Saturday, 31 December 2016

Post 451 - Dreary December? No! Brilliant Birding!

Fly on a dried out umbellifer on the 18th Dec
Hey everyone, just enough time to squeeze in a last post for 2016. I always wonder what I'll be able to find this time of year, in the dead of winter. Well it's been so mild that there has still been the odd insect to find and I have seen the odd fly around at places like Silton Forest.

Willow Tit at Sutton Bank
Of course something that you can see all the year round is birds. This December has been quite good for me in birding terms. I've had a few great walks over the Christmas holidays, staying quite close to home too. The first was a trip to Garbutt Woods, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve where Dad and I walked up the cliffs to Sutton Bank and had a well earned hot chocolate and a tea at the visitor centre. I love watching the feeders there, and we had a great view as we were sat outside as we had Esme with us. The feeders were alive with Chaffinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits but the reason I like them is that you can often see a Willow Tit or a Marsh Tit here and while we were having dinner sure enough a Willow Tit showed its face.

England's Finest View
A friendly Robin sat on the wall while we ate too, watching for crumbs I think. Looking up at the Robin we also noticed a Treecreeper looking through the moss on the wall. First time I've seen one that's not on a tree! Heading back down we stopped for a look at England's finest view which was grand even on quite a dull day!

Cracking view of a Buzzard
Now one of the things that I find quite frustrating about Kestrels and Buzzards is that they are always sat nicely on a fence post, on a tree or on a telephone wire when either I have forgotten my camera or as we zip along the roads at 50mph. I see loads of these birds but the chances to photograph them aren't very frequent. So it was a lovely surprise when we pulled up at a local pet store to see a buzzard sitting in a field just about 10 or 15 feet away from me. Well my camera was with me and I sat and snapped away while I had the chance, an awesome raptor encounter. It seemed happy just milling about this bit of field. At one point it flew up onto the roadside verge then made quite hard work of scrabbling back through a fence. I must have watched it for about 20 minutes, an awesome raptor encounter!

The Eastern Black Redstart at Skinningrove today
I had some time this morning and wondered if there was chance that I might manage to get another birding session in so Dad and I decided to look at what was around locally. Before Christmas I'd heard there was an Eastern Black Redstart around at Skinningrove so we checked if it was still about. It was! So Dad and I got into the car and had a trip that way, It's not so far from us, less than an hour away, but we've never been before. Following the directions we'd found about where to see it we peered over a jetty wall. Before the words 'I wonder where it is'  were out of my mouth it appeared on a rock just a few feet away from us. I hadn't even got the camera ready! I had to wait a while before I could get a decent photo but while we waited we had a look around and saw a few Fulmars a bird I've not seen before that I can think of. Also around were quite a few Turnstones, Herring Gulls, Rock Pippets, Black Headed Gulls, Oystercatcher, and a Great Black-Backed Gull. Sadly we didn't see the Glaucous Gull or Red Throated Diver that a birder on the beach told us were around. I might have seen the Diver but it was a long way off and I didn't have my scope so I'll be looking for that another day!

Well, not a bad December I think.

Hope you all have a very Happy New Year and I look forward to seeing what I can find in 2017!

Wishing you all a wildlife filled 2017 :-)

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.



Thursday, 29 December 2016

Post 450 - Another Year of My Nature Hunting - an awesome 2016!

Hey everyone, Post 450 and first things first, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

I always like to mark significant numbers with an interesting post, so it's quite handy that this post 450 comes as it's nearly the end of 2016. One of the things I got for Christmas was a little film that Dad had put together, a sort of digital scrapbook of a lot of the things I'd got up to in 2016. It's a really nice little film and he left it without a soundtrack so that I could put another Christmas present to good use. I have a little digital music studio kit for the PC so I wrote and recorded the soundtrack! It's a simple one for now but as I get more used to the setup expect more of this :-)

Well it's such a nice little film and it shows lots of the nice things I got up to this year so I thought what better thing could I use for summing up my year. Here it is, hope you like it...



