Monday, 29 August 2016

Post 436 - Nourishing Natural Norfolk

Muntjacs in our clearing at Kelling Heath
Hey everyone today's post is post 436 and it kind of explains my inactivity over the last month or so. I've been on holiday! I went to Norfolk, as long time readers will know that I do every year at around the start of August, on a nature holiday. We stay at a beautiful holiday park called Kelling Heath. It's a big woodland next to an area of SSSI heath where Dartford Warblers nest, Turtle Doves are seen, Nightjars nest and it has Silver studded Blue butterflies too! In the woodland there is a little clearing for each caravan, so much so that you can't see your neighbours, but you do get Muntjac deer wandering in! Just sitting in this little clearing is enough to cure anyone from nature deficit disorder, but with all the other places I went to and the wildlife I saw it was a very relaxing and restful holiday.

But anyway, I'll get into some of what I saw,

Large Emerald and a Pebble Hook Tip
- just a couple of the moths we saw
We left home at about 10am and got there at about 4pm, stopping off to get supplies and to stretch our legs at points, one stop was the wonderfully named Sprotbrough Flash which I mentioned in my last post! There wasn't really much to do with nature on the first day until we got to Kelling, but we saw enough just sat out on the decking just looking and listening. From Jays to Pipistrelle Bats, and Wood Pigeons to Squirrels. Aside from this we took Esme for a walk around the heath, but didn't see much the first time.

We went to Titchwell Marsh a couple of times. and racked up quite a list, we saw the Spoonbills that are there at the moment as well as a Little Stint, 4 Bearded Tits, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, a Hobby and a lot more, but, strangely, the highlight for me were the Yellow Wagtails. I've been looking for these for so long, and if I ever thought I'd seen one, I just couldn't confirm it. And to see them so close this time was just amazing.

Yellow Wagtail at Titchwell
Later in the week I met up with Luke Nash and Paddy Lewin, two young birders and went to Cley reserve, Luke's patch. It was great to have such a good guide while we went around the reserve as we saw a lot more than we would have, including a Hobby sat just a few metres from the hide! We also saw Snipe, Green and Redshank, and lots more. Before we leave this topic I want to quickly congratulate Paddy on his amazing GCSE results. Hope I can do as well as you!

An awesome encounter with a Hobby at Cley
We also walked around the Heath with Luke and Paddy, and got my first sighting of Turtle Doves! As we walked we flushed a pair right in front of us from the ground the first of time, but they flapped off in a hurry, but the second time they moved from a tree so we got a great sighting! That was pretty awesome so it more than made up for not managing to see the Silver Studded Blue Butterflies again! I look every year but no luck yet.

Another day was spent exploring the broads and we went to Horsey Mere where we went on our traditional wildlife boat trip. This one was a bit different as it wasn't with Ross who usually runs the trips, as he was away running a sailing Regatta, but instead it was his friend Chris, who was just as good. We didn't see that much but the dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies were good, as well as a really close pass of a Marsh Harrier! I must time one of my Norfolk holidays right so that I get to see some Swallowtail Butterflies, I've only ever had a couple of brief glances of them as I always seem to be there between broods!

Some of the seals soaking up the sun
Last time I was in Norfolk Dad and I took a walk to Blakney Point. We didn't get all the way there but far enough to see lots of seals as well as things like Ringed Plovers and Dunlins. Well this year so that the whole family, including Mum and Esme our Jack Russell, could see the seals we decided to have a boat trip to see them. It was a lovely trip and the sea was very calm (much to Mum's relief!). We got to see the Common Seal colony as well as see a good few Grey Seals bobbing about in the sea too. On the way to and from the seals we saw quite a lot of birdlife too. There were quite a lot of gulls, cormorants and geese around but I've discovered bird spotting from a bobbing boat is harder than it looks!

A Swallow having a rest in the rafters
There were lots of other activities too. We had some nice walks in Sherringham Park and I saw a very happy little Swallow that came and fed its family then sat in the rafters for a little rest. I also had a ride on the steam trains that you can catch from Kelling Heath. I'll miss sitting on the decking and just watching and listening to everything in the woods. I see something new every year. One of the most interesting things I watched was one morning having breakfast, where I watched a Grey Squirrel moving her babies from an old drey to one in a tree right by our caravan, something I'd not seen before and it was very cute to watch her bring them in one by one in her mouth and then scamper back for the next one.
Squirrel scampering around moving dreys
- the baby is in her mouth

The last reserve I went to was on the way home, it was the fabulous RSPB Snettisham. I'd been getting reports fed to me all holiday from Elliot Monteith (thanks Elliot) as the phone reception was not very good about a Red Necked Phalarope was here. Well I didn't see that sadly but I did see a Spotted Redshank which was a lifer. On the walk back to the car as well I got to to see all the birds being moved on by the tides and there were some fabulous murmurations so that was a nice end to the holiday!
Stunning Sunsets too!

Well I could go on but I hope this was a nice little summary of my holiday. This and Birdfair kept me quite busy through the summer holidays but now I hope to get back into a more regular blogging routine.

Thanks to everyone that's supported my petition - its now at 4,246 signatures :-)

I've also started a Thunderclap to promote it too and if you could sign up to that too that'd be awesome!

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Post 435 - A reserves Challenge update - Dales Meadows!

Looking down over Leyburn Old Glebe to the hills.
Hey everyone, today's Post 435 and at the start of my summer holidays I went around the Yorkshire Dales to see what some of the reserves around there were like, expecting no less than I got, some absolutely beautiful places. But, it is the Dales of course!

Now I went to more flowery and meadowy reserves this time as there aren't that many birdy places around where I live. Luckily, there's about 5 of these in quite a small area so after we'd gone into one, we hopped in the car and took a ten minute drive down to the next reserve. The weather was fantastic too, a lovely sunny dale for pootling around the Dales!

Devils Bit Scabious
Common Blue
The first one we went to was Leyburn Old Glebe
. This was quite a special one as it's home to the Burnt-Tip Orchid. This is a plant that I haven't yet seen before, and still haven't as I didn't manage to find one, whether we were a bit late for them or we just didn't look hard enough, we still don't know. But it was a lovely place, with lovely flowers and a lovely view.

Pelucid Fly on Knapweed

The Place was alive with insects feeding on all of the flowers that were blooming. I saw some lovely Devils Bit Scabious and orchids amongst them all. I hadn't been on the site long when a lovely Common Blue Butterfly settled nearby and was quite happy to have its photo taken. A Pelucid fly on (I think) some Knapweed was also very happy for me to get quite close for a shot.

Seata Quarry
Erinus Alpinus
A bit further down the road was another one great reserve Seata Quarry. This was a very small reserve, famous for its Fragrant Orchid, which, again, we looked for, but didn't see one. We saw some sort of raptor fly into a tree that was only about 50 metres away, but then seemed to disappear. It was probably a Buzzard but as it won the game of hide and seek I can't be sure. But the inland cliffs, although man made, were lovely. Lots of specialist little plants like one of Dad's favourite non-natives Erinus Alpinus (Fairy Foxglove) have managed to grow on the rock faces. The landscape is man made too as it's mainly grazed and there's not a lot of forest, but it's still pretty amazing.
Too late - Newbiggin was mown!

Disappointingly, the next reserve on our travels, Newbiggin Pastures, was a bit of a let down as we were too late. It was mown. This would be a lovely one to visit earlier in the year as apparently there are Marsh Marigold and Redstart there, I only saw my first Redstart today, but I'll cover that in another post.

Yellands Meadow must have been a reserve that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have had for a while, as it had a very licheny sign that said Yorkshire Naturalist's Trust, which is what it was known as before it changed its name! This was another mostly mown one, but it was still a really nice one! There was a little stream running through the middle of it and the banks hadn't been mown so we were looking for insects like flies and hoverflies on some of the Cow Parsley. There was a bit of rustling in the plants and we heard a 'plop' in the stream, so we suspect that we may have been inches away from a Water Vole!

Semer Water - looking in the plants
Awesome meadows
The last one of the day was Semer Water, and it was a funny one because it was kind of two reserves, one a little path, through the meadows, but as you go further on there's also a lake! This is another natural glacial lake like Lake Gormire that I go to quite often. The meadows here are huge and seem to run to the hills in the distance. It was full of flowers and insects happily buzzing around in the fabulous Yorkshire sunshine that stayed with us all day

Helophilus pendulus
Well, this really did prove to me that the Yorkshire Dales is one of the nicest places, I think at least, in the world, not like I need any persuasion!

