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,


Saturday, 22 October 2016

Post 442 - Dawdling down dales mulling over great grouse debate

Autumn colours in Teesdale woods
Hi everyone, today's post 442, and quite a timely topical visit today. Before I get into that though just a quick note to say apologies for not posting much in the last couple of weeks. It's been a busy period for us. Work for Mum and Dad has been busy and it's their 20th Wedding Anniversary this year so we've been celebrating that a bit too :)

Wonderful and wild or sheepwrecked?
I seem to have had a lot of school related activities to take care of too. One of these was a visit to RSPB Saltholme - I was so glad that the school took people on a nature based trip and it was great to go with some school friends and share a bit of my passion. I didn't see much to excite my regular readers but it was good to see more of my school friends getting a bit closer to nature. I hope there are more trips to come!

Landscape architects at work
Anyhow, back to today. We decided that we wanted to go back to a place we enjoyed in the summer today, and I hoped I might add another bird to my life list in the process. It turned out to be a very topical visit though. Today we took a drive up to Upper Teesdale. Our first stop was at a place we visited in the summer and the highlight then was seeing a group of Crossbills coming down to a stream to drink. No luck today but the woods were full of trees of all colours (well no blue or purple ones :-) and it was a lovely autumnal walk along a beck with lots of waterfalls.

After that we carried on to a place called Cow Beck Reservoir for a bit more of a walk. As you'll see from the photos it is a lovely place, really wild, and is what @georgemonbiot would call sheep wrecked. Not many trees here! It's better in the valleys but not on the high ground. Why is that? Well it's kept that way by grazing and we saw more than a few sheep.

Red Grouse food - young heather among the moss
The reason it is like this is down to the little bird in this photo! Even though this area is part of a National Nature Reserve sadly driven grouse shooting happens here too. There were lots of Red Grouse around. We watched them eating, calling and flying around and they didn't seem too bothered by us which was nice and I got one or two nice photos of them. I'd never managed to see their fluffy legs before as most of the time I've only seen them poking their heads out of heather. Their calls are lovely too.

Red Grouse - see the fluffy legs
Now the bird I came to find was the Black Grouse. I caught a glimpse of one on the horizon on the ridge of a hill but too far off to photograph or appreciate properly. I didn't see any more on my walk but on the way home we kept a look out in the fields and that paid off. I saw a field with about a dozen of them in! Wonderful! I stopped and got a few pictures and watched them for a while. They were much more still and quiet than their Red relatives! I will have to come back and do a species write up on these birds! Sadly these are also shot in the area I visited!

Black Grouse - a lifer for me!
Well why is all of this is topical, you probably know, but just in case you don't, Driven Grouse Shooting is going to have a parliamentary debate on the 31st October. The whole reason the landscape in much of Yorkshire and Upper Teesdale is like it is and isn't much more varied is because it is managed for Grouse to be shot. Things that eat grouse aren't very welcome and I have to say I didn't see a single bird of prey all the time I was around the area.

Driven shooting means people scare the birds towards a line of people who shoot them. I don't think that's at all nice, nor do around 123,000 other people who signed Mark Avery's petition (here's Marks blog). It's because of that there is a debate. If you have some time this weekend it would be good if you could write a letter to your MP and tell them that you don't like it much either.

Upper Teesdale NNR
I've written twice to my MP but he hasn't answered my main question yet. He campaigns about our local hospital. Some services have had to go to other hospitals further away - such as children's A&E! - because of money or lack of it. So I asked if he thought it was fair that grouse moors get money from the government so that a few rich people can have a hobby shooting Grouse when a hospital that provides help to lots of people struggles. As he's not answered that properly yet I'm going to ask again.

There's lots of advice on Marks blog if you want to write to your MP too.

Hope you enjoyed, and look out for a blog on Grouse soon!


Sunday, 9 October 2016

Post 441 - The Four Seasons

Autumn colours starting to show at Silton Forest
Hey everyone, Post 441 today and as it's Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere (and Spring for you guys down in the Southern) I thought it would be a good time to do a post that I'm surprised I haven't done yet. Also, with my grandparents coming up from Birmingham I haven't had as much time as usual to get out and explore the world this weekend and I thought it would be an idea to do something that you can experience from your window. In case you haven't guessed already I'm talking about the Seasons! As I've been travelling around I've been looking out of the car window at signs of the seasons and I started to wonder what caused them.
Berries everywhere - all sorts of colours!

Dragon and Damsel hunting always
makes me think of summer 
Summer meadows!
Firstly, a question that I myself cannot answer: What is your favourite Season? I have no idea what mine is, I like them all for different reasons, and during each one I seem to prefer it! Probably as I'm out enjoying it and seeing what I can find. In terms of nature hunting, I would probably say Spring as you have all the migratory birds coming in, the flowers and plants are coming up and all of the bugs are starting to come out onto the plants. Things are coming alive rather than preparing for winter, but that's what makes Autumn great too. You get more birds on the move heading to their winter sites, plants are producing fruits and seeds to feed birds and mammals as they prepare for winter.

Frost and cobwebs at Silton forest
Anyway, onto how the seasons are caused. Simply it's all about how the Earth rotates and how the sun hits the different parts of the globe. The earth rotates on an axis which you can imagine as a big pole going through the Earth from North pole to South pole and the spinning causes day and night. The Earth also takes a year to rotate around the sun but because the Earth is on an axis that is a bit tilted (nobody really knows why though... :) different parts of the Earth face the sun more directly at different times of the year. Because of this around the June Solstice the North Pole is tilted more towards the Sun and the Northern Hemisphere gets more of the light and heat over June, July and August while the Southern Hemisphere gets it in December, January and February.

One of my favourite winter frosty pics from my garden
It is not distance from the sun that causes seasons it is just the angles at which we face the sun, you get more of the sun's energy spread over a smaller area in the summer. It's like if you were in space with no suit you would be burned on one side and frozen on the other, although thanks to our atmosphere it isn't that bad here.

Even though there is such a small difference between the distance from the sun in the two hemispheres solar energy is more effective to collect when more directly facing the sun but as there aren't many landmasses and as it takes longer for the sea to warm up the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, Summers have almost no temperature difference.

Lambs! Enjoying the spring sun.
The Earth's Path around the sun is not circular and the sun isn't at the centre of its path the whole time so this obviously means that the Earth is closer to the Sun at some times of the year than others. So this does mean that some places on the globe are hotter in the different seasons.

As I was travelling around I saw several signs of the season, which you are probably seeing too but I thought I'd highlight some of my favourites of each season:

Winter - Snow falling - Frost Forming - Crisp mornings - Trees with no Leaves

Spring - Flowers coming out again - Insects being seen - Migratory birds passing through
Spring flowers and insects

Summer - Insects everywhere! - A little bit less rain :)

Autumn - Leaves starting to go brown and orange - The nights coming in - Berries everywhere - birds feeding and migrating - A profusion of fungi!

Anyway, I hope I have wrapped up well for you how the seasons work and I hope you enjoy whatever season you're going into!

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Post 440 - An Awesome Autumn Nourishing Nectar Source

The patch of Asters
Bumble Bees were feeding
Hey everyone - Post 440 today and I didn't have to go far for this post. It was a lovely sunny day and I saw quite a lot of activity on one little patch so I thought I ought to write about it.

As were little flies...
...and big flies...
...and shiny flies!
We keep patches of our garden quite wild (something you can tell by just looking at how manic it is) and we have some quite nice plants growing, there are a few native wild plants in the garden, but nearly all of them Mum and Dad chose because they are great for wildlife such as the Asters which was the little busy patch in my garden today. They flower quite late and so are a great source of nectar for lots of different insects. I often overlook the insects in my own garden, so this is the time to highlight pretty much all of the ones that I see not just on the Asters, but all over my garden.

But first, talking about how wild my garden is, I thought I'd talk a little bit about Rewilding. If you don't know what this is, it's basically a project to make the UK (and the world) a little bit more wild again, of course with a little management from us. Check out this site to find out more about Rewilding in Britain

A Red Admiral joined the feast
Basically this would involve, for example, letting rivers follow their own course and re-introducing some species back into the wild again. This has been done with Beevers and some people want to see more pine martens, lynx and possibly even wolves back in our UK countryside.  In my garden, I can't really do this on such a large scale (not sure what the local cats would think about a Lynx!) but I can let the plants do what they want and don't use ANY pesticides, weedkillers or artificial fertilisers and just let the wildlife live as long as it can and prosper in its environment... :)

It stayed for a while.
Hoverflies had a feed then decided
to make more hoverflies!
There's lots of different types of plant that we often overlook. Things like Ivy, now I don't have many pictures of Ivy or the facts at the moment, but luckily, Alex (@appletonwild) on Twitter, did a great blog on it already and how good it is for wildlife right now! Click here to see it!

Anyway, like I said at the start, I see so many different types of insects in just my garden (I think some days I see as many if not more than I see when I'm out at the forest)  that I could easily do a blog post on them. Well, I'm doing one now! The variety of things that I see is immense. From Tree Bumblebees nesting in the eaves of my house, to solitary wasps laying their eggs in dung flies, and from hoverflies mating to Red Admirals sunning themselves on the Buddleia. And that's not even getting down to anything wingless! What one of my policies goes like this: I love birds, in fact, they are probably my favourite part of nature. And twitching can also be fun too! My life list is something like 187 and I went to go twitch the Purple Swamphen in Lincolnshire and there were some people there that had come up from Birmingham. We had set off at about half five in the morning, and they must have set off at about the same time. And why were we all there? Just to try and see this one bird (which no-one actually got in the end that day). But that`s the way it is with twitching and we all live in hope of catching a glimpse, it's why we do it :)

My favourite photo of the day - a Honey Bee
When I go, I usually just go for as long as I want to, most times it ends up at about 2 or 3 hours, and I honestly really like doing it. I find it hard though to sit there for 12 hours like I've heard some people do, especially when you could just pop into your garden to see something which can be, in my opinion, just as amazing as seeing a particularly rare bird. All the different insects you can see is amazing! And if you're still on the hunt for something rare, you might even find a completely undiscovered species!

I hope you enjoyed this and take something from it and see how astonishing your back garden really is! I watched the insects for quite a while and decided to make a little film of them feeding.

Hope you enjoyed,