Friday, 22 April 2016

Post 404 - for #EarthDay - "This Earth is precious"

This Earth is precious
Hi Everyone, Post 404 today and a little post about somebody else's view of the world. Dad was cleaning up some filing when his knee was recovering from his operation and he came across an old poster he bought in Ireland over 20 years ago. It is a poster of one of the most beautiful and profound statements on the environment ever made. It is a statement made in 1854 as a reply to the 'Great White Chief' in Washington who wanted to buy a lot of land from the native American Indians. When researching it some people aren't sure of its authenticity. If you've not heard it before, and even if you have, I don't think it matters as it is such a lovely statement about how we should think about and treat our planet.

This is the very beautiful reply from Chief Seattle:

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air or the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Chief Seattle
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. The white man's dead forget the country of their birth, when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are a part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfume flowers are our sisters: the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests. the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family.

So, when the great chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The great chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us. This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people.  The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father. 

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother. We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on. He leaves his father's graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children, and he does not care. His father's grave, and his children's birthright, are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert. I do not know. Our ways are different to yours. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps this is because the red man is a savage and does not understand. There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in the spring or the rustle of an insects's wings. But perhaps it's because I`m a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears. And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whippoorwill or the arguments of the frogs around the pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of a pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleaned by a mid-day rain, or scented with the pinon pine. 

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench. 

But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart, and sacred, as a place where even the white man, can go to taste the wind, that is sweetened by the meadow's flowers. 

The chief when older
So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: the white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive. What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. 

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.  This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected, like the blood that connects one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Even the white man, whose god walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may one day discover - our god is the same god. You may think now that you own him as you wish to own our land; but you cannot. He is the god of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and the white. This earth is precious to him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste. But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the god who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. 

Where is the thicket? Gone.

Where is the eagle? Gone.

The end of living and the beginning of survival.

Happy Earth Day!

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Post 403 - Lovely Little Liverworts

Hey everyone today's Post 403 and I'd hoped to bring you an update on my last post about litter and McDonalds using plastic in their packaging. I have had a nice email from them but that was really just telling me what I'd already found out on their website about their environmental policy and apologising for not responding quickly. One of the Environment team was copied in and I'm hoping they get back in touch to see if they can use different materials for some of their packaging. I'll let you know when I get a response. It might help if you haven't already to retweet or comment on my tweet asking them to not use plastic in their packaging so they know there is a lot of support for this.  

So, instead of an update on this, on to something different for today`s post. I often post Twitter that I have seen a tiny forest around a plant or flower or something along those lines, but I usually don't say what it actually is.
Well, this is where I say it now. The ones in this photo are Lovely Liverworts and they are actually quite special little plants in my eyes. To me they look like something out of the Enchanted Wood or The Magic Faraway Tree and those are still some of my favourite books from when I was really little and they were also my first and favourite chapter books. Now the reason that they look like this to me is that whatever the plant in the middle is the Faraway Tree and everything around it is the Enchanted Wood.

Liverworts at Garbutt wood in their sexual reproductive state -
Species is  (Pellia epiphylla) thanks @SeymourDaily
They are also special as I see them in some wonderful places. The first one was from Garbutt Woods, a really lovely woodland on the side of the North York Moors under Sutton Bank next to Lake Gormire. Even the names are wonderful about this special place. Some of the other photos are from around Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens - which is a world heritage site, so another really special place that I like to visit.

But let's get on to a more scientific part of the post with the facts:
  • Each 'Tree' itself is actually really small but they can develop into rather large patches.
This is an old well at Fountains Abbey
  • The first Liverworts have been around since about 200 million years before even the dinosaurs were around, being 470,000,000 years old (that's 470 million!).
  • There is fossil evidence from Argentina that shows that Liverworts were the earliest plants to colonise land on earth!
  • They have been around since before most more 'advanced' plants such as flowering plants, ferns, etc. and they have been referred to as 'the simplest true plant'
  • Instead of bearing regular roots, liverworts anchor themselves with simple, one-celled appendages known as rhizoids which are like little hairs. 
The back wall is covered in Liverworts
  • Unlike tree leaves which have veins that conduct water, nutrients and other materials, in liverworts there is conducting tissue.
  • Liverworts reproduce in two ways it seems. On some parts of liverworts are special little cup like structures. Inside the cups grow little pieces of liverwort plant. These pieces must be really little! Liverwort plants are little, each 'leaf' is only around 1cm squared. The cups are small structures on the plant which in turn contain small bits of the plant! Anyway, when it rains and drops splash onto these cups little bits of plant are carried off with the droplets to a new bit of ground to grow a new liverwort.
  • There is another sexual reproductive method for Liverworts which I have read about a few times and there are lots of biological names for each cell type and each stage that I sort of understand but it is a bit complicated. You'll find out more about it in the links below.
This ribbon type liverwort is on a wall a little way
along from the well.
  • Basically (I think) different plants develop male and female structures like the ones in my first photo. They need to be in wet places as the male cells need a film of water to swim to the female cells. Once fertilised the female cells develop spore capsules and when released the little spores are dispersed to grow into new liverworts.
Well, a simple plant that a lot of people probably don't notice, but they are fascinating! Here are a few links to find out a bit more about them.

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Post 402 - Messy litter polluting planet - McDonalds little plastic pots

Hey everyone today's Post 402 and yesterday I tweeted McDonalds to see if they could do something about a litter problem they have around one of their sites.

A bit of the litter I picked up at Quarry Moor
The sad thing is that this is a place I like to visit as it's great for wildlife as it's a nature reserve. I often go to walks around the area along the river in Ripon or to Fountains Abbey which is a fabulous place too, and then sometimes stop for dinner at McDonalds and then have a walk around Quarry Moor which is right next door. I did a little bit about this reserve as part of my reserves challenge on Post-384

Now I know it's not McDonalds that causes the litter, it's some of their customers. McDonalds does try to help - they have loads of bins around the reserve. I looked at their website too and they have people to pick litter up around the local area every so often, which is fantastic but it seems like it's a long time since they did that around the Ripon restaurant though. It's not only these little pots but also straws and the plastic drink cups that I've found around the reserve. I did pick some litter up here before but there's quiet a lot and it's a big site (see Post 400 - Care for nature? Clean for nature)

This is also a quote from the official McDonalds UK website:

At McDonald’s we recognise our responsibility to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. That is why we have a sustainable sourcing policy for food and packaging and aim to use our planet’s resources efficiently.

Do these really need to be plastic?
I have come up with several ideas but most of them will be very hard on a larger scale, but there is one thing that I see occurring quite often, this is where boxes and bottles are left in the same place for a very long time, or where they wash up on shores. So I would say that they need to start making everything out of an easily bio-degradable product. They've done that with a lot of the packaging so why not these little pots? I'm sure they won't be good for terrestrial wildlife but they will easily blow in to streams and float off into the sea and cause more problems for marine wildlife too. Their website has some good messages about the environment, but there's nothing at all about trying to keep wildlife safe.

But what really bugs me out of all things, is that they still haven't responded to my Tweet. If you look at the Tweets that have been sent they're all about people shouting, and sometimes swearing, about how their burgers are cold are that their wraps don't have something in them or that they haven't had their monopoly stickers. So is this what it actually takes for them to notice you?! Does it mean that I have to be as abusive and horrible as some people in MY Tweets, because if it does, then I really don't know what they've made this world come to, they're going to try and make a young lad who's really passionate about nature be as angry and abusive as possible just to get something nice done? Well I sent them this Tweet trying to prompt them to respond:

Well after over 30 hours I still haven't received a response. And I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get a response. I mean, I'm never going to get to the point in which I have to be angry at all, I'm not that sort of person, and I really don't want anybody to get like that. I've had plenty of people backing me up like Matt Doogue (who by the way has been with me right from the start, Day 1)

and Team for Nature UK (who has inspired me an awful lot)

And Dave Renwick (Who you'll be very familiar with being amazingly helpful to me!)

So you can see just a couple of the many responses that I've had all supporting me.  I'll just point out also that this is also part of my #CleanforNature campaign! It would be nice to get a little change made that would make a big difference to nature.

So McDonalds. Can you change your pots, straws and other plastic packaging to something biodegradable please? Could one of your litter patrols or Community Clean up events help clean up Quarry Moor please? (I'll even help if it's not a school day). And most of all, I've asked nicely and I'm not being horrible to your company, so could I please have an answer to my questions, please?

Hope you enjoyed,


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Post 401 - Easter reserves challenge update

Bee on a Dandelion at Calley Heath
Hey everyone, Post 401 today and a little update on my reserves challenge. I'd hoped to get to more at Easter but Dad had an operation on his knee so couldn't walk much or drive. So Mum had to do the driving and Dad hobbled where he could. His knee is pretty much back to normal now though so we should get out and about a lot more.

Even though we couldn't get out as much I still managed to get to four new reserves over Easter as well as visiting an old favourite - Fairburn Ings which is a lovely RSPB reserve I go to quite often. This was a lovely little walk and I saw quite a few nice bird species, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrows, Nuthatches, Marsh Tit,

So where did I get to?

At Ledsham Bank
Ledston Luck - not much to report here as this was just really to find out where it was and how to get to it. I've passed it loads of times going to Fairburn Ings and it's supposed to be amazing in the summer for orchids so now I know how to get to it I'll be visiting it properly when the orchids are flowering!

Flowers emerging at Ledsham
The Red Legged Partridge amongst
the flowers at Ledsham
Ledsham Bank - I went here for the same reason as Ledston Luck really as now I have done my research on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves I realised there's quite a lot around Fairburn Ings area. This one is on the edge of a little village, Ledhsam, where we sometimes stop for lunch. I walked to it not expecting to see much at this time of year but there were flowers starting to come out and it looks like it will be amazing later in the year too. I will be back.

As I was walking back to the car I spotted a lovely Red Legged Partridge in the graveyard which sat nicely for a photo! This was a beautiful, yet challenging, bird to take photos of, not only because I hardly get the opportunity to, but the colours on them are really nice too. I love taking pictures of less spotted but beautiful birds, even if they do run behind gravestones every 5 seconds... :-)

I had to put on a lab coat
- they didn't have my size!
On another day out I had a really interesting visit to a big science laboratory. The reason I got to do this was because of my blog! I told my teachers at school about my blog and they were really impressed. There is a scheme run by the British Science Association called the Crest Awards and the teachers contacted the people who run it and I found out my blog was good enough to get a Silver Award. That was great news and I have another certificate hanging in our hall now :-)

You're supposed to get a mentor to help with the Crest award but as I didn't have one they arranged for me to have a visit to the science lab which, I have to admit, was pretty amazing, a place called FERA just outside York. I got shown round by a scientist there, an Entomologist but I also got to meet plant pathologists and other people there. Saw lots of interesting stuff but you can't take photos in the labs.

A longhorn beetle model and
a sign you don't see everyday.
I loved this place actually, down all the corridors there was rows of posters that I was really intrigued by as all of the photos on them were really good as well as all of the charts and writing, they seemed to bee really big on some yellow and black flying insects (;-) and the were looking into the native British lines of bees that have been replaced by Italian bees by bee-keepers and they're trying to find if the British ones are more immune to the diseases and other threats that bees are currently facing. They are also world leaders in testing things. One thing they are doing is looking into the validity of a special honey, Manuka honey, to see if it was genuine. They said at one point on the shelves of all the shops there was more Manuka honey than could ever be produced by all the Manuka bees in the world, ever... so it needed to be checked to see if it was genuine.

Anyway after that I went to a new couple of reserves.

On the stile at Allerthorpe
It was a bit challenging getting there!
Allerthorpe Common - this one was quite a challenge to get to and it was a good job I had bought my wellies as you can see from the photo. It was a lovely day though and a nice walk through the woods to get to the common. I noticed that the woods had loads of bird and bat boxes put up so this will be an amazing place for wildlife on its own and there looks like lots of great paths to walk around.

The heath is lovely - love the
little snake symbol on the sign
A lovely fly - Tachina ursina 
Well I got to the common and walked through it. It was a bright day but a bit cold which was a pity as I knew this reserve is good for adders. They even have a little snake symbol on the reserve sign. This time of year when it's warm it's meant to be a great place to see adders basking in the morning sun. It was too chilly the day I went but I did see a lovely fly there. It's pretty good for flies there I found out as I got sent this link via twitter - Allerthorpe Flies

Marsh Marigold
Entrance to Calley Heath
Calley Heath -

Well this one wasn't too far away from Allerthorpe Common. To get to it we had to park in a car park and then cross the main road to get to it. But once we were in there, it was beautiful, the first thing we saw was the Marsh Marigold which is in the picture on the right, but we also saw a lot more. They had rare breed sheep grazing the fields to keep the scrub down. I then saw one of my first bees of the year, which was tricky to get a photo of seeing as I'm a bit nervous of bees and wasps, but as you can see at the top I got a pretty good shot.

Carabus nemoralis crawling over
a pupa.
Rabbit skull?
The penultimate thing was a huge beetle under a log that Dad lifted up, it was a Carabus nemoralis a type of ground beetle which was very beautiful as it had very florescent colours on it. The final thing that we found was something we didn't plan or expect to see as we just nipped round the other side of the fence to see an interesting tree stump but managed to find ourselves in the midst of a big burrow complex where we found a skull. Judging by the scenario, size, shape and basic look of it we deduced that it is probably a rabbit skull but I'm not that good with skull ID yet.

Well that's about it for now. Hope to get out to some more reserves soon especially as the insects seem to be appearing and the flowers are blooming.

Hope you enjoyed.


Friday, 8 April 2016

Post 400 - Care for nature? Clean for Nature!

My second litter pick at Silton Forest
Hey everyone, today's Post 400 and as you can tell, 400 is a special number and I thought that it would be good to do a special post for the day. I'd hoped to have had a reply from my MP from the last letter I wrote but nothing has come yet. So instead I decided to return to a topic I've covered before (Day 139) that I think is very annoying and harmful to wildlife. Litter!

For the first Birders Against Wildlife Crime conference I wrote an essay about litter and how it harms wildlife which won me a ticket to the conference.  As I've been doing my Yorkshire reserves challenge (there will be a full update on it in the not too distant future)  whenever I'm at any reserve I'll find at least a couple of pieces of litter. I find this really annoying, it looks horrid, it harms wildlife and it's illegal!
So a couple of things got me thinking.  A Planet Fit for Nature have 'A Family fit for nature' competition you can see at the link.  I was also watching Easter Watch and there was a little bit that was talking about a litter campaign that they were launching called Do Something Great. This is basically about volunteering and doing something positive for nature. One idea was whenever you go to the beach try to do a '2 minute beach clean' or at least pick some little bits up. As I don't live too close to the coast I try to pick up whatever I see anywhere (especially at a nature reserve) and including at the beach of course when I do get there. So this is why I'm going to launch my  'Clean For Nature' campaign as a mini in-challenge campaign while I do my reserves challenge.

Only found a little bit at
Garbutt Woods :-)
It's not a new idea, but I hope my small actions will help the nature at the places I visit and stop some plastic from reaching the sea. It's a bit like the 2 minute beach cleans and Keep Britain Tidy campaigns. Any body could do it but be careful and use gloves if you can!

It only involves picking up whatever non-biodegradable litter you can find (such as cans, bottles, etcetera) in anywhere you think will damage nature (e.g. at the beach, nature reserves, grassy areas and even town centres). You don't have to do this all the time but if you go somewhere new then try to pick up what you see. All you need to do is take a plastic bag out with you on a walk and just to pick up what any litter you see on the walk you go on. You don't have to go out just to do this you can just go on a walk and pick up what you can see.

Quarry Moor Pick 1
If you do do this and join in my mini campaign it would be great to Tweet me and tell me where you did it and a picture of what you got, or a picture of you doing it. My twitter handle is @nerdboy386. I've put a few pics on the post of some of the rubbish I've collected at some of the places I've been to.

Quarry Moor Pick 2
If you don't want to clean up places yourself the Keep Britain Tidy campaign has an app that helps you to report littering to the local Council and then they should clean it up if it's a big problem.

Also, seeing as it's a special day today, I think it's a good time to announce my new website. The web address is It's not 100% done yet, for example I want to add a photo gallery and a shop, but my blog will be updated regularly on there and my About page is there and being added to as well. All these things will be finished in the not to distant future. I've also got an Actions page so bits of this blog will be on there too.

Really annoying!
All that
litter right by the bin!
Sadly most of it was from
fast food place next door.
When I get to it I hope to have a little web shop with things like some of my photos and maybe T-shirts with some of my nature puns and other merchandise. Any profits will help to fund my nature antics and some will go to nature charities. I did this at Christmas with a calendar and I made enough money to buy a second hand telescope!

My website will also have a page for just keeping you updated on my reserves challenge, that page isn't up yet but again it will be soon. You could also Tweet me with any other ideas of pages I could add to the website.

Thanks to anybody that's going to be doing all these things I've mentioned, and please promote my campaign and see if anybody else will do this for me. I will be compiling all of the names I get through and putting them into a page either on my blog or my website and taking some of my favourite photos and featuring them in the page.

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 4 April 2016

Post 399 - Had brilliant results at High Batts Ringing session

Hey everyone, today's Post 399 and yesterday I got to combine my reserves challenge with another of my favourite activities. I was travelling to High Batts Nature Reserve where some people who I'm quite familiar with were going to be setting up some rather large nets.

If you're a regular reader of my blog you'll know I'm talking about bird ringing! Now the people I was doing it with were the East Dales ringing group. I got there in time to help set up the nets which are pretty big. They're put up in clearings on really tall bamboo poles which must be about 4 times the size of me! We managed to catch quite a few birds in these rather large nets. In fact, it was really fun, as always when I ring the EDRG.

Marsh Tit
High Batts itself is a beautiful place, very secluded and is on the banks of the River Ure. It's been a private nature reserve for over 40 years and it has a huge variety of birds, you get the garden birds, such as Blue Tits, Great Tits and Great-Spotted Woodpecker, and also some water birds since there is a large pond and a stream as well as the River Ure so you can often catch and ring Kingfishers!

Great Spotted Woodpecker
An amazing tongue
We caught 3 Great-Spotted Woodpeckers which is a record for me! I also found out something new about them too. They have a lot of adaptations one of which is their tongue, this is very long and wraps up in their head somehow. They use their beak to peck into a hole made by an insect grub and then they fire their long tongue into the hole. The other adaptation of their tongue is a barbed spike on the end of it which pierces the grub and they can then pull it out and eat it. Saves the woodpecker having to drill deep into the tree! Very beautiful and amazing creatures!

Male & Female Goldfinch
We also re-trapped a Redpoll ringed last year by EDRG which made the group very happy especially Jill Warwick as it shows that the Redpolls are making their migrations successfully. Other birds we ringed were Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer, Dunnock, Goldfinches, Coal Tit, Marsh Tit and there was a recaptured Nuthatch which was a bit lively and flew off before I could get a photo!

Further through the day I managed to see if I could handle some birds. The BTO trainer there, named Paul, managed to teach me how to ring some of the birds,how to age them, and determine their gender, as well as measuring the wing length and weigh them. It's all quite tricky but I'm starting to get the hang of some of it now.
Learning about ringing.

The birds I rung were a Great Tit, a Blue Tit (this was the most vicious I rung yesterday), a Coal Tit and a Chaffinch. It was really great to be able to handle them and I honestly felt honoured.

There was one more thing that I found funny and interesting, and that's something that Paul told me which was that if you hold some birds in your hand on their back then they will literally just freeze in your hand, like you've hypnotised them, and when you move your hand and 'break the bond' they'll fly away quickly.

Thanks to all at EDRG for a great morning!

Hope you enjoyed,