Amphibian and Reptile survey #30DaysWild

Its the last day of the 30 Days wild challenge today and the weather was warm and dry for a change.

I spent the day in Flintshire, Wales on a survey with ARC (Amphibian and reptile conservation) as part of the Dragonscapes project.

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The project is looking at reptile populations and distributions in North East Wales, but today we were looking for amphibians as well as reptiles.

We walked through grassland, meadow, woodland and around old ruined buildings. There are lots of fantastic trees here which are great for wildlife and no doubt home or shelter for a lot of creatures in the area.

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We walked around old ruined buildings looking under logs and stones. These old buildings make great habitats for a number of creatures, and crevices in walls are great places for reptiles and small mammals to hide.

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One of the standard techniques for surveying for the presence of reptiles is to lay out felt mats or metal corrugated sheets (known as refugia) in suitable habitats. Artificial refugia are frequently used and are a reliable method for assessing reptile presence on a sites. Reptiles are attracted to the warmth that these provide and take cover underneath, sometimes coming out on top to bask in the sun. These refugia can then be checked for the presence or absence of reptiles and amphibians.

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Following the ARC conservation officer for North Wales we came across the refugia and got ready to carefully lift. Under the first refugia we lifted there was a toad, which was lovely to see.  Under the other refugia sheets we saw a palmate newt, several toads and lots of spiders carrying egg sacks under the refugia; and when we lifted one refugia a little field vole came scurrying towards me and into the long grass at my feet.

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Of course, as I was walking around today I couldn’t help but stop and admire the other wildlife, fungi, trees and wildflowers. There was an array of different lichens and fungi. There were beautiful orchids and a stunning ancient oak tree.

Unfortunately due to the recent wet weather and muggy conditions, there were hundreds of horseflies eating us alive, though on the upside there were also lots of swallows flying close to the ground eating them.

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To end the day I even got to hold a slow worm and I swear I could feel live young wriggling inside her and I am convinced I caught a glimpse of a barn owl too.

I had a fantastic time in North Wales today surrounded by great friends and wonderful wildlife.

I love nature.

Raining again #30DaysWild

It has been pouring down again today so I decided to have a nature day inside.

I made the decision that my collection of small bones needed moving into a bigger display box. I have a few large skulls but my favourites are the tiny teeth and skulls from owl pellets. Its amazing to see the different shaped skulls, jaws and teeth.; like the red tipped teeth of a shrew or the zig-zag shaped molars of a vole.

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I love dissecting pellets as they containing valuable information about the bird, it’s habitat and the small mammals it feeds on in the area.
I like to have some bones, teeth and skulls displayed as a reference, but I also have a great pull out chart from FSC which is a help also.

After admiring them and looking at them under a microscope, I found them a new home in a display case with a lot more compartments incase I find anymore bones.

 

After lunch I had a nice relaxing time watching my favourite nature dvd – Badger Watching With Gareth Morgan.

It is such a beautifully shot dvd, very informative and a must for any badger lovers.  I love the way the badgers know their names and trust him enough to take biscuits gently from his hand. Its magical to watch the relationship they had and I often find myself wondering if the badgers are still there and who is watching over them now.

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For tea my other half brought home fresh horse mushrooms. I don’t really know much about edible mushrooms but luckily he does. I suppose all this warm wet weather has been ideal for them to grow. He fried them in butter and we had them on toast. It was delicious and so full of flavour but I think i’ll leave him to the foraging  as a lot of care must be taken when collecting from the wild, especially mushrooms.

 

 

Secret garden #30DaysWild

It has been a rainy day again today so I decided to stay in and start looking through the endless wildlife footage I have choking up my computer.

A few years ago I remember smelling the scent of a fox in the garden and I knew there were also hedgehogs so I was intrigued to find out more and buy myself a wildlife camera. After much debating and help from NatureSpy and Iolo Williams I finally decided to buy a Bushnell Natureview camera.

It is the best thing I have ever bought. I feel like I have now unlocked a secret world in the garden and I have learnt so much from the videos and photographs.

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I think at least 3 foxes visit the garden. A male, female and a young one. I always love watching footage of them.

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There are little wood mice that pop up in different parts of the garden, but my goal is to try and get footage of the voles and shrews too. I think they are camera shy…unlike squirrels, who regularly photobomb 🙂

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I was even surprised when I caught a duck and moorhen on camera which were visiting the garden. There is even a resident reed bunting here.

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Looking through the videos it makes me realise just how important it is too put food, fresh drinking water and bird baths out in the garden. They are all used regularly and there is nothing more lovely than watching a bird splashing about happily in a bath.

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Of course, its not just birds that love fresh water. Many insects and mammals drink from the dishes we put out, especially the hedgehogs.

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I had a great surprise today looking through my wildlife footage. I recently put out a small mammal tracking tunnel in the garden and placed my camera next to it with the close up lens to see what i’d capture.

When I went to collect the tunnel I noticed it had been moved which was strange. The paw prints from the tunnel were a bit messy and showed hedgehogs had been in the tunnel. I thought no more about it till today.

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It suddenly all made sense when I saw what the camera had captured.
Grumpy the hedgehog had found the tunnel first but then a young hedgehog came into the tunnel. Well Grumpy doesn’t like sharing food and pushed the little hedgehog about the place. Grumpy was so annoyed even the tunnel gets pushed. Grumpy by name, grumpy by nature I think.

Check out the footage on my Facebook page here

Or on my YouTube page here

I can’t wait to put the camera back out and see more footage of the little hedgehog and I will have to name it. So far there is Grumpy, Prickly and Snuffles but there are obviously more hedgehogs in the garden to see.

Owning a wildlife camera brings so much joy and gives me access to a secret wildlife garden I would never normally get to see.

 

Lazy day in the garden #30DaysWild

Its that time of year when the fruits are forming on the the trees and the soft fruits are getting their colour. I love watching those delicate blossoms fall like confetti followed by the formation of tiny fruit ready to be picked in Autumn.  I always look forward to tasting the first pears, apples, damsons and plums of the season and it looks like there will be a good crop too this year.

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It wont be long now till the soft fruit is ready to pick. Ice cream at the ready waiting for those mouthwatering tayberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants. Yummy!!

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After doing a spot of gardening I sat down by the thick carpet of white clover and watched the many bees happily buzzing from flower to flower in front of me. I see a flock of fledgling long tailed tits eating the whooly aphids in one of the trees, a robin tugging at a worm in the grass, a blackbird having a bath and a woodpecker and a jay squabbling as to who has the peanuts out of the feeder next.

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I then went for a walk around the garden. I like to see if there are any wildlife tracks or signs. I normally find hedgehog poo on the lawn, nibbled nut left overs from the wood mice and squirrels or the smell of fox under a tree.

I stumbled upon what I thought was another mole hill, but on closer inspection I see a nest of meadow ants in the small earth mound busily going about their daily business. They have made there nest in a small clump of grass and wildflowers were they help keep the soil porous and manage the aphid population.

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There are so many insects about today in the sunshine and I’m glad. These insects are gardeners little helpers. Without pollinators there would be no fruit, or flowers; so be kind to your bugs and bees and give them a home, and in return they will help you in your garden.

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There is so much more to gardening than just dead heading flowers, mowing and weeding. The closer you look the more you will see in your garden. The more you see, the more your garden will come to life and enrich you.

So from time to time put that trowel or spade down and just sit and really appreciate the overlooked things in your garden and the wonderful joy your garden brings to you.

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More than birds at RSPB #30DaysWid

Its been a beautiful warm day so I decided to go to my local nature reserve for a wander about.

The nature reserve on the Dee Estuary straddles the border between Cheshire and Wales and has vast panoramas of Wirral and the Welsh hills, as well as an Iron Age hillfort and habitats of reedbeds, fenland and farmland.

Burton Mere is small in comparison to some RSPB sites but it is filled to the brim with wildlife. The wetland is home to breeding avocets, lapwings and hosts the largest little egret roost in the North. At the nature reserve I spotted godwits, a woodpecker, spoonbills, warblers and shelducks just to name a small few.

The place is teeming with a great variety of birds but RSPB don’t just look after our bird life.

As I walk along the paths at Burton Mere I notice the array of stunning wildflowers. There are orchids, oxeye daisies, vetch, red clover, alkanet, birds foot trefoil and many more.

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As I take a closer look at these exquisite wildflowers I see all the different insects hovering, buzzing and resting upon them. I see false oil beetles, hoverflies, horseflies, red tailed bumblebees, cuckoo spit and much more.

There are dragonflies and damselflies darting about the ponds, brimstone butterflies fluttering about the grassy verges and hairy caterpillars and spiders crawling across the wooden boardwalk.

If you are really lucky you may get to see a little vole scurrying into the undergrowth, a water vole bobbing up from the water or a glimpse of a stoat rushing by.

As I walked along the path I caught a glimpse of female and male common lizards basking in the sunshine.

Before I left I stopped to see the naughty squirrels taking the nuts out of the bird feeders and the ducks collecting seed that had fallen on the ground.


I’m very lucky to have such a fantastic wildlife place on my doorstep.

Nature spotting at a steam rally #30DaysWild

After the mornings heavy rain the sun peeked out from behind the clouds and shone down upon Cheshire.

I rushed out into the garden to gather in the tracking papers from my small mammal tunnel I had left out over the week. The papers were wet but soon dried out in the sun and thankfully the water didn’t affect the prints…phew!

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Little hedgehog paw prints are all over the papers, though I am quite surprised there are no rodent prints yet as I know there are wood mice, voles and shrews in the garden.

As it was turning out to be a nice day I decided to go to Kelsall Steam Rally, Cheshire. I was determined not only to see the usual vintage machinery but to see what wildlife I could spot while I was there.

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Luckily for me, the steam rally is held on farm land. As I walked across fields of white clovers I saw swallows swooping and diving for insects along the hedgerows and around the farm buildings. I went in the farm out-buildings and saw shire horses and 2 beautiful foals.

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I have never been very good around horses as they sense I am wary of them so they too act wary of me, however the shire horses here were brilliant. They were so well natured and gentle, and one even came to me for a stroke, which made my day. I saw cows in the barn and one came over curious to see us. I stroked her nose and got a big lick. Their tongues are like sandpaper!

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I had a great day out in Kelsall and am glad the weather stayed lovely and sunny. When I got back home I sat in the sunshine with a lovely cup of tea and a slice of cake watching the beautiful rosemary beetles and bees on the lavenders. The perfect ending to a lovely day.

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Conwy Nature Reserve #30DaysWild

RSPB Conwy nature reserve is situated on the banks of the beautiful Conwy Estuary with magnificent views of Snowdonia and Conwy Castle, and was created by the RSPB after the opening of the Conwy tunnel.

I was amazed how near it was to the A55 and wondered how many times I must have driven past and not realised this little gem was here.

There is a network of paths and boardwalks running throughout the reserve leading me to viewpoints overlooking the lakes, reed beds and the estuary. From the many hides I saw egrets, shelducks and geese. As I strolled along the many paths I saw blackbirds, chaffinches and a marsh warbler; as well as dragonflies, bee orchids, purple orchids and many bees buzzing around the flowers in the sunshine.

The ponds next to the estuary provide ideal feeding and roosting places for ducks and wading birds as well as other wildlife. I even saw wild ponies nibbling the fresh green shoots coming up from a shallow pool.

The nature reserve is just amazing, with a backdrop of the most stunning scenery and an ideal place to wander for a few hours, plus the staff are really helpful and friendly.

I look forward to visiting many more times.