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,


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,


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,