24 April, 2016

In awe

A chilly Sunday afternoon's birding at Grimley gave me a chance to have a nice catch up with some of the regular patch workers, Jason Kernohan (formerly Shenstone Birder) and Mike Bourne, whom I hadn't bumped into in a while.

There was nothing of any particular rarity to be found on the pits, but with Sand Martins flitting about in every possible space of air over the water, Lapwings guarding chicks in the meadows and Yellow Wagtails catching flies along the shoreline, you'd have to be one stale piece of work not to completely awed by it all. I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

Cuteness overload!


Little Egret & Great Crested Grebe

A Sand Martin being emotional

The Nature of Wyre

The Nature of Wyre is a stunning 300 page hardback documenting the natural history of arguably the finest and most biodiverse example of ancient woodland remaining in England; the culmination of many years worth of recording by expert naturalists across Worcestershire. I've had this one on my wish list since it was published back in December, but last week I finally went ahead and added it to the bookshelf.

Pages and pages worth insect, plant, lichen and fungi species accounts will prove a worthy addition to any wildlife enthusiast/pan-species lister's bookshelf, and you don't need any prior knowledge of the forest to be able to appreciate sublime photography from John Robinson, Patrick Clements, Oliver Wadsworth and John Bingham to name but a few. The £40 price tag is a minor niggle, but then what else would I have realistically spent that money on? Food shopping? Gas bills? Course fees? Probably, but those things are boring.

I've only visited the Wyre on two occasions - the first time for a bryophyte survey and the second for a moth trapping session, but it has already won me over. I'll be visiting the forest again as part of my last ever lecture (yes, last EVER lecture) next Thursday, and once I officially finish uni (yes, FINISH university) on 18th May following my final exam (yes, FINAL exam), I'll have plenty of time in early summer to make repeated trips (yes, REPEATE- sorry, I'll stop now) before my house contract in Worcester runs out.

Blimey! Get me finishing uni. Where has the time gone? It really does seem like only last week that I posted in anticipation of starting it all back in 2013, and what a fantastic experience it has been. Better stop writing now before this gets too cheesy and emotional.

Erm... but yeah, where was I? The Nature of Wyre. Well worth a buy. 

19 April, 2016

Surveys in the city

Back in February, myself and a couple of other students teamed up with a local conservation charity, Duckworth Worcestershire Trust, to bring more ecological surveying opportunities to students at the university.

Fast-forward to yesterday and we finally found an opportunity to take over the reigns of their BTO surveys at Chapter Meadows, a small nature reserve situated just opposite Worcester Cathedral on the opposite bank of the Severn.

Looking back at the Trust's previous surveys on the reserve (or rather lack of them), I wasn't too optimistic that we'd find much, but I was soon proved wrong when a Lesser Whitethroat popped up from a hedgerow almost as soon as we opened the gate! A pair of Bullfinch flew over, giving off their sombre call as they went, but the star of the survey was a beautiful male Redstart that spent 10 minutes catching flies in a playing field alongside the river. It's always nice to see passage migrants in such urban settings - just a shame when all you have to take a photo with is a macro lens:


Common Bladder-moss Physcomitrium pyriforme

Cellar Cup Peziza sp.

17 April, 2016

Mothing... flat out

I spent the duration of this evening at one of my favourite local spots - a small, isolated patch of deciduous woodland out towards Powick. I'm not sure who owns it (or even if it is owned) but the secluded nature of the woodland - situated at the bottom of a damp meadow and bordered on all sides by expansive arable fields - means that it gets little footfall from the public (or at least that's what I like to tell myself).

The ground flora is typical of semi-natural woodland at this time of year, with Wood Anemones and Bluebells forming a carpet of colour through which I carefully trod in search of invertebrates. There wasn't a huge amount going on in terms of moth activity, but I did tap these two vibrant characters from their daytime roost on an oak tree branch.

Caloptilia robustella

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella


Despite being 'local', it still takes a good 15 minutes to cycle to the wood. Unfortunately, I returned to my bike to find I'd picked up a nasty puncture on the way over, meaning a long and sobering walk home along the busy main road. On the plus side, it gave me my first cringy blog post title pun in a long while!

13 April, 2016

Memories of Eigg

Just recently I was catching up with a good friend, Dean Jones, whom I'd volunteered with on Skokholm back in 2014. Since our joint placement on Skok, Dean travelled over to the Greek island of Samos to help oversee marine and bird conservation initiates for a year, and no sooner has he returned to mainland UK than he's headed straight back off again to take up a Ranger position with Scottish Wildlife Trust on the Isle of Eigg.

Hearing him describe his first week on the island; the jolliness (and drunkenness) of the islanders, the indescribable beauty of watching the last rays of sunlight flare up from behind the distant mountains of Rum, suddenly had me reminiscing about my short but rewarding stint on this tiny Hebridean island last summer - working for the Eigg Heritage Trust.

It is an island of contrast - from the steep cliffs and dramatic An Sgurr rock formation in the east, to the barren moorland in the west, and sheltered sandy beaches in the north.

I spent much of each day providing an extra pair of hands for various island projects and events; sheep shearing, croft building, fruit-picking, community fêtes and cèilidhs, but every spare moment was spent exploring the island. As you can tell by the repetitiveness of the photos, I became particularly captivated by the view looking out to Rum: