Thursday, 14 September 2017

Post 473 - Marvellous Migfest

Hey everyone, it's Post 473 and every year in the Autumn months we get to see one of nature's magnificent processes in action, migration! Many of the birds that come to the Northern parts of the world to breed go back to wherever they came from for the Winter. This means that we say goodbye to a lot of the lovely birds that we get the pleasure of hosting for the Summer, but we also have all the lovely birds and general wildlife that stays here, and others that come here to Winter from colder more hostile climates. This means that we can see literally thousands of birds fly over us to go to places such as Africa, and sometimes birds get lost on the way, or come a little closer to land, letting us see some of the beautiful birds that shouldn't really be here. Well, one of the best places to see this happening is Spurn Point, a beautiful Peninsula that sticks out into the North Sea that birds seem to be magnetically attracted to!

A sustainable festival? Well making good use of this resource!
Every year for the past half decade, in a humble shed or barn on Westmere Farm is one of my favourite birding events in the world. Migfest! Everyone there is so incredibly friendly and everyone seems to be friends with each other, all while being in a wonderful place! Sadly, though, this year it was held on the weekend after school starts, so I decided that it was in my best interests to only go for one night as usually it involves getting up quite early to start birding!

I went straight from school on Friday and drove our usual route past some amazing places, such as Thorngumbald, (probably my favourite name of any town), but also passing over the Greenwich meridian which is interesting. Once we were there though, after hurriedly putting up our tent, it was almost immediately time for the opening talk by Andy Clements which was great to listen to, followed by a great talk by Nick Whitehouse all about Spurn and what a magical place it is. After that of course was...the pub! It was great catching up with the folks from the BTO who I haven't seen in ages and finding out about what was happening about next years Bird Camp, and just general birding talk.
A beautiful Wryneck 

The next morning, we went straight out for a full day of birding. We'd booked ourselves on to one of the guided tours around the Triangle which didn't turn up any super rarities, but still a lot of nice birds like a Whinchat, we heard the call of a Whimbrel, thanks to the amazing ID skills and bionic ears of Paul Stancliffe! We were also treated to the sight of a lovely Roe Deer bounding along the scrub by the beech. After the walk had finished we set off to see our first rarity and lifer of the day, a Wryneck! We were stood for quite a while trying to find it, as it was in some shrubs hiding away, but it was eventually seen flying down onto the cliff face which was only visible from the beach. It was quite comical though seeing all the birders with telescopes and huge cameras sliding down the hill though :-). After a little bit of searching (it's difficult for me as I'm colour blind) we spotted it again, but my camera picked an interesting time to play up so I had to use a different one meaning I didn't get much time to get many pictures, but I think I still got a good one.

Britain's heaviest spider, the Four-Spotted Orb Weaver
- really quite pretty once I'd got over the shock of
discovering it 6 inches under my chin!
After this, we tried to go back the 'quick' way to Westmere Farm, which involved going a little bit over some fields to a path, but apparently we missed a turn and had to trek through some very long grass for probably much longer than it would have taken to go the normal way! But I did manage to pick up quite an unusual spider for the area called the Four-Spotted Orb Weaver which was nice to see once I'd got over the initial shock of suddenly discovering Britain's heaviest spider on my chest! A bacon sandwich at Westmere Farm helped.

It was time then for a few more talks. I really enjoyed them all. Yoav Perlman talked about his love of migration and some of his amazing experiences (including with the Chinese Army!). Andy Clements talked about Zen Birding and how sometimes it's best to let the birds come to you. The other talk was by Simon Warwick all about one of my local patches, Nosterfield. Even though I go there a lot I learnt a lot more about what a special place it is.

The Long Billed Dowitcher
Another thing I enjoyed during the talks was the rain! We could hear it bouncing off the roof of the barn. I liked hearing it, and it stopping before the talks finished. Why did I enjoy that, well because we'd dodged it. Last year I spent the whole of Saturday wet!

