Wednesday, 15 February 2017

By The River & Other Nature Experiences!

Hey guys! I have quite a few stories of nature sightings for you, so buckle up!

Firstly is one of the most exciting! Last weekend, I was at my Dad's house. On Sunday, me, my step mum and one of my step brothers went out to walk up to ASDA. My Dad has a really nice river near him, and it goes by down his road. We were walking on a pathway beside it when I noticed a cute little bird standing on a rock in the water. When I saw its colour scheme - grey and yellow with a little bit of white - I was super-happy to see what it was...a grey wagtail, a new species to my list! I saw it on the way back too, happily hopping around with a bobbing tail, probably searching for yummy insect morsels to enjoy!

Now, I only have one more wagtail to find: the yellow one!

My new school is twenty minutes away from me, lying in the Bedford area. We like to take the scenic route; it takes a little longer but it's prettier with a lot less traffic, and calms me down before I get to school. We also see a lot of birds on the way AND there! On the way, we constantly see birds of prey (at least one per trip, probably) either gliding above us or perching in a tree. We can never quite tell what they are, but I think they might be buzzards, and also a few kestrels. Though, I'm not always  right; I once almost mistook a house sparrow for a great tit!

Another thing about Bedford...there's a really cute store called Budgens, and we went there to pick up some bacon after school. When we walked in, we noticed a stand for the Wildlife Trusts, specifically the BCN (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire) one. We walked over to have a peek, and the first the man standing their said to us was,

"Are you two wildlife enthusiasts?"

Needless to say, we got the guy to explain some stuff about what the Wildlife Trusts do, about their reserves and we even signed up! I've got a "Where to see Wildlife in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire" book I recieved from him right next to me as I type!

Other sightings include some really cute ducks in some ponds/lakes beside a road in London, and a kindly old  shopworker in Budgens telling us about the time she saw a tawny owl taking off from a garden fence! Wow!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Update!

Sorry for not posting in ages! I am making a new post but I don't have time to get it out before New Year, in case I don't post it before Christmas/New Year,  have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and hopefully I can see you all soon! Byeeeee!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Under A Plank

In the corner of my long garden lies a small area that is never lawn-mowed, chipped or managed. When we first made it we put down an empty bed frame and a plank of wood originally so I could crouch down on it and not get absolutely covered in grass, dirt and bugs when I was looking at something in it. I still remember I saw this huge, long, centipeedy orange thingie crawling at me when I was looking at it. I ran into the house and didn't really go into there for a while after that.

The other day I was looking at it and I thought....hmm...I know that some bugs like to go under things. What if I flipped this here plank over?

And so I went with it. I carefully (with achey legs) crouched on the soil and reluctantly flipped over the log. Tiny ant-like creatures scurried out of the way to cover. Pill woodlice tried to find a crevice to escape the giant that had just reorganised their home. And slugs...well....the slugs...just sat there. Or at least didn't move very far. Because...well, you know...they're slugs.

There were tiny slugs, medium slugs, and huge (albeit a little scary) slugs. Fat slugs, thin slugs, slimey slugs. Yellow and spotty slugs and brown squishy slugs. As you can tell by now I'm not good at identifying species of slug yet.

What's next?

Amazing Wildlife Sightings: Caught on a Blog!

Welp, I've been waiting for so long to post these things on here, and the wildlife hasn't been better! I can tell you, I'm literally out of breath!

Lately we've had a lot of jackdaws out, pecking at some cotton fluff we put out and carrying it away in their mouths, presumably to stuff their nests full of it. I bet those chicks are the comfiest in town!

As you know Summer is heading towards us (though some of the weather tells otherwise) and Summer means swifts. I was bouncing around on (and roly-polying onto) my trampoline when I hear a telltale screeching from up above. Half a second of confusion - and then instantaneously I can tell what it is. Swifts! I glance up, sun reflecting off of my glasses, trying to spot the amazing streamlined aerodynamics. And there they were, screeching and frantically zooming in all directions, looking like they were going absolutely mental. I gazed in awe as I saw one chase after another, another one trailing behind. Perhaps they were competing for a mate? Who knows? Did you know that swift's legs are so weak and stubby because they almost never land except to breed? And that when a young swift leaves the nest, they may never land for three or four years?! Imagine those sore wings! Pass the paracetamol!

Not long after a few weeks later, something amazing happened that almost actually blew my socks off. I was yet again sitting on the trampoline staring up at the sky like a gormless fool when I heard the telltale scream again. Suddenly I saw a group of four or five swifts who were far closer to the ground than I had usually seen (they were usually just tiny shapes in the sky from where I was). I was surprised. Then, out of the blue, they came rushing down and swooped down through my garden, metres above my head, and then flew inbetween some houses, out of sight.

A while later I went down to the shops with my sister, and some swifts were frantically bobbing between houses like they were doing it for fun. I couldn't believe I was the only one noticing them! I must admit a few people down the local pub stared me down like I was a complete nutter...

Before this experience, I remember looking through the window at one of the feeders my mum had put up in the garden. Then I noticed a small bird. I thought it was just another blue tit at first (which still were relatively new to my garden at the time) but then I noticed white...and a salmon pink...and a freakishly long tail. Practically falling off my chair I saw a long tailed tit. Wow! I don't even think that's a garden species...we must be doing well with our feeding.

But today's experience was the most amazing of all. I was getting up off of my computer to talk to my mum about something and looked through our window as I was passing by. I stopped in my tracks. I saw a rather large bird hopping along the path. I thought it was a song thrush at first, but it seemed a little...greenish.

Then the mystery bird turned around to hop onto the grass. I saw a black nape, red cap and brilliant yellow-green uppersides. It looked about the size of a jackdaw, perhaps taller. It had a rather long bill and stought build.

My jaw dropped. My breath was swept away. I felt like I was going to drop and faint.

What was I looking at?

I was looking at a green woodpecker.

In my garden?

I couldn't believe it. Slowly I grabbed my binoculars and threw off my glasses and  peered through them. I was right. It WAS a green woodpecker. Noticed the yellow rump.

It was an astonishing sight.

Maybe one day I'll wake up, and I'll hear a noise like no other bird can make...


Monday, 2 May 2016

A Big Day Out

Welp, it's been another snappy wildlife photography trip with my Dad - and what a story I have to tell you!

This time it was at Willen Lake, and it was very fun. I got to add another species of bird onto my sightings list: the Great Crested Grebe! To some this bird may seem so common that you may glance over it, but to me, it was very fascinating to watch. But, on the other hand, it was proving very difficult to photograph. Reeds, small waves, the diving habits of this bird and my shaky hands in panic were certainly not helping. I was frightened that I wouldn't get a photo of this amazing bird for a keepsake so I was constantly taking photos without much care for the outcome!

Something that is probably new to this blog is a species of fish I saw. It was the Carp. Let me tell you what happened.

Me and my Dad were at the Bird Feeding Point, chucking out some bread for some Greylag Geese  (unfortunately the bread serves no nutritional value for the birds, but if we were offering peas or lettuce to them I was certain sure we'd get a reputation as the weirdos who didn't know how to feed birds properly to other non-experienced bird feeders, so we went with bread) when I spotted something moving in the water, but it was not a diving bird. I realised instantly what it was and frantically pointed.

"Fish! Fish! Fish"
My Dad seemed confused. "What, where?"
"Over there, look!" I said, continuing to point.
"Oh - that's a carp! Good find," replied Dad, noticing it.

We observed it for a while until I heard what was probably the strangest noise I've heard in all the times I've watched nature.


I heard my Dad laugh slightly.

"What was that noise? Seriously, that sneezing sound?"
"That was the Carp. It's sucking up the bread."
"Sucking up the bread!"
"What? He has no teeth so he has to suck it up,"

That's when I saw the Carp once again pop up to the surface and - to my surprise - slurp up a chunk of bread like it was a string of spaghetti. I found this so entertaining that I burst into a fit of giggles!

More Carp came and slurped and sucked their way through the bread, and I must say it was very amusing!

We also saw some beautiful bluebells and buttercups as well as daisies and dandelions and a daisy-like flower which I didn't know the name of.


Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Mystery of the Sparrow Eggshell

Eggshells can hold a lot of history. For example, the largest egg in the world was laid by the elephant bird, measuring is 30cm high and 21cm in diameter. That's 100 times bigger than a hen egg! Unfortunately, the elephant bird was thought to go extinct from their home in Madagascar in around the 17th century. All that from an egg!

As you may have guessed, I didn't find an egg that was nearly that size. It was smaller than a hen egg, in fact. It wasn't even a full egg - it was half of an eggshell. White, speckled with brownish-black blotches. That's a little bit of a common egg decoration among birds.

The egg from both angles.
There's a hole in the wall and a pair of house sparrows keep flying into it, so perhaps this was a hatched chick's egg fallen out of the hole. On the other hand, it might be the remains of an egg that was eaten by another bird.
I managed to identify it as a house sparrow egg not too long later.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Park Photography Adventure (feat. Andy Whapham)

My Dad has a blog about photography ( Visit it HERE) and I have a blog about wildlife (you're already here!) , so what better to do than to combine them?

I recently went to London to visit my Dad (he picked me up in his car and drove me there) as well as my step-mum and two step-brothers. It was a blast! On Monday (the day before I left and the day after I got there) me and my Dad headed to the park with fancy cameras and took lots of fantastic snaps! I will admit, my Dad is a lot more experienced than I am at photography and he took better photos than I did, but it was a lot of fun and I didn't realise how much I liked photography until then! I also saw about four new wildlife species as well as at least twenty-five dogs!

My first picture - not great, but at least it's in focus!
We walked around the park, my Dad teaching me all sorts of different things and getting me on the edge of my (non existent) seat with a couple of stories (hint hint) about how he used to bike with his friends and such.
My Dad poses for me on a park bench showing off his lovely, fancy camera.
We saw lots of new species as well as exploring a few areas I hadn't seen before. It was a little prickly here and there and I tripped up on some twigs. It was also very hard when I wanted to take a photo on the ground; balancing on your tiptoes whilst bent down is not an easy task...I will say that my trousers got a little gunked up with mud. There might still be a leaf in my shoe...
Mine and Dad's favourite photo of the day! ❤
"I think that's my favourite - there's a bit of reflection in there and it's in focus" -Rough quote from Andy Whapham, 2016
My highlight of the day was seeing an Egyptian goose, which I successfully identified myself. I managed to snap a photo, which will be seen a bit down the blog post, but I only got a picture of it's backside, and I didn't get much of it's details. I don't know much about the species yet, as I can't find it in any of my bird identification books, but I'm guessing it was probably a male as the colours were stunningly bright. It almost reminded me of the mandarin duck when I saw the back feathers.  We also saw a pair of tufted ducks (which were a lot smaller than I had imagined), which my Dad identified (he too used to be a keen birdwatcher), a coot (yet another new species) and a parakeet. Oh boy! What a day.
Other species we spotted (which I've seen before) were mute swans, lots of carrion crows, moorhens, mallards and  a great tit (I've never seen that before either!).
Carrion crow strutting his stuff!
I love these kinds of pictures - hiding behind objects!
Am I the only one who imagines an osprey - best bird - perching on top of this?!
Using a natural tripod.
Even though the subject is out of focus, I kind of like it that way!
What a shot! least I got a shot of him! (or her...gender equality!)
The camerashy coot...!

"There's nothing like a picture of a rock," -A.W, 2016
Is this disregarding the mallards' privacy?
" takin' a photo of me?"
Last picture of the day - yet another bird bum.
That was only some of the 91 pictures I took that day. There was another I wanted to share, which was of some dogs, but I didn't think you guys would want to look at another animal bum. Thanks to Dad for taking me on this fabulous exhibition!
One thing I've learnt going on it is that it doesn't have to be perfect - it is just about what makes you happy.