scotland at all, but they are found quite commonly in North Scotland. They're found in Ireland.
  • They are found in Farmland, Woodland, Heathland, Upland, Towns and Gardens and Grasslands. 
  • Adults eat Nectar from most Flowers, caterpillars eat Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Currant and Gooseberry Bushes.
  • They over-winter as caterpillars and pupate in May to June.

If you want to find out more about these colourful moths try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Day 286 - Simply Brilliant and Cracking - Speckled Bush Cricket

Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)
Hey everyone, Day 286, and another great find here when I was at Birdfair. On the Friday we got out a little early to avoid the traffic and do a bit of nature hunting. We went to the Lyndon Visitor Centre on Rutland Water. Well you didn't have to go very far to spot some great species. Visible from the windows in the visitor centre was a Great White Egret (there's a story about that!), and just outside of the visitor centre in the bushes were these little beauties.

They were quite big, as you can see in the photo they were as long as the bramble leaves that they were sitting on. They were very patient and not at all jumpy like the grasshoppers that I try and get photographs of, they are gone in a flash. Today I'm looking at the Speckled Bush Cricket.

  • The first fact is probably quite obvious - it is covered in little black speckles as you can see in the photos.
  • Something else you can tell from the photos is that they are females, the Ovipositor, the tool they use to lay their eggs, is the big curved thing at the end of their body.
Here you can see the big Ovipositor
  • They lay their eggs in late summer, usually in the bark of trees or shrubs. They overwinter as eggs before hatching in the spring.
  • When they do hatch in the spring into the nymph form they feed on a variety of flowers and plants.
  • After a while doing this, around late July, they moult into their adult form.
  • Dusk and night time is when they are most active. Males try to find females by attracting them with a high pitched noise they make with their wings (which are very short) that is so high pitched humans can barely hear them.
  • They are mainly found in the South and central areas of England as well as South Wales but may be more widespread than this.
They have great antennae too!
  • They like areas with lots of vegetation like gardens, woodland margins, hedgerows and parks.
  • It seems they like rough vegetation best, especially brambles and often sits motionless on leaves - perfectly describes how the ones I photo'd behaved.
Well that's about all I could find out about these lovely little creatures. Try these sites for more pics and info:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 24 August 2015

Day 285 - A Brilliant Open Day at Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Me & Esme on the way to Tanfield Hide
(hoping I grow into the T-Shirt!)
Hi everyone, Day 285, something a little bit different today and it's about the reason I had to come back from Birdfair on Saturday. I had the chance to help out with my local nature reserves' first Open Day. I've done a few posts about this fabulous place - it is of course Nosterfield Nature Reserve. It started life as a sand and gravel quarry and even before they'd finished taking it all out the wildlife was starting to appear. In 1996 a group called LUCT was formed by local naturalists to manage the site which was made a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. I've linked the website so you can see more about the reserve, if you are ever in the area it's a great place to visit.
Medicinal Leeches - a future post!

It was great to be asked to help out and I had a really brilliant day. The reserve had put lots of activities on. There was pond dipping, a bird walk, a botanical walk, a butterfly and dragonfly walk - these were great as there were lots of experts around from organisations such as the British Dragonfly Society to tell you lots about the things you could see. One of the best things that I saw was some medicinal leeches, more about these another time, but it was great to see them as they aren't that common in the wild now. I did see a horse leech in Gormire but never one of these before.

Feathered Gothic Moth - also a future post
One of the best activities was the moth trapping and it was one that I got to help out with the most. Charlie, the County Moth Recorder and Jill from LUCT were there identifying and recording the moths that had been caught in the traps they had set up the night before. I've never seen so many moths!! My job was to put some of them into little pots so that they could be passed round for people to see. Some were quite tricky but I got the hang of it in the end. All together there were 72 different species caught, two of these hadn't been recorded on the site before including this lovely Feathered Gothic. This makes the total amount of moth species found at Nosterfield now up to 524 different species!

Common Darter on wall by Tanfield Hide
My other job for part of the day was to be in the Tanfield hide welcoming people and telling them about the birds and wildlife that was about. This ?? Dragonfly settled just outside while it was quiet. There were quite a few people that came through and it was great to tell them and some of the children that came through about the birds that were there. There was also a Barn Owl nest box, though the owls had all fledged but there was lots of information around to tell people about the owls. There were even owl pellets and some cleaned up skulls and bones of voles and things to show the children. It was quite quiet bird-wise when I was there. I missed an Osprey and Buzzard that had been hanging around but there were still Avocets, Shovellers. Sandmartins, Herons, Greylag and Canada Geese, a Stock Dove, Tufted Ducks, Coots, to name but a few! So enough to show people.
All the volunteers at the end of the day!