So time for more birding after that and just as we were setting off back down towards the point to see what was down there, ourselves this time, we saw a couple of people running towards us. Now, at Spurn this usually means there's something very rare in the general direction they're running, this time it turns out it was a Long-Billed Dowitcher! It was quite a long way away so it was difficult to get a good view and picture of it, and as we were all squashed onto a narrow path it wasn't helped by the swarms of people passing past my telescope all desperate to get a view of it as well!Everybody got a spot though and I got a reasonable digi-scoped record shot.
Long Billed Dowitcher Twitchers

After we'd had our fill of this lovely bird we went to try and get a view of the Barred Warbler that had turned up further down the point at the Warren. We were waiting for about 20 minutes before we saw it, though it was very fleeting and we didn't manage to get a picture of it :-(. We waited for about half an hour before seeing the bus that was taking people from one point to another and travelling back to the Farm.

As it was pretty much tea time by this point we decided it was time to say goodbye to everyone there and start to head home. Even though it was a short stay it was still really fun. I saw loads of birds, three lifers, had close encounters with other species, met old friends and met some virtual friends like James McCulloch for the first time.

Spurn really is a magical place and I can't wait for next year's MigFest. I'll definitely go again!

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 4 September 2017

Post 472 - Wild watch river survey number 2 - and a lovely water shrew

A view of my transect
Hey everyone, well post 472 is all about my second visit to my transect for the wild watch river surveying that I've been involved in. As I mentioned in Post 468 - The Wonderful Wild Watch Project the project is all about volunteers going out and doing surveys in different environments all around the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Dad and I have been on a river surveying course and have been given an area to survey that is around a wonderful lake tucked away in the woods.

Trees springing from rocks
It's a wonderful place, it feels like time's stood still somehow. There are rock formations in places which trees just seem to appear from, no soil just trees in rock. It's also incredibly peaceful and beautiful. It was quite a cool and overcast day this time compared to when I last went but it was still absolutely lovely to be there. We didn't see many dragonflies this time, only the odd one, and no damselflies at all when there were loads before.

Parts are really tricky to survey as there are high sheer rock banks, areas with very very thick vegetation and some very muddy patches. There's lots of wildlife to see there but I only have to record several key species, like Otter, Water Vole, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail etc.

Autumn is coming
Well we had a good walk round and a good scan of all the banks we could get to and once again we think we found some Otter Spraint. The only other thing that we found that we needed to record was one patch of Himalayan Balsam as alien invasive species like this we have to record too.

From our walk round it was quite definitely looking like the end of summer, berries and rosehips are ripening and lots of fungi are appearing.

My favourite find of the trip though had to be this. At the end of the lake is a little weir where the water leaves the lake and carries on down the stream. After trying to get down the stream to survey the last bit of the transect, which we couldn't do as it's very overgrown with Rhododendrons, we turned back toward the weir. We noticed a little creature searching through bits of weed growing on the weir, trying to find some food.

I've looked it up and I'm pretty sure it's a Water Shrew. It's the first time I've seen one and they are very fast and fidgety so it was very hard to photograph so I filmed it instead. It didn't seem to mind me watching it for a while.

So not quite the Water Vole I set off to find but lovely to see!

Fungi are appearing
Please check out the Wild Watch project, give them a follow on twitter and if you live near Nidderdale go along and get involved. It's great! I'm hoping I can do some reptile surveying next year.

Hope you enjoyed.


Post 471 - A nice surprise - Top 50 Wildlife Blogs

Hey everyone, just a quick post here just to mention a nice little surprise I had when I got back of my holidays. I was looking through my emails and came across this one:

Hi Zach,

My name is Anuj Agarwal. I'm Founder of Feedspot.

I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog A year of my nature hunting has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 50 Wildlife Blogs on the web.

I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. This is the most comprehensive list of Top 50 Wildlife Blogs  on the internet and I’m honored to have you as part of this!

Also, you have the honor of displaying the following badge on your blog. Use the below code to display this badge proudly on your blog.

Well I didn't expect that :-)

Thank you Anuj and Feedspot - I'll now add the badge to my site!