2017 Wildlife Resolutions

After last year’s mixed success of completing my resolutions, I am going to not aim quite so high – but I am still going to set myself 17 resolutions for the year.

  1. See a silver-spotted skipper butterfly (Hesperia comma).
    • If I do this, I will have seen all the skipper species (Hesperiidae) in the UK. My completed groups so far are Nymphalidae and Riodinidae.
  2. See a large blue butterfly (Phengaris arion).
    • I practically live just around the corner from them now, so I should be able to do this!
  3. Put out a moth trap on at least 100 nights in the year.
    • I fell out of practice with moth trapping last year, particularly as the year progressed and life got in the way. Whilst I expect I shall have some weeks where I can barely trap, hopefully I will manage to balance it out so that I trap for at least 100 nights overall.
  4. See two new species of orchids.
    • Not sure how many I’ve seen, but I would love to see some more. I think my current favourite of the ones I have seen is probably the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera)?
  5. See an adder (Vipera berus).
    • Of the six native species of reptiles in the UK (x3 snakes, x3 lizards), I have seen five so far – even including holding a smooth snake (Cornella austriaca, whilst with a licence holder of course)
  6. Reach 200 on my birds list.
    • Yes, this was on my list of 2016 wildlife resolutions, but at least now I am slightly closer to achieving that! My latest addition (not sure of what number I’ve got to now though) is waxwings on 8 Jan 2017.
  7. Go on at least two birding twitches.
    • I have decided not to include the waxwings, as they were a 20 minute drive away and that isn’t a proper twitch.
  8. Reach 1000 on my pan-species list
    • I aimed far too high last year trying to reach 1500, I don’t think I have even reached 800 (that needs to be confirmed, my PSL is so out of date!). 1000 seems far more achievable.
  9. Catalogue my collection of wildlife items
    • This could turn out to be quite a task, especially trying to remember where and when everything was found!
  10. Submit an application to give a talk at BirdFair.
    • Yes, this was a resolution last year. I missed the deadline though (albeit that I still ended up on the main stage twice). This year, I am definitely getting my application in early!
  11. Visit the park near the office at least once a week and note down any wildlife sightings.
    • This one shouldn’t be too difficult, there is a nice little park nearby. The most number of birds I have seen there in a lunchtime is 10 species, here’s hoping that increases and I also see plenty of insects come spring and summer!
  12. Take a photo of a peregrines falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Bristol.
    • I have only managed to see the peregrines twice so far, both times were very fleeting. It would be great to get a good view and take some photos of them.
  13. Visit Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
    • One of the benefits of living and working in a city is that I now have plenty of cultural attractions on my doorstop! Definitely one of the top places I need to visit is the natural history section of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.
  14. Fully read at least two of Stephen Moss’ books.
    • I realised late last year that despite owning a few of his books, and being fortunate to count him as a good friend, I have never actually read any Stephen Moss’ books cover to cover! Oops! I must amend that this year, and have aimed for at least two of his books.
  15. Read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
    • I am even more ashamed to admit that I have never read Silent Spring. Don’t judge me too much please.
  16. Go on a course about non-insect invertebrates.
    • I have been on a number of insect, bird, mammal, etc courses, and I have even run an insects course myself. Aside from helping to test a new draft of an earthworm key, I haven’t done anything – let alone an actual course – that focusses on non-insect invertebrates.
  17. Go to a new conference.
    • By new I don’t mean brand new and never happened before, but a conference that is new to me. Having not attended loads of conferences, this shouldn’t be too difficult, but it will be interesting to see what I end up attending!

Winter at Chesil Beach

Having recently read and reviewed Winter, I was reminded of the winter storms I experienced at Chesil Beach.


The wind is rising. I can hear it buffeting against the windows, thundering its way down the street like it’s throwing a tantrum. The cottage isn’t right next to the beach, but I can hear the waves roaring as they engulf the stony incline and hurtle over the peak into the streets behind.

I decide to walk to the cliffs to see this roaring action with my own eyes. Opening the door, I am almost swept back inside, the wind is so strong and I’m not exactly large in stature. With determination, I step out and force the door closed behind me. It takes a lot of strength to slam it shut. I make my way down the road, face half-buried in my waterproof and eyes already streaming.

Down at the beach, there is an almighty sight to behold. I stand on the footpath, not at the edge of the clifftop as that would be foolish. I value my life. No, this footpath is located about 50m back from the shoreline, on the gradual slope behind the boulders and behind the beach huts. Normally you can see the large pebbles, too big to be called shingle, just in front of the boulders, but they’ve disappeared. The water is covering them all.

The word storm doesn’t do this scene justice. The combination of a high tide and the strong winds has created a furious beast. It roils over the beach with passion, the waves crashing loudly and, when combined with the sound of the wind as well, I can barely hear my thoughts. I do manage to take a couple of photos, but soon retreat to hide in the shelter of a nearby wall. The wind is so strong that I actually have difficulty breathing, the air is whipped away and there is nothing to inhale.

It’s hard to believe that only the other day, it was a calm and tranquil beach scene here, the still blue surface stretching out to the horizon under bright skies. You can normally sit at the top of the beach, thirty or forty metres from the edge of the sea. If you were to sit there now, you would be immediately soaked and swept away. I can’t even guess how tall these waves are, I have never seen such monsters. And these are monsters indeed, devouring the beach, and even hurling themselves over the seafront pub. Later I will see a fantastic photo capturing this scene, and I still won’t be able to believe it happened. This disbelief will continue when I visit the beach again once the storm has passed, and discover that all of the shingle has disappeared from one end, revealing the underlying clay – a remarkable and rare occurrence.

