People and Places of 2014

I know, I know, I’ve already written a blog post about the wonderful wildlife that I’ve seen in 2014. But none of it would’ve been possible if not for fantastic people and amazing places.

Location, Location, Location

I’ve actually already blogged about two amazing places earlier this month as part of AFON’s Advent Blog Posts. I couldn’t pick between them, so I wrote about both Chesil Beach and Gilfach Reserve because they are both just absolutely stunning and have played a really big part in me seeing so much wildlife.

Naturally, I have also visited a variety of other natural areas across the country – from Yorkshire over to a number of spots in Wales, across to London, down south in Dorset, and back east to Sussex. It’s hard to pick highlights, they were all great in their different ways, but I guess the following are probably the ones below:

  • Brownsea Island (Dorset) – persuading the warden to put out the moth trap early, seeing a ridiculous number of new species across a variety of taxa!
  • Anglesey (North Wales) – incredibly blustery, with family, saw butterflies, bumblebees and a red squirrel!
  • Portland (Dorset) in general – rare and/or migratory moths, looking for Lulworth Skipper butterfly, seeing my first wild Barn Owls, I have a lot of love for the Isle of Portland!
  • Slimbridge (Glos) – AFON Christmas Catch-up which was just amazing!!!!

People

Where to start? I have met so many brilliant / fantastic / inspiring naturalists this year. Every single person deserves a big thank you and a hug for being amazing. I’ll try to list them … but I may miss someone out, in which case I’m really sorry, but you’re still awesome!

  • Dorset:
    • Fellow trainees who have been such fantastic friends and fellow conservationists. I may not have seen you in months, but you still continue to inspire me!
    • Staff and volunteers at Dorset Wildlife Trust, but a few in particular: my traineeship mentor Emily, the traineeship manager Steve, Marc at Chesil, everyone who helped at my Big Wild Chesil Event (ah the stress!)
    • Angela and Rowan for being amazing
    • All the Portland naturalists, but especially Sean and Debbie who were patient with my slow progress in learning bird and moth identification!
    • Particular thanks to other Dorset naturalists, Phil and Steve who taught me so much about moths and birds respectively.
  • Wales:
    • Staff at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust for taking me on, and for putting up with my obsession with moths.
    • Rupert at Aber Uni for hearing out my ideas for a new project (soon to be launched!)
  • Groups – this year wouldn’t be anywhere near as awesome if it weren’t for the young conservationists groups that I have joined, it’s been fantastic and I can’t wait to see what we get up to next year!
    • A Focus On Nature
    • Next Generation Birders
    • The Minors (whoo, moths!)
  • And of course, my family and friends who allow me to talk to them on how cool wildlife is

And so whilst finishing this post off, I feel slightly overwhelmed. 2014 has been such an epic year – beautiful places, lovely people, stunning wildlife. Can 2015 compete? Well, I shall shortly be setting myself some Wildlife Resolutions for the new year, and I’ve got an upcoming exciting project. I’m going to be giving it my best shot, that’s for sure!

Wonderful Wildlife of 2014

We approach the end of the almighty year that was 2014. Whilst 2013 could be called “The Year of South African Wildlife” (albeit there were only four months there, but you know what I mean), 2014 was definitely a year of British wildlife for me.

Lepidoptera

The start of the year saw me quite interested in butterflies and moths, I knew perhaps a couple of species. As I write, I do believe it would be correct to call me obsessed with this wonderful group. I’ll start with the smaller group first, that which is familiar to more people – the butterflies. Out of 59 species, I’ve seen at least 31 – not bad for a beginner who could only just identify the most well-known species at the beginning of the year! I’ve gone on butterfly group walks, set out to see a specific species (Lulworth Skipper – a success btw), and submitted my sightings like a good citizen scientist. Below are a selection of my favourite photos from this year:

And now onto my favourites, the moths! (Though really, butterflies are basically just a group of moths, but that’s for another time). I’m not even sure how many species I’ve seen – a sign I think that I need to get better at recording in 2015! One thing’s for sure though, I’ve seen quite a few, more than I knew existed just a few years ago! I’ve seen tiny moths only a few millimetres long and incredibly large moths that look like birds. I’ve seen a variety of life cycles, I’ve seen day-flying ones, caught ones at night, seen common species, very rare species and many in between!

I’m not sure what my highlights would be, there are so many possibilities!

  • Spotting a Six-belted Clearwing before my keen-eyed fellow Lepidoptera enthusiast
  • Catching 61 December Moths in one night (in one trap!) – when I was only expecting a couple of moths at most
  • Finding the larvae of a micro-moth in its one known location in the British Isles
  • Seeing my first Hummingbird Hawk-Moth on my first day at Gilfach Reserve
  • Catching 5 Merveille Du Jour in only 3 nights of trapping
  • My interest in moths influencing friends and family
  • Finding clothing with a moth design on (naturally I bought them all!)
  • Generally improving my ID skills to the point that I know a number of species without having to look at a guide!

 

Birds

It would be acceptable to say that at the beginning of 2014, I knew how to identify pretty much just your basic garden birds and a couple of other species. I’d heard of a variety of species, but hadn’t pursued learning how to identify them, or ticking them off. That all changed when I arrived at the Chesil Beach Centre in Dorset – with large flocks of birds right in front of me, and a Bird Observatory practically just up the road, it was time to acquire some birding knowledge.

Again, it’s hard to pick highlights, and even when I’m thinking of the possibilities, most of them don’t have accompanying photographs!

Other Beasties

Due to my naivety, I haven’t actually kept a proper list of which other species I’ve seen this year, which is rather silly and a lesson I shall learn from for 2015! As it is, I do know that I saw a number of rather lovely and/or interesting creatures during 2014. I shan’t list them all, but you can see them below.

What of botany?

Suffice to say that my botanical knowledge does need improvement, but then again, it is better than your average layman, and decent for a beginner!

All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome year for me seeing and learning about wildlife – thank you to everyone who has been fantastic in helping me, I can’t even begin to list you all, but you know who you are.