Wednesday, 30 March 2016

apologies for absence and missed the action in the garden...

I'm back - apologies for absence ; been away for 24 hours.

Whenever on a road trip I always look out the window and as a family we always do a bird list for the trip. I did this with my husband yesterday and today. Only got about 20 species both ways including at our destination and stopping at motorway services. We saw and heard a couple of spring migrants that have arrived - Chiffchaff singing and Sand Martins over a river.
I always think it's sad to see so much road kill on our motorways and carriageways. On one stretch yesterday, heading up to the Midlands(UK), there was something dead most of the way along; one after another hedgehogs, badger, fox, pheasants, birds of prey.

Back home this afternoon I missed the action that happened in the garden - a Sparrowhawk caught a Starling but as my daughter and husband went to see what the commotion was all about the Sparrowhawk took off without the starling, which also disappeared. Must have been OK.

Hoping to find something tomorrow for you all.
Bye for now.

Monday, 28 March 2016

1 more spider today ...

Went out today and came home to found this little lovely on the kitchen ceiling. My hubby caught it in a moth specimen tube for us to see. I believe it's a Zebra spider - few arguments with the daughter over which species it actually is ; Zebra or Jumping, but Zebra spiders are part of the species group 'Jumping spiders' !
Anyway, had some fun taking photos of it with my macro lens coming out of the tube and released it outside. 
What's not to like about this little creature ?!

Sunday, 27 March 2016

spiders !

Well, most people dislike them. We were some of those people but are learning to identify them and observe them as our daughter's interest in insects and bugs develops. Including spiders. She had an identification book but all then names are in Latin! We managed to translate via  some websites and I have now joined a British Spider ID group on facebook.
These 2 little critters were found by our daughter in the garden. 

Using my macro lens and getting extremely close to them for a photo, you soon start to note all their detail like the little hairs on their legs, their eyes, markings.... 
These are Wolf spiders. They're quite likely to be a specific Wolf spider but we are still learning and I did ask for help to ID these. They seem to enjoy the sunshine. 
I have a lot in my Forest School. If they are the same species running around over dried grassy areas then I can honestly estimate there are thousands in my Forest School area! 
If any of you are spider experts feel free to jot a comment down.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

we have moths !!!

At long last, on our 5th trapping of the year, we have moths !!
6 species, 13 individuals. 

If you are new to moth trapping, always check around the outside of the trap and in the surrounding vegetation and any fences as they can be well scattered. Sometimes I get more around the outside than inside the trap itself! Or it might be just one or two outside but they could be the rare ones, migrants or the first of that species you've ever had!  It gets very exciting! 
On the odd occasion I might miss a few moths on the fence or grass and my husband then has a thorough check of the whole garden after I've emptied the trap.
So when it comes to going outside to see what you've got it's best to get up early. You'll find it gets earlier and earlier as the spring and summer progress. This is because i) you don't want any to be eaten by birds before you've identified them ii) you don't want them to fly away before you've identified them especially in a very warm summer iii) you don't want cats coming to eat them either! 

Today's little beauties are as follows...

Oak Beauty

Common Quaker

Brindled Beauty

Early Grey

Hebrew Character

Common Quaker

Clouded Drab

Oak Beauty on my hand

Oak Beauty settling on a bush

Brindled Beauty at rest on tree trunk

A small catch but still delightful to see these amazing creatures. Again, mostly brown but so many variations of colours and markings.

It is highly recommended. All images are life size.

Last year I bought myself a macro lens for the Canon DSLR I use. I'd been considering and wanting one for a while and this is fantastic! 
Some photos are taken with mobile phone as record shots at first, then when I release the moths back into the garden I use this macro lens for better images.


Enjoy reading and exploring !

Friday, 25 March 2016

local coastal morning walk

A glorious day here in South Wales today so we made the most of it before the bad weather returns.
We walked along a local coastal path, between Porthcawl and Sker, which is in between a beach and rocks and a golf course, and consists of boardwalk and concrete.
In total we were out for about 2.5 hours and there were many other people walking too. But we did see a variety of birds and wildlife.
There were Skylarks singing and displaying, as were Meadow Pipits and Common Stonechats. A hunting Kestrel and several small groups of Herring Gulls and Common Gulls.
We spotted a large flock of European Golden Plover on the beach, but then took off due to being spooked by a dog walker. A little later there was a mass of birds high in the sky circling over the coastline and fields. These too were European Golden Plover, estimated to be about 550 individuals, and flying in a formation. 
Our daughter, ever ready with a bug pot and has more of a eye for detail, found a beetle type bug flying up and down in some grass. Sure enough she caught it, we took photos and released it. She said straightaway "I think it's a Green Tiger Beetle". A subsequent check of our new insect book revealed she was correct. We haven't seen one before. It was a fabulous bright green colour with a couple of pale spots.
Then she found a Common Lizard basking in the sun on the boardwalk! It was very obliging as we knelt down to look at it closely. I took photos on my mobile phone, which I  held next to it before it ran away into some grass.
 I did have my camera and 400mm lens on today and took several photos of which the best are below.
On our walk I was determined to find a returning Northern Wheatear. It just felt right today that might be one around. It wasn't until our return walk that a quick flash of bird disappeared behind some rocks. As we tip-toed towards the area it flew away from us, down towards the pebble beach and much further away. Indeed it was the Wheatear. It didn't allow for a photo but they are a stunning bird. The giveaway when they fly away is their white rump on a grey coloured back, black wings, peachy breast and thick black eyestripe, for a male.
A fabulous time was had by all. And I hope you are becoming inspired to get outside and casually look around you in different environments to observe, learn and enjoy nature.

Common Stonechat


Skylark singing and displaying

European Golden Plover

European Golden Plover

Green Tiger Beetle
Common Lizard

Here is a link to the insect book that we use. It's  brilliant piece of kit to have, covering all sorts of creatures. 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

a great 45 minutes at the river and fields

Apologies for absence first of all - busy in work and have not seen anything at all. So this morning I made it my mission to take my daughter to the local fields and river before the weather sets in. Overcast again with a cool, gentle breeze. We were armed with our binoculars and I had my 400mm lens on my Canon camera.
Firstly we heard a Mistle Thrush singing in the the distance, then one closer by alarm calling.
Several Great Tits, Blue Tits and Goldfinches also calling.
As we proceeded to walk over the river bridge I heard an alarm call I have not heard for a while. We spotted the bird up in a tree - of course, it was a Nuthatch. These are cute little woodland birds - a gorgeous blue back and head, peachy-pink breast, white face and black eyestripe.
My daughter saw the Dipper fly past us over the river. I missed it but I didn't think it went far. We crept along the riverbank trying to be camouflaged among the trees and spotted a Grey Wagtail in front us, which spooked as soon as I took its photo. 
At the same time my daughter shouts out "Sparrowhawk, 2 of them". I turned to see one land in a tree ahead of us. More photos! This was a female as it is larger and more brown than a male. I don't kow if there was a second or whether she was chasing prey.
We then relocated the Dipper also right in front of us, and as I started to take photos without scaring it we spotted a second one. It was a pair. They are amazing birds. We watched them for about 20 minutes, flying back and forth across the river, preening, feeding, and doing their little swim to catch food and gave us a typical Dipper pose on rocks. 
On a return walk across the bridge there were 3 Woodpigeons on the grass and one up in a tree. Several fresh molehills were spotted by my daughter and generally the trees are all coming into bud and leaf.
All of this in 45 minutes total. Just goes to show you don't need long to explore the local wildlife.   


Grey Wagtail




Wednesday, 23 March 2016

indoor wildlife 22.3.16

Late in the evening my daughter found a spider in the house! She traps it in one of my moth specimen tubes and gets her book out to identify it. Although before she opens the book she examines it again and says "It's a mouse spider". Photo below.
We do find this species in the book and it seems to be right. We do get several of these inside throughout the year. Through her interests in the different species spiders we have learned to catch them, identify and then release outside.
This was my only wildlife posting today (22/3/16).  Another quiet day. Really am hoping it will start picking up very soon.


Monday, 21 March 2016

an exciting find in the Forest School

Another quiet morning in terms of wildlife. And another empty moth trap having had frost overnight. I don't know when we'll start getting moths in the trap.
So on a bright, sunny, clear afternoon, I visited the Forest School in work. I looked at the small pond to check the frogspawn and thought I was seeing things - the surface of the water was moving. There was no wind. So I looked closer and closer....and there to my excitement were tiny tadpoles wriggling around! That's what was making the water surface move!
Record shots below were taken with my mobile phone camera, which is usually excellent for close up shots, but the light conditions and reflections were making it awkward.


On closer and more careful inspection there appeared to be quite a mass of them all huddled together. Fingers crossed they all survive and develop.

I continued an exploration of the Forest School after this and saw hundreds of spiders in the grass and on logs, appearing to be basking in the lovely sunshine.

I will attempt to identify this species with the help of my daughter and her new insect and spider books. 

The willow structures are opening their buds more now and have this gorgeous fluffiness about them.

And lastly this large bumblebee was having a good look around the whole site, sussing out gaps in grasses and earth, very loudly and fast. Did you know that the buzzing sound they make is actually that of their wings ? Anyway, another one to formally identify with some help needed. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

welcome to the first day of spring.

March 20th 2016 is the official first day of Spring, here in the UK. Our weather here in South Wales today is very overcast and cold. But there signs of spring all around us and have been for several weeks.
It's also the time of year for spring migration of birds, and some insects given the right weather conditions. you really need to keep an eye on the skies, as well as eye level. You just never know what might turn up in front of you or over you. 
I got really excited earlier when looking out the window into the garden. A small, brown bird caught my eye in the neighbour's apple tree that's also by our fence. It was obscured by the branches. I grabbed the binoculars and it flew across our garden. I ran to the back door, quietly opened it and the bird was sitting on the wooden rail of our decking steps, and promptly flew away again. Back to the window overlooking the apple tree - no sign. I shouted for my husband to come and see, as he is the problem solver of bird identification when I'm not sure (having been a birder all his life is a lot more experienced than me). It popped up in front if us back in the apple tree. I  ran upstairs for the camera and back down again. It had flown across to the bottom of out decking steps again where we have some pot plants. It was having a lovely time, feasting on who knows what on the plants. Turned out to be a Chiffchaff. An aptly named bird by its song - sounds like it's saying 'chiff chaff'. A generally olive-brown and buffy/cream coloured bird with a small pale eyestripe and black legs. They are known as migrants but occasionally do overwinter in the UK. It's hard to say for sure about this individual. 


So keep your eyes peeled for anything unusual or just to see our amazing returning migrant birds who have travelled thousands of miles to breed here in the UK, such as Sand Martins, House Martins, Swallows, warblers, Cuckoos...and the mega amazing Osprey. 
Here are some links for information purposes if you interested in the delightful little, and large, creatures.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

a short riverside walk

Walked into town this morning as a family with a few things to do there. The path is alongside the river. Overall it's pretty quiet around - usually through the winter we see Goosander on the river but not this winter. We saw 4 Goldfinches fly up away from the trees and later heard them singing from other trees nearby. It's always a delight to these colourful birds. A couple of Grey Wagtails were seen and heard in the river and flying over it.
On the return walk a small flock of Herring Gulls were being rather noisy - we know from experience alarm calling means there is a predator around - sure enough, there it was....a Peregrine falcon perched precariously on an aerial of the town's council building. The gulls were diving at it trying their very best to spook it. Of course I didn't have my camera again but the light conditions were awful looking at where the Peregrine was. After a couple of minutes it flew off, low at first, right past us, up and over the river towards a church and the other side of town. A nice sight for today.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

first hoverfly of the year

Back in my Forest School this afternoon, the sun was gloriously shining down on us and the forest was a lovely sun trap. I have a pile of large logs from the trees that were 'accidentally' cut down 3 years ago. Last year this log pile attracted a pair of Wrens, sussing it out as a suitable nesting site but it didn't happen.
The only creature that was seen today was 1 hoverfly. I have yet to identify the species ; we do have a book of insects but  I am so tired after an early start today, I will let you know in due course. But here is a photo in case there are any experts out there !


16th March, evening walk

An evening walk through the next housing estate and towards the river and fields produced an array of Daffodils everywhere still, several clumps of Primrose, catkins on Hazel and Alder trees, fresh, bright green, new foliage of Hawthorn and the amazing Dipper on the shingle in the river, who most probably has a nest of young now as they are early breeders. There are a few pairs on the river that goes through our town and are often heard alarm calling 'zit-zit-zit' and singing on occasions.





Hazel catkins