The film has also reminded me that a lot of people made it a great year so we added the thank you message at the end. Instead of making a big long list of credits on the film I thought I'd list the folks here that have helped to make my year awesome -


Jill & Simon Warwick and all at Nosterfield Nature Reserve

Thanks to Jill for all the help with Moth ID's, and Charles too... 
...and of course to Barry for the moth trap

Thanks to East Dales Ringing Group for the ringing sessions.

Thank you to the Springwatch team for  my Unsprung hero award 
and especially to Lindsey Chapman for the lovely interview

Lin at Haggewoods for a great day at a new ancient woodland
it was awesome watching the dragonflies emerge.

Lots of folks at the BTO like Ieuan, Viola, Andy & Paul 
and the Cameron Bespolka Trust for an incredible Birdcamp

All the young birders & naturalists I've met at Birdcamp, Birdfair and MigFest

Jess French for lots of RT's and encouragement
and a great mention of my blog at birdfair

and Mike Dilger for being so inspiring, friendly and encouraging

Roger & Rosy Key for some great bug hunts!

I enjoyed being a part of National Insect Week

Nikki Bardsley & my teacher Mrs Anderson 
for helping me enter the Big Bang Fair

So many people on twitter! The list would be too long so sorry not to mention
all of the awesome supporters and friends - I'll do a bit of that on Twitter. 

- I'll do an update on that quite soon.




One of the main bits of the video is about my 2016 Yorkshire Reserves challenge. I learnt a lot from doing this, the main thing being just how big Yorkshire is! Mum and Dad spent a lot of time driving but we all had a great time and found lots of great new places for nature and walking. This year I think I have visited over 60 nature reserves at least 50 in Yorkshire. So I didn't manage to get to all the Yorkshire reserves yet but I will carry on. Another thing I learnt is not to rush this as you don't always get to see them at their best. There are lots of people to thank from the Wildlife Trusts who have also been awesome supporters this year.




for lots of encouragement and opportunities

Jono Leadley at YWT  for lots of advice on Yorkshire reserves
and for letting me sell my calendar in your webshop

Richard Sykes for putting the calendar on the webshop

Lucy, Jennie, & Melissa  
for the chance to write a piece for Summer


Nature is awesome, and I've had a great time sharing my passion for it. I wouldn't have met many of these people if I hadn't started my blog. Thank you all so very much (and anyone I might have forgotten) for making 2016 such an awesome year.

I haven't decided if I'll start a new challenge yet but I'm thinking about it. If anyone has got any suggestions let me know. I'll certainly carry on with the Yorkshire reserves challenge as there's still some great places to visit yet.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Post 449 - My First Book Review - The Voyage of the Queen Bee


Hey everyone, today's post is Post 449 and two people that I've known for quite a long time are Carl Mynott and Tim Gardiner. I've known them pretty much since I started this blog two years ago now so they've been in touch with me for quite a long time. As you'll know from my blog I obviously love writing but also, something I've never expressed on my blog is my love of reading. So, obviously I LOVE reading about nature. So, guess what happened? Tim decided to write a book about bees, one of my favourite insects, and Carl has illustrated it. All the profits (I think) from their book go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. This is a charity which I really love and support so I'm glad to see such a lovely fundraiser for them.

Tim very kindly asked me to review the book before it goes out. It's the first time I've been asked to review anything and it's quite an honour, but also quite fun! So if anyone else has a book they need reviewing then, I'm available ;)

It's an amazing book. It's aimed at 5-8 year olds but I still really enjoyed it and the story line of it is really good for the length of book it is. Anyway, let's get on with the review:

A Bumblebee feeding on a dandelion
The Voyage of the Queen Bee is a book aimed for 5-8 year olds. Several of the words in this book would be challenging for children of this age and would grow their vocabulary considerably. For example, there's words such as 'misleading' and 'bedraggled' (great word!). There was one word in the book that I didn't understand 'ramparts', the defensive wall of a castle. This is quite strange as I've spent a lot of time at castles! The main story of the book is about a Bumblebee called Blossom who's species feed primarily on Golden Hay Rattle plants. Blossom is heading over to the 'Secret Meadow' (where these plants grow) only to find that the plants had be mown down. She rushes back to the nest to tell the Queen, who tells Blossom to find some new Hay Rattle plants in the Golden Meadow on the other side of the Spartina Sea. The one problem is she has no way to get over there. She goes down to the shore to try and find a way over to find 'Captain Cricket', a pirate cricket who travels the seas with his Stick Insect 'Phas'. They make a deal and travel over to the other side of the sea on his newly christened boat, The 'Queen Bee'. From there they run into several different adventures trying to recover the Golden Hay Rattle seeds.

What I love about this book is how it uses some challenging words that would build anybody's vocabulary. The story is captivating (although aimed at younger ones) and I can't wait for the sequel. It really made me imagine the scenes, lovely summer meadows with bees buzzing around. If I had to change anything maybe it'd be at the start of the book, Blossom doesn't really get introduced as a bee, younger readers might not straight away realise that's what she is, so possibly there could be a bit of a pre-amble about her and then it continues with the rest of the book. But that's just my opinion!

The Golden Hay Rattle plant
(well Yellow Rattle from YWT Ripon Loop Reserve)
One of the best things about the book is that it is a very informative book. It teaches children some important things about nature and conservation, the whole quest is about restoring the bee's meadow habitat after it has been chopped down. It talks about lots of different insects and gives little bits of information about them woven into the story. At one point it says (when talking about ants) they were running as fast as their three pairs of legs could carry them which I really liked!

I have to mention the illustrations too, I love Carl's Curlews and the Crab, but they're all lovely pictures. I wish my art was as good, my teacher would be very pleased!

As well as it being a honour to review this book I've learned several things from it so I would love to have a look at the next one!

If you have young children and you want to introduce them to nature, I'd say you'd want to get this book! You can get copies from Tim's Insect Adventures Facebook page by clicking this link.

Well done Tim & Carl.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Post 448 - Many Marvellous Moths from my garden

Burnished Brass moth (Diachrysia chrysitis)
Hey everyone today's post 448 and you'll all know that I love all types of animal and plant in general, in fact all types of nature. So from that you'll know that I like moths. Well this year I was really lucky to get a moth trap (thanks again Barry) and it has been great fun to use. I love getting it all set up, placing all of the egg trays inside and then switching it on and wondering what I'll find in it in the morning.

It's not just moths I find! I caught lots of other insects
too including this Chafer Beetle.
I have caught so many things in it, just in my garden! Bearing in mind I don't yet have a mercury vapour light which apparently gives you twice the amount of moths. I think I've done quite well! In all I've recorded 95 different species of moth. I was lucky to get a lot of help confirming identifications from Jill Warwick so thanks very much for all the help Jill.

Thinking off the top of my head, I can remember I've caught a few Hawkmoths, Emerald Moths, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Snout, Shark, Blue Bordered Carpet and lots more. The full list is at the end of the blog for anyone wondering what else I've caught.

Poplar Hawk Moth (Laothoe populi) posing on Dad's finger
I thought I would also do some facts on one of my favourite Hawk Moths that I have ever seen, the Poplar Hawk Moth!

  • The Poplar Hawk Moth is probably the most common of our Hawkmoths, which is why some people have nicknamed it the Popular Hawk Moth!
  • You can find them across most of the UK - looking at the map of their distribution the most northerly one looks to be recorded in Fair Isle.
  • They're found in a variety of habitats including gardens, woodlands, fens, moorland and heathland.
    Another hawk moth from the garden
    Elephant Hawk Moth (Deilephila elpenor)
  • When at rest, it looks different to a lot of other moths, It rests with its wings out and its lower abdomen sticking up.
  • They are one of the largest moths I've found in my garden, its wingspan is between 65-90mm.
  • This moth is usually on the wing between May and July and is quite a common visitor to light and moth traps.
  • It probably gets its name from the fact that larvae feed on Poplar, but they also feed on Aspen and Sallow.
The Miller (Acronicta leporina)
  • If startled it can uncover and flash parts of the hindwing which are a reddy or rufous colour which can startle a predator.
  • They eat very little if anything as adults, they are on a mission to find a mate and ensure they breed and lay eggs.

Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa)
Recently I haven't been doing much moth trapping, but I'm going to see if it's worth doing one or two more sessions within the year to see what's usually about in Winter and see if I can get up to 100 species this year!


Blue Bordered Carpet (Plemyria rubiginata)
I also like photographing moths, but sometimes this proves to be a challenge. I have included some of my favourite pictures that I've managed to get of my garden moths here. I've seen moths in other places too whilst I've been doing my Yorkshire Reserves Challange this year and I've included photos of some of these in my calendar that I've put together and has been selling for a while. If you'd like one they're being sold through the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Shop. They're also selling at Potteric Carr Nature Reserve so if you're going on a day out there (which I highly recommend) then you can get one there. Any profits made from my calendars will be split equally with the Wildlife Trusts, with any money I get going towards my nature antics. I will probably be putting it towards a brand new lens for my camera, either macro or long distance so I can get better photos of everything.

Well, that's it for this post, I'll try and do another one in the week because I haven't posted as regularly as I'd like too.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.




Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata)



My 2016 Garden Moth List:

Latin Name (Taxon)
Common Name
Abraxas grossulariata
Magpie Moth
Abrostola tripartita
Spectacle
Acleris laterana/comariana

Acleris variegana
Garden Rose Tortrix
Acronicta leporina
Miller
Agapeta hamana

Agrochola litura
Brown-spot Pinion
Agrochola lychnidis
Beaded Chestnut
Agrotis exclamationis
Heart and Dart
Alcis repandata
Mottled Beauty
Apamea monoglypha
Dark Arches
Aphomia sociella
Bee Moth
Autographa gamma
Silver Y
Axylia putris
Flame
Batia unitella

Blastobasis adustella

Cabera pusaria
Common White Wave
Catoptria falsella

Celypha lacunana

Celypha striana

Chloroclysta siterata
Red-green Carpet
Chloroclysta truncata
Common Marbled Carpet
Chrysoteuchia culmella
Garden Grass-veneer
Cidaria fulvata
Barred Yellow
Clepsis consimilana

Cosmia trapezina
Dun-bar
Crocallis elinguaria
Scalloped Oak
Cryphia domestica
Marbled Beauty
Cucullia umbratica
Shark
Cydia pomonella
Codling Moth
Deilephila elpenor
Elephant Hawk-moth
Diachrysia chrysitis
Burnished Brass
Dipleurina crataegella

Dipleurina lacustrata

Ditula angustiorana
Red-barred Tortrix
Eilema lurideola
Common Footman
Enarmonia formosana
Cherry Bark Moth
Epiphyas postvittana
Light Brown Apple Moth
Epirrhoe alternata
Common Carpet
Eudonia mercurella

Eulithis prunata
Phoenix
Eulithis pyraliata
Barred Straw
Eupithecia assimilata
Currant Pug
Eurrhypara hortulata
Small Magpie
Euzophera pinguis

Evergestis forficalis
Garden Pebble
Gymnoscelis rufifasciata
Double-striped Pug
Hedya nubiferana
Marbled Orchard Tortrix
Hepialus lupulinus
Common Swift
Hoplodrina alsines
Uncertain
Hydriomena furcata
July Highflyer
Hydriomena impluviata
May Highflyer
Hylaea fasciaria
Barred Red
Hypena proboscidalis
Snout
Idaea aversata
Riband Wave
Idaea aversata ab. remutata
Riband Wave [non-banded form]
Lycophotia porphyrea
True Lover's Knot
Melanchra persicariae
Dot Moth
Mesapamea secalis agg.
Common Rustic agg.
Mythimna ferrago
Clay
Mythimna impura
Smoky Wainscot
Mythimna pallens
Common Wainscot
Noctua janthe
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Noctua pronuba
Large Yellow Underwing
Nola cucullatella
Short-cloaked Moth
Notodonta dromedarius
Iron Prominent
Oligia versicolor
Rufous Minor
Opisthograptis luteolata
Brimstone Moth
Orthosia cerasi
Common Quaker
Orthosia cruda
Small Quaker
Orthosia gothica
Hebrew Character
Orthosia incerta
Clouded Drab
Orthosia munda
Twin-spotted Quaker
Ourapteryx sambucaria
Swallow-tailed Moth
Pandemis heparana
Dark Fruit-tree Tortrix
Peribatodes rhomboidaria
Willow Beauty
Phalera bucephala
Buff-tip
Phalonidia gilvicomana

Pheosia tremula
Swallow Prominent
Phlogophora meticulosa
Angle Shades
Phragmatobia fuliginosa
Ruby Tiger
Plemyria rubiginata
Blue-bordered Carpet
Pleuroptya ruralis
Mother of Pearl
Plutella xylostella
Diamond-back Moth
Pterostoma palpina
Pale Prominent
Ptilodon capucina
Coxcomb Prominent
Rhopobota naevana
Holly Tortrix
Selenia dentaria
Early Thorn
Spilosoma luteum
Buff Ermine
Thera britannica
Spruce Carpet
Udea olivalis

Xanthorhoe montanata
Silver-ground Carpet
Xestia c-nigrum
Setaceous Hebrew Character
Xestia sexstrigata
Six-striped Rustic
Xylocampa areola
Early Grey

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Post 447 - Terrific Transformations in Awesome Autumn Colour changes

Autumn colour along the River Swale
Hey everyone, well post 447 today and I thought that with all of the wonderful autumn colours that I've been seeing that I would look at why and how trees move from the big green leafy structures they are in summer to the bare brown skeletons of winter.

My bonsai is looking good too
I don't know about where you are but here in Yorkshire the changes have been going on for quite a while and have been really slow and gentle so that every day the autumn colours have been getting better and better. We had a bit of snow earlier in the week but it didn't last long enough for me to get any photographs, but the autumn colours against the snow were awesome. I think it's about at its best now though as lots of leaves are falling and some trees are starting to look a bit bare.

Well I knew a bit about why leaves change colours but I thought I'd look at this again to see what I could find out. Here's what I found out:

Breaking down the chlorophyll

  • The first thing to say is that it is all to do with chlorophyll. This is the chemical in leaves which absorbs the energy from sunlight and uses it to make food, simple sugars or carbohydrates, from water and carbon dioxide.
  • As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures start to cool off, deciduous trees and plants start to prepare for winter.
  • Rather than just shutting down and dropping all their leaves they start to recover the chemicals and nutrients that are stored in the leaves.
    Sunlight through autumn leaves
  • They stop producing chlorophyll and break down the chlorophyll in their leaves into colourless compounds which they remove from the leaves and store in the branches and trunk.
  • As this happens you start to see other pigments that are in the leaves all the time but they get masked by the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll uses red and green light but reflects green light so leaves look green.
  • Weather can affect the colour changing process. Early frosts can disrupt the process that makes the red colour in some leaves like in maple. They make a chemical called anthocyanin which make them red. Some scientists think this acts as a sort of antifreeze to give the tree more time to remove valuable chemicals in the leaves.
    A few Greylags enjoying the autumn colour
    of Larches at Cod Beck
  • It is only deciduous trees that do this as coniferous trees have needles which are thicker and waterproof, protected by waxy coatings and natural compounds that prevent freezing so they can survive frost and winter temperatures. Needles do get replaced gradually though. 
  • Needles are less efficient at photosynthesis so the trees need them all year too to produce food. 
  • There is an interesting tree though around a lake where I walk a lot at Cod Beck, the Larch. This is a coniferous tree that is deciduous.
    Larch needles changing colour.
  • It seems they do this as they tend to live in places where there is lots of snow in winter. By not having needles snow and ice doesn't build up on their branches so much so they don't break under the weight.
  • As they can regrow their needles every season it also gives them the ability to survive forest fires.
Well that's more than I knew to start with and I always enjoy finding out what happens in all the processes that plants and animals go through.

