Yorkshire Wildlife Trust-North Cave Wetlands

Today Amy was off for a day at the races, so I decided to take Alice for an adventure further afield. We’ve worked our way through a good area of our more pram accessible local bridleways and public footpaths. So we headed out to one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves at North Cave. The last time I went to the wetlands was just before Alice was born March/April time. It was an amazing time to visit for the birds as there were a lot of nesting birds including sea birds and migrants. The reserve is being developed further with large areas set to be turned into different habitats. This was just getting started when I last visited.

The site was originally a quarry that has since had areas dug, some filled with topsoil to make the islands and lakes.

Currently the main centre is a large lake. From the photo you can see the islands are providing a whole host of birds homes. The area has been managed to provide a mixture of shallow and deep lakes giving a wide range of birds suitable habitats.

The shallower lakes and reeds offering a number of waders homes.

The number of species of wildlife is immense. For me to go through all of what I saw would provide a months worth of blogs. I would have my head buried in field guides to a point where my partner would be pulling her hair out in desperation at losing her partner. So I’m just going to flag a few key species I either liked or was happy with the photographs I had taken.

I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. I didn’t think the birders would appreciate her giggling and running around the hides. The paths are designed with either tree lines or embankments to stop visitors disturbing the birds, particularly important in the breeding season. So as we gave the hides a miss I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. That said I still saw plenty.

Swans and lapwings. You have to love the lapwings crest, like a quiff gone wrong.

What I think is a pochard. I’m working on my knowledge of waders, so I don’t just have to say duck for everything vaguely similar.

What I think were house martins, from the tails and as they were stopping in the trees.

A few coots on the edge of the lake.

While I may not have seen as many birds as if we’d gone in the hides insect pickings were high. The shallow lakes and pools provide perfect habitats for dragonflies and damselflies.

The vast majority of the dragonflies I photographed are common darters. I did see a few different varieties I think I saw hawkers, but still building a knowledge of dragonflies.

I saw a number of damselflies in a number of different colours.

The variety of butterflies was astounding. Next year for the butterfly count I may need to visit North Cave. I also added one more species to this years sightings and saw flashes of what might have been different species.

The small tortoiseshell.

A mixture of whites. Butterfly Conservation have a good ID guide to distinguishing between the main cabbage whites.

Meadow brown butterfly.

A peacock.

A speckled wood

And my new sighting of the common blue. A rather stunning shade of blue particularly the furry thorax.

There was plenty to see low down as well with this rather striking cinnabar moth caterpillar.

The accessible areas are worth a visit, butt one of the amazing aspects of North Cave is that it still has massive areas being developed. New lakes are being excavated in two new zones.

While the areas don’t look like much now from photographs the areas will hopefully provide homes potentially for lots more species. Of high interest to me are the marsh harriers and stoats. By offering slightly different wetlands in each area the reserve is going to be an amazing space, providing for a massive variety of species. With 38.98 hectares it’s going to be a lovely large area. I hope a visitor centre is planned in to the new areas.

Alice wanted to go each bench as we went round, insisting on pulling her self up. On some she sat and watched the lakes, others she wanted to be straight off.

She quite enjoyed the hide at the end of the road as it had a large glass window for her to look out of, but I think the path back to the car was actually her favourite area. She had to be in the pram around the lakes perimeter, so she was happy to get out for a run. She did enjoy investigating the stones on the path, but did part with them before we left.

North Cave Wetlands are a superb testament to the wonderful work the Wildlife Trust do. Through there planning they have created an area that is supporting such an amazing wealth of life. Careful management of a disused quarry has created a site that on its own justifies my membership fees. Well worth a visit.

http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/north-cave-wetlands-nature-reserve

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Haiths-Niger Seed Bird Feeder review

Last week I was contacted by Haiths-Bird food specialists asking if I would review one of their products. I agreed and I have been sent their niger seed feeder and a bag of their seed mix to go with it. So with the disclaimer out of the way that I received the product for free lets take a look at the feeder.

The feeder itself is well made. A nice solid metal construction. The top comes off when you lift it up with the handle. The bottom also comes off for you to give the feeder a good clean out, which it is important to do. It’s particularly important if you are in an area bad for bird flu as it helps stop the infection spreading.

The feeder comes with a handy plastic pull out sleeve which you put in to make it easier to fill. Niger seed is small and falls through holes in most feeders as you fill. With this you put the sleeve in, fill with niger seed, then remove the sleeve when it’s at the feeder.

The feeder looks smart on the bird station. It’s a good size, so shouldn’t need filling straight away again. It looks attractive and the metal gives it a look of quality rather than some of the flimsy plastic feeders. Not that the birds will care, but nice for me.

The seed itself is Haiths own mix. It looks good quality. The seeds are the rich dark brown/black colour they should be. If you buy bird seed from a shop you’re meant to avoid niger with too many seeds that have dried out to the lighter brown as they’ve lost their oil rich goodness that will help the birds particularly in winter.

The previous niger feeder I had only had a couple of tiny holes and I was never sure all the birds that enjoy niger seed could get in, especially when damp I think it got clogged, so we’ll see if this with multiple holes is better.

Since hanging the feeder today I’ve seen one juvenile goldfinch investigating, but didn’t eat. Goldfinches are one of the main visitors to niger feeders and you couldn’t really ask for a more charming looking bird. Goldfinches didn’t used to eat from tables, but have become more common in the last decade, which makes for a pleasant sight in the garden. Niger seed is popular with other finches and siskin’s. However I’ve never seen siskin’s in the garden so unlikely they’ll suddenly arrive from a new feeder. So we’ll see how popular this feeder is and I will update as we get visitors. It usually takes a few days for new discoveries on the bird station to start seeing regular visitors.

http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

While this was free for me in exchange for a review if you check the website you’ll see a good range of products. The feed is reasonably priced and cheaper if buying if larger quantities. The delivery was quick and products were well packaged. I would try buying from them when I next require some wildlife supplies for my garden. I have my eye on getting a more traditional wooden bird table.

Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

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Big Butterfly Count

Yesterday saw the start of the Big Butterfly Count. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation to monitor butterfly numbers. Many species of butterfly have suffered over the last decade. But if we don’t put figures to the declines protection won’t be put in place.
Within my garden I will probably only see a handful of species. I see plenty of varieties of whites. However they don’t stop for photos much. The red admirals are more obliging.

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Ringlets are common on my walks.

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Speckled woods I see in my garden and out and about.

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Small tortoiseshells are a less frequent visitor to my garden, but common enough in my area.

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Then occasionally I’ll see a peacock.

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On the Big Butterfly Count website there is an ID sheet to download to help support identification. I’ve printed and laminated an A3 one to go outside in my outdoor classroom near the bug hotel to encourage the children to keep their eyes out.
Sightings can be submitted on the website here. My garden has a few more butterfly attracting plants than last year, so we’ll see if I spot anything new this year.

New Naturalist Library

Just a quick mention that a number of the Collins New Naturalist Library series are selling for 99p on Kindle currently. The New Naturalist series covers a wide range of Natural History. They are lovely in there hardback forms, but can be pricey. So 99p is a bargain as the quality and content of the few I’ve read has been excellent.

Woodlands-Oliver Rackham

The Isles of Sicilly-Rosemary Parslow

Yorkshire Dales-John Lee

Gower-Jonathon Mullard

Nature in towns and cities-David Goode

Shallow Seas-Peter Haywood

Brecon Beacons-Jonathon Mullard

They are usually fairly hefty tomes, so I won’t get through them quickly with my limited reading time. But as several are covering my area of the country I’m interested to read.

 

 

30 days of wild: Day 11-open gardens

Today started with catching up on the last Springwatch. Alice was a bit more interested today. She seemed to like the owls, but less interested in kestrels.

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Then after her nap we headed out. Today was open gardens in Hornsea. A handful of generous people opened their garden to the public for a donation to raise money for Marie Curie cancer charity. The first we visited was down by the mere was owned by an ex-teacher who now has a workshop making lovely sculptures. Some willow, some metal. Many were on display in her beautiful garden.

I particularly liked that they had made use of the field behind their house. They’d set up a seating area to look out onto a field of wilderness owned by the mere. I also like the pond adding to the biodiversity.

The second was just near one of Amy’s sisters. The back gardens are small courtyards overshadowed in part by their neighbors houses. To get to the house we went round the back alley. The couple who owned the house had moved up from Peterborough two years ago. In that time they’ve clearly put in a lot of work on the garden. Though a relatively small space they had worked wonders making a lovely hideaway. We stopped for tea and scones, which didn’t do any harm to the enjoyment of the garden either. Alice enjoyed digging in their slate path, picking and dropping the stone.

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The next garden was long and narrow with a slope and a little pond at the bottom. He said he’d just been in a year, so doing pretty well so far. I saw a good variety of bees: carder, white tails, miner and what I think were some solitary I didn’t know.

The next garden of over the memorial gardens. It had a decent sized front garden with a long patch of lavender at the front. There was also some interesting black plants, which I’m seeing around more recently.

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The back garden is on several tiers with a pond lower down and larger trees up the slope. The large size of the garden allowed large blocks of planting, which looks more impressive than what I can manage within my garden.

There was even an air raid shelter built by the French posted in Hornsea.

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The next garden had a lot of Buddhist and Chinese influences with statues and bonsai dotted around.

We didn’t notice on entry, but in the corner was a chicken coop.

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The next garden had lots planting for wildlife, bird feeders and insect homes. Alice enjoyed having a good explore. Lots of planting to my taste honeysuckle, lavender, clematis and foxgloves. Lots to attract in insects.

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It was getting late on, but one more garden owner kindly let us have a look around even though it was the end time. It was a massive expanse, with paths winding around the garden. The kids were very lucky with a tree house hidden away.

I spotted a number of speckled wood butterflies hidden up high and plenty of Bee activity all over.

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We didn’t make it around all the gardens as we had a late start after Alice’s nap. But the ones we did get round were spectacular. I’m grateful to the owners for opening up. Not only as it raised money for a good cause, but we also had a lovely afternoon pottering around. I think within my garden I need to look at larger clumps of the same flower for effect rather than all spread around. Then I need a better height progression in my borders. A very enjoyable afternoon and weekend.

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.

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

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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.

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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.