Bugs For My Birthday

It was my birthday at the beginning of this week – not a big birthday, but a high enough number to make me realise that 30 is creeping closer. Although to be honest, I’m quite excited. They (the mysterious ‘They’!) say that your thirties are better than your twenties!

No matter my age, I was determined to have a nice nature-filled day. Originally I had planned to spend the day at RSPB Minsmere, but then Storm Katie arrived with howling winds and plenty of rain. Instead I had a relaxed morning at home, eating homemade cake (made my Matt) and drinking many cups of tea!

Once the weather had calmed itself down in the afternoon, a few friends and I visited a local nature reserve, Overhall Grove. It was a really sweet reserve, apparently both an Ancient Woodland and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and I look forward to returning there again over the coming seasons. Some of the friends accompanying me are also into nature, so we got stuck in with trying to find some good species. I’ve added a few more species to my pan-species list – including Cauliflower Fungus (Sparassis crispa), a new beetle species (Abax parallelepipedus) and Median Wasp (Dolichovespula media). Although I haven’t identified everything just yet, I am getting there gradually.

In addition to the new species, there were a number of 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata) about. I am always thrilled to see them as they are a sign that winter is over! Spring has started and summer is not too far away! There was even a butterfly – but it flew away from us and we couldn’t identify it. It was quite a funny sight, particularly for my friends that aren’t into nature – 4 adults running across the field after a butterfly! Bring on much more butterfly (and moth!) chasing this year.

There’s not so much else to add. I had hoped to hear a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), which would’ve been my first of the year. But no luck, and I still haven’t heard one since. As I have said above, I look forward to returning there across the current seasons so I am sure I shall hear one there at some point!

Birdfair – Day One

It has taken me a couple of days to come to terms with Birdfair. And by that, I mean the sheer amount of awesomeness packed into just three days. I’m going to attempt to describe my experience of Birdfair, but I really don’t think I’ll do it justice!

Day One

I travelled up from Cambridge with Matt and Tom, who had to put up with my growing excitement. Though they were partially to blame – both of them had been to Birdfair previously and were telling me what, and who, they had seen before. Following the signs directing us to the Fair, we found the queue to get in. As naturalists we used the opportunity to look out the car windows at surrounding wildlife (no photos I’m afraid).

We drove past the shiny new Volunteer Training Centre that had be opened by Sir David Attenborough last month for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. Apparently “the centre will provide support and training for volunteers in conservation, countryside and heritage skills.” I shall keep an eye on what they get up to, it sounds interesting!

And then, it was Birdfair itself and all that comes with it! We were soon bumping into familiar faces and meeting some faces who were familiar from the internet but now appearing in the real world, and the planning which events to go to across the weekend.

11.15am – Bug Walk, Brian Eversham & Ryan Clark (the Wildlife Trusts)

Prior to even arriving at Birdfair, I absolutely knew I had to go on this Bug Walk. I often talk about insects and invertebrates with Brian on Twitter, and wanted to support Ryan as this was his first Birdfair event he had assisted with (I think?). Armed with sweep nets and pots, we headed out into a nearby meadow where Brian demonstrated how to use the net before letting us loose! It wasn’t the warmest of days, but there were plenty of invertebrates to be found – spiders, ladybirds, bees, beetles and more! I haven’t labelled the species on any of my photos as Ryan is putting together a bugs at Birdfair ID quiz for A Focus On Nature.

Post-bug walk provided an opportunity to do some wandering and the beginning of working out how to decide what to buy. There was SO MUCH – whole libraries’ worth of books, optical equipment, exquisite illustrations, clothing, stunning photographs, carvings, memberships, holidays, and more! Matt and I began with a couple of books – Inglorious and Behind the Binoculars, as Mark Avery and Keith Betton were both doing signings.

1.15pm – Moth Trapping – Live on the big screen, Phil Sterling & Richard Lewington

A glance at the time and it was time to head over to the Events Marquee as moths were in the limelight (well spotlight). Phil Sterling and Richard Lewington were opening a moth trap at the front, and they had some lovely species – Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria), Canary-shouldered Thorn (one of my favourites! Ennomos alniaria), Eyed Hawk-Moth (stunning! Smerinthus ocellata), plus some escapees (particularly the Large Yellow Underwings (Noctua pronuba), surprise surprise!).