The sea is so high that the Isle of Portland has truly become an island, the road back to the mainland has been flooded and the connecting beach is overrun with waves. I am rather glad not to be in work today, the educational centre where I work is only small building located, on the edge of the currently flooded road, probably about to be flooded itself. As I stand on the footpath, I can’t even see the centre from here, so obscured is the view by spray and cloud.

I have never before experienced a storm like this, and I wonder if I ever will again. Across the news, between the internet cutting out, I read about railway lines collapsing, beach towns flooding and the sad loss of life. That summer, I enjoy my time on the beach, both for work and for pleasure, but these memories linger in my mind as a reminder that while nature can be peaceful and beautiful, she can also be a mighty and dangerous force.

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NB – there are better photos of the waves online, this photo doesn’t do them justice at all

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Making friends with dragons

Everything is beginning to calm down and sort itself out in my life, which is wonderful and also means that I may just have some time to write my blog again! Fingers crossed! There is a lot I could write about in this post, but I am going to focus on a nature walk I took recently – the first in ages and it was wonderful!

(c) Andrew Kerwick-Chrisp

A friend and I decided to use a weekend day to visit Irthlingborough Lakes and Meadows in Northamptonshire. This was a new nature reserve for me so I didn’t know what to expect, but it is on his doorstep so he knows it quite well. However, he isn’t wildlife-mad/obsessed like myself so it turned out to be a learning experience for him too. Not to mention that he hasn’t seen me in wildlife-mad/obsessed mode before, so that also turned out to be a learning experience for him! (Yes, I do actually associate with people outside the world of natural history!)

I managed to find quite a few plump and juicy blackberries to snack on, although we are beginning to near the end of their season sadly. We even found a dragonfly – which I believe to be a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) though I am completely out of practice, so do let me know if I’m wrong! We watched it for a minute or two, and I tried to get a decent photo of it. I think I did quite well, though not an amazing photo. It then flew off and we didn’t see where it landed, until we went to walk on again at which point my friend noticed that it had landed on my hair! It actually stayed there for about 5 minutes or so, and only flew off when I went to carry on walking. On an unrelated note – how fantastic does my plait look in the photos?!

Further along the way, we were intrigued by the sight of a lady crouching down in the grass by the side of the path. What could she be up to? Something nefarious or was she, like I usually do, looking at something interesting? It turned out that she was photographing Shaggy Ink Caps (Coprinus comatus), a lovely fungus that it is one of the easier species to identify. Apparently it is edible and quite tasty, but before the black ink begins to appear. I wouldn’t take my word for it though, as I don’t know much about foraging for mushrooms!

What with there being lakes at this nature reserve, there were a fair few birds about – Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), etc etc. I had my duck identification skills tested, after quite a few months of not even attempting any duck ID. Racking my brains, I managed to remember that they were Wigeon (Anas penelope) and Teal (Anas crecca). It shouldn’t have been quite so difficult to remember, but I am very out of practice with ducks! Must work harder!

We almost passed by this female Blackbird (Turdus merula) without noticing her, she was sitting ever so still and quietly in the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) tree. A little later, we spotted another Blackbird, this time a male who was not so still but instead was enjoying some haw berries.

Our last find was a good one – a grasshopper! I had wondered if it would be too late in the year or too chilly to find any Orthoptera, but I was not to be disappointed it seems. With the side keels of the pronotum being so straight and almost parallel, my guess would be Lesser Marsh Grasshopper (Chorthippus albomarginatus)?

All in all, a rather nice nature walk. I bet it is even better in late spring and summer when I am sure it is buzzing with even more Orthoptera, and filled with exciting wildflowers and other insects!

In other news, I have left National Trust’s Wimpole Estate (though not before finding a rare fungus!), moved house, and have exciting plans for the near future. Watch this space! For now, a few tweets of what else has been happening recently:

Life goes on

I haven’t managed to write a blog post for three months now, which is just crazy. Due to a combination of being incredibly busy at work, very busy with A Focus On Nature work and some not-so-great stuff happening in my personal life, I haven’t had the time to write. And when I have, the latter has meant that I am not feeling particularly inspired either.

I hope that everything will calm down and sort itself out soon, and that I can return to writing. If so, it is likely that posts will be sporadic for a while before I manage to make a regular posts again. Until then, you can see what I have been up to in the past few months below (most recent first). I haven’t managed to include anywhere near everything I have been up to, but it will give you a flavour of how busy I have been!

 

#30DaysWild – Days 24 – 30

I had a manic few days to finish off the month of June and thus 30 Days Wild – pond dipping, moth trapping, butterfly chasing … the usual stuff really. Rather than go through all 6 days, I have included the highlights below.

Day 24

Day 25

Day 28

Day 30

#30DaysWild – Day 23

Another day at Wicken Fen today with another school group. I was leading two of their activities today: pond dipping and a guided walk on the Fen.

However in other news, this week is National Insect Week and today I published my post for the A Focus On Nature blog about NIW and how AFON members can get more involved with this fascinating group. Read the my post here.

#30DaysWild – Days 15 – 22

Ok, so I fell behind somewhat on my #30DaysWild blogging – oops! Not to worry though, I have been connecting with nature every day despite being busy with work, AFON bits and pieces, and general life stuff. I won’t go into every single wild act that happened every day, so here is a summary, shown through my tweets.

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera)! ❤ ❤ ❤

Somehow, and after quite a bit of searching, I found the Bee Orchid from last week again. And in fact, I found a further 6 plants! Then later that day, I was informed of two more locations of Bee Orchids on the estate, which is fantastic news indeed.

 

I was able to put the moth trap out at Wimpole for the first time in ages (since I need to be there two days in a row to run the trap). There wasn’t much, but I did catch this beautiful Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda).