How A Nomad Helped My Confidence

This week saw my first office day at the Wildlife Trust BCN as a Volunteer Communications Officer. Alongside writing a piece for their blog, assisting with a competition and learning more about how the communications team functions, there was a particular aspect to the day that has since become very memorable. The lunch break.

Now I didn’t have a very exciting selection of food for my lunch, but it was eaten outside in the beautifully warm spring sunshine. Brimstone butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni) flitted through the garden, bees worked hard to collect pollen and a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) called from a nearby tree. Being the keen naturalist that I am, I was mentally noting down the different species about – Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus), Red-tailed and Early Bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius and B.pratorum), Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana), 7-spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata) and so on, all of which would be put into my wildlife records notebook. Further to being a naturalist, I am a pan-species lister which means that I am extra excited if I see something new to me. And during this lunch break, I did just that.

I was watching and photographing some bees on the rosemary (NB: I need some for my garden, it is brilliant for pollinators!) when I noticed another insect nearby. With its wicked looking markings, I thought that it was probably an ichneumon wasp species (Ichneumonidae). I snapped a few photos, taking care to get it from different angles, before it wandered off into the undergrowth. I decided against potting it, I didn’t think I would be able to identify myself and figured it would be better off in the wild.

So that was my lunch break, all in all, the type of lunch break I love. Warmth, sunshine and wildlife. I didn’t think much more of it until later. I got home and downloaded the camera photos onto my laptop, whilst flicking through my insect book to find Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa), a species that I had seen for the first time recently and needed to put a tick next to in the book. I was in the Hymenoptera section (bees, wasps, ants) and as I flicked through, I saw something vaguely familiar – a group that looked like that insect from earlier. But it wasn’t the ichneumon wasp section, it was the Nomada bees group.

After a bit of thinking, and a sip of tea, I decided I would give the identification a go. If nothing else, it would show me whether this group is ever ‘doable’ from photos alone. Immediately I felt a little overwhelmed … the Nomada bees do look pretty similar to each other! Rather than trying to focus on each species at a time, I drew up a shortlist of potential species, casting aside species that I decided against – too much yellow on the abdomen, stripes on the thorax and other such characteristics.

I ended up with a shortlist of 6 potential species, and I turned to a more detailed, and wonderful, book (Falk – Field Guide to Bees of Great Britain and Ireland) to examine each of these species in turn. I slowly read through each description, flicking back to the anatomy page when confronted with technical terms (tergites, labrum, pronatal tubercules), crossing the species off if the description didn’t match the photograph in front of me.

In the end, I was left with one, Nomada ferruginata also known as the Yellow-shouldered Nomad Bee. The technical bits in the description matched up:  the pronatal tubercules were yellow (i.e. small yellow circular lump on the thorax), there were yellow spots on the tergites 2 and 5 (i.e. the yellow spots on different sections of the abdomen) and the antennal scapes were black (i.e. the first section of the antennae, closest to the head).

Nomada ferruginata ID features

I posted my thoughts on the UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook group and on Twitter, and received confirmation that my ID is correct! Having looked on the NBN gateway, I can see that it is not a new species to Cambridgeshire, but it may be a new species for Cambourne. I shall dig further and find out.

Having identified the bee as N.ferruginata, I did some reading about it. Bees in the Nomada genus are commonly referred to as Nomads or ‘homeless bees’. This particular species seems to be quite a rare bee, listed as endangered in the Red Data Book but this probably needs to be revised. It is either being identified correctly more often, or actually experiencing a population increase with more records the last couple of decades (a new species for Worcestershire in 2008). It is a cleptoparasite on another solitary bee species, Andrena praecox, although one website refers a source that suggests that A.varians might also be a host species. A.praecox also seems to be quite a rare species as apparently the females are very dependent on willow catkins.

In conclusion – what I have learnt from the Nomad ID?

  • That not all wicked-looking Hymenoptera are ichneumon wasps.
  • That it is worth taking notice of the small, quiet insects that aren’t buzzing or fluttering about.
  • That some Nomada species can be identified from photos only, but only if photos are taken from lots of angles (I could have done with more angles). However, not all of them are as there can be some slight differences that require closer examination.
  • That a good field guide can make all the difference. Whilst my general insects book (Brock) led me to the correct group, the bee book (Falk) provided the technical expertise to narrow it down to the exact species.
  • That it is worth pursuing identification and I shouldn’t give up on species identification just because it looks difficult! I.e. I should be more confident in myself and my ability to work through the process of identification.

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).

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).

Let’s go to the beach

This week didn’t kick off with a bang, but rather some very heavy frost. It took me twenty minutes to get into my car on Monday morning it was so iced up! And freezing weather for the rest of the day is obviously the best weather for heading out to a nature reserve. Actually, it was a good idea because 1) the reserve looked awesome in the frost, 2) I got some nice close-up photos of frozen leaves / lichens / etc, and 3) it was actually sunny so the light was good. This was a new reserve to me, Abercamlo Bog, which is quite near to Llandrindod Wells. I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty chuffed with the last photo, of the fungi. Most fungi photos I take end up looking blurry (unless I use the flash), because the fungi I’ve come across so far seem to not have sharp edges / patterns.

The middle of the week saw me driving south-east back to Dorset. I was visiting the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre for a job interview (I didn’t get it, but I enjoyed my visit and was chuffed enough to have got an interview). I got there super early, so had a lovely (albeit damp) walk along the beach.

At the weekend, I took part in the RSPB’s Garden Birdwatch – a long term citizen science project. I did it twice, first at Radnorshire Wildlife Trust‘s offices in Llandrindod Wells (you can see the results at the Facebook page). Then back at house, where the highlight was 11 Long-tailed Tits at the end of the hour.

After doing the Birdwatch, I went for a walk in the garden. Suddenly above, there appeared 10 red kites, followed not long after by about 100 crows. Evidently, the crows had spotted the kites as they were flying straight towards them and cawing away. Down by the river, I checked the usual rock for otter spraint, no luck. I had been eye-ing up another rock by the river, and managed to find a way down to it. My instinct was right, and there I found some spraint! Relatively fresh as still dark in colour and still whiffy with that distinctive musky smell – a mix of jasmine and fish (as odd as that sounds, that’s what it is!).

And lastly, a rare nice photo of me, taken by one of my line managers last week when we went to Gilfach (as described in last week’s blog post).

*I know that I said that my posts would be fortnightly now, but I underestimated the amount of wildlife I would see during winter!

Wild Winter Days

Brr, what a cold couple of weeks it has been! Not all that surprising mind, since it is mid-winter in central Wales! We’ve even had snow, which was very exciting indeed! Just below are my photos from the offices in Llandrindod Wells when the snowfall began. The last one looks a bit Narnia-esque with the falling snow and that lantern! If there was more grass / trees, it could almost be Lantern Waste (not far from the Land of Spare ‘Oom!).

The snow started falling a bit heavier, so I decided to make a dash for it. Where I’m living currently is very definitely in the middle of nowhere and any sort of snow / ice makes travel a little difficult! Actually scrap that, living in the middle of the Welsh hills means driving through the little Welsh country lanes, which is always difficult – whether you’re turning a corner to suddenly being faced with a large lorry taking up the whole road, or a Tak-tak (how I pronounced tractor as a child) rumbling towards you, or a confused block of sheep bleating everywhere. That’s not taking into account the potholes / puddles that are dotting the road, or the occasional open field gate, or ALL the mud and / or hay strewn across the road.

Nonetheless, I enjoy the commute – it takes me up over one of the big local hills and shows off some fantastic views, which are even more spectacular when in the snow! I did love this drive, as the altitude increased, I could see the snow level also increasing. I absolutely had to stop and take some photographs, but I couldn’t stop for long. With the darkness rolling in and some heavy snow clouds rumbling up and over the hills behind me, I had to get myself back to the house before it got dangerous.

I went to sleep quite excited, I knew that heavy snowfall was due overnight. And what a vista I woke up to – a thick blanket of snow sparkling in the mid-winter sun. I chucked on the wellies and waterproofs and got out there, chasing the dogs through the snow, hurtling down the slopes on a sledge (slightly worrying since there is a stream and trees at the bottom of the slope) and generally having a wonderful time! I did get round to doing some work in the end of course.

A couple of days I was back at certain reserve, can you guess which one? Gilfach of course! As usual, it was absolutely stunning!

I also had a look at some lichens down by the river. Whilst I have no idea what they are, some helpful people on Twitter gave me some insights to the world of lichens – C.coniocraea, C.chlorophaea, U.florida, and P.membranacea/hymenina.

A last couple of photos from the day. My line manager’s awesome wizard-like stick, where the swirls were caused by honeysuckle. A hailstone caught in some moss. And being in the back of a little truck briefly when we were on a farm – it’s was like being back in South Africa and going round in the back of the bakkie (truck!), except for the temperature!

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.