Catching Up pt 3

As this blog catches up with the present day, I can reveal even more exciting wildlife sightings. Over at my local park, I spotted my first Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) in months – whilst my dad recently saw a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) there. Spring is started to appear, as buds begin to burst forth and the scent of blossom from unfurling flowers is carried on that still slightly chilly breeze.

I spotted my first non-bumblebee bee (as yet unidentified, I’m not much good [yet] if it isn’t a bumblebee!) of 2015 in the park, feeding on this yellow flower (as yet unidentified, it’s in the list of plants to ID) in the sunlight – wilfully ignoring both myself taking photos and a number of dogs running about and barking (a good game was going on at the time you see).

I have also checked back on the fungi that I saw growing previously – you can see how much it has dried out!

A quick trip down to Dorset saw me getting a number of new year ticks – Blackcap (see below), Brent Goose, Oystercatcher and more, as well as a few lifers!

A tip-off from Glen at the Portland Bird Observatory led to myself and Sean having a wander through the lovely Broadcroft Quarry (do you remember my fantastic visit last year?) in search of the Widow Iris aka the Snake’s Head Iris (Iris tuberosa). As well as being a lovely plant to look at, it was also rather fascinating to watch the bees as they landed on the flower and crawled deep into the funnel to feed. You can see in the second (slightly blurry) photo, that they get rather covered in pollen!

As mentioned, I saw my first Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) of the year at Portland Bird Observatory. What a stunning bird it is! It’s a male – you can tell because his cap is black whereas the female’s cap is red-brown in colour.

A very exciting lifer for me was seeing a Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) – again from the terrace at PBO! It was not long before I needed to head off when Glen pointed it out. And not just one, but two! Fantastic! I’d heard Firecrest before, and seen their close relative the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), but had never actually seen one so I was ecstatic!

On a short visit to Cambridgeshire, I kept an eye on the garden whilst baking (scones btw, they were delicious!). After having seen my first Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) in months only a few days previously, I was very pleasantly surprised to see another one so soon! More so because after a few attempts, I managed to get a decent photo of it despite (1) being at a distance, (2) taking the photo through a window, and (3) having obstacles in the way!

Not long after, I enjoyed viewing a female Blackbird (Turdus merula) atop the hedge. She was all fluffed up and evidently sunning herself – I don’t blame her! As the sun started to fade, there was an odd-looking bird in the garden. It was a Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus), but it seemed to have a deformity – a huge lump on the back of its neck – and possibly a bald head? It was hard to tell in the light, and the photo doesn’t help much. Has anyone else seen anything like this in Blue Tits? It didn’t seem to be too effected by its misfortune – it was feeding fine.

A number of new beasties

I gave myself the weekend off from blogging last weekend so there are two weeks to catch up on and it’s been a mixed lot! In the Lepidoptera world, I’ve caught some beautiful moths recently including a Powdered Quaker, Angle Shades and a Plume Moth.

Plume Moth, note the T-shaped wings

Plume Moth, note the T-shaped wings

I took the Angle Shades into work (moths are usually fairly happy to be in a bug pot for the day) to convert more people to the moth cause. Well, convert them into appreciating moths. It’s a fantastic example of how amazing moths can be – the way it holds its wings, the pattern, the colouring and the edges of its wing. And everyone was very impressed with it, although I shall continue improving peoples’ perceptions of moths of course (and other wildlife).

Angle Shades Moth - very distinctive!

Angle Shades Moth – very distinctive!

For the start of this week, my housemates and I did a lot of squealing as we found a slow worm in the garden!

Slow Worm

Slow Worm

Despite its name, it isn’t a worm. And despite its appearance, it isn’t a snake. It’s actually a lizard, albeit without the legs. Like other lizards, it is able to lose its tail and regrow it again. This is a neat little trick because if a predator catches its tail, it can just drop it and slither off into cover, and thus survive. The one that I saw in the garden did look like it might have had this occur and new growth was going back. However, I’ve not come across slow worms much so I’m not entirely sure about that.

Thursday saw the volunteers of the Chesil Centre heading up to the wonderful Portland Bird Observatory where the warden (Martin Cade) and assistant warden (Joe Stockwell) showed us how they do bird ringing up there.

Joe Stockwell (assistant warden) does some alfresco ringing

Joe Stockwell (assistant warden) does some alfresco ringing

Martin had also saved the moths from their moth traps (I believe they run four?!), which I was thrilled with – especially as two of them were new species to me, the Herald and the Red Sword-grass (the latter was caught over on the ‘mainland’ in Preston). I do believe that the volunteers are slowly being converted to appreciating moths, I’m sure my enthusiasm for them helps a lot.

Herald Moth - distinctive orange patches and edge of wings

Herald Moth – distinctive orange patches with white dots, and edges of wings

With the help of Sean Foote, I got two more Dorset species “ticked off” – a Little Ringed Plover and a Sanderling, both by the Chesil Centre with a larger group of Ringed Plover and Dunlin. The Little Ringed Plover does look a lot like a Ringed Plover (hence the name) but is quite a bit smaller (again, hence the name). It also has a distinctive yellow around its eye.

Little Ringed Plover, photo by Sean Foote.

Little Ringed Plover, photo by Sean Foote.

My Saturday afternoon was filled with a hunt for otters – unfortunately I didn’t find any (though there may be one nearby) but I did have a nice time outside in the (mostly) sunshine. I did come across an interesting bee as well, who as identified as an Ashy Mining Bee by @Bex_Cartwright. Fun fact: there are around 250 species of bee in the UK, 24 of the 250 are bumblebee species, 1 is a honeybee species and the remaining are solitary bees (like the Ashy Mining Bee). Pretty amazing stuff – 250!!!!

Unknown insect

Ashy Mining Bee

Apologies for the last couple of blog posts in terms of the quality of the photos – my camera is in for repair and I’m having to rely on my phone. Saying that though, they are pretty decent photos for a phone! Technology is pretty amazing!

Wear Sunscreen

An interesting week full of different things – events, exploration and of course some moths. With a moth trap on loan from a friend, and permission to set it out in the garden, I’ve been hoping for some interesting moths. A plume moth was nearby but didn’t deign to enter the trap, but that was ok because there was a hedgehog in the garden! I haven’t seen in a hedgehog in so long, so I was super excited. The hedgehog was less impressed and buried its head in the grass in order to ignore me.

Hedgehog!

Hedgehog!

On Thursday came a real test for me, my first event at Chesil that I organized and led. It was a Wildlife Trackers day, with the children working out which animals had visited the centre and left clues behind. It was great fun, with everyone becoming detectives, considering the evidence and solving the mystery.

My creative-on-a-budget-side came up and I made an otter holt which I am incredibly proud of! Namely because my creative side normally hides away from me and I have to poke it out with a stick.

Otter clues - spraint and footprints, with a holt to peek into as well

Otter clues – spraint and footprints, with a holt to peek into as well

Thursday also saw a bit of an exploration around Portland Bill as a friend was visiting. Whilst I already knew that Dorset / Portland is an amazing county, this little adventure reminded me of that. Look at these views!

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Stunning!

Fab lighthouse

Fab lighthouse

Later in the week, I joined in at a BioBlitz in Wareham. Now if you’ve not heard of a BioBlitz before, no worries, the premise is: IDENTIFY EVERYTHING! Luckily, the organisers enlist experts to cover most of, if not all of, the groups. This time round, the main experts were in plants which was useful for Sarah, another trainee, who is trying to improve her plant ID skills!

A confused Sarah

A confused Sarah

A Common Carder Bee (one of 20+ species of bumblebee!)

A Common Carder Bee (one of 20+ species of bumblebee!)

For me, the invertebrate expert arrived later, so I used social media and apps to help with the identification of caterpillars and ladybirds. It was actually really fun doing it this way and it helped me in learning how to use the apps for future reference.

We didn't have a caterpillar book but Twitter saved the day. A Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillar.

We didn’t have a caterpillar book but Twitter saved the day! A Scarlet Tiger Moth caterpillar.

I caught a new moth on Saturday night, one that I’ve never come across before! A good learning opportunity. I browsed my moth ID book, but had trouble locating it there so crossed over to Twitter to browse the #teammoth to see if anyone had caught something similar. And sure enough, someone had! It was a male Shuttle-shaped Dart Moth. Quite a common species, so not extremely exciting, but good enough for a learner!

Shuttle-shaped Dart Moth

Shuttle-shaped Dart Moth

The week finished off in style – marshalling for the Walk For Wildlife Event, a fundraising event for Dorset Wildlife Trust. It was a truely difficult day that I had to fight my way through. Imagine this, sitting in the sunshine all day, at a local pub! How I managed it I do not know.

All kidding aside, there was a bad side to this – I’d forgotten my suntan lotion and got a horribly red face. Complete with a white eye mask due to my sunglasses. Such a great look (she says as she hides indoors!).

I shall end with this nice photo of a hoverfly who chilled at my pub table for a while, and a reminder to wear sunscreen because (a) red is not a good look and (b) to go without is very unhealthy for the skin.

A bee!

What a cutie

Step by Step, Lep by Lep

The title is a little obscure perhaps, but it is reference to the constant learning process that I’m going through, particularly when it comes to the moths whose taxonomic group happens to be Lepidoptera (which also includes butterflies).

This week didn’t start off with moths though, it started off with another topic that I am trying to learn more about: marine species. Marc, the Chesil Beach Centre Officer, led a training session for the volunteers at the centre. We headed out along the shore of the Fleet in time for the low tide and had a good rummage around amongst the rocks and the seaweeds, and wow we found some interesting beasties.

Common (spiny) spider crab

Common (spiny) spider crab

Yup, that’s a crab. This species has neat way of camouflaging itself, it actually has seaweeds and sponges attached to its carapace (shell)! I don’t think that anyone can deny that it’s not effective … though then again, a keen-eyed volunteer did spot this individual.

Shore crab

Shore crab

Ah, now that’s a crab that we’re more used to seeing. A common species in rockpools, this is the shore crab, distinguishable by the five wavy bits on the front bit of its carapace (shell). Apparently.

Marc in action

Marc in action

In the photo above, Marc is holding up something that is very commonly found on our shores, known as a mermaid’s purse. These purses are super cool because they’re actually the eggcases of some species of sharks, rays and skates! So similar to how a bird’s chick develops within an egg, as do the sharks, rays and skates. I do believe that the one he is holding there belongs to a small-spotted catshark (also known as the lesser spotted dogfish).

That night saw my first moth trapping on Portland, although only for a few evening hours. Despite the limited time, I still caught a decent number. Just a couple of moths is a good amount for a beginner to be identifying. I did manage a few of them, but struggled with a couple – the Pug (a group that are notoriously difficult, though mine was an easier one) and the micro-moth (since I don’t have an ID book for micros, yet).

 Moths trapped: x1 Early Thorn, x1 Early Grey, x1 Double-Striped Pug, x2 Light Brown Apple Moth (a micro).

Early Thorn Moth

Early Thorn Moth

Later in the week, I delved further into the moth nerdiness, when I attended a 2 ½ hour long ID workshop. It was far more interesting than it sounds, and I learnt so much. Hopefully some of it will actually remain in my head, but it should help with if I do catch any of the species we covered.

I think one of my favourites covered was the Waved Umber, just look at that patterning!

Waved Umber

Waved Umber

Another example one that was intriguing was the Satellite moth, with its rich red-brown colouration and spots. In the ID book, the three spots are either all white or all red-orange. However I noticed that the example we were looking at had two white spots and one red-orange. Yet another mystery in the world of moths.

Satellite Moth

Further Lepidoptera (moths/butterflies) fun occurred on Sunday when I travelled across to Southampton for the International Butterfly Symposium. This conference was actually three days long, but unfortunately could only afford Sunday’s half day session. Money may not make someone happy usually, but it could definitely make me more learned and educated. In my world this equates to greater happiness as it means books, symposia and training courses.

Anyway, back to the symposia. There’s some really interesting research being done, plenty of field-based conservation and laboratory observations. One that definitely caught my attention was the work of a Canadian researcher, Raynald H. Lemelin, who is studying human perceptions of insects. I was so engrossed that I even asked a question (albeit with a shaky voice as I realised that almost everyone was looking at me)!

A good example of an insect that people often have opinions on

A good example of an insect that people often have opinions on! However, this isn’t actually a bee or wasp, it’s a hoverfly! ID by Sean Foote.

With my role in community engagement (and previous experience with the Field Studies Council), I view at least part of my job as (1) increasing awareness of different creatures and (2) improving peoples’ perceptions of animals that they might otherwise be indifferent to or even dislike.

The best bit of this is that the animals involved are pretty damn amazing, even the simplest or most common is just splendid. The ecology of worms, the behaviour of moths, or the complexity of bird anatomy … each of these is an example of how remarkable  nature can be, without us even noticing much of the time!

Even in this blog post, I’ve only touched on a couple of species but each one has a fascinating life cycle, anatomy and behaviour. What do you think?

 

 

If you’re very interested in the moths that I’ve been seeing, I have made a Dorset Moths List page of all the moths I’ve encountered since I moved to Dorset.

The bumblebee goes on flying anyway

This blog post focuses less on the traineeship and more on what I’ve been doing in my own time, and as with most of my learning so far, the majority has been on birds and moths. First, there was a revisit back to this gorgeous gull – the Iceland Gull. It’s been spending a lot of time on the Fleet recently, though at the time of writing I haven’t seen it in the last couple of days. It was actually pretty chilled about my presence, I got quite close and took some lovely photos, if only it had been a sunny day!

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

20 bags!

20 bags!

 

Last weekend was a blustery one, which was difficult for those taking part in the beach clean! But the volunteers were determined and 20 bags of litter were collected which I am thrilled with. Unfortunately, it’s a never-ending battle with marine litter on Chesil Beach – a reflection of just how much rubbish we throw away. There’s going to be another beach clean at the end of April (Sunday 27th if you’re free) which will be a good opportunity to really hit out and get as much off the beach as possible.

A couple of days later saw me doing something that’s almost unthinkable for me – getting up for 4.30am! For my first ever twitch! Ok, I wasn’t travelling that far (just to the ‘mainland’) and it wasn’t a very rare bird (but locally rare!), and I wasn’t even going to see the bird (just to hear it!), but I’m counting it as a twitch! So what was I getting up this early for?! A booming bittern! And what an interesting sound it was! Rather like the noise of blowing across a bottle, it was a really odd noise for a bird to make! For the non-birders, I had to get up this early as the bittern actually stops booming just after dawn!

Ready for the dawn chorus

Ready for the dawn chorus

Despite the awful hour, it was a lovely time. Helpfully, a fellow naturalist, Sean Foote, was with me and he was able to point out the different bird calls and songs that I’d not learnt yet. I’ve got my chiffchaffs, blackbirds, great tits and coots down, but had never heard a Cetti’s warbler before! You can hear the dawn chorus at Sean’s blog.

Back to the daylight world and a day off! Well, it was a day off from work but not from enthusiasm! I headed up to the Portland Bird Observatory to eye up the moths they’ve been catching – Common Quaker, Early Grey, Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character.

Early Grey (centre) and x2 Hebrew Characters (bottom)

Early Grey (centre) and x2 Hebrew Characters (bottom)

As well as to check up on the status of the spawn in the pond – now tadpoles! Though I believe they are toad tadpoles if I remember the shape of the spawn correctly (toad spawn is laid in lines rather than clumped together like frogspawn).

Toad tadpoles ... I think (it's been a while since I've done amphibians!)

Toad tadpoles … I think (it’s been a while since I’ve done amphibians!)

