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 probably...so, 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!
Well...at 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?
"Oi...you 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.


The Blue Tit Saga

Common birds; exactly what they say on the tin.

"Common, adjective; occurring, found, or done often; prevalent."

Well, one of Britain's most common garden birds is the blue tit. The favourite of many British people who own a garden. Cheeky, adaptable and just plain cute, these birds are hard to miss, and easy to attract to any garden across the country.

However, for years me and my mum have failed to attract this bird to our garden. It seems impossible to think: all these little birds need is some shelter, and some peanuts (obviously simplified, it isn't quite as easy as that, but still very easy). But yet even though next door's garden had a tall conifer tree, we offered food which we changed weekly, we lived near to a field with a fenced off forest that the birds could live in themselves without much disturbance, and bushes to hide from predators (which, to me, was an ideal habitat for any garden bird) the perky little cyanistes caeruleus' to our garden.

At that point, I will admit I honestly considered giving up bird watching, since somehow we couldn't even attract one of the commonest birds to our garden.

It was then my mum came up with a plan. Well, not really a plan, just a decision to perhaps spice things up a little in the garden and get fat birds flapping around.

"Instead of changing the food weekly, perhaps we could add food every two days?"

I felt like a complete idiot. How could I, the only person I knew who I considered quite knowledgeable on British birds, not have thought of the plan before? I quickly brushed the thought aside and went along with mum's idea. The house sparrows flocked even more to our garden. Starlings barged into the way, sending any small birds darting for cover, to get in on the meal. Woodpigeons pecked at the ground below, scoffing up any dropped seed they could get their hands - or bills - on. I grinned at the dinner party that was occurring outside my window.

One day, while I was on my iPad, my mum called me to get downstairs immediately, but be quiet and slow. I thought to myself, why on Earth would I need to come down so fast yet so slow?

But when I did, it was well worth the wait. Mum pointed frantically at the window, whisper shouting.

"Look, look! That bird there - that's definitely NOT a sparrow," stuttered mum. "Look, it has whiter cheeks. The tail's longer too! Perhaps it's a great tit? I think so-"

"Blue tit."


"That's a blue tit. Without a doubt."

"What? Isn't it a great tit? It looks around the same size."

"Look at that yellow breast, and blue head. And look at that sparrow over there, compare the sizes. The blue tit is smaller."

I flicked through my bird book and checked the sizes of the house sparrow and the blue tit.

"Hey, look. See? The blue tit is around eleven centimetres, yet the house sparrow is around fourteen!"

After sighing at the bird flying away, and just resisting the temptation  to cheer when we returned, we decided to keep watching the window from then on.

That blue tit marked the start of our bird café. The local collared dove(s?) sat on top of the bird table as a perch and went into it, nibbling. We might have (though I doubt it) even saw a long tailed tit. Robins came along too.

But in my opinion the blue tit was the best of them all, and we were all concerned for it's survival.