In Good Company

Do you remember my blog post back in September where I raved about how fantastic a certain group called A Focus On Nature is? And I’d gone to their conference and got caught up in an adrenaline high from being around so many young conservationists? Well, I’m back in that mode again!

There is a reason for this mind, it hasn’t just suddenly occurred. I spent a recent Sunday at WWT Slimbridge with a number of other members of AFON. It was great to see them again, and meet new friends. Despite being surrounded by birds, I soon honed in on fellow moth-ers and was nattering again comparing our catches (still haven’t come across anyone catching more than 61 December Moths, so am chuffed with that).

Of course, I did appreciate the birds, how could I not? This visit to Slimbridge saw me ticking off a number of new species for me (both for the year, and for life) such as Bewick’s Swan (looks a bit like a mute swan) and Pintail (which is just such a lovely bird, it’s plumage is stunning!). In the captive animal area, I saw my first harvest mice. Now I’ve seen lifesize illustrations, but it wasn’t til I saw these mice in person that I realised just how tiny they are! It’s ridiculous! So absolutely teeny tiny! Naturally highly adorable, even to the self-admitted non-mammal lover in the group.

During the day, we also watched (via a large screen), the spoon-billed sandpipers being fed – also adorable, heard a talk given by Mya-Rose Craig (aka birdgirl) where she highlighted the oil spill in Sundarbans and the lack of action, had a tour by the senior warden Martin McGill and had an absolutely scrumptious meal at the local pub (highly recommended, both the main and the delicious ice cream!).

Below are various other birds also seen during my visit:

All in all, it was a great day out – many thanks to AFON, and in particular to Matt Collis who arranged the whole day!

Also in December, I had a quick visit to a Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve – Woods Mill. There is a lovely pond, which must be absolutely buzzing with dragonflies and damselflies during the summer months! It was very still on my visit, a tranquil place to sit by and relax. Though not completely devoid of activity, as I was soon joined by a friendly robin looking for some food. Unfortunately I had to disappoint the little bird as my pockets were bare.

As it was quite still, I took the opportunity to just take a moment and look at parts of nature I might otherwise walk past.

Other blog posts about the AFON visit to WWT Slimbridge:

Wader Quest:  http://www.waderquest.org/2014/12/afon.html

Amy Robjohns: https://birdingaroundhampshire.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/a-focus-on-wwt-slimbridge/

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Round and about the place

Winter has set into place in mid-Wales, with some heavy frosts providing some slightly scary commutes (mainly getting out of a very icy driveway!) and even the first snows being reported (and then remaining in place on the very tops of those looming hills).

On one of these oh-so-frosty-and-blimey-it’s-cold(!) days, I headed over to Pant-y-dwr for their Christmas Fayre with a stall for work. It was lovely to meet local people and chat about local wildlife and nature reserves, with a small quiz to test their ID skills. Naturally, I included some moths – two of my favourites, the Canary-shouldered Thorn (which can be seen in this blog post) and the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (which can be seen in this blog post). A number of people were surprised that they could be moths, after all, moths are viewed as stereotypically being brown, dull and boring! So I have converted a few more people to my Moth Appreciation cause!

To drive there, I went through Gilfach Reserve (what a fab commute hey!). As previously mentioned, it was very frosty! I absolutely had to stop the car and take a few photos because it was just stunning! There is something about frost and nature that is just fantastic. Wait, erase that … nature is always fantastic, no matter the weather!

Later on, I joined the volunteer work party at one of the reserves – Llanbwychllan Lake (which I have previously visited, you can read about my visit here). They were cutting down trees in order to help the wetland grass area – it was very boggy (since I’ve just said wetland, that’s kind of obvious) so I got to wear my fantastic wellies that I got when I was with Dorset Wildlife Trust, they’re so comfy and warm! Due to so much being cut down, a lot of the wood was being burnt in bonfires, which my inner pyromaniac was loving! Fire is just so entrancing, and there is something magical about the wood being burnt.

Oooh, pretty fire

Oooh, pretty fire

As I write, I’m back in London, and have visited my local park. I’m not going to lie, it’s nothing special (as far as I’ve found out anyway) but it is lovely there, and I’ll pretty much always approve of big green spaces that are used by local people. There are a group of ring-necked parakeets living there, and boy do they make a racket sometimes! I didn’t manage to get a decent photo, but the photo below gives you the gist of what one looks like. I also saw a decent sized flock of goldfinches, plenty of starlings, magpies and crows, and very excitingly – a great spotted woodpecker! Although I didn’t get a photo of it (grr!). My dog helped me out with finding wildlife, obligingly picking up a stick that had some interesting slimy stuff on it. Naturally, I photographed it and tweeted it – current suggestion is a Crystal Brain Fungus (thanks Sean Foote and Ryan Clark!).

On a slightly related note, my Caymanian relatives have also found some interesting wildlife recently – one photo of which was put on Facebook and I was tagged because it was of two moths, and everyone knows how much I love moths! Their photos reminded me of some of the wildlife I had seen when visiting them, and I thought I would add in a butterfly photo of mine from Grand Cayman.