I was also slightly cheeky and tagged along for the checking of the bird mist nets, i.e. large nets which birds fly into. These birds are then ringed and then their movements can be studied. Whilst the exciting period occurred earlier during the day, I still saw a new bird get caught (male House Sparrow) and the recatch of a Chiffchaff. Plus, there were the usual suspects flying around – goldfinches, greenfinches, stonechats and my first linnet!

The recaught Chiffchaff

The recaught Chiffchaff

Linnet

Linnet

Extra bonuses – a bumblebee and shieldbug caught in the mist nets! Obviously I set both of them free.

Poor bumblebee

Poor bumblebee

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Shieldbug

The fortnight ended splendidly with a Sandwich Tern on a buoy near Ferrybridge, having travelled all the way from Africa! This one wasn’t quite in its breeding plumage, but still a great sight.

Sandwich Tern, it wasn't actually taking off, just having a stretch

Sandwich Tern, it wasn’t actually taking off, just having a stretch

Last but not least, I caught my first Dorset moth – a Bloxworth Snout (what a name!). Thought to be a hibernating adult, especially as it was found inside. A slightly blurry photo I’m afraid.

Bloxworth Snout

Bloxworth Snout

 

And just because I’ve been practicing my birds in flight photography, I’m going to include this photo as well.

Herring Gull in flight (guess at a 3rd winter but don't have my notes to hand)

Herring Gull in flight (guess at a 3rd winter but don’t have my notes to hand)

I find my lack of faith disturbing

(aka I had underestimated just how awesome this traineeship would be)

The original plan had been to write about the traineeship once a fortnight, but that resulted in small essays and cutting out some interesting details. And so for now, I shall be writing every week. The last 7 days have proven my point exactly, three amazingly cool days have happened, each of which could rightly deserve its own blog post.

It all kicked off with a road trip to the Fine Foundation Marine Centre in Kimmeridge Bay for a training session with the two trainees and the marine wardens there. It was a gorgeous day – blue skies, sunshine and just a touch of wind. After a morning of discussing the potential species out in the rockpools whilst we waited for low tide, we headed out to get our feet wet.

High(ish) tide before the sun came out. Jess said: There's a few gulls outside if you want to practice your identification (!)

High(ish) tide before the sun came out. Jess said: There’s a few gulls outside if you want to practice your identification (!)

It began slowly, a few limpets and flat periwinkles until we got past the waterfall and out onto the beds of rock with the pools. And boy, did we find stuff! There were: anemones (of three species), fish, crabs, topshells and shrimps, as well as more limpets (both common and blue-rayed) and periwinkles (and their eggs). Of course, there were a variety of seaweeds but we weren’t examining those this time (that fun is saved for slightly later in the year).

Hello little periwinkle!

Hello little periwinkle!

Flat periwinkle eggs

Flat periwinkle eggs

Blue-rayed Limpet on seaweed

Blue-rayed Limpet on seaweed

Snakelocks Anemone - pretty groovy looking (out of water so a bit less colourful)

Snakelocks Anemone – pretty groovy looking
(out of water so a bit less colourful)

A shy little hermit crab in a purple topshell's shell

A shy little hermit crab in a purple topshell’s shell

Our last exciting find was an unidentified species of chiton, a bizarre looking mollusc. I was congratulated on finding it, but as I said to the others, I was just “thinking seashore creature” (i.e. if I were a seashore creature, where would I be hiding?).

Chiton, photo credit: Philip Abraham

Chiton, photo credit: Philip Abraham

Limpets and rockpool searchers

Limpets and rockpool searchers

On Saturday, the aforementioned Kimmeridge trainees, my Chesil Centre colleagues, and I attended a MARINElife training course on cetaceans and seabirds. I do believe we were all quite blown away by the variety of species found in UK waters. Despite being an all-round naturalist, I will admit to having lacked knowledge on our marine wildlife. And you can add coastal wildlife to that as well, hence why this traineeship is particularly useful for me, I’m learning loads! Did you know that the most of our local dolphins and whales come under the taxonomic group of Odontoceti who are the toothed whales?