Sprotbrough Flash
One last one just to mention is Sprotbrough Flash. This was a flying visit on my way to my Norfolk holiday. We decided to stop off near here to have lunch and give Esme, our little Jack Russell, a little walk. This place looks pretty amazing. It was another warm sunny day and in the few minutes we were here I saw loads of butterflies and dragonflies. It's one I'll have to come back to for a better look around soon.

Hope you enjoyed,


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Post 434 - Blown-away by brilliant Birdfair!

The Young Birders just before we went birding!
Hi All,

I haven't been posting much in August as I have been a bit busy. I've had a few days out around Yorkshire reserves and I will have to do an update post on that soon! I also had a holiday in Norfolk for 10 days, that was amazing so I should do a post on that too! To top all that off I also spent this last weekend in England's smallest county, Rutland, for this year's absolutely brilliant Birdfair.

Jono Leadley & me doing an interview for BBC Leicester
So what was so good about it? Well it is described as the Birdwatcher's Glastonbury. It is a festival all about nature, sure it has a big focus on birds, people like Birdlife, RSPB and the BTO are there, but also the British Dragonfly Society, Butterfly Conservation, Wildlife Trusts, A Focus on Nature and many others are there. Check out the exhibitors list on the Bird Fair website, it's pretty awesome.

There are so many great people that go but one of my favourite bits was meeting up with lots of young birders, I saw a lot of people that went along to this year's BTO Bird Camp and a lot of other young birders. It was great to catch up with them. I will do a blog on the young birders and another great group AFON as there are a lot of great young birders and naturalists and too many to mention here really.  We all went to do a bit of birding organised by Toby Carter as Rutland water is sort of his patch. It turned into a mini bird-race and the reserve is so good for birds that over 70 species were found in an hour and a half!

I also bumped into lots of people I know off twitter and from past Birdfairs and conferences. It was great to see you Alex (another top young blogger - please check out his blog) who I missed at last years Bird Fair. Other people I met up with were Hugh Brazier, Rob Sheldon, Charlie, Lawrie & Phil from BAWC, Phil Gatley, Andy, Ieuan, Viola, Paul, Lee from the BTO, Jono and Lucy at the Wildlife Trusts, Ben Hoare from BBC Wildlife Magazine. Chris Calow, Georgia Locock and so many others. Thanks to all of you for all the support and encouragement ;-)

People I missed but hoped to see were Tony Jeavons, David Darrell Lambert, Jason Alexander, Stewart Abbot  - hope to eventually meet up with you soon!

Great to see Chris again
Anneka Svenska
Then there were the speakers and wildlife presenters that I met. I went on a bug hunt last year with David Lindo so it was great to bump into him again. Of course it's always great to bump into Chris Packham and I got to say thank you for his support and following me on twitter. I also got to have a quick chat to Nick Baker and told him how the first Unsprung I was on, that he was presenting, really inspired me to start my blogging.  I was honoured to get a mention in her talk by Jess French who said some lovely things about my blog. I also saw Anneka Svenska who has been very supportive on twitter.

It was a busy time and I got to do some awesome stuff, like meet up with young birders, watch bird ringing, meet up with lots of people and go birding with the BTO. I also ended up doing an interview for BBC Radio Leicester with Jono Leadley of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, you can hear it here, about 47 minutes in, and I get to talk about conservation and how important it is. It was totally unexpected and unrehearsed but I think it's one of the best radio interviews I've done so far!

Jess French -
thanks for mentioning my blog 
David Lindo
One of the things I enjoyed the most though were the talks.There were some really good ones and more this year on important issues that are affecting our wildlife. The talk with Mike Dilger, Charlie Moores and Dominic Dyer (one of the people I didn't get to meet) was brilliant and really put across that everybody can help prevent wildlife crime and that anybody who commits it should be prosecuted - even if they are very rich and 'important'. I learnt a lot from that talk and the Grouse Shooting talk with Mark Avery (another person I had hoped to say hello to again and let him know I'm writing to my MP about the debate on grouse shooting). I really don't see how a hobby of a few people should be allowed if it harms wildlife and contributes to flooding. A lot of adults I speak to are quite annoyed that anybody who pays tax is helping to pay for it too! Surely hospitals and schools need the money more?