It was really nice to be asked to help out and it was fun to point everybody in the right direction at the hides, as well as helping to capture the Moths so we could show people that weren't there at the counting. I liked volunteering and actually doing something to help out the reserve. It was nice to share my passion for nature with everyone there too!

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Day 284 - Brilliantly Fun Bird Fair

Hey everyone today's Day 284 and firstly, I would like to apologise that I haven't done any posts recently but that is because I was off collecting posts at Bird Fair! It is an incredible place to go and it was also my first one, even though it was their 27th Bird Fair. There's so much to talk about I've broken it into sections

I went to a few of the talks there which were excellent:
The excellent Dove Step project
  • Dove Step - this was an excellent talk where Johnny and Robert told us all about the Turtle Dove, its decline and how they are raising funds and awareness by walking, Kayaking and cycling the route of the Turtle Doves migration. They've done the first half in two stages so far, very long and hard stages which took lots of endurance - it was pretty amazing - this is their logo and the link to their blogsite - and even better to their just giving page so you can donate to their brilliant cause

Iolo was very funny.
  • Wildlife of Wales - Iolo Wiliams - another of my Springwatch favourites - talked all about the wildlife of Wales. There is some pretty amazing stuff to see there. I really liked hearing about the temperate rain forests and just how amazing the dawn choruses are there, I must go camping there. He also told us about some pretty amazing plants that have been left in the mountains after the last Ice Age. It was also good to hear just how well the Red Squirrels are doing on Anglesey!

Mark Avery - he said I was the only person he knew
that blogged more than he did!
  • Mark Avery - Inglourious - last time I saw Mark was at the Birders Against Wildlife Conference and I always learn a lot from him. You'll probably have guessed that his talk was about driven grouse shooting and banning it! It's not a nice 'sport', not at all nice or sporting for the Grouse and not very good for the environment either! I liked the bit about some people saying it's traditional. It's only been something that has occurred since the mid 1800's so Mark said if we kept all the traditions from that time women wouldn't be voting and I'd still be going up and down chimneys to clean them! That sort of shows how much of an out of date tradition it is really.
Chris introducing the young birders
  • Chris Packham and the Young Birders - was another fantastic talk. Chris talked about when he was a young birder and the freedom he had to explore the countryside around him. He also put up some funny signs like 'Woodland Closed for Hygiene Purposes' just to show how people seem to be afraid to let my generation explore the wild. I'm so glad I can! There were then three great young birders that talked about what they do. Josie Hewitt talked about ringing and nest recording, Connor talked about his passion for wildlife photography and Georgia Locock talked about how important it is not to just love nature but to get involved in campaigning and making sure it's still there for future generations. All very inspiring! 

Twitter People:

I also saw so many people that I am in touch with through Twitter. So, I thought I would list some of the people I spoke to, it was great to meet you all!
Lucy McRobert - thanks for all the support Lucy!
  • Lucy McRobert, a great supporter of mine who was on the Wildlife Trusts stand.
  • Georgia Locock who did a great talk about campaigning for wildlife.
  • Josie Hewitt who did a great talk about bird ringing.
  • Toby Carter, who was on the BTO Stand and the BTO ringing Stand. He also organised an excellent walk for a group of Young Birders which was excellent (Thanks :-)
  • Sam Pitt-Miller, who was working on the same stands.
  • Emma Websdale, another incredible supporter, who was working also on the Wildlife Trust stand.
  • David Walsh, who supports me greatly and was on the Ornitholiday stand.
  • Evie Miller and Abby Miller.
  • Ben Moyse.
  • Sorrel Lyall
  • Noah Walker
  • Ieuan Evans, BTO 'Comms person'.
  • Andy Clements, director of the BTO.
  • The BAWC Team - Charlie, Phil and Lawrie!
Wildlife Celebrities
Bill Oddie - Legend!
  • Mark Avery, a wildlife champion who has started an incredible e-petiton to try and ban driven grouse shooting. Sign it here! If he gets 100,000 signings, it has to be considered in parliament.
  • Chris Packham, wildlife presenter of (most recently) Springwatch and (least recently) The Really Wild Show.
  • Bill Oddie, wildlife veteran and former host of Springwatch. He's also a great person to meet and also got his new book with his signature.
  • Martin Hughes-Games, someone that I admire because of his work with wildlife, and how on Springwatch he is willing to do all of the extreme stuff that Chris and Michaela say they wouldn't dream of doing!
  • David Lindo, The Urban Birder who made the Britain's favourite bird vote (robin, :-( I was hoping for the Hen Harrier!) I went on a 'bug hunt' with him and a great guy from up here called Dr. Roger Key which was great fun.

There is also a lot of fantastic wildlife to tell you all about but too much to include here, but don't worry there will be some posts on this in future! I'm sure I've missed loads out of this as it was a busy and incredibly enjoyable two days. I'll certainly try and go again next year!

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Day 283 - Positively Beautiful Pipistrelle Bats

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
Hey everyone, it's Day 283 and I've got a species here I haven't covered before. I saw this when I was on a walk on holiday around the place where I stayed, Kelling Heath. It's a great place with lots of woodland and heaths and they do great nature walks. The one I went on was at dusk and we went out looking for Bats!

We started off at a pond where they like to feed. There are bat boxes all over the site and we were really lucky to see some Pipistrelles emerging from some boxes right by where we were. They were great to watch flying around, even more agile than yesterdays Little Terns. We had bat detectors too and you could hear their echo location. I learnt a lot like how you can tell when they catch an insect by the way the beeps got closer and closer together, it's a great noise and good fun watching and listening to them.

Discovering the grounded Pipistrelle
There was more excitement to come though as we saw something the walk leader had never seen before. Very unusually for a bat he said, one had got something wrong and ended up on the ground. That was great for me to be able to get these photos but bad for the bat as they can't get themselves back into the air from the ground, their wings connect their fingers to their legs. As you can't handle bats as they are a protected species the walk leader found some pieces of cardboard. The Bat happily climbed on and with help from the walk leader and Dad they got it quite high up in a tree. In a flash it launched itself off the tree and flew off. A happy ending!

So what else did I find out on my walk and from my research? Well here it is:
  • The Common Pipistrelle is the smallest bat in the UK. It is only 3-5cm long but has a wingspan of 19-25cm.
  • They weigh just 3-9g!
  • Unlike bird's feathers bats wings are solid. Their fingers have evolved to be long and thin and have skin between them that makes their wings.
    Rescue in progress!
  • This means that they can fly more strongly than birds as they get power on the downstroke and upstroke of their flight.
  • They are very, very agile and flit about quickly chasing insects. They way the Pipistrelle flies was the reason the old English name for bats was Flittermouse!
  • In a night's feeding these bats can eat 3000 insects!
  • They like to live in a variety of habitats including  wetlands, mature woodlands, grasslands, farms, parks and gardens. They like open grassy areas surrounded by trees or bushes. 
  • Pipistrelles are found across most of the UK and are quite widespread in Europe too.  We like watching them above the field behind our house and often go out with our detector at dusk.
  • Closely related to them is the Soprano Pipistrelle bat. This is so similar that you can only tell them apart by their higher frequency echo location. People used to think they were both the same species. I watched some of these at Kelling but didn't see them as close as the Common Pipistrelle!
  • Bats aren't doing very well, their numbers have fallen a lot in the last century. This is due to loss of habitat and roosting spaces. On the Kelling walk I heard this might be because of the way we build houses now and that there aren't so many places for them to roost, and chemicals in our buildings aren't good for them.
  • Changes in the countryside aren't helping either, habitats like hedgerows, woodland and ponds are being lost. Use of pesticides also reduces the number of insects available for them to eat.
A little close up!
  • Bats don't reproduce quickly. Females gather in maternity colonies and give birth to a single baby in June or July. The babies are fed milk until they can fly (about four weeks) and forage for themselves (about six weeks).
  • Our bat expert was really worried that his grandchildren might not see bats flying around the way that we have :-(
  • They are only active for part of the year as they hibernate in the winter. They hibernate singly or in small groups in crevices in buildings or trees and in bat boxes.
  • All species of Bat in the UK are protected species and if you have a roost in your house you have to get special advice before you do any work that might affect them. My Nana had a roost once in her old house but they only stayed a while before they moved on but she did get advice on them.

