A New Dawn

Well, I am all settled in here in Cambridge, and I have started a new job too! However, I shall come onto that momentarily, as I had some interesting wildlife sightings beforehand.

Before the live wildlife sightings, I took a train ride down to big old London town for a meeting at the Natural History Museum. A wonderful meeting, and in addition, I got a quick tour of Angela Marmont Centre – a resource for naturalists! When we went to look at the specimens, naturally I requested to see the Lepidoptera. How superb it was! I spent much of it just going “oh wow … oh look at that one … oh that’s gorgeous”!

Following this, my parents came to see where I am now living and we went for a lovely autumn wander in the nearby woods and fields. Toby had a wonderful time – lots of new smells to investigate! And then we enjoyed a scrumptious Victoria Sponge that I had made as a belated birthday cake for my mum. I suppose I ought to be modest, but it really was scrumptious.

I’m trying to learn how to garden as best I can. I am not naturally green-fingered but I am giving it a go nonetheless. The pond had been completely covered with grass, so I have been clearing that. I haven’t done all of it yet, I wasn’t sure if I should, but I have done a good proportion of it. And managed to spot a little frog (Rana temporaria) whilst doing so! A couple of days later I was pruning the hedge (which is attempting to take over the garden) and found the summer form of the Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, the first generation in spring looks different). Matt and I are collating the garden list, I wonder what else will turn up? Domestic cat has – on numerous occasions!

A Saturday morning dawned bright and mostly clear of clouds, and we took ourselves to RSPB’s Fen Drayton Lakes where autumn had definitely taken hold. However, I did spot a couple of bramble flowers! At the end of October! Very odd, or perhaps not? I’m not sure. From what I remember, we saw almost 50 different bird species in just a couple of hours – including my first Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)! Strangely Matt spotted it from the car park within a minute of getting out the car! Other highlights included Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle (Staphylinus olens) and Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar (Phragmatobia fuliginosa). For the latter, I risked life and limb to protect it from cyclists zooming past, before managing to safely relocate it off the path!

And so, suspense over – news of my new job! *drum roll* I am now working in the Visitor Welcome and Membership Team at National Trust’s Wimpole Estate. It’s a beautiful location and the team are absolutely lovely! Do flick through the photos below!

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).