30 days wild 2017: day 2 Bempton walk and book review

This afternoon was one of the bigger acts of wild we went for a wild walk. We headed in the car up to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. The Bempton reserve is one of the best places for seabirds. With many coming to nest at this time of year. There are a number of well built observation platforms along the cliff edge and along the cliff edge are fields of wild flowers. It was raining lightly on arrival, otherwise I imagine we’d of seen a lot more butterflies.

The cliffs were thronged with seabirds. Every crevice is taken. It’s amazing how they stay perched.

We we saw the gannets. Lovely looking birds with their long necks and pointed tails they are rather striking particularly in flight.

_DSC0995

We saw the guillemots. They just come to land to nest. The rest of their lives are spent at sea, so this is the best chance for most people to see up close.

There were plenty of razorbills. Similar to the guillemots in looks, the main difference for me is the beak. As with many of the species at Bempton they are under threat with risks to marine health quality, through pollution, fishing, and rising sea temperatures.

_DSC0987

As well as the seabirds I saw a fair few farmland birds: sparrows, corn buntings, a moor hen and a few pigeons trying to hustle in on he sea bird action.

The star of the show though at Bempton are the puffins, which we saw up close through one of the RSPB telescopes. Wonderful characterful birds, however my camera wasn’t up to the job. You can just make out the beak is a puffin hiding in a crevice.

As the day had warmed up and the rain subsided the bug life’s came out.


On the way back to the centre we took Alice out of the howdah for a walk back up the path.

_DSC1055

_DSC1043

_DSC1033

Back at centre we avoided buying any stuffed toys, but did have a hot drink. Amy had a slice of cake and I had a rather nice Stilton pork pie. While eating the jack daws were very obliging for photos, keen to pick up food scraps.

 

A lovely trip out despite a drab start. Another random act of wild achieved for 30 days. Hopefully the RSPB will be able to keep these birds safe for many more years to come, so Alice can enjoy them when she’s older.

We an add on to day one.

The end of yesterday saw the arrival of a new nature book for children. The national trusts-go wild in the woods. The national trusts 50 things to do before your 11 3/4 is a lovely book and this looked to be in the same vein.

IMG_0879

The quality of he book is lovely. It’s hard backed and has an elastic bookmark to seal the book or mark the page. The book acts like a junior SAS survival guide for children. It covers setting up a camp, building a shelter, tying knots, navigating, tracking, animal prints, food to avoid, finding water, drinking wee, a whole host of subjects to appeal to a mini adventurer. It is showing off a number of bushcraft skills in a good accessible way for children. I was expecting ideas of activities to do in the wood, whereas this is aimed a little older than I expected. But still a nice read. The younger children can enjoy the animal sections and get some den ideas, while the older child can look at developing skills. A nice addition to the National Trusts growing adventure books. If you have a budding bushcraft fan or forest school child they will probably enjoy this.

Focus on greenbottle fly

In the sunshine I spotted these greenbottle flies. While not necessarily considered a beauty the colour of the casing in the sun is as stunning as any jewel. So I thought I’d research them for this focus feature.

_DSC0657

Greenbottles are one of the most common blow flies (family  Calliphoridae) along with heir cousins the bluebottle. However, unlike the bluebottle, who is best known for irritating people inside, the greenbottle prefers to be outside. The name blow fly is an old English expression. Meat that was “blown” had eggs laid on.

The greenbottle fly lays its eggs on decaying tissue, on corpses generally. From this the larvae, fly maggots, hatch. Then after three to ten days, depending on temperature and food, the maggot pupates. After six to fourteen days the fly emerges and the endless cycle continues.

_DSC0930

Pretty gross you might be thinking. However this knowledge has been used by forensic scientists to give time of death. Absence of fly maggots or evidence of a disturbed life cycle can show tampering with a body. So I think we should raise a glass to thank the humble fly for aiding the silent witness team in their work.

_DSC0654

While the fly is never going to be as popular as butterflies it’s colours can be just as impressive of what nature can achieve. I will finish with a recommendation for a children’s book that makes you think about whether to splat the fly next time it’s in the house annoying you.

The fly-Peter Horacek

IMG_0870

30 days wild 2017: day 1 dens, apps, bees

Today marks the first day of the wildlife trusts 30 days of wild. Each day of June I will be indulging in one act of wild. Each of these are a small act of nature appreciation. From enjoying a cuppa outdoors, listening to the dawn chorus, to taking walks in nature. They will vary from quick 2 minute activities to whole excursions out.

Last year I managed to do something each day, but some days were quieter than others. However this year I am working back, teaching, in Foundation Stage so have more opportunities to be outside at work. Alice, my toddler, is now walking and is keen to explore. So this year I think we can manage more than last year. One aim, for me this month, is to improve my knowledge of nature. From doing 30 days wildlast year I’ve learnt lots, but again I want to go further. So with this in mind I’m going to be writing focus features on different wildlife I see regularly.

The 30 days wild has a wonderful online community with a active Facebook group, twitter hashtag #30dayswild and a whole host of bloggers. If you’d like your Facebook wall to have something other than election fever I’d recommend signing up to the Facebook group.

Me and Alice started off the day quietly catching up on BBC Springwatch episodes 2 and 3. Alice seemed quite interested in the newts, but not as excited by the jays as Michella and Chris were. She went back off to play.

IMG_0871

She did however perk up for the owls and went to one of her toy boxes and pulled out owl. Coincidence or signs of cognition?

IMG_0873.JPG

After her morning nap we drove across to Hull to meet family for a swim, then back for lunch at my parents in their garden. Since I did thirty days last year my dad has added a lot for nature. He’s always fed the birds, but has branched out a lot with more insect homes, frogilo, hedgehog feeding stations and hedgehog gaps.

My parents garden has has always been well looked after and is all looking good right now. The alliums and delphiniums were seeing lots of Bee action. I logged a few sightings for the Great British Bee Count achieving my first random act of wild for 30 days, follow a Bee. Predominantly white tailed bumblebees with a few early bumblebees.

Alice achieved a second act of wild by playing in her den. Cheating a bit as it was a tent rather than built from scratch. But getting it together was a hassle. It is however a ladybird, which adds to its wild credentials. I will be building dens properly later in the month for den day.

Alice got a new tea set amongst other lovely presents from her great aunt. She enjoyed walking around with it immensely.

_DSC0916

The nephews were bug hunting with strange hover devices. In my day it was a pooter and if you were lucky you didn’t swallow any bugs. They did catch one wasp, which was released before becoming too enraged and a lot of woodlice.

_DSC0901

And then squeezed one last wild act in. I installed the wildlife trust nature finder app.

Not bad for the first day of 30 days. 3 acts covered.

  • playing in the den.
  • follow a Bee.
  • Download the nature finder app.

Focus on sparrows

As part of improving my wildlife knowledge during 30 days wild I am aiming to research a bit about common wildlife I see. The first focus on one of the commonest visitors, the humble sparrow.

Sparrows are a regular visitor to my front gardens bird feeder and an irregular visitor in the back garden. They are social little birds usually arriving in pairs or often coming on their own to be followed by another. They can be found across the UK all year round and in almost all habitats, although they are disappearing from cities.

Through the eighteenth  century sparrow bounties were offered in many parishes to keep numbers down. Being fond of grain crops they were considered a pest. These sparrow clubs continued until the 19th century when it was realised it wasn’t helping.

_DSC0661

Despite being one of the most common birds on the planet their numbers have dropped dramatically (up to 60%) over the last twenty years, particularly in cities. Different theories have been put forward from car pollution killing insects to lack of nesting spaces.

_DSC0663

During the breeding period (April to August) protein is of great importance. Promoting insect life in your garden can help. Alternatively food like meal worms can help this.

_DSC0692

Being social they like to nest in groups, so a run of nest boxes together can help. When numbers start to drop it is hard for numbers to go back up as they appear to like the company. So it is important to help before it’s too late. The RSPB sell nest boxes designed to help this.

IMG_0869

For more information:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/h/housesparrow/

http://www.garden-birds.co.uk/birds/housesparrow.htm

Why Sparrows struggle to survive RSPB podcast

And I’ll finish with a male sparrow caught mid snack.

_DSC0812

A year in review

So it is time to start 30 days wild again and a year on from starting he blog. Alice is now one and a lot has happened over the year. Alice has grown, we moved house and I’ve changed schools for a promotion. So as I get set to start 30 days wild again I’m going to use this blog to look back on the amazing events of the last year.

For the first 30 days I was taking part in the 30 days wild, so every day had some activity. Each day had something good, but here are a few highlights.

My class getting beetles was popular with the children.

The Great British Bee hunt was great fun with the class.

IMG_20160619_100913

Setting up the trail camera at school brought some great footage that amazed the kids.

Untitled

After the 30 days were up my wilding still continued.

By August we had moved home and I’d started the RSPB homes for nature. Amongst the most exciting thing to come from this was the discovery of a visiting hedgehog in the garden.

September saw speckled wood butterflies, giant moths and a moth for Amy.

October saw us take Alice up to Robin Hoods Bay to Alice’s grandads house and a walk down to the seafront.

December saw the garden frosted over and some nice crisp walks and my Christmas present the baby howdah.

January began with people throwing themselves in the cold North Sea. The big garden birdwatch saw a good variety in the garden. We even had a few days of sun to go to the park.

February saw a trip to see the blade, a giant instalment part of the Hull City of culture. Through the month we saw lots of signs of Spring being round the corner.

March saw my birthday, the garden starting to come together and a visit to the wildlife photographer of the year exhibit.

April was a busy month with walks out to the seafront, blossom on trees, lots of butterfly sightings, trips on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and finally starting at my new school with its outdoor area to develop.

April also saw lots of Robins.

May has seen me get stuck into improving my school outdoor classroom.

My own garden is really coming into its own now with lots blooming or set to.

We finished the month with a lovely trip to Wassand Hall where I was happy to photograph rabbits and a fox.

Most exciting of all the year has ended with Alice turning one and learning to walk, opening up a whole new world of adventures.

_DSC0768

_DSC0679

Taking part in 30 days wild set much of this in motion and I’m glad I took part. It taught me to appreciate many daily little pleasures nature provides. That nature contact also enlivens all other areas of life teaching me to appreciate my life, my family, friends and everything I have going for me. I look forward to the next 30 days.

A hidden gem

Today has been wet and miserable, so we decided to head out to the garden centre to do a quick run out for compost. However we never made it. We’d forgotten garden centres are where people go for bank holidays, so we turned round in the car park and came back the way we’d come. We didn’t head home though we made the decision to go to Wassand Hall.

Wassand Hall is a regency house just outside Hornsea. The mere where we visit regularly is part of its estates, but neither of us have ever been to the hall and gardens. But I’m glad we decided to today. The hall hosts an amazing arboretum with some enormous specimens of trees that have the feel of a Canadian wilderness.

_DSC0706

There was a vintage car display on, although neither of us has any interest in cars we were amused by what classes as vintage.

We didn’t pay the extra for entry as it didn’t look great for pram manoeuvring. But it has the look of a setting for a MR James or Caranaki ghost finder story.

The walled garden were restored in 1997 and contain a series of courtyards. They follow standard country house layouts, but done with style. The first courtyard is square shaped with the standard fountain and laburnum arches in the corners, nothing to rival Bodnant Gardens but pretty nonetheless.