A note on taxonomy: Taxonomy is the classifying of organisms (i.e. animals, plants etc) into similar groups dependent on shared characteristics. Thus the dolphins and whales in Odontoceti are more closely related to each other than they are to the other group – Mysticeti who are the baleen whales. 

As well as discussing the species, we were also told about the ferry-based surveys that MARINElife volunteers undertake and introduced to how it all works. Jess had particular fun trying out the Heinemann stick – which is used to measure how far away something is. Interestingly, each volunteer has their own set of sticks (since each volunteer is unique in height/arm length) as one stick is needed per vounteer and a different stick is needed for each ferry that is travelled on (again, ship designs are different).

On a day off, I headed up to the Portland Bird Observatory to introduce myself to the warden there, Martin Cade. Having tweeted to each other about birds and moths, I reckoned it was high time that we actually met in person! I’m particularly keen on the moths as he runs moth traps every night from spring onwards, and fortunately my mentor is happy for me to head up and help out. With the recent weather, it is taking a while to kick off but now that we’re getting into spring, I shall definitely be up there quite often!

I took a walk out to Portland Bill and practised my skills at photographing flying gulls – I definitely need more practice still but I do believe I’m getting better. Naturally, I was also admiring the coastline, it is so dramatic and impressive, especially with the waves crashing in. I was fortunate to see one of the local rock pipits that breed up there, flying about the place and singing away. Great little bird.

Rock Pipit near Portland Bill

Rock Pipit near Portland Bill

Back to PBO, where I basked in the sunshine and made friends with the cat, until I got distracted by the little birds flying to and fro – including goldfinches and greenfinches. I also saw a bee, a toad, newts (either smooth or palmate) and toadspawn. What a day!

Last week a duck friend, this week a cat friend!

Last week a duck friend, this week a cat friend!

Toadspawn

Toadspawn

In smaller news:

  • I contributed to my first school group, giving the introductory talk about Chesil Beach to a Yr 9 group. I was a bunch of nerves but apparently I did really well, so I’m very pleased.
  • The centre had the caterpillar of a Cream-spot Tiger Moth on its outside wall, look up the adult moth, it’s stunning!
Cream-spot Tiger Moth caterpillar

Cream-spot Tiger Moth caterpillar

  • I headed over the road to Hamm Beach to photograph the turnstones (a bird species).
Turnstone on Hamm Beach

Turnstone on Hamm Beach

And at the end of writing this blog post, I find that I’ve still managed to write a small essay even though I’ve missed out a few things! There’s just so much to be learnt and so much going on!

I shall finish with some gull photos as they were lined up rather nicely on the boardwalk earlier this week.

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PS – anyone else liking the Star Wars themed blog title? I think that’s my third Star Wars one now?

 

When you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all

Crumbs, what a fortnight it has been! Incredibly busy and full of interesting places. Half term was certainly an eventful week, starting with the closure of the Portland Beach Road and the cancellation of Saturday’s event at the centre. But after a clearup, we were back on our feet and raring to go. I spent the majority of the week doing children’s activities – making butterfly or bird feeders. One afternoon, I even spent a while doing some colouring in as I was instructed to by one little girl.

The beginners birdwatching course also continued, this time at RSPB Radipole. We were fortunate to see a water rail and the diving behaviour of a cormorant. Whilst marsh harriers and bitterns are known to be seen there, we unfortunately didn’t find them this time, though we did hear a reed bunting, find some otter spraint and view some stonechats.

Stonechat

Stonechat in the distance

The bigger stuff happened in the second week, starting with a road trip to Devon and the Living Coasts centre. It was very interesting, and I absolutely loved the birds section as they’ve got a couple of curious female ducks who like to wander over to you and sit next to you. At one point I do believe I got trapped by the two of them against a fence, but I’m not complaining, as they were utterly adorable!

Yay duck friend!

Yay duck friend!

The last session of the birdwatching course meant a trip to a new reserve for me – Lodmoor, where I saw a couple of firsts. Although I may have seen the species before and just not realised what it was (quite new to birds that aren’t garden ones!). These included: oystercatchers, spoonbills and bearded tits (on a quick flyby), as well as seeing other species such as greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, various gulls and ducks.

I love this photo of an oystercatcher - very cute!

I love this photo of an oystercatcher – very cute!

A lovely photo from Lodmoor

A lovely photo from Lodmoor

This week also saw the big highlight for all the trainees – a trip to Brownsea Island! Recently voted as the nation’s favourite nature reserve, with a range of amazing habitats and species, and we were there all day. One species that it’s well known for is the sandwich tern who nests on the little islands on the lagoon. We were helping out this species by chucking on our waders or wellies and splashing out to these islands to weed them, add more gravel and fence them.

Taking gravel out to the islands. Apparently harder than it looks (no waders for me, so I got ferried across, felt v posh)

Taking gravel out to the islands. Apparently harder than it looks (no waders for me, so I got ferried across, felt rather posh I won’t lie)

All these jobs are very important for the terns whilst raising their chicks. Weeding is important because too much plant cover and the terns won’t want to nest there, although too little and the chicks won’t have as many places to hide form predators. The gravel is needed as this what the adult terns love to nest on (just like the little terns at Chesil loving the pebbles). And the fencing, whilst an annoyance for photographers, is needed to prevent predators (e.g. herons) from flying in and decimating the chick population.

Whilst I didn’t see any red squirrels, I did see a new species of deer for me – Sika deer, albeit that they were partially hidden. And I know I’ll be back on the island before too long, I mean, come on, I live in the same county as our favourite reserve, how could I not be?

Hiding away

Hiding away

Last but not least, my training at Chesil included another event, this time focussed on birds (there seems to be a theme to this fortnight does there not?). Marc Smith, the Chesil Beach Centre Officer, gave talks on the Spring Birds of the Fleet and who we can expect to depart / arrive on migrations. The accompanying dance moves made the talks particularly good. The talks coincided with the optics day, where an Opticron respresentative came down and people could try out the range. I had particular fun with one of the scopes, the zoom was amazing!

Outside of training, I’ve had the most amazing time. I went all the way over to Wareham for a talk on the moths of Dorset by Dr Phil Sterling, who is one of the famous names in the moth-ing world. He is also a fantastic speaker and I (along with everyone else in the room) was enthralled, and amazed by the moths found in Dorset. Naturally, I wrote plenty of notes, so much so that someone actually asked if I was a journalist! I also spoke to him about helping out, so I hopefully I’ll shall be doing some interesting moth work this year. Pun intended – I’m rather hoping he will take me under his wing.

From my first solo moth trapping, what a stunner!

From my first solo moth trapping, Elephant Hawkmoth – what a stunner!

My fortnight finished off with yet another first when a fellow naturalist offered to show me where the local barn owl roosts. I’ve dealt with many owl pellets and seen a number of rescue owls (even worked with one), but I’ve never seen a properly wild barn owl. So off we went … to the local prison! Well, not quite, but the roost is actually on the edge of its property. And guess what happened. I saw a barn owl! Not just that, I saw two! I was absolutely thrilled to bits! I can’t wait for the rain to pass and head back over to see them, maybe I’ll even get a photo this time.

Well, as you can see, I’ve had an eventful fortnight, and thus a rather long blog post, despite cutting out a number of less exciting but still pretty awesome things.

In case you’ve not had enough of my blogging, I have also badgered Steve Davis (the trainees’ manager) into letting me get started on the traineeship blog so that should be posting again soon. You’ll be able to read up on everyone’s exploits here.

To finish with, a distinctly non-bird photo.

One of the feral goats over at East Weares on Portland

One of the feral goats over at East Weares on Portland

NB on the title: I came across the full quote “When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all.” during this week and felt it was rather appropriate for a bird-focussed blog post. The quote is from E.O.Wilson, a famous scientist whose main area of research has been on ants (who are more fascinating animals than people give them credit for).