Saturday, 10 January 2015

Nature Resolutions 2015

I have been thinking a lot recently about the things I would like to achieve this year. I guess you could call them New Year's Resolutions, but I don't really want them to be about lifestyle changes. Instead I would like to set myself some challenges for the year that not only benefit me but are also useful to others, including wildlife.

I am calling these my nature resolutions - some are certainly more challenging than others, but most are something that I keep thinking I should do but have never got around to.

My 2015 Nature Resolutions

1. Try to identify more micro moths caught in my moth trap
2. Take part in the Garden Bioblitz - an intense 24hour record of the wildlife in your garden
3. Go to Blandford and spot an otter
4. Monitor the success of my managed 'wildlife' patch - I planted a wildlife area in the Autumn and would like to keep an eye on what species are using it
5. Take part in the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey and record butterflies in a km square
6. Use my bike more - cycle to the places I can reach by bike rather than drive. Maybe enter a charity bike race for incentive to ride more and raise money for charity

Another thing I always think I should allow more time for is art.  This evening I did just that:

A Marbled White Butterfly - acrylic, pencil and sharpie!
Marsh Fritillary done years ago and the Marbled White from today

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Chestnut and Pheasant

Don't worry I'm not about to go all food review on you. As much as Chestnut and Pheasant may sound like a tasty seasonal dish served at a countrymans pub, it is actually the wildlife I encountered today.

Last night was the first night of 2015 that I put the moth trap out. Last year I recorded an incredible 322 species in my garden and I didn't even start til March! This year I would, of course, like to see if I can beat that, although it is not really all about the numbers - moths, like all insects, are good indicators of climate change, pollution levels, and habitat loss etc so the more records we collect the better chance we have of seeing how the environment is doing.

So after a rough nights sleep (I have the dreaded winter lurgy) and having a couple of Robins sing to me all night (the moth trap light must had fooled them into thinking it was daytime) I opened the trap and searched all the way to the bottom to find nothing but midges and a single Chestnut moth. This was actually a good thing, I am usually very enthusiastic about moths but the lurgy I awoke with this morning made it feel more like a chore than a fun activity. Needless to say I was soon back curled up in a sleepy ball under my blanket and duvet. 

My Chestnut moth looked a little like this one - I didn't get a picture
so this one is borrowed from Gail Hampshire on Flickr

Later this afternoon I emerged again for a cup of earl grey and a bite of naan (leftover dinner). Just as I took my first few sips of tea a stunning male pheasant strutted past our front gate, over our driveway, and in to the garden. We've had pheasants shyly wander through the garden before but this one looked to have a purpose, like he'd done this before. He headed straight for the bird feeders. At first he considered trying to leap up and land on one, but soon opted for just the leftover seeds on the ground.

Male Pheasant

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Festive Sunsets and Starlings

A little late to be talking about Christmas Eve maybe, but with the hustle of the festive season and the welcome break from a computer screen I have only just got around to looking at the photographs I had taken pre-Christmas rush.

I was spending Christmas (or at least part of it) in Taunton this year so it was the perfect opportunity to pay a visit to the RSPB reserve Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. The aim: to try and catch a glimpse of the starling murmuration as they came down to roost in the reedbeds.

Three of us headed out in the late afternoon sun on Christmas Eve. It was already a beautiful evening and as the reserve filled with people there was a sense of excitement and anticipation filling the air. As we strolled from the new car park down through the reserve we spotted a large white bird wading in the shallows - a Great White Egret! Now I would never deserve the title of a 'birder' but I was very excited to see this bird as I have never seen one before. Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph, but stunning nonetheless. This bird is quite uncommon in Britain, but like the Little Egret it's population in Europe is expanding, meaning it's likely we will see a lot more of these birds in years to come. Compared to the Little Egret it is noticeably larger and its beak is yellow, not black.

As the sun lowered the reserve was washed with beautiful light and although no starlings yet, the views alone were worth the trip.

Beautiful Light and Gulls
As the light eventually started to fade the first flock of starlings arrived. And there were thousands of them! More and more groups of starlings came circling over our heads and dropped in to the reedbeds in front of us like large black raindrops. 

Lots of Starlings

Unfortunately for us the starlings did not decide to put on a show and perform their famous murmuration this time. But we were very lucky to be only a few metres away from the spot they had chosen to roost in that night. The reeds were soon alive with a sea of black bodies rippling through the vegetation and the noise of that many wings and chattering voices was mesmerising.