_DSC0697

_DSC0725

The outer wall was covered in honeysuckle. If it had been a sunnier day I imagine this would have been awash with insect life, but the drizzle was keeping it subdued.

_DSC0713

The other courtyards comprise a pond, a herb and vegetable patch and the cafe. The greenhouse apparently contains a succulent collection, but didn’t notice this.

 

_DSC0726

After finishing in the walled gardens we went back round to the vintage cars to enjoy a Mr Moos ice cream. I had a rhubarb and ginger, while Amy and Alice enjoyed a raspberry ice cream. Being Mr Moos it was top notch.

Across the field were some of the cows I assume make up chestnut dairies herd, who supply our local milk.

_DSC0752

Refreshed with ice cream we left the halls garden to walk along a bridal way away from the hall.

We saw lots of bee activity on the wild flowers.

_DSC0757

_DSC0772

The pram was going to struggle going any further so we got Alice out to practise her newly discovered skill of walking.

 

 

_DSC0768

On the way back to the car I spotted a still orange form in the cow field we’d passed on the way to the buttercup field. It was so still we weren’t sure if it wasn’t a sculpture, but as we got closer we saw flickers of movement. I was very excited to see the fox. While I knew they were in the area since moving to Hornsea I haven’t seen any of these lovely creatures. It seems appropriate that on the day people marched in London to keep the ban I’d spot a fox.

_DSC0779

_DSC0789

We saw it disappear back into the bushes as we went on, but then up ahead further excitement as I spotted a rabbit. A bit too far for a decent photo.

_DSC0793

But as went along the path I caught sight again amongst the trees.

_DSC0800

_DSC0799

An excellent end to a tremendous walk on a day we weren’t sure we’d go out. Wassand Hall was a wonderful hidden gem and I’m sure we’ll revisit.

Quest for a hat

Today me and the family headed out for a walk to the Freeport Shopping Centre to look for a new sun hat for me. The day has been lovely with the sun out bringing all the visitors to Hornsea beach. The route to Freeport took us along the seafront first fighting our way through the crowds of bank holiday visitors.

After that we turned away from the seafront to go along the old railway line. It was Pleasantly  cool in the shade.

_DSC0667

Birds, butterflies and bees flew back and forth across the path. The cow parsley is all flowering making the path a haven for pollinators. There are still some trees in blossom making the route a wonderful mix of green and white.

_DSC0668

We made it to Freeport through the cemetery, which wasn’t too busy as with the baking sun most people had headed to crisp themselves on the beach. I found not one, but two hats as they were on two for one. I wanted neck cover to stop my neck getting burnt gardening and when I’m doing outdoor duty at work. Now I’m back in Foundation Stage I’m out for full mornings.

On the way back Alice was restless in the prom kicking her legs.

_DSC0670

The last few days she has started to walk without support of holding onto one of us. So we got her out to have a walk in the cemetery. Initially she wanted to hold onto both of us, then just Amy.

_DSC0675

Confidence gained, she was off on her own. She’s very proud of herself. We’ve had little tantrums of frustration the last month as she’s wanted to be off, but couldn’t manage. So it’s nice to see her managing. Now we can start building up the miles ready to go exploring.

So while many in our area have been off at the radio one big weekend Alice is walking amongst the daisies in her own Woodstock with her psychedelic vest.

_DSC0677

_DSC0679

We seem to find robins each visit to the cemetery and today was no exception. He was hopping close along the branches, perhaps interested to see Alice’s new walking development.

_DSC0681

The flowers laid out were drawing in a number of butterflies, but only captured the red admiral.

Then back along the railway line I captured a snap of a crow in flight. I like seeing the close up of the wonderful wing structure of this ever stylish black shadow gliding into the trees. They are spectacular birds in flight.

_DSC0685

 

_DSC0686

So a successful shopping trip out. A nice stretch of Alice’s legs and some wildlife spotted along the way. I love how much we can do within walking distance of our house.

IMG_0868