Exiting out the side of the tent, we found the craft beer, woohoo! I’ve come across From the Notebook on social media as various naturalists excitedly tweet about beer that has wildlife on it!!!! Sadly, I still don’t like beer, but I liked the designs, and both Matt and Pete liked the beer.

 

More wanderings, including via the Butterfly Conservation stand  of course – cue a good chat with Martin Warren, Tony Davies, Douglas Boyes, and Nick Baker! I was wearing my H&M moths shirt and Nick Baker was very impressed with it, which was rather awesome. Also at the BC stand, I picked up a copy of the latest Moths Count newsletter, in which I have an article!

I also went via the Art Mural (which was being added to across the weekend) and, of course, the Children’s Art Mural that A Focus On Nature run. Just before the last event of the day, I managed to meet up with Phil Sterling. We live just around the corner from each other in Dorset, but hadn’t managed to meet up yet this year, so it was good to catch-up. He had brought some cool caterpillars along, and my query to get better lighting on them (for taking photographs) led to a bit of a gathering just outside the marquee as passerbys noticed the caterpillars!

6pm – RSPB Birders Lecture in association with British Birds

Crikey, 6pm already! Time to run over to one of the lecture marquees in order to catch the RSPB Birders Lecture in association with British Birds! Introduced by Stuart Housden (Director of RSPB Scotland), four birders were competing for the title of ‘Best ever day’. We heard from the marvellous Bill Oddie, the ever-inspirational Lucy McRobert, the wonderful Adam Rowlands and the legendary Ian Wallace. I was slightly biased towards Lucy winning of course, but was blown away by Ian Wallace’s account. He had made it into a spectacular play, which he performed with flair and style. As to be expected, he won.

A drinks reception afterwards, hosted by RSPB, provided another opportunity to chatting with fellow A Focus On Nature members, and other Birdfair attendees. I even spoke to Bill Oddie without getting too starstruck! And so, the end of the first day, and I was exhausted, bewildered and overwhelmed. What would the second day bring?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Fly My Pretties! (Actually don’t cause I want to take photos)

This week at Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve has been less about the butterflies (but they’ll appear later in this post don’t worry), and more about returning my attention to the pond. I LOVE the pond at Lorton. It is a source of constant fascination, there is always something happening. Whether it is dragonflies zooming about, the skittering of a pond skater across the surface or the slow and steady progression of snails along the bottom, I never get bored! The sun was casting some beautiful light as well, resulting in some nice photos I think.

Also of note at Lorton this week, I saw a number of Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta), spied a Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima) in a tree and filmed a Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galathea) clinging on desperately to the grass (in a windy and not sunny spell). Plus some intriguing unidentified creatures …

The sun set on the working week and I joined some fellow young moth-ers on Chesil Beach for a spot of moth trapping. A female Oak Eggar moth (Lasiocampa quercus) almost took me out as she flew into the trap, Amy Schwartz and I enjoyed a good catch-up (talk consisted of butterflies/moths, and dead things), and Jack Oughten found a roosting Clouded Yellow butterfly (Colias croceus). The latter was my first of the year! When I left to pick up Matt from the station, it seemed to have decided to roost on Sean Foote‘s hat.

The weekend proper begun bright and clear, already warm when we set off in the car. We were off on an adventure to the north! Of Dorset anyway. Having heard about my amazing visit to Alners Gorse Butterfly Reserve, Matt was keen to visit as well, and I wasn’t going to say no to a second visit! Alternating between watching butterflies in the hot sunshine, and cooling back down in the shade, we made our way around the reserve. It started well, with a Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae) and Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) almost immediately, followed by a Purple Hairstreak (Neozephyrus quercus) only a little further on. A wander through the woods saw us getting dive-bombed by fiesty Silver-washed Fritillaries (Argynnis paphia), followed by the gentler flutterings of a Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and a Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus) in the meadow (plus some other species too, but they were the highlights there).

In total, we saw 16 species – 2 of which were lifers for Matt (Brown Hairstreak and Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola). I dipped again on seeing White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) and the valezina form of the Silver-washed Fritillary (seen only in the females). We also bumped into Megan Lowe, who was a trainee at the Chesil Beach Centre before me and is a fellow Lepidoptera enthusiast, now working for Butterfly Conservation.

Late afternoon and the sun was still beating down strongly. Feeling buoyed by Alners, we set off for one of my favourite spots – King Barrow Quarries Nature Reserve on the Isle of Portland. Straight away we saw my favourite butterfly, and another lifer for Matt, the Chalkhill Blue butterfly (Polyommatus coridon). With its powder-blue wings and distinctive spots, it really is a superb butterfly, and I saw my first female of this species!

A lazy Sunday lie-in, and we decided to stick with the butterfly theme and crossed the causeway again to visit Tout Quarries Nature Reserve. I took a wrong turn trying to find the spot where I saw the Grayling butterflies (Hipparchia semele) last time, but I am glad I did as it resulted in seeing a Wall butterfly (Lasiommata megera)! I hadn’t seen this beautiful species, with such a wonderful patterning, since May! Bonus – it was another lifer for Matt. Onwards and I found the right turning, and we had soon disturbed a Grayling (pretty much the only way to spot them, they are excellent at camouflage). And guess what, it was a lifer for Matt! We saw a few in all, but I bet there were plenty about that we couldn’t see. Strolling further, I took Matt to see my favourite carving in the quarry, ‘Still Falling’ by Anthony Gormley.

On the way back, I had to stop and question – “what’s that?”. Initial thought, it was too dark for a Kestrel or a Jay, but too light for a black corvid (e.g. Crow, Jackdaw, Raven). Quick zoom with the camera and snapping away to get some reference photos. Upon further thought and comparison to ID books, we reckon it is a Common / European Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), but a slightly odd-coloured one!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Follow that Frit!

Who needs to jump in a taxi and have a car chase, when one can dash after butterflies on a nature reserve (and elsewhere)? Not me, that’s for sure!

The week began in Cambridge with a moth trap and Matt leaving for work, reminding to go through the moth trap before the wasps got it. I believe that my response just a grunted. I don’t really do communication when I’m still mostly asleep. Nonetheless, I managed to get up and go to the moth trap at a reasonable hour.

There were some absolute beauties in and around the trap – including my first (and second and third!) Swallow-tailed moths (Ourapteryx sambucaria). They really are gorgeous! I have been hoping to see one ever since I properly got into moths last year, particularly when my mother found one in the bathroom at their house. There was definitely some moth-jealousy going on that day (not helped by the fact that she had also recently seen two Jersey Tigers (Euplagia quadripunctaria) in the garden, and I hadn’t seen that species yet!).

A return to RSPB’s The Lodge was a lovely day out for me. Whilst Matt was busy doing his work stuff, I had a couple of meanders around the reserve – counting butterflies, watching wasps and generally having a nice time. I also met up with fellow AFON member, Lizzie Bruce, who has just started her new role as Warden for the Lodge. It was fabulous to finally meet her in person and we had a lovely chat about AFON, nature and, of course, the reserve.

I also took the opportunity to sit down and finish off working out my pan-species list! This is a list of all the species (across all taxon groups) that I have seen in the UK, from spiders to snakes, from lizards to leptidoptera. It has taken quite a while to go through all the groups, and I have to admit, I have left out bryozoans, mosses and lichens – because I honestly can’t remember which ones I have seen! So I am starting again with those. As of today (26/07/15) my list stands at 661 (661 = Common Toadflax, Linaria vulgaris), though I know that I have a couple of moths left to identify. In calculating my list, I have half-ticked off one of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions! The other half being to set myself a target to reach by the end of 2015. It’s ok if I don’t reach the target, but the act of setting the target will tick off that resolution completely. Thus I am thinking that the 1k mark would be good one to aim for and break through. Can I reach 1000 species in the remaining 5 months? That’s around 15-16 species per week I think. You will just have to keep following my blog to find out!

Despite having ticked off the resolution to see 2 new butterfly species this year, and then seeing a couple more new species, I still wanted to try and see more. I am rather getting into this butterfly spotting lark! Though of course, to me, butterflies are basically moths, ha! I was tempted to try and see some hairstreaks species in some Cambridgeshire woodlands. We didn’t go to the reserve recommended by the local wildlife trust, but ended up stopping off at Gamlingay Wood on the commute home. It was such a wonderful stroll, examining flowers in the dappled sunlight and listening to the birdsong above.

Ambling down a woodland ride, I suddenly stopped. An orange butterfly! My inner pessimist said gloomily, “It’s probably a Comma” (not that there is anything wrong with a Comma of course). But wait, it had landed on a leaf some distance away … I quickly zoomed in with my camera, and then excitedly called to Matt: “It’s a Fritillary! And it’s not a Comma!!” With no butterfly guide to hand, I wasn’t sure of the species but luckily Matt knew it – a Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia)! A lifer for me! And what a beautiful lifer to achieve! Such a large butterfly, and there were at least 6 of them flitting about and feeding on the bramble. At one point, two of them flew along the ride – one looping and circling around the other, a courtship ritual perhaps. I declare, I was so full of happiness then. There is something about butterflies, and in fact, nature as a whole, that enables me to forget my constant exhaustion and associated mild depression, which drag behind me every day.

Back at work and the rain had set in – just in time for a family activity at Lorton! Luckily the families who came along were up for heading out despite the weather. We didn’t have to go far, just across the track to the pond. Sheltering in the open barn, we dashed out every now and then to dip in the pond. The theme of the activity was dragonflies, so we were concentrating on the dragonfly and damselfly nymphs. However, we also caught a water stick insect (Ranatra linearis), which we don’t catch very often, and plenty of the usual suspects such as freshwater hoglouse (Asellus aquaticus) and whirligig beetle (Gyrinus substriatus). I made up a game off the hoof – each family had to replicate the movement of a dragon/damselfly nymph/adult, and the others had to guess what it was. It worked surprisingly well! Once we were thoroughly soaked through and pond dipped-out, we came in to dry off and for a cuppa, and some craft activities. Vicky had recently shown us a neat dragonfly craft activity and I showed the children (and parents) how to make it.

The kestrel chicks were unimpressed by the weather, spending the day fluffed up and huddling together, with only a couple of food drops from the parents! (NB, in the video you can only see two of the chicks, but there are still four) The kestrels can be viewed LIVE, but be quick if you want to watch them, I think they will fledge in the next week or so!

The weekend dawned clear and sunny, blue skies above and sunshine filling the reserve. After the day before, it was a welcome weather change. During the quiet moments, I popped outside to watch the butterflies. The reserve as a whole is superb for butterflies, but even just by the centre there are a couple of excellent spots. A large buddleia bush by the picnic benches, and a sunny patch of bramble just by the lane. Again, the very act of observing these creatures and being outside filled me with joy. I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. Particularly when a Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) landed on me – I hardly dared breathe! Fortunately for my lungs, it darted off again after a couple of moments.

Taking advantage of the sunshine, with the knowledge that more rain was on its way for Sunday, I headed over to Portland after work. I wanted to visit somewhere new, the Perryfields Quarry, a nature reserve owned by Butterfly Conservation. A small but sweet little reserve, it was full of flowers and flutterings. A bit of breeze swept across the reserve, so the butterflies were keeping a low-profile. I still spotted a fair few as they rested in the grasses. No new lifers, or even year ticks, but I was happy nonetheless as I wandered about and photographed them. I’m repeating myself, but gosh I love having my camera back!

As the evening started to draw to a close and the sun sunk lower in the sky, I made my way to my usual Portland hangout – the Portland Bird Observatory of course! I do so love to spend a bit of time there, discussing recent wildlife sightings with staff and visitors. As you may remember, last week’s venture there resulted in directions to see a Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula)! This week it was advice on a good nearby spot for seeing the Grayling butterfly (Hipparchia semele) – a species I still haven’t seen despite spending plenty of time in the quarries. I went down to the advised spot, the eastern cliffs of the Isle, just below the lighthouse. However a chill was setting in, so I didn’t have much luck. Mind you, I saw plenty of birds and flowers, so I can’t complain. More so as I was joined by local naturalist and good friend, Sean Foote, who is a very useful person to have around as he can identify lots of things – resulting in two new plant species to add to my pan species list! Maybe soon I’ll be able to add Grayling to the list, or maybe I’m destined to forever dip it (i.e. miss it).

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).