Chatting to |Nick Baker
I really enjoyed the talks too from Nick Baker and Jess French. They both spoke about how important it is to let children experience nature, to be able to play outside and get close to bugs, birds, mammals and plants, to be fascinated by the little things that rule the world and develop a connection with the natural world. It can make people sad if they don't have enough wild time and if they don't connect with nature they won't care for it. It is so important that young people do so that we have more people that will look after the world better in the future. Fear of letting children play out and technology were some of the things mentioned that stopped this but Jess French said technology can be used in good ways and mentioned my blog (thank you so much Jess :-).

Chris at the Rewidling Talk
Plugging the Ban Driven Grouse Shooting Petition
I also saw a great talk on rewilding, it was hosted by Chris Packham but the best bit was Derek Gow's presentation. He spoke so passionately about how different creatures need to be in our ecosystem because of the benefits they bring to other species. I'd love it if some of the Birdfair talks were put on youtube afterwards as I'd love to hear that one again.

So overall I've had an awesome summer. Bird Fair was incredible and it was really good that the conservation issues came out very strongly, at least in the talks I went to. Because of this I got to tell a lot of people about my petition. Its nearly at 4,000 signatures now. If you can help to get it up to 10,000 signatures I'd be very grateful.

Hope you enjoyed,


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Post 433 - Simply Stunning and Slightly Scary Sundews

Sundew (Drosera rotundiflora) with its prey
Hey everyone, today's post 433 and I was out at Whitby about a week ago and on the way back there was a reserve, Fen Bog,  that I'd been to once before, but not fully walked and explored around it. So we went to have another look around it and it was a beautiful reserve with mostly flowers and wildlife of the botanical kind. One species highlighted at this reserve were Sundews. A lovely type of plant that I've not actually seen before or since!

I learnt quite a few new words today researching these! The venus fly traps of Europe, they are fascinating plants. So here are some facts about them:

  • Well the first thing I know from what I saw is that they are carnivorous. As you can see in some of the photos they eat insects.
  • They use 'stalked mucilaginous glands' to lure, trap and eventually digest them. You can often see the sticky mucilage glistening in the sun on dewy mornings - so you can see where its name comes from.
  • The insects are attracted by the sweet, sticky mucilage. When they touch this it literally sticks them to the plant, as they struggle they touch more of the plant and so it gets worse.
  • The insect either just gets exhausted and dies or the sticky secretions suffocate it by blocking its breathing tubes or spiracles.
  • You can see on the time lapse video I've linked here how the plant closes more of its stalks around the insect. 

  • The secretions contain a number of enzymes which then digest the insect into a nutrient soup which the the Sundew can absorb.
  • The only do this in the spring and summer. In the Autumn they produce smaller stalked leaves which protect the bud of the plant which then effectively hibernates for the winter.
Even in the afternoon you could see
the 'dew' glistening in the sun
  • The genera of Sundews, Drosera, is one of the largest in carnivorous plants, with 194 species!
  • They can grow flowers ranging from one centimetre to one metre! This depends on the species.
  • Some climbing species can grow to 3 metres in the case of the Drosera erythrogyne, which is a species endemic to Australia.
  • They live usually in moist but sometimes in constantly wet places with acidic soils and high levels of sunlight.So the boggy, peaty environment of Fen Bog is ideal!
  • A lot of Sundews are self-producing and will self-pollinate when they close. Most of the time, quite a few of the small, black seeds grow in the ground around.
  • Sundews are found all over the world from Alaska down to New Zealand. They're more diverse in Australia which has about half of all known species.
A group of Sundew plants at FenBog
  • In some European countries, such as Finland, France Germany and Bulgaria, Drosera is a protected species. But there isn't much threat to them anywhere else.
  • Sundews have been a medical plant since the 12th century when an Italian doctor described them as a herbal remedy for coughs under the name 'herbal sole'.
  • Sundews have been used as a medicine to strengthen the heart, to treat sunburn, to prevent freckles and other things that are true, and some that are wrong.
  • Sundew tea was used to treat any diseases to do with bronchi such as bronchitis, as well as asthma and coughing.

Here are some links to some more information:

Carnivorous Plants - Sundews

Kew Gardens - Drosera rotundiflora

Hope you enjoyed,