Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Frustration!

Today I thought would be another day of seeing nothing. However, I pulled into a lay-by and I could suddenly hear a cacophony of birds squawking. I picked up the binoculars (yes, I even take them to work) and scanned for the sound. I soon found three Jays sitting in a tree squawking at something that I couldn't see. Then came along some Magpies, Great tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird and a Mistle Thrush, but I still couldn't see what they were mobbing.
Now I know whatever they were mobbing had done me a favour by adding the Woodpecker and Thrush to my list, but I really wanted to see the culprit, which I suspect was a Tawny owl. I suspected it to be this because it was either really well camouflaged, which Tawny owls are and the fact the mobbing wasn't forcing it to move. Owls, when mobbed, usually just try to ignore it all and go to sleep. However, I will never know because I never saw it after 10 mins of waiting.
Then, a bit later in the day going through the small village of Blythburgh, I could see some small wading birds feeding on the mudflats of the River Blyth, but could I see a lay-by to stop in to observe more closely? NO! So, again, I am confounded by my situation of being a truck driver. 
However, I still got three species today by finding a rather large Leopard Slug munching on a fallen apple in the garden. So that makes me a happy bunny today.

60 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major TM104532 25/01/2012
61 Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus TM104532 25/01/2012
62 Leopard Slug Limax maximus TM188434 25/01/2012

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Falling behind!

Well, yes, it's been a while and there is a good reason for this. I haven't seen anything! Well almost nothing. Friday I saw a Rat running along the hard shoulder, and then tonight whilst attending to the feeding of one of my over wintering bats I spotted a Lacewing and a Cellar spider, known to most of us as a Daddy Long-legs. That brings my total up to 59 species when I should be on 72. Now I know that puts me behind, way behind and I knew this would happen. But I'm not at all worried, as I know that spring is not too far away and nature will provide me with an abundance of species to record (I hope).
So, here's the list so far:

57 Rat Rattus norvegicus TL854679 20/01/2012
58 Cellar Spider Pholcus phalangiodes TM188434 24/01/2012
59 Green Lacewing Chrysoperla carnea TM188434 24/01/2012


Update
Yes, time for an update. Last week I got another bat call making three calls in one week. This bat had no injuries whatsoever and was disturbed by some builders who did the right thing by stopping work and calling me, then calling a bat ecologist for advice.
The bat is another Brown Long-Ear, like the one who was sadly put asleep earlier in the week. I said I would post a photo of the one that I already have hibernating in the shed, but now I have a picture of the one I collected this week.
A happy little bat.
The Pipistrelle that I collected at the start of the week that had been attacked by a cat has sadly passed away. Sometimes the stress of the attack coupled with the stress of new surroundings and being handled, is a little too much. It's a shame as he was doing so well taking his meds and eating until the night before when he refused point blankly to take anything. Next day I found him in the bottom of his box :(

The split wing usually caused by the cat's claw swiping the
bat out of the air.
Above you can see the injuries caused by the cat. As you can imagine, this is a fatal injury to a bat if left in the wild as it is unable to fly and therefore unable to feed. If the bat doesn't die of shock or  predation, it will starve to death. So at least with bat care, it is given a chance.

Until next time my dear followers, take care.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

2 Days, 2 Bats.

Well, September last year was the time I had my last bat rescue call. That was until this week, when I got a call for the Pipistrelle on Monday and then a call to another injured bat, a Brown Long-ear on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the poor little blighter didn't make it and due to a badly, open fractured wrist, which the vet agreed, would unlikely heal back properly and therefore would leave it handicapped. This little bat can live for up to 20-30 years and is a second most commonest bat and it wouldn't be fair to the animal to keep it as a one-armed/winged flightless captive for 20-30 years. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the bat as I felt that when you're in that much pain, the last thing you would want is to be poked, prodded and have pictures taken of you when you're in that sort of agony.
So, let me tell you a little about this bat. As you can imagine it has rather long ears and it's brown. It is sometimes referred to as the whispering bat because it doesn't shout when it echolocates. It echolocates very quietly and will happily sit on a branch and listen out for a fluttering moth to pass by. Not a lot of people know this, but some moths, in a constant battle of arms against bats have evolved to hear echolocation and some can even echolocate themselves to throw a incoming bat off its tail. Well, when you have large effective ears like the Brown Long-ear, that can actually hear the footstep of a moth on a leaf, then you don't have to rely on echolocation so much and can therefore stealthily creep up on your prey without the prey knowing about it. Don't you just love evolution? I do.
So, the second bat makes it on the list even though (sadly) it didn't make it in life. As for photos, I happen to have another Brown Long-ear (one I prepared earlier) in my shed recovering from a traumatic ordeal last autumn. He's hibernating at the moment, but when he wakes up in spring I'll post the pictures of him here.
So here's the updated list with a Goldfinch coming in at 56. Which means I'm only 2 species ahead of schedule and need to spot one or more species tomorrow. Fingers X'd.


54 Common Pipistrelle Pipistrelle pipistrellus TM316481 16/01/2012
55 Brown Long-ear bat Plecotus auritus TM295335 17/01/2012
56 Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis TL724860 18/01/2012

Monday, 16 January 2012

To the bat mobile!

Ok, many of you will not know that I'm a registered bat carer with the Bat Conservation Trust and the Mid Anglian Bat Group (something close to my heart) www.midanglianbatgroup.org . This basically involves rescuing injured or grounded bats and rehabilitating them for release back into the wild. 
So, today I get my first bat call of the year. A woman has found a bat in her house with no idea of how it got there. As soon as I get out of work, I drive up to the ladies house to collect said bat.
It's a little Common pipistrelle, our most popular bat. It only weighs 3-8gms but needs to eat the equivalent of around 3000 gnats A NIGHT! That's some appetite. 
This little fellow seems to have been a bit confused by the recent mild weather we're having and has been swiped by a cat, tearing its membrane on its left wing. This will heal, but it will take an age and plenty of rest so it looks like the little fellow will be with me for a while.



So, it is a wild animal and it does make it to the list at number 54. I will keep you posted as to his progress along with the Purple Hairstreaks, I'll just have to make sure I keep them apart.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sparrow at last!

This morning whilst sitting at the back door, my wife spotted some small bird activity in some trees near us. After both of us observing through binoculars for sometime waiting the birds to come out, we saw the humble little House Sparrow. At last. These little birdies have declined over recent years, which is a bit of a worry. That was the only species I managed to spot today due to me having other stuff to do. 
Now yesterday I promised you the pictures of the Purple Hairstreak butterfly eggs, and I hope I do not disappoint thee with the following offerings:
Egg just below Oak bud.

Same egg under microscope.

Another egg placed at bottom of buds.

Again, the same egg magnified.
As you can see, they are very small and under magnification look sea urchin like. In spring when the buds begin to swell in readiness for opening, the egg will hatch and the small caterpillar will burrow into the bud and devour it from the inside. So, for the time being, I have these eggs inside a little sample jar in the fridge keeping them cool. As soon as I start to see the oaks getting ready, I will remove them from the fridge and place them into a small Geotank on my window ledge, ready to watch the happenings of this lovely butterfly.
In the meantime here's the updated list of everything spotted so far:


44 Barn Owl Tyto alba TL994291 13/01/2012
45 Fox Vulpes vulpes TQ761868 13/01/2012
46 Greenfinch Carduelis chloris TQ762838 13/01/2012
47 Redwing Turdus iliacus TQ761838 13/01/2012
48 Jay Garrulus glandarius TM211247 14/01/2012
49 Wren Troglodytes troglodytes TM211247 14/01/2012
50 Bracket Fungi Trametes gibbosa TM211247 14/01/2012
51 7-Spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata TM211247 14/01/2012
52 Purple Hairstreak (egg) Neozephyrus quercus TM211247 14/01/2012
53 House Sparrow Passer domesticus TM188434 15/01/2012


You'll also noticed that I got the latin name for the bracket fungi (No:50).
Till next time ;)


Saturday, 14 January 2012

An audience with a King

Friday
Well the last 2 days have been interesting to say the least. I had an early start on Friday and was bound for south Essex. When I'm on this journey I always stop for my first latte of the day at Colchester services. I've sometimes spotted a Barn owl here quartering the fields around the services and as I approached the service entrance I started to wonder if the owl was about so I could add it to my list, and low and behold, there silhouetted against the lights of the forecourt was a hovering Barn owl. It then moved off and passed directly in front of me totally oblivious to my presence. This is the problem with this bird. Their eyes are fixed in their head unlike us who have the ability to look up, down, left and right without having to move our heads, coupled with their low flying (rarely 10ft above the ground) they are prone to being hit by traffic. The reason their eyes are fixed is purely for hunting and here's another little interesting fact. The ears of a Barn owl are asymmetrical (not even, one is slightly higher than the other). This enables the owl to locate exactly where a sound is coming from. Now, if you look at an owl's face, you will see it is disc shaped like a satellite. If you look closer, you will see that the disc shape is 'pinched' towards the ears. This directs everything the owl hears towards the ears which in turn causes the owl to turn its head to the direction of the sound. As the owls eyes are fixed, this means the owl is now looking directly at the origin of the sound and as soon as the object moves, the owl will pounce. Usually, the owl strikes with such power, the prey is killed on impact. 
The next species was another creature of the night, a Fox. However, this little foxy was walking down the middle of the road towards me in the middle of the day!
                                            Vulpes vulpes The daylight Fox.
Shortly after this shot came a little birdie in the shape of the Greenfinch, another one of the usual suspects. Now, I have found a little app for my smartphone which helps me identify birds. It has all the basic stuff such as description, photo and calls. However, the call function really comes into its own. Whilst waiting to get loaded, I was parked next to a Sloe bush hedgerow with many little twitterings coming from it. I saw a Chaffinch (already spotted No:6) and wondered what would happen if I played the Chaffinch call from the app. Immediately, the bird which was about 10 foot in front of me flew to the back of the truck. The call played again and this time the bird came back. Each time the call played the bird got closer and closer until I eventually had not one but THREE Chaffinch's within 3 feet of my open cab window looking at me as if I'd kidnapped one of their mates. This app could have its uses me thinks. I tried it out again on a Robin (No:33) which also drew in another Robin and a Redwing. Yay! A new spot :).


Saturday
Today was the work party day with Butterfly Conservation Suffolk at Purdis Heath. This place is an area of heathland that is gradually being encroached upon by Oak and Birch trees which is not good for the Bell and Ling Heather and the Silver Studded Blue butterflies which breed upon them.
I arrived early to have a walk around to see what I could spot. First on the list to spot was a Jay with a flash of blue on its wing. Then as I walked along a Gorse hedgerow I saw a little brown flit down low to the ground. I suspected that the little brown flit was the a Wren. Only one way to find out, out with the phone and play the call of a Wren and before the call had finished, there stood on a twig at eye level two foot in front of me was the King of all birds, the Wren!
The King??? I hear you say. How can this little bird be a king? Well, are we sitting comfortably? Then let me begin.


Once upon a lovely sunny summers morning the Swallows were arriving from their long flight from Africa and they were regaling all the other birds with their stories of their travels. One of which the birds told, involved the Lion, which the Swallows said, was the king of all land animals. At this the Sparrows chirped up and said "Why don't we have a King?" The Crows agreed and said "Yes, we should also have a King, but who? The wise old Barn Owl said "We will choose our King by having a competition. The bird who can fly highest shall be the King of all birds!".
Well the first to come forward was the Swallows, then the Magpies and then the Kestral. Then all of a sudden a large taloned yellow foot of the Eagle stepped forward and said "I'll try too". All the other birds stepped back and with no other challengers it looked as if the Eagle had won without even leaving the ground. But all of a sudden, hopping through the legs of the other birds came the Wren saying "Let me try". Well all the birds fell about laughing, but the laughs turned into coughs as with a single beat of his massive wings the Eagle launched into the air leaving behind a cloud of dust.
As the Eagle started to climb he looked over his shoulder to see the little Wren emerge from the cloud of dust wings beating frantically. 'This'll be a cinch' though the Eagle as with a few more wing beats he rose higher and higher. Every now and then as the climbed the Eagle would look behind to see the Wren chasing with such fast little flaps. 'This can't go on for much longer' though the Eagle as he climbed up out of the cloud and looking back he could not see the Wren. He waited, but still no sign of the Wren. "So I have soared the highest and therefore am the King of all Birds" the Eagle squawked. "Erm, not quite" said a little voice behind him. Startled, the Eagle turned around to see the little Wren sitting on his back and therefore always being higher than the Eagle.
And so it came to be, that the Wren was crowned as the King of All Birds.
The End.

So, there you go, a little Druids tale about the little Wren, a King.

Well we got down to working chopping and lopping down all the sapling trees we could find and then using the cut down trees to build a long, dead wood hedge. This will be very beneficial to the other forms of wildlife that reside on the heath such as reptiles, insects and birds. And this is where the first invertebrates make an appearance on the list. The 7-Spot Ladybird (No:51) and the Purple Hairstreak Butterfly. Now I know that this is only an egg, but it is still a stage in the lifecycle of this butterfly and therefore should be included. These eggs can be found on the tips of Oak tree twigs, just below the bud. They look like little white/greyish eggs and on closer inspection under an eyeglass or microscope the look like little sea urchins. I found these with a little help from my friend Matt of Butterfly Conservation. He had just cut down a substantial oak tree and as these butterflies spend most of their lives n the upper regions of oak trees started to look for the eggs. I joined the search and found some. I was encouraged to take some eggs (still attached to the buds) home to hatch them on my window sill when the time comes (spring, of course). In the mean time, they are sitting in a jar in the fridge and as soon as I get my digital microscope set up I'll post a photo for you. In the meantime, here's the pic of the ladybird.

                                                    7-Spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata

Then, on my way home I came across this wonderful looking bracket fungi on a stump of Birch.



As of yet, I don't know the proper latin name for this specimen, but have no fear, I'm working on it. 
So the last 2 days have been quite productive and has cheered me up. Sometimes I worry when I think I might start falling behind with my list, but on the other hand, when spring kicks in, there should be an abundance of life allowing me to catch up if I fall behind. 
And I hope to be keeping you up to date with the Purple Hairstreak project. Should be fun, I hope.
Till next time, take care.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Water off a ducks back!

Well after my short dry period, I was rewarded today with 3 sightings and all of the waterfowl variety.


41 Coot Fulica atra SP949685 12/01/2012
42 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos SP949685 12/01/2012
43 Greylag goose Anser anser TL185719 12/01/2012


At the moment, the weather is unseasonably mild with butterflies, bats and hedgehogs still being spotted when they should be hibernating. This weekend I'm on a work party at Purdis Heath and I hope to be adding much more to my tally.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The usual suspects

Well, with most of the usual suspects out of the way, as predicted, it's getting hard already. In the last 3 days I've only spotted 2 more species! It was nearly 3 with a flock of what I thought were Goldfinches flying alongside the truck. However, as I couldn't take a look at them for long enough (trying to keep both eyes on the road of course), I couldn't guarantee that's what they were, so they didn't make the list.
What does surprise me a little is that what was once a common and familiar sight has not made the list yet. I'm talking of the little brown jobbies (as Bill Odie refers to them) Sparrows. I wonder when they'll make an appearance?
So here's the list from the last 3 days, and now what will become more infrequent are my posts. I don't see the need to post everyday, especially when I'm not seeing anything. So don't think I'm getting bored of this already, I'm not. I'm just trying to save you, the dear reader, from getting bored.

39 Mute Swan Cygnus olor TL744060 09/01/2012
40 Starling Sturnus vulgaris TQ726869 11/01/2012


Till next time ;)

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Day 8

Day two of being cooped up on the sofa with this bug :( but the spotting continues.


35 Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocta TM188434 08/01/2012
36 Great Tit Parus major TM188434 08/01/2012
37 Dunnock Prunella modularis TM188434 08/01/2012
38 Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus TM188434 08/01/2012



Saturday, 7 January 2012

A bird in the hand...

Well today I spent mainly on the sofa curled up in front of the fire trying to get this damned cold or chest infection thing, that has been coming on for over a week now, over and done with. However, it's now nearly 8pm and I don't feel any better than I did this morning :(
But, luckily I have a garden and made two new spots today. The first was a Robin which, I learnt a new thing about the other day. Apparently the average lifespan of the Robin is 1.2 years!
The second bird spotted was one I've only ever seen once before, Goldcrest. Apparently Europe's smallest bird weighing only 3.5gms.


33 Robin Erithacus rubecula TM188434 07/01/2012
34 Goldcrest Regulus regulus TM188434 07/01/2012

End of week 1

And so the first week is over and so far, so good. 32 species in the bag so to speak with 5 mammals, 1 fungi and 26 birds. Next week will be interesting as most of the 'easy' species have been ticked off the list.  I also hope to get some more pics up on here, but due to the nature of me being on the road most of the time taking photos is not easy and not recommended whilst driving!
So here's the spots for yesterday:


28 Rook Corvus frugilegus TQ505976 06/01/2012
29 Moorhen Gallinula chloropus TM288335 06/01/2012
30 Long-Tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus TL807128 06/01/2012
31 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea TM050034 06/01/2012
32 Muntjac Deer Muntiacus reevesi TM279351 06/01/2012


Of course, another problem has come up and that is remembering what I've already spotted. Last night whilst waiting to get the truck washed I saw a Squirrel and was just about to record the details to my phone when I suddenly remembered I spotted one in the week. 
Anyhoo, I hope you all have a good weekend whatever you're doing.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Oh deery deery me.

Well this morning it was blowing a gale with a wind speed of 93mph recorded at Sheffield overnight. I was off to Oxford today and knew that the Red Tailed Kite was a definite tick to the list and as I trundled up the M40 they suddenly came into view soaring on the high winds with so little effort. These really are a conservation success story and over my years of driving around the UKI have watched these birds gradually spread eastwards around the country from there original breeding programme in the west. 
Now I know I said I would grab a picture of this beautiful bird, but I forgot my camera unfortunately, sorry! 
Anyhoo, here's the list of todays spots:

23 Red Tailed Kite Mivus milvus SU761938 05/01/2012
24 Red Deer Cervus elaphus SU475929 05/01/2012
25 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris SP511006 05/01/2012
26 Lapwing Vanellus vanellus SP677021 05/01/2012
27 Fallow Deer Dama dama TQ570927 05/01/2012



Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Not much today

Well today was a complete contrast weather wise with lovely blue skies. But already it's getting harder with only two species today. However, tomorrow I'm off to Oxford way where I'm bound to spot a Red Tail Kite and hopefully some other little birdies. I'm will try to get some pics if possible.


21 Lesser Black Backed Gull Larus fuscus TQ761863 04/01/2012
22 Rock Pigeon Columba livia TQ761863 04/01/2012

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Back to work.

Well, back to work today. Up at 3am and the weather was dreadful, with a gale blowing and rain lashing down I knew I wasn't going to see much. As it got lighter, the weather got worse, the heavens opened and it was all I could do to see the road.
However, the afternoon proved to be much better weather wise with blue skies and sunshine and with it came the roadside wildlife.


15  Canadian Goose Branta canadensis SP692954 03/01/2012
16   Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone SP977728 03/01/2012
17 Pheasant Phasianus colchius SP992739 03/01/2012
18 Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus TL167719 03/01/2012
19 Buzzard Buteo buteo TL181718 03/01/2012
20 Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo TM125509 03/01/2012


As you can now see from the above list, I've started recording grid references (the proper way of doing it).  I've been playing with my iPhone (personal Xmas gift to me!!!) and found that with the 'Outdoors Great Britain' app and voice recorder I can just rattle off what I see into my handsfree as I trundle down the road.
Don't panic, I'm paying attention to the road at all times, what I see is either flying above me or (as in the case of the Sparrowhawk) directly across my path just missing me by inches, thankfully. Some of the other things like the Squirrel, might be running alongside the road or standing in a nearby field. Unfortunately, I could've really upped my list today as in the roadside trees and in the fields I saw what I thought might be Fieldfares or Red Wings, Jays or Waxwings and many other things that I thought might be a certain species but couldn't be sure without an oggle through the binoculars (Not a good thing to do whilst driving).
But hey, today I should be on 9 species and I'm on 20 instead. Woohoo!!!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Dunwich Heath

Day 2, and a little bit farther afield today, Dunwich Heath. Already know some of this area quite well when I helped with some bat surveys last year. The weather was lovely and bright, yet very cold and chilly. So what did I see today? The list continues...


Red Legged Partridge Alectoris rufa Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Coal tit Periparus ater Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Jackdaw Corvus monedula Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Magpie Pica pica Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Blackbird Turdus merula Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba Dunwich Heath 02/01/2012
Kestral Falco tinnunculus Parham 02/01/2012
Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis Parham 02/01/2012



So as you can see, I'm almost 4 days ahead of myself! Which is a great help as I'm back to work tomorrow (groan). Yes, I also know that many of those above are everyday sightings for most peeps and it will be easy at first. But once they're all out the way, things are going to get harder!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy new year!!!!

Well it's here at last, 2012. The party season is over and already the shops are sticking easter eggs on the shelves. But I'm not here to harp on about the rights or wrongs in society, there's enough people to do that. I'm here to share with you my experiences with nature in Suffolk or wherever I can find it. I've set myself a challenge for the year 2012 with me having to record 1000 species in the year. Now I know that only equates to 3 species a day, which is not a lot. However, I'm away driving most of the week, which only leaves me with weekends and not every weekend can I devote to wildlife watching (I'm married). So, it's not going to be as easy as it seems, me thinks
I know that in the beginning, it's gonna be pretty easy with me spotting all the common ones, but once they're done, things will start to get hard. Roll on Spring!
So, went for a walk on Purdis Heath today and managed to kick start my list off with the first three:


Name Latin Where Date spotted
Wood pigeon Columba palumbus Purdis Heath 01/01/2012
Blue tit Parus caeruleus Purdis Heath 01/01/2012
Phyllotopsis nidulans Phyllotopsis nidulans Purdis Heath 01/01/2012



P nidulans.


So, day one, 3 down 997 to go.
Happy new year