Sunday, 31 July 2016

Post 432 - A Mostly Mothy and Media update

Elephant Hawkmoth - one of the biggest and brightest in my trap so far
Hey everyone today's Post 432 and was thinking about what I was going to do over the Summer Holidays and realised that I hadn't done a post in a while as I've been busy promoting my petition. I've got quite a lot to update you on. So I thought I'd start with a recap on moth trapping as it's been very exciting on this side of things as it's still quite a new activity for me!

I've been putting the moth trap out pretty much whenever I can, definitely over the recent weekends as the weather's been so much better here in Yorkshire than earlier in the year. On most nights it's been the perfect trapping weather, warm, but cloudy, and in the day, it's been the perfect insect and bird weather, sunny with no clouds! It did mean some very high temperatures though. It's been up to 36*C in some parts of England!

Well like I say, the trap's been going very well as I have got loads of new species in the garden just this week! Friday's catch for example, brought:

6 Common Footmen
Crassa unitella

5 Ribband Wave

1 Flame

1 Codling Moth

15 Chrysoteuchia culmella

1 Magpie Moth

16 Large Yellow Under-wing

2 Diamond Back Moths

3 Dark Arches Moths
The Phoenix

1 Silver-Y

1 Double Square Spot

1 Iron Prominent

1 Phoenix

2 Buff Tip

1 Pale Prominent

2 Scalloped Oaks

1 Brimstone Moth

Acleris forsskaleana - little moth, big name!
1 Crassa unitella

1 Acleris forsskaleana

1 Barred Red

2 Marbled Beauty's

1 Shark

1 Spectacle Moth

1 Clay
Barred Red

1 Elephant Hawk Moth

1 Dun Bar

1 Dot Moth

1 Dark Fruit Tree Tortix

1 Mother of Pearl 

1 Red Barred Tortix

(The ones in bold are new ones to my garden list!)

So you can see that I got quite a few species. I am going to set up a page somewhere to show all the species I get in the garden but I am also recording them on Mapmate so they can be added to the local records,

Esme in action!
A nice thing that happened this week is that I got some new technology that I've been considering for a while now. I got a new camera!! This basically means that you should be getting a lot better quality of photos once I work it out properly. It's a Cannon EOS 700D and it is a huge upgrade from my old-ish camera, the Nikon Coolpix L830 which had some good abilities, especially macro, and great quality of picture, but the Canon is just amazing even with the standard lens! I will be getting new lenses when I can afford them to improve the zoom and the macro functions. I've been testing it out on Esme as you can see in some of the photos.

And again!
It has lots of different modes (several of which I haven't worked out yet) but I mostly use the sport, macro, and Creative Auto settings. Each enabling me to get shots of different individual things.

Sport - If I'm taking a photo of something moving, such as a bird or butterfly (or Esme!).

Macro - If I'm taking photos of plants or insects, that are moving.

Creative Auto - Pretty much anything else.

But the most exciting thing that has happened his week, happened last Monday morning, from about 7:30 until 9:00.

I had another radio interview!

3 Poplar Hawk Moths!
This one was another that wasn't in the studio, but in two places, my back garden and the Forest! Joanita brought her 'Studio on wheels' to our house first to talk to me there. I had put my moth trap out (again) so there was something else to talk about. What I was surprised about was the fact that I got 2 Poplar Hawkmoths in the trap, and one on the hedge next to the trap! I had three in my garden! We'd had them before but only one at a time, so afterwards I took the opportunity to get a triple bugs eye view as you can see in the photo.

Skip to 1hr 33mins of the programme here to listen to me!

New camera is pretty good with hoverflies on the wing!
After this interview, we drove down to Silton Forest, where, because we had enough time, we walked about for half an hour to see what there was at half 8 in the morning at Silton. The answer is, a lot! We saw several species of butterfly, Meadow Browns, Green-Veined White etc, a Broad Bodied Chaser, an owl that was too fleeting to identify it fully, and several other things. In both of these interviews, the main point was all of the awards that I have been getting recently! Such as my Unsprung Hero awards and my Big Bang Awards. Aside from this, we talked about pretty much anything else to do with my blog. I had great fun talking and I'd love to do it again!

Skip to 2hrs 50mins of the programme here to listen to me!

Well, that's one update for you on some new and exciting activities. I have some interesting species to do blogs on and a big reserves challenge update to do, so watch out for more soon.

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Post 431 - Happily Humming & Hovering - The lifecycle of hoverflies

Adult Hoverfly - this one is a Sunfly 
Hey everyone, Post 431 and a little break from petitions and pollution with today's post, though I am totally amazed that my petition about wildlife laws has got to an amazing and quite pleasing number of 1,234 signatures as I write this!

You might remember back in 30 days wild, and as part of National Insect Week, that I went on a bug hunt with a fantastic entomologist, Dr. Roger Key. Amongst all of the things that we found were a couple of hoverfly larvae. Well Roger suggested I have a go at raising them so I did, and it gave me the chance to get lots of photos that I could use to explain the lifecycle of these wonderful insects.

I love seeing these insects. I see quite a lot of different species and it's the right time of year to see them too. I have seen quite a lot in the forest I go to quite often, Silton Forest, where there are quite a lot of umbeliferous plants at the right height for me to get a good look at them!

So, on to their lifecycle.
  • They start out as eggs. Adult females lay their eggs on the bits of plants that the larvae  will feed on or find food on when they hatch.
  • Some larvae are predators and will eat aphids, mine was. In fact it was very predatory. I found two larvae and put them in the same pot to take them home, but there was only one by the time I got home!
  • Predatory hoverfly larvae are great for gardens and allotments as they eat aphids. I get a lot of hoverflies in my garden and it was quite hard finding aphids to feed this one on after a while. In the little video here you can see a cheeky aphid hitching a ride on the larvae!
Does this count as a packed lunch?
  • Not all hoverfly larvae are predatory though. Some eat plants. The adults lay the eggs near to the bit of the plant they like to feed on and the larvae when hatched tunnel into the roots, stems or leaves where they feed.
  • Some larvae have a different diet and they like rotting or decaying plant matter. Some of these live in stagnant or polluted pools and have a special tube which they use to breathe. These larvae are called rat tailed maggots.
  • So the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on their favourite foods until they reach the next stage of their development. This can take up to a year for some species, but quite a lot shorter for some like mine.
    Pupating - you can see some markings developing
  • When they are ready to pupate the larvae releases fluid from its bottom that it uses to stick itself to the place it will pupate.
  • It then turns itself into a pupa, not quite sure how that transformation happens but it can take a few days for the pupa to become hard.
  • Inside the pupa the larvae undergoes an incredible transformation. You can see in my pictures that you can see in the later stages the markings appearing in the pupa.
  • When the transformation is complete the adult breaks out of the pupa and has to find a clear space to pump up its wings and allow them and its body to harden off as it is quite soft when it emerges.
    Emerged and pumping up the wings, the pupa case
    is in the background.
  • The adults are then ready to start the process again. They fly off to feed on nectar and are important pollinators, and they look for a mate.
So that's their lifecycle. It was great to be able to watch it close up and I was quite surprised how quick it was. It was a good job I took my jar with me when I went to the Big Bang Fair as that was the day that the adults decided to emerge. It was a very good thing to have a talk about too and lots of people were very interested in it.

I hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 10 July 2016

Post 430 - Protesting for Post Brexit Protection of Birds & Bugs

Hey everyone!

This could be one of my most important posts yet!

We depend upon the natural world. We depend on the natural world for every breath we breathe and for every mouthful we eat. We are a part of the natural world. If we don't understand the natural world and don't have a feeling for the natural world then we are to some degree in some danger, because the natural world today is in greater danger than it has ever been.

That applies globally and it applies on our own door step.

I heard Sir David Attenbrough, one of our greatest naturalists, say this at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts 70th Birthday celebration. You can listen to them here too about 8 mins 30 seconds into the video.

Since then I have seen lots of articles about the referendum to leave the EU, but I guess everyone has too.  We've spoken about it at school and I`ve also talked quite a bit to mum and dad about it too. There are lots of articles that pointed out that the environment and nature weren't mentioned much in the discussions before the vote. That seems very wrong as climate change affects all of us. Lots of species are declining because of the way we live and how we use the countryside e.g. Bees are suffering because of pesticides, Hen Harriers are suffering due to 'sport', Turtle Doves because of how we farm and Puffins because warming seas affects their food. In fact the state of nature report found that 60% of UK species are in decline.

There are other articles that say we should be worried about what might happen now there is a vote to leave as I understand it will mean that European laws wouldn't be in place any more. That's quite a blow for nature as Europe's laws have done a lot to protect our wildlife and environment. There is a lot of information I found in a report that the Wildlife Trust have done, along with WWF and the RSPB on their website which I have linked here.

It basically says that the EU has a great history of protecting wildlife and the environment. Some of the key things that it has done, or is doing, I have summarised below:

  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and promotes the growth of renewable energy. 
  • The Birds and Habitats Directives are great systems for protecting wildlife and wild places but wildlife is still under threat across Europe and much more needs to be done.
  • The EU has put in lots of measures to increase recycling rates.
  • Has made and has a great track record for making a proper system for reviewing chemicals, and protecting us and the Earth from pesticides.
  • Building a set of laws to protect our seas from mounting pressures. 

Leaving the EU could most probably mean these laws would not apply any more.  The report has a few points at the end but here are two of them:

  • Leaving the EU would create identifiable and substantial risks to the UK’s future environmental ambitions.
  • The uncertainty and confusion caused by the UK exiting the EU would itself be harmful at least in the immediate to medium-term, both for environmental standards and essential green investment. The long-term outlook is very uncertain.

I'm happy that the re-referendum petition is still going strong but the Government's response says a second referendum isn't going to happen.

But I think it's important that we still have laws that protect wildlife, as strongly as the EU's do.

So, speaking of petitions, as I couldn't get a vote as I'm too young, I still want to have a say! So I've created my own petition to ask the Government to make sure that we have strong laws to protect our wildlife and the environment. You can sign it here.

(If you read this before Sept 17th you could also support my thunderclap to promote my petition - I've linked it here)

One weird thing is, another petition was published on the same day as mine, about 800 petitions after mine was published, and it's pretty much identical. I didn't think this was meant to happen (that was why my plastics one got rejected as another one was almost the same as it) so I think it might be best if you to sign it as well here as it is such an important issue.

I hope you agree with me and Sir David about this important issue, and I'm going to try and get lots of other young people that didn't get a say to write posts on this subject, and the petition, to try and get the government to take notice and to protect our natural world. I'll update you on any posts that are written.

One last thing, here's a bit more inspiration about how important it is to look after the natural world, which was in one of my earlier posts - This Earth is Precious

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 4 July 2016

Post 429 - Parliamentary Polluting Plastic Petition Update

Hi Everyone, just a quick couple of updates. I saw this article from the Guardian today on twitter which really sums up why this is important.

Plastic waste dumped in UK seas 'carried to Arctic within two years

Also - much quicker than I expected, my Thunderclap has been processed - so if you want to spread the word about the plastic petition to help tell big co's that we don't want plastic packaging then please sign up and retweet it.

Thunderclap - Polluting Plastic Packaging




Hi Everyone, Post 429 today and now the fantastic #30daywild is finished (but I hope you all get to #staywild :-) I thought I'd go back to something I started on Day 8 of 30 Days Wild.

In an email I had from the Wildlife Trusts one of the ideas for June was to be an environmental champion. Well you might remember that I do little clean ups when I am on my travels, especially any plastic to try and stop it getting to the sea and hurting wildlife. I also don't like litter and wish people wouldn't drop it!

I haven't had to do lots of litter picking lately as most places I've been to have been quite tidy, which is nice. I also saw on Springwatch that the #2minbeachclean team are starting to encourage people to pick up litter on land too so it doesn't get to the seas, by being blown in to streams and rivers, in the first place. So its the same idea as my #cleanfornature - just spend a bit of time when you go out picking stuff up and binning it or recycling it.
You might remember too that I asked McDonalds if they would use less plastic in their packaging. I asked this as I saw a nature reserve next to one of their restaurants where cups and sauce pots, were left all over the place. I was really pleased that they said they are going to do more litter picks around the reserve to help tidy it up, just shows one little voice can encourage big companies to do good things (big thanks too to McDonalds). Changing the packaging was more difficult for them though, they weren't going to do that yet but they might when they do reviews of their products.
So to try and show them that lots of people would like them to use less plastic, or use biodegradable packaging, like in the brewery example, I thought I'd start a petition. Well I filled out all of the forms and got five people to support me so I waited for the government to see if my petition was OK. Sadly they said it wasn't but only because there was a similar petition already.

Trouble is this one only has 21 signatures so far - well it will be 22 in a bit when I sign it. So my next step is to try and get people to support this petition so that we can show big companies that lots of their customers want them to stop using plastic packaging.

This is the petition - Ban all non-biodegradable packaging from being used - a bit simpler than mine but just what I was trying to say.

So I'm going to try and get a few more people - hopefully a lot more to sign up to it too. That way maybe we can show big companies that their customers care about this issue and start using different packaging.

I shall have some help with this too as @DebbieHyde7 has already been in touch and is keen to do something about plastic too. We'll be working on getting this petition some more signatures and then think about how we can try to get some companies to support us too. I'll set up a Thunderclap as well to try and spread the word about the petition which I hope all of you reading this will sign up to and help spread the word.

There's a lot of organisations I'll get in touch with too see if they will help out like Zilch, Keep Britain Tidy, Plastic Free Tuesday.

And if any one else wants to help out of has any ideas then please get in touch.

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 3 July 2016

Post 428 - Yorkshire Reserves Challenge update

Hey everyone, Post 428 today and I have quite a lot to tell you about from my recent activities!

Well, I've been continuing on with my Yorkshire Reserves Challenge. and I've managed to get to a few more lately, and a few further away than usual thanks to my trip to the Big Bang Fair so here's a bit of an update on the ones I've managed to get to lately.

At Ripon loop
Oystercatchers disagreeing
Ripon Loop

About a fortnight ago I happened to be in Ripon for the day. There was some moth trapping at Fountains Abbey in the morning and in the afternoon I'd made plans to do a bug hunt with Dr. Roger Key. So in the time in between I thought I'd pop to a reserve that I hadn't been to before that was in the area - Ripon Loop.

Banded Demoiselle
This is a lovely reserve that is tucked away in a bit of Ripon that I'm sure not many people get to. You have to get to it along a tiny track and there is a very interesting sign just before you get there which I'm sure must put people off. That probably makes it great for nature though :-)

It was very peaceful and I saw quite a few interesting things there. There were lots of Sandmartins flitting about over the river and grassland feeding. I found a Scorpion Fly and saw quite a lot of Banded Demoiselles. Oystercatchers were on the shingle of the far bank of the River having a little bit of an argument too. It was a lovely place and I'll have to see what it is like in different seasons.

Ledston Luck

I visited here a while back on another trip to Fairburn and said I'd have to go back as the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said it's amazing for orchids. They weren't wrong! There were orchids at practically every step!

Must try to ID all the orchids
I saw - here's one
And another
And another

Bee Orchid at Ledston

I took out my new GoPro as well to the reserve as I had brought it with me to use it at Fairburn, but sadly it was playing up a bit, or maybe I've not fully worked it out properly yet, so I didn't get to salvage any footage from it.

It was a lovely reserve but it was a shame I didn't manage to get all the way around it, There were grasslands, woods, reedbeds and a lake all within 200 metres of each other! So this is one I'll definitely have to go back to!

A weevil at Ledsham
Ledsham Bank

This one was great as well. Not just because it is near a great pub where we have lunch, but also because it had so many wild flowers and grass! It was a another place that was covered with orchids too. And of course with so may wild flowers and grasses it is good for bugs that like them. There were a lot of Chimney Sweeper moths, quite a lot of bees and hoverflies, and loads of other insects! I didn't get to ID many of them as there were so many and they were so lively the photos kept being obstructed by another insect as there was so many. This is my second time to this reserve and it definitely won't be my last.