Well, there's lots of information out there on these great little creatures, try these sites if you want to know more:

By the way, off to Bird Fair for a couple of days so might not get to do posts for a day or two depending on access to technology.

Hope you enjoyed todays post,


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Day 282 - Lithely Twisting Little Terns

Little Tern (Sternula albifrons) looking for dinner
Hey Everyone, it's day 282 and I've got another treat today from the lovely North Norfolk Coast. Early one morning Dad and I decided we'd do the walk from Cley to Blakeney Point as we'd been told there was lots of lovely wildlife to see. We weren't disappointed! I've already covered Dunlins and Ringed Plovers which we saw there as well as lots of Oystercatchers, Cormorants and a few other things that I'll cover soon.

One of the most acrobatic sights we saw though was today's little bird. They were great to watch as they soared over the sea before sometimes hovering before they plunged into the sea after a fish. We were watching them for quite a while as we walked and I could have watched them for longer as they were so great to watch. They were hard to photograph though as they didn't come very close, fly fast and turn quick! I'm talking today about Little Terns.

So, here are the facts:

  • They live around our coast but not all around it, mainly its the South & East of England and the North West of Scotland as well as North Wales and a bit of the East of Scotland.
  • Little Terns are the UK's smallest Tern. They are 23cm long with a wingspan of 52cm.
  • They weigh just 56g and they lay 2 or 3 eggs per clutch which each weigh 9.6g so they must get very heavy before they lay them!
    A juvenille in flight
  • While they may be little they do live a long time. Their average lifespan is 12 years but the oldest recorded was 17 years 9 months and 28 days!
  • They lay their eggs on beaches but the eggs and the chicks are very well camouflaged and hard to spot. 
  • They don't like to be disturbed though so they do best in places where there aren't many people. Blakeney must be great for them as there weren't many people at all and it's very hard walking on the shingle! 
  • They are an Amber status bird as they have had population declines. This might be because their nesting sites are places us humans like to go to. Birdlife says they are even sensitive to disturbance from bird watchers so we need to give these birds space.
  • There are about 1900 nesting pairs in the UK.
  • They arrive in the UK in April or May from places like Southern Europe, South Asia, Africa or even Australia where they spend the winter. They start to head back in August so they don't stay very long!
    .....and again
  • Their Latin name Sternula albifrons translates a tern with a white brow, you can just see this in my photos.
  • Don't know how you would catch one of these to ring as they are very fast and agile but if you can get one to ring it they need a ring size B+.
  • They eat mainly small fish but also small crustaceans, insects worms and molluscs. They fish mainly in very shallow water sometimes just a few centimetres deep. When I read this I was surprised as they dive very fast!
Well if you want to find out more about these lovely birds try:

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Day 281 - Respect-Worthy Ruffs

My favourite sign on the way into Weybourne
Hey everyone today's Day 281 and I've got a bird that I saw in Norfolk recently. Yesterday I told you everything I saw there which, I have to admit, was much more than I had ever realised. That's why I love to do those posts. When you see them over a long period of time, you don't think it's much, but when you put it down 'on paper', you see how much you actually saw. I forgot to put in this picture which is my favourite sign I see when I'm down there.

Ruff (Philomachus Pugnare)
But anyway, in yesterday's post, I said that I saw some Ruffs. This is true and they are what I am going to be covering today. But before I do, there's a little story about the first Ruff that I ever saw. It was at Titchwell and I was just in the Island hide when there was some people talking about Ruffs and that there was one just outside the 'window' and when my Dad pointed it out, I saw that it only had one leg. Now, usually when this happens they are just resting, but this one actually only had one leg but it soldiered on and it looked like It was at least 2 or 3 years old.

So, here are the facts:
A Ruffled Ruff!
  • They only really Winter in some very specific places such as South-Eastern Ireland and South England.

  • They are only resident in Western Norfolk but not many do. There are much more that Winter as I shall explain below.

  • There are only, at most, 11 breeding Females in the whole of the UK but as I said there are more that Winter here, about 850 birds.

Pair of Ruffs
  • Because of this, they are a Red Status. The true reason is because of a recent population decline.

  • Their Scientific name (Philomachus Pugnare) means pugnacious to fight. I'm guessing that that means that they want to fight or are very good fighters.

  • They are 25cm long with a 53cm wingspan. Males weigh a hefty 180g and Females a good 110g.
Ruff on a different day
  • They start breeding 2 years and usually live for 4 years. The oldest was 9 years and 25 days old.

  • The Female's ring size is a relatively large C while the Male is a larger D.
Here are some links to some more information:

RSPB - Ruffs

BTO Birdfacts - Ruffs

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 17 August 2015

Day 280 - A Nature Ramble at Norfolk

North Norfolks Coastline
Hey everyone today's Day 280 and as you all know, I have been to Norfolk recently. I saw so many
things while I was there and I even got a whole 35 more posts to do. That will easily be able to take me past day 300 but I will also have to do something special for the 300th post. But anyway, whenever I go somewhere and see a lot of things, I compile them all into what I call a Nature Ramble. Only this was a wonderful week long one in places like Titchwell, Cley, Blakeney, Horsey and Hickling! Such a great holiday can't wait for the next one and hope to fit in a good few rambles yet, more about that at the end.

You will be able to work out what I have and haven't done as posts yet so it's a little 'sneak-peek' into what will be coming in the next month or so.

So, here's what I have seen:

Some of my photos still to be identified
  • Ruffs
  • Ringed Plovers
  • Little Stints
  • Avocets
  • Green Shank
  • Red Shank
  • Little-Ringed Plovers
  • Grey Plover
  • Little Tern 
  • Common Sandpipers
  • Curlew Sandpipers
  • Green Sandpipers
  • Water Rail
  • Oystercatchers
  • Spoonbill
  • Shelduck
  • Mallards
  • Dunlins
  • Greylag Geese
  • Egyptian Geese
Marsh Harrier over Cley

  • Canada Geese
  • Black-Tailed Godwits
  • Jays
  • Marsh Harriers
  • Kestrel (There'll be a story about this one)
  • Hobby
  • Buzzards

  • Mistle Thrush
  • Wood Pigeon 
  • Goldfinch
  • Greenfinch
  • Chaffinch 
  • Blue Tits 
  • Great Tits
  • Sparrow
  • Coal Tits

  • Robins
  • Blackbirds
  • Cormorants
  • Lesser-Black Backed Gulls
  • Black Headed Gulls
  • Common Gulls
  • Herring Gulls
  • Hansers (or Herons to everyone not in Norfolk)
  • Starlings
  • Swans
Bloody Nosed Beetle - See day 277
  • Bloody-Nosed Beetles
  • Seven-Spot Lady-Birds (Approximately 500 of these! There were so many!)
  • Many Caterpillars (more about them later!)
  • Seven-Spot Lady-Birds in their Larval state
  • Shield Bugs
  • Red Soldier Beetles
  • Kidney-Spot Lady-Bird
  • Harlequin Lady-Bird
  • Twenty-Two-Spot Lady-Bird
  • Long horned beetle (yet to be identified)
  • Spiders and Harvestmen (still working on these too!)
Dragonflies & Damselflies
  • Ruddy Darter
  • Red-Veined 
  • Black Tailed Skimmers
  • Brown Hawkers
  • Norfolk Hawker
  • Emperor 
  • Azure Damselfly
  • Blue Damselfly
  • Emerald Damselfly
Reptiles & Amphibians
Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar
  • Toads
  • Frogs
  • Common Lizard

  • Cinnabar Caterpillar
  • Cinnabar Moth
  • Silver-Y Moth
  • Several more species to be identified
  • Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar
Speckled Wood
  • Red Admiral
  • White Admiral (but another one that got away from the camera)
  • Peacock 
  • Meadow Brown
  • Painted Lady
  • Skipper
  • Speckled Wood
  • Gatekeeper (being a Gatekeeper!)
  • Swallowtail Caterpillar (I have seen the butterfly but never managed to photograph one!)

Pipistrelle Bat
  • Seals
  • Pipistrelle Bat (up close - more about that later)
  • Soprano Pipistrelle Bat
  • Rabbits
  • Stoat
  • Grey Squirrel
  • Muntjac Deer
  • Red Squirrel (but this one was captive and part of a breeding programme)

There were probably more that this but I didn't write a list as I was busy trying to photograph them. It was a great week, can't wait for my next holiday! I've got a few more rambles yet these holidays I hope to be able to add to this list. 
Esme :-)

By the way, my posts have been a little later these days as we've been out on lots of walks and getting in a little late. The reason for this is in this picture here. She arrived last Sunday and has been keeping the whole family quite busy! Many more walks will be needed!

Hope you enjoyed,