Hope you enjoyed too.

Z.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Post 446 - Fundraising for Wonderful Wildlife Trust

Hey everyone,

Just a quick post today to let you all know about a little project that has been keeping me and Dad busy lately.

The front cover 
If you read my blog regularly you'll know that I've been trying to get to as many Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves as I can this year. I had hoped to get to them all but there are a lot and Yorkshire is very big! This year I've found out just how big and how long it takes Dad to drive us around. I won't manage them all this year but I do hope to get to a few more yet. I've really enjoyed it and I've found some wonderful places!

In the summer I had hoped to be going along to a fundraising walk for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. I wanted to help as I've loved seeing all the places they care for. Sadly I was too young this year. So instead as I started to think about putting a calendar together again, and wondered if it would be a good idea to share the proceeds with the YWT. Dad got in touch and they thought that was a pretty good idea too. They've been very helpful and are selling them through their webshop at the link below and at their flagship reserve at Potteric Carr if you can get there.


If you like my blogs and photos then I think you'll like it. I saved a few good photos and had to scan through loads of others to find some great ones to go in it. I'm very grateful to YWT for the help in selling it and for the lovely write up they've given me - (thanks Jono & Rich :-)

Me on my stand at the Big Bang Fair
I'm sharing any profits with YWT and I plan to use mine for one of two things. If we sell enough I hope to buy a better lens for my new camera so that I can take even better pictures. My new camera is a digital SLR, a Canon EOS 700D, which is great but needs new lenses for me to get better shots. Either that or I'll use it to help cover the costs of going to the Big Bang Fair final (a big science
festival) in March next year.

You might remember that I went to the local heats of the Big Bang Fair, this year and I won a couple of awards for my blog as well as a place in the national finals. Well the awards came with the prize of some shopping vouchers and that was how I got my new camera. Well for the finals they are asking contestants to raise money to cover the cost of attending. Most projects are team efforts so it must get expensive for the schools as it needs you to stay over for two nights, so it might be good to use the proceeds for that.

Before I can do either though the calendars need to be sold. Thanks to Mary Arnold that's starting to happen, thanks Mary for being buyer number 1!


Hopefully there's a few more readers of my blog that would like one too.

Thanks very much to everyone that does :-)

Hope you enjoy,

Z.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Post 445 - Fabulously Fascinating Fungi - Part 4

Fly Agaric's and dewy cobwebs on a misty morning
Hey everyone, Post 445 today and I don't think I could let Autumn go by without a post on fungi. I've been seeing them around and about most places I've been and some are very pretty, They are great things to look out for when you're walking around this time of year.

A fungi cluster on a stump at Silton Forest
I've looked at fungi before, but I didn't realise how much until I had a search back through my blog! My first post on them was on Day 8 of my year of nature after a walk on the moors. I found some more at Fairburn Ings and included them in a post on Day 18 called Puffy and Fluffy.  A good while after that I came back to them and started to write about them as a species.  Day 321 - Fascinating Fungi Part 1 was about their biology, Day 330 - Fabulous Fungi - Part 2 - Useful Yeast! was about how useful one fungi is to us (and has some really cool pics in it) and Day 370 - Fabulously Fascinating Fungi Part 3 was about other uses of different fungi. I've covered particular species too like the Jelly ear fungus. I didn't realise just how much they have fascinated me!

Puffballs at Silton Forest
I've covered how life is pretty dependent on them - how the Mycelium is made up of lots of fine threads called Hyphae which secrete enzymes that break down dead plant material and how they can have a symbiotic relation with plants most of which rely on Mycorrhizal fungi around their roots to provide nutrients and water acting as an extension to their roots. The fungi get some sugars from the plants in exchange.

I've also found out how big they can be, probably the biggest living organism on earth  - a 2,384 acre area of a Honey Fungus Mycelium was found in Oregon, USA. It's estimated that it was 1,665 football fields large! That's a lot of mushroom!

So with all that what more could I find out about them?

Breaking down a log...
Well what I didn't realise is how ancient they are....

One was found to be 440 million years old! It was found fossilised and has been said to have 'kick started life of Earth' because it filled a gap of evolution by beginning to rot and break down the soil so that other plants could grow and so that the animals could come out of the sea and feed on these plants.

People have said it filled a gap and that around the time it existed pretty much all life was confined to the sea, apart from this. This fungi provides evidence that plants had colonised the land before any animals had left the sea.

This fungi is called Tortotubus and since they have mycelium that carries the nutrients around to the other parts of the fungi, the ground around it got some nutrients helping the Earth to become the lush green environment it is today.

A candelabra or coral fungus.
Nor did I know how old they can be...

I've talked about how ancient some forms of fungi are, but age is a different thing. Pretty much everyone knows about fairy rings, circles of mushrooms with a bit of mythology thrown over them. But what you might not know is that the bigger the circles are, the older it is! Fairy rings start as a spore and the mycelium grows out from this original spot. When they fruit, that is when we see the mushrooms and toadstools, you can see the area the mycelium covers. The older the fungus the further the mycelium spreads.

Remember the fungus I mentioned earlier, the one that covers 2,384 acres, well to get that big it must be at least 2.400 years old! It could be much older though and scientists think it might be as much as 8,650 years old!

So, that's altogether pretty amazing. They are the largest, probably the oldest (certainly one of the oldest) living things on earth and the first living organisms to populate dry land and without them we probably wouldn't exist!

Fungi can be amazing colours as well as everything else!
No wonder I find them so
fascinating.

Here are some links to some more information:

Scientific American - the largest organism on earth is a fungus

The Telegraph - Meet the 440-million-year-old Scottish fungus which kick-started the human race

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Post 444 - What I've learnt from the Grouse debate

Hey everyone, I was busy yesterday with my post on half term so I didn't get time to read about the debate on grouse shooting. So I decided to look today at what people were saying about it on social media. From what I have seen it doesn't seem to have been a very fair discussion. Lots of people seem really unhappy that the grouse moor owners and shooting organisation's side of the argument was the one that was mainly heard and that some of the evidence that was quoted wasn't right. Nature got a mention but the main things that people say were mentioned is that Gamekeepers are the saviours of our nature, that they work hard to conserve many species. I'm not sure that the Hen Harriers that hardly got a mention would agree with that...
It has been great as a young person to watch how this debate came about. I've seen all the hard work that a lot of people - Mark Avery in particular - have put in to get the debate to happen. I've learnt about making petitions and about writing to my MP. I've had some responses and I've learnt how my MP at least is quite good at not quite answering the question I ask. (I asked if he thought it was fair to give money to grouse moors for a few people to have a hobby when our local hospital needs funds to provide important services for lots of people).

I've learnt how wildlife charities and other people have to work very hard to do studies to show what is happening to nature in our moors. I've learnt how a lot of people ignore evidence if it doesn't suit them. I've learnt a lot about how our Government works. If it's always like this I learnt that I don't like it very much, that it doesn't seem very fair.

There are some things I don't understand though. Why do so many MP's support this hobby. It's a pretty horrible one when you just frighten birds towards a load of people waiting to shoot them. Why do we pay land owners to make the moors great for grouse but not for raptors? Why can't some moors at least be left to be more natural and wild to help Hen Harriers and other birds? Maybe they are but there can't be enough of them if we only have a few Hen Harriers managing to nest and raise young.

I tried to help a little bit by writing to my MP, by tweeting about the petition like lots of other people did. I think it is amazing how much people like Mark Avery and Chris Packham have worked on this and I'd like to say a big thank you to them. I'd also like to thank Caroline Lucas and Natalie Bennett for sticking up for nature.

 Another thing I've learnt is that you need to have a lot of energy and persistence to try and make changes happen and that I think it is more important than ever that we tell our Government and MP's how much we treasure nature and how we want them to protect it.


I saw what Mark was doing with the Grouse petition and I decided after the Brexit vote that I would start one asking the Government to look after nature when we leave the EU. Reading about the grouse debate has made me even more glad I did. I've got about two months left to go and I need just over 3,600 signatures to get a government response so I'm going to do my best to try and get one!

The petition is here if you want to sign it, I'd be very grateful if you did and so might our wildlife and future generations that enjoy it if we can get the message through to our Government.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Post 443 - Happy Half Term Trips

A very thoughtful baby gorilla at Durrell Wildlife Park
One of the frogs in the Amphibian & Reptile house
Hey everyone, and you may have realised that I haven't posted in a while, this is mainly because  I went on holiday last week! And this wasn't a normal holiday for me because I usually try and keep my carbon footprint quite low, so I try to keep twitches to a minimum and, I have never been on a plane. Until last week! I only went on a short flight as it was my first and my parent's first in 20 years as Mum's not a great one for flying so we only went to Jersey. Well I say only, it was one of the best experiences of my life! The landscape was amazing, as anyone that has been there will know (I loved the rugged coast and coves) and it was quite hot for the end of October. It was mainly a sight seeing holiday as we hadn't been there before but the wildlife there was really good too!


One nature highlight was when we went to Durrell Wildlife Park, which was amazing. It was great to see all of the exotic wildlife there, my favourites probably being the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla [Yes that is their Latin name!]) as well as the Amphibian and lizard section. I found it really funny how you could be looking for a Komodo Dragon and not see it for 2 minutes but when you do see it you get really surprised because it turns out to be looking straight at you! I was so impressed by the work that the park does in helping to conserve endangered species, it would be an awesome place to work, it would be so good to contribute to saving so many wonderful species. If you get a chance to go it is amazing!

I also did a potential Cairngorms Nature Presenter video on Orangutans! You can see it here:





Orangutans have oppossable toes too, this mother
never let go of her baby while they were swinging around
This was really hard to do as there were lots of people around and it was hard to get good bits of film. I wasn't happy with it so I had the chance to go to Wheldrake Ings on Saturday which is usually a great place to see Barn Owls. Nature being nature it doesn't perform as we'd like sometimes and I didn't see any this time but on other occasions I have seen four hunting at once here. I thought my film was better though and this is the one I've submitted for the Cairngorms Young Nature Presenter Competition:




But anyway, we were out looking for things like Fulmars and Shags but instead of these we managed to see something else that I hadn't seen, the Rock Pipit! These are amazing birds that I love and hope to see more of again. I've now seen three of the pipits, this, on top of Meadow and Tree! Although I haven't got as close to Tree Pipits but I have rung a Meadow Pipit!

On Friday I also went to Spurn Point again! There had been loads of interesting migrants sighted the previous few days, when we were away, and we wanted to see if we could catch anything else. Well, it turned out that everything decided to fly away before we got there, and we spent most of the day looking for pretty much anything. We saw around 40 species and got things like Little Egrets and Widgeon, Grey Plover, the usual, but the highlights of the day were the Brent Geese, and, another lifer, the Ring Ouzel! This is a bird that I'd heard of but never really paid much attention to them as a species so it made it even more amazing to see it, especially as it was the last bird of the day before we headed home to walk Esme.
A Ring Ouzel at Spurn

Anyway, I hope you liked my quick update on what I've been doing! I hope to post again soon. I have an autumn post in the making and I want to do an update on my petition. It's got a couple of months to go and its about two thirds of the way to a response from the government - I would really like to get a response. Its such an important subject, making sure that we get strong protection for our wildlife when we leave the EU. You can see it and sign it here if you haven't already -

Protect UK Environment & Wildlife

Oh, and the other thing that has kept me busy is I've been making another calendar. I'm going to sell some and give half of the profits to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts. I had hoped to do the Three Peaks this year with them to raise funds but as I couldn't I thought I'd do this instead. With my share of the profits I hope to buy a new macro lens so that I can take even better pictures. If you would like a calendar please let me know but I will post more about this soon too.

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.