Nature is full of drama

What a week of drama! So much wildlife has been seen and there have been stories worthy of a TV soap opera! And oh yes, there was that general election thing as well. I’ve written about that too.

In terms of the caterpillars, they are all still alive and munching their way through large quantities of leaves. I did get quite worried about the Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars at one point as they were not moving much, or eating much. And then I found what looked like half a caterpillar! But I still had three … turns out it was the skin of one! Evidently they outgrow them and shed them. It wasn’t long before the other two went through this as well. Just after they shed it, their hairdos look particularly fresh! They are called Fluffy 1, 2 and 3, whilst the green caterpillar has been nicknamed Jade (as suggested by Jennifer Hunt).

At Lorton, we have had a couple of school groups in looking for minibeasts – pond dipping, using sweep nets in the meadow and searching under logs in the wood. An interesting beetle, caught by a little girl, caught my eye and I took it back to the centre. My line manager identified it as one of the soldier beetles, and with a bit of further investigation I do believe it is Cantharis fusca which is Nationally Scarce species. [ID was confirmed by NHM Coleoptera, I said previously that it was a Red Data Book species, but it was downgraded in 2013]. In the woods, one group found a caterpillar, so I promptly potted it up (with some leaves of course). This one is called Fusspot as he/she seems quite fussy about food.

We had a bit of a work jolly on Thursday. As part of being a volunteer at the Chesil / Lorton centres, training is provided. In this case, training took the form of a trip over to Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve where we had a lovely wander in the sunshine (surprisingly pleasant weather considering the wind we’d had the rest of the week!). We found yet another caterpillar – now potted up and named (Arnold – suggested by Chris Calow), as well as plenty of flowers and even my first Wall butterfly of the year!

After our wander, we were given a guided walk by one of the rangers, during which we saw some more fantastic wildlife!

Back at Lorton for the weekend, and I was anxious during Sunday morning – the eggs had been unattended all morning, with just the quickest visit from the male Kestrel. Later on, he sat on them for a good long time, though as I type at 8pm, he is absent again from the webcam. My fears were confirmed when someone found some wings and feathers in the meadow near where their box is … Kestrel wings, and according to Sean Foote, they look to belong to a female!

To cheer myself up after this tragedy, I spent an hour or so sitting by the pond after work (busman’s holiday!) looking at the insects and listening to the birds. As you can see, it is a lovely spot to relax at. I watched a damselfly nymph crawl across a lilypad, attempt to climb a vertical leaf a couple of times, before it fell into the water. I saw a bright red beetle lurking in the shade of a post, and a spider waiting for its next prey item to appear. A fellow naturalist appeared and we discussed wildlife, before he spotted a damselfly on a nearby bush – my first of the year! Just after, I spotted a dragonfly exhuvia attached to a plant near the pond – a different shape to the one I found last week, thus a different species presumably!

Now this looks like a job for me

As the title suggests, I am no longer unemployed! However, before I get onto that good news, I would like to take a detour over to Kent where my parents and I headed out onto the river on their boat. Mind you, before even got onto the boat, I was distracted by a daisy! The sunlight was shining on it in particularly lovely way and I just had to take a couple of photographs! It was a stunning day, warm and blessed with sunshine – I could hear Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and Greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) on the riverbanks, and we saw plenty of waterfowl including Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) and a rather handsome Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). There were huge swathes of blossom ladening the air with their sweet smell.

Naturally, I got a little distracted by insects – I managed to get a decent photo of a bee-fly (Bombyliidae) before we took to the water, and once on the water it seemed like the insects wanted some attention! A number of beetles landed on the boat, as did a wasp and an (as yet) unidentified creature.

Onto the job. Do you remember that I spent six months with Dorset Wildlife Trust last year before I was snapped up for a job at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust? I was a trainee, funded by the Heritage Lottery, based at their Chesil Beach Centre. Well, now they’ve taken me back as an employee for 6 months, based jointly at Chesil and Lorton Meadows. And I get to do what I love, talking about wildlife to people (and seeing wildlife at the same time of course)! What a thrilling summer it is set to be!

My first day back immediately set a high standard. Vicky and I were asked to find the Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo) that had been reported on Hamm Beach – which we did. But being naturalists, we also took note of the other wildlife about! I was trying to remind myself of the specialist coastal plants about, and getting distracted by bees and butterflies!