A real carpet of flowers and grasses
A pyramidal orchid at Brockdale

So Dad and I headed to Doncaster the day before the Big Bang Fair. We did that to save an early start and miss rush hour traffic on the A1, its about an hour and a half away from us and we had to be there at 9am. It was OK though, going the day before, as it meant I could visit some reserves. I managed to get quite a few in like this one called Brockdale.

Marbled white feeds
on an orchid
At the entrance
This was an interesting one as I saw a butterfly that I haven't seen before. Usually, when I find a new butterfly, you don't see many quite often just a single specimen, but here, I saw loads! They were the Marbled White and when I saw my first one, I only saw one for about a minute, but then I saw a second, and a third, and fourth, until I could see about 10 in my line of sight! They were everywhere! It was really amazing to see all of these miniature Swallowtails as I call them (you'll understand if you see the pictures).
Yet more orchids

Also I saw a lovely Whitethroat one of the few I've seen in Yorkshire which was something really exciting as I found it from its song! The place was alive with wild flowers, Marbled Whites, Chimney Sweeper Moths, the songs of Skylarks and the call of a buzzard. I really enjoyed this walk!

Great Crested Grebe & Chick
Kestrels in residence
Denaby Ings

This was an interesting one as we didn't anticipate going to this one, in fact we would have completely missed this one if I hadn't have seen the sign for it. We knew this one existed but didn't realise we'd be passing! Although this was probably one of my favourite's in this post, as it's a wooded wetland, my favourite habitat, and we saw something that me and my Dad have wanted to see for ages. A Great-Crested Grebe carrying its chick on its back! The Grebe is so beautiful itself, and the chick almost as much as the adult. And it's so cute and amazing to see how the baby will ride on its mother! I saw some interesting behaviour where the mother actually tipped the chick off! I guess she wanted to start diving for food and couldn't do that with her baby on her back. Also at the other side of the lake was a nest box, it looked like the sort you use for Barn Owls but this one had a family of Kestrels in it.  I also met some lovely people there who told us that there was a Little Bittern at Old Moor. So guess where we went next?

Old Moor

Yes, here! I've been meaning to come here for a very long time so I thought it would be a good idea to come while I was at Doncaster and while there was a reason to some as well! As I arrived i was greeted by a Tree Sparrow tweeting away in the guttering.

A lovely greeting
Also, I got here at the exact same time as a load of Primary School Children got there which I thought was amazing! I don't usually see many kids coming to nature reserves so I'm so glad to see a load come here and learn about and nature. I didn't see anything especially unusual apart from a couple of Shovellers and a some Little Grebes. Sadly, the Little Bittern didn't turn up but let's hope it's come a little bit further North up to us!

A lovely view at Potteric Carr
Something disturbed the gulls but
I didn't see what it was.
Potteric Carr

This was probably the most exciting of the day as it is the Yorkshire Wildlife's Flagship reserve and deserves that title too! It's an amazing reserve because of the size, different habitats and variety of species! There were so many hides that we didn't get to go around them all, in fact we probably only managed to get into about half of them. But the ones that we got into were really amazing. I even got a lifer. The Black-Necked Grebe! Sadly, I didn't manage to get a photo of this beautiful bird, or sadly a really good look at it, I only saw it from across the lake behind a group of Coots. It was paddling towards a group of reeds and I only got enough of a glimpse of it to identify it before it ducked into the reeds but it was an amazing bird to see non-the-less. I think I saw about 20 species of bird in the 2 hours I was there, including a fleeting look at a kingfisher and a baby Canada Goose just feet away! One of the pools we stopped at had five little Egrets on it. I think that's the most I've ever seen at once! Apparently there was a juvenille Bittern that had been showing well but we didn't have much time in the hide where it had been seen as our day had been so busy we had to get back to the car park before they locked us in!
A swan family at Potteric Carr

I could go on about this reserve all day, so I will just round it off by saying that you do a great Jacket Potato at your cafe! I was also pleased to see the photos on display from the photo competition this year including a couple of mine!

Seriously though, this was an amazing reserve to go to on top of all the other reserves that I have mentioned in this post, so if you ever get a chance, go and have a look around them. They're amazing!

Hope you enjoyed,