I even found my first moths for Dorset this year – three hairy caterpillars! The first was an unknown to me initially, but using an educated guess, I went for Ruby Tiger (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). The other two were both immediately recognisable – Garden Tiger (Arctia caja).

Now that I’m back in Dorset, I’m afraid you’re going to be seeing a lot of stunning landscape photos. I hope you can put up with that.

The evening of my first day back saw me heading up to the Isle of Portland on my first twitch of the year, a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) had been reported at one of the quarries. Meeting up with Sean, we made our way to the area in hope. Chatting away (quietly) as we approached where it was last seen, I suddenly said “Is that it there?” Just on the path in front, maybe 20m away, a Hoopoe! These birds fly up from Africa to southern Europe, and some always overshoot and end up in the UK, but I’d never seen one before. What a fantastic bird it is! Just look at that plumage!

And on a related note – I’ve completely now ticked off another of my 2015 Wildlife Resolutions: to go one at least one twitch!

I’m not always out and about looking for wildlife, sometimes I look for wildlife in the garden too. The species below were all seen in my landlady’s garden – the Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) and Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) butterflies were my first for the year! As was the Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria), which was rather amusing as I was on the phone to Matt when I saw it, causing me to put him on hold. Fortunately he understood and was ok with that, phew!

At the weekend, I went on a busman’s holiday and visited Butterfly Conservation‘s Lankham Bottom reserve (I still can’t help giggling at that name). That was exciting too – as well as being a stunning reserve, I saw a Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) and a Red Kite (Milvus milvus)!

The highlight however came in the form of (very) small butterfly, darting about in a blur among the grass. My initial thought (whilst it was still a blur) was perhaps a day-flying moth. However, as soon as it landed, I knew what it was – a very distinctive butterfly species, the Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae). My breath caught in my mouth, I almost froze in astonishment / excitement. My first new butterfly species of the year! And what a beauty it was! Much smaller than I thought it would be (it really is tiny!), and unfortunately a species whose distribution is declining. Such as treat to see it. Could I manage to get a photo? It was rather restless, but it did land every now and then. Luck (and perhaps a little bit of photography skill on my part?) was on my side and I got a few satisfactory shots. Crikey!

Wait a moment, that means that I’ve half-completed another wildlife resolution of 2015 – to see 2 new species of butterfly! And what with offers to help me see at least three more, it looks like I’ll be ticking off that resolution as completed soon!

Just before I sign off, I would like to direct you to over to the A Focus On Nature blog, where there are a series of posts being published in the run-up to the general election as members of the network discuss their Vision for Nature (also on Twitter using the hashtag: #VisionforNature). As well as pointing you in that direction because the posts make for very interesting reads, it’s also because I’m co-ordinating the publishing of these blogs (so a little bit of self-interest I won’t lie). I am partway through drafting my post, which shall be published in due course and will appear on my own blog of course.

Time enough for life, to unfold all the precious things

Before I crack on with my most recent wildlife adventures, I would like to quickly refer back to my blog post when I went to Stanner Rocks. First, to show two extra photos – taken by the local ecologist, Andy Shaw, I went to the reserve with. One shows myself, hunched over some plants to take photographs. The other shows a Peregrine Falcon, which had been at the reserve mere moments before I arrived (typical!).

Second, despite the praise that I heaped on Stanner Rocks, I managed to miss out some very vital information. Obviously, you’ve already read how it’s a nationally important site for plants. What I forgot to include there, is that it is the only UK site for a number of plants – the Radnor Lily (Gagea bohemica, pictured below beginning to bud) and the Perennial Knawel (Scleranthus perennis ssp perennis) for example. In addition, a number of other rare plants are there – Upright Clover (Trigolium strictum), Sticky Catchfly (Silene viscaria), Spiked Speedwell (Veronica spicata), Rock Stonecrop (Sedum fosterianum), Pale St John’s-wort (Hypericum montanum), Upright Chickweed (Moenchia erecta), and that’s without even mentioning the lower plants! There are rare mosses (apple moss sp, Bartramia stricta), liverworts (Black Crystalwort, Riccia nigrella) and lichens (Elm Sap-weep Lichen, Bacidia incompta) there too!

So if you end up in the area and fancy visiting somewhere amazing, Stanner Rocks is a good bet. But remember, my note from last time:

NOTE: Should you wish to visit Stanner Rocks, there is very limited access due to the sensitivity of the plants and that the landscape can be quite hazardous. Contact National Resources Wales should you wish to visit!

Now onto animals again. Finding myself unemployed when my contract at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust came to an end, I was feeling a little bit down. However, I realised that this is actually a blessing in disguise (as long as the unemployment doesn’t stretch for too long). First, being unemployed means job interviews, and being in the conservation sector, this means job interviews in fantastic locations – you’ve already seen my visits to Charmouth  and Lulworth Cove, and later in this blog post you’ll see another brilliant location. Second, being unemployed gives me some time to focus on wildlife a bit more – whether it is reading some fantastic books, or discovering wildlife in my local park (see later in this post).

So the year has been passing us by, and as I write, we’re already nearing the end of February! I was beginning to get a little frustrated – I’d not yet caught any moths! But all this was to change upon my return to London. Feeling hopeful, but resigned to reality, I set out my trap in the suburban garden. Lo and behold, the next morning revealed two moths! A Satellite (Eupsilia transversa) and a Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), so as you can imagine I was utterly thrilled! Whilst I’ve not caught anything since, I am still riding on the joy that I’ve finally caught my first moths for 2015.

Being back in London doesn’t mean I’m only in London. Fortunately for me, my parents have a little flat down in Kent, and I wasn’t back from Wales long before we headed down there. An extra bonus is my parents’ ownership of a small motorboat, and soon we were out on the river. I even had a go at steering! But only when the river was straight and there were no other boats about – I’m not a confident person on boats.

Whilst this trip was lovely, I found myself getting very frustrated as there was litter everywhere! The storms / floods of 2013-14 had washed a lot of debris into the river, and it’s still there! Upon returning to the flat, I bought myself some marigolds (Fair Trade rubber!) with which to do litter picking – you may remember that picking up more litter is one of my 2015 wildlife resolutions. Another resolution is to see a kingfisher, and I was feeling hopeful on this trip as my parents often see one on the river. Alas, it was not to be.

During this week, I had the good fortune to be invited to WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire for a job interview. Whilst I didn’t get the job, it was a really fantastic day and I had the opportunity to play around with the settings of my camera (another wildlife resolution). I didn’t get any lifer bird ticks (i.e. birds I’ve not seen before), because apparently you can’t count the cranes / smews at Slimbridge for some reason. However, I did get a number of year ticks. In addition, I managed to see a male Reed Bunting in winter plumage – having only seen one in summer plumage previously. Well done to my dad for spotting it – I was busy attempting to get a half-decent photo of the Water Rail.

Naturally, there weren’t just birds at WWT Slimbridge. I’ve not yet worked out what the fungus is, a task for me to undertake. I knew the flower straight away – Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), which is another name for Sloe. The flower is very similar to that of Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), but the leaves of the two plants are different and the leaves of the Hawthorn come out before its flowers (vica versa for Blackthorn). I just had to include a photo of the otters at Slimbridge – they’re such beautiful creatures.

And on the way back from Slimbridge, I was invited to pop in and see Sally-Ann Spence, aka Minibeast Mayhem. I do believe that she is one of the loveliest and most inspirational people I have had the good fortune to meet, and I look forward to our future chats about bugs, the environment and life in general.

This brings me to my walk in the park. And what a walk it was! It was only going to be a standard lunchtime dog walk, and I took my camera along just in case – you never know what you might see after all! I made the decision to do a bit of digging around, and ending up stripping some bark from a fallen branch – resulting in lots of invertebrates (many are still being identified!). Not long after, I came across a good variety of fungi as well. What I found particularly interesting whilst there, is that nobody asked me what I was looking at! I wonder how many people walk past these fantastic species / habitats and don’t take a closer look at them?

 

My dog was very patient with me, bless him. When he was younger, if we stood still for too long he would get bored and start barking at us. But this time, he just found himself a stick to chew on whilst I was busy looking at and photographing the wildlife. He can be quite helpful sometimes – you may remember that I found some Crystal Brain Fungus (Myxarium nucleatum) back in December at my local park, which was on a stick he wanted to play with.