And to end, an urban sunset photo.Sunset across the roofs of London


PS – My writing is been spreading out from this blog, including this recent post on the A Focus On Nature blog, where I wrote about Chesil Beach and Gilfach. There is a post every day during the Advent period by members of AFON, on the theme of their favourite reserve / patch. I couldn’t decide, so went for both places!

PS #2 – I’m thinking of doing another species / taxon group profile blog post soon, do let me know what you would like me to write about! Perhaps a certain moth? Or maybe a group such as newts or dragonflies?

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A Weekend of Firsts

This weekend has been one of those really great couple of days, there’s been fantastic wildlife, half-decent weather and some lovely people (and dogs). I spent it working up at Gilfach – the visitor centre is opened up at the weekends when the salmon are leaping so that people can warm themselves up after watching out for them. On either side of manning the centre, I went down to the viewing platform to see if I could see the salmon myself, and I did indeed! There were some impressive leaps, it’s really quite spectacular. I only got one photo, it is really blurry!

Watching the salmon is quite funny, there’s a little bit of a trick to it. You need to be really patient – they’re typical wildlife in that they make you wait around a bit. And since it’s mid-November, it’s important to layer up so that you don’t get cold. Then it’s a case of just watching the falls. I find myself getting quite mesmerized, going into a bit of a trance. Normally, I’m in the middle of daydreaming, when suddenly a salmon leaps and I get startled, almost like I’ve forgotten why I was there!

A very blurry salmon

A very blurry salmon

I commented to someone there, that it is a bit like cheering on someone in a race, because you’re going “oooh, go on, you can do it!!”, but they don’t always make it and sometimes end up being washed downstream again. I honestly don’t know how they do it, the water is really flowing fast down the River Marteg, crashing down over and between the rocks. It’s not quite loud enough to drown out your thoughts, but it isn’t far off!

My commute in this morning was intriguing, it felt a bit like the valley was on fire – the trees were yellow / orange / red in colour, and the mist was down across valleys. The photo below is at Gilfach, when the mist has lifted a bit, and the trees aren’t so bright, but you get the gist. Whilst driving through the reserve, I also saw a Green Woodpecker which was fantastic. I’ve seen Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually seen a Green before. But now I can definitely say I have!

With spending two days in a row at the reserve, I was not going to miss the chance to put my moth trap out! I put out the work one, which has a MV (Mercury Vapour) bulb (i.e. really bright). I wasn’t expecting too much, it was a bit chilly overnight and it’s quite late in the season. I was thinking maybe between 5-10 individuals, from maybe 2 or 3 species. Boy was I surprised when I open up my moth trap, it was one of my highest catches for individuals. Better yet, there were 4 new species for me – December Moth (P.populi), Winter Moth (O.brumata), Red-green Carpet (C.siterata) and Scarce Umber (A.aurantiaria).

Even more exciting, the number of December moths was really rather extraordinary! I counted at least 61 individuals, and talking to a few moth-ers, anecdotal records seems to be that only a few are caught usually. So 61 does seem pretty amazing! I’m hoping to get in touch with Butterfly Conservation and find out what the highest amount of these moths caught in one night is, maybe I have a new record (unlikely, exciting stuff like that doesn’t happen for me!).

Talking of species, I’m thinking of becoming a pan-species lister. This involves keeping a record of EVERY species that I see in the UK (there are a few rules, but it’s not strict and people can pick and choose which ones they follow). I’m probably quite low in numbers currently, because I’ve not been keeping exact records for most things (particularly botanical!), so I will probably have seen more than my total will add up to.

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A visit to heaven, and a busman’s holiday.

You may be quite intrigued by the title of the blog post, but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to find out what it applies to. A clue though, it is to do with my weekend off. To start off with, I shall fill you in on my working week.

There has been a lot of office work this week – I’m creating a large spreadsheet from scratch, with thousands of entries, so that’s taking up a lot of my time. I can’t say it is the most exciting of work, but the spreadsheet will be very useful once it is in existence, and I’m coming across a variety of scientific names which amuse me – one of my favourites so far as been Veronica beccabunga, which is a plant called Brooklime. I often listen to the radio whilst typing as well, need to catch up on my favourite BBC Radio 4 comedy!


Thursday saw 60-ish local primary school children descend upon Gilfach Reserve for an organised day of environmental education, organised by the Radnorshire Outdoor Learning Network Group. It was a fantastic day where the children and teachers tried out a range of cool activities, including my favourite of river dipping! I reckon it’s my favourite because (a) you get to wear wellies, and wellies are awesome, (b) the children are discovering what is literally a whole new world – minibeasts underwater, where they can learn all about the fascinating adaptations, (c) it’s pretty much always lovely down by a pond or river, (d) more reasons that I can’t think of right now. You can find out more information about the great day we had over at RWT’s Facebook page.

Now onto the title of this blog post. This weekend I’ve had one of the ‘parentals’ visiting and on Saturday we took a little trip over to somewhere that is heavenly for the both of us – a town FULL of bookshops, antiques, charity shops (with more books!), boutique shops and a fabulous stationery shop. Can you guess where I’m talking about? If you guessed at Hay-On-Wye, aka the “town of books”, then you would be 100% correct, well done! Now I know this has little to do with nature, however I just had to include it in this blog post as I had so much fun there! I managed to resist buying too much, and it was lovely to have a potter around looking in all the shops and admiring the books (something I do often as a bookworm).

Sunday was spent on a busman’s holiday as we went over to Gilfach Reserve, and what a perfect day we chose for it! It was gorgeously sunny with just a touch of a breeze. It was great fun to introduce my mum to somewhere I loved – her first word when we entered the reserve was “Wow!”. NB: Gilfach does look absolutely stunning in autumn! She comments that it does feel like stepping back in time – very much in keeping with “the farm that time forgot”, and pleasingly (for me) that “there was more to the visitor centre than I expected”. We had a very relaxing time visiting all my favourite spots on the reserve – one of the fields near the visitor centre, the waterfall and the picnic benches at Pont Marteg (near the entrance to the reserve). We listened to the birds, admired the rushing waters and peered at interesting insects.

We then proceeded on to somewhere I had heard much about, but hadn’t got round to visit, the Elan Valley. What a fabulous spot, and we had both completely underestimated how the expanse of the valley – it is HUGE! As I asked at one point, “How many dams [and reservoirs] are there?!” I was rather pleased as I managed to score a moth record in a new location, a Canary-shouldered Thorn resting in a corner of the visitor centre. I believe the visitor centre staff/volunteer were rather bemused by my enthusiasm for the moth, but then, it is one of my favourites as it is a great example of how moths can be just as pretty as butterflies!

Being the stereotypical enthusiast that I am, I was soon pointing out the ID features of various wildlife to my mum (including the former insects), particularly discussing the trees by the dam. Below are two features of one tree, an Ash tree, which was one of the first trees that I learnt to identify – back when I was volunteering/working at ZSL London Zoo (Ash can be used as food / enrichment for a range of animals including giraffes). The two features I remember most are the leaves and the buds.

  • LEAVES: The leaves you see on a stem are actually called leaflets, and are in pairs with an odd one on the end. The leaflets are pointed and slightly toothed.
  • BUDS: The buds are rather distinctive, they are black and quite ‘velvety’ in in appearance (in the photo below, you can just about make out the black buds).

Having had a yummy lunch at the Elan Valley visitor centre, we decided to squeeze in some more food with tea and cake at the Penbont House Tea Rooms, and I’m very glad we did. First, it was very yummy. Second, it was very quaint with cute china. Third, it has a fantastic view looking out from the Tea Rooms. Fourth, we loved watching the cheeky chickens looking for crumbs. Fifth, I had a very close encounter with a chaffinch who evidently didn’t realise I was there and came to less than a foot away from me! It was great because he was obviously looking at me, but hadn’t realised that I was not just a new part of the furniture! I am gutted that I didn’t have my camera out, but I didn’t dare try because I didn’t want to scare him off!

Last but not least, I finally stopped off on the route back from Rhayader to take a photo of the wooden sculpture on the side of the busy road. A brilliant celebration of local wildlife – an otter chasing salmon.

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Adventures and Learning

I’m writing yet another blog post whilst tired and in recovery from a fantastic few days. Seems to be the way of life for me at the moment, but I’m not complaining!

The week began with office work, which I might have previously thought to be a bit boring. However, I’m working on some exciting projects so the office work is actually enjoyable, especially as I know that the projects will have good end results (fingers crossed!). Additionally I was still buzzing from the AFON conference the week before (hugely inspirational and amazing and such!).

It wasn’t all office work mind, I was instructed to go explore some of RWT‘s nature reserves aside from Gilfach. So I took myself off to Llanbwchllyn Lake, where I had an enjoyable time admiring the lake and the wildlife. I saw one of my favourite birds, the Great Crested Grebe, which is a species that I’ve not seen in ages so I was rather happy.

I also took the time to really appreciate nature, sitting and closing my eyes, listening to the sounds around me – the rustling leaves, the babbling of a bird, the buzzing of the insects. It was nice to take a step back from my usual stance of taking photos of everything and trying to identify everything, and just appreciate it being there. I did also my eyes again to take photos (but without trying to identify the animals).

The reason I’m so tired is that I’ve just got back from a three day ecology course on Animal Diversity, held at the lovely Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. Wow, what a course! My head is absolutely full of fascinating information and interesting facts – sea urchins have a funky anatomical feature called ‘Aristotle’s Lantern’, over 95% of all animals are invertebrates, and platypus (platypi plural?) are really rather odd!

I’d like to take this opportunity to say just how awesome these ecology courses are – they’re provided by the Lifelong Learning department of Aberystwyth University, and they are such fantastic value (£80 early bird for a 10 credit module)! I have done a number of modules now, and I am working towards getting my Certificate in Field Ecology, which is rather exciting. However, the modules can just be taken separately, and even just for fun! Because I love them so much, I have now become a Student Rep for the Ecology courses, so looking forward to getting even more involved with them!

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I’m not holding out for a hero – I just met loads of them

This week’s title came to me as I was driving away from the conference and listening to my music and the classic ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ started playing, and I realised that in terms of young conservationists – I just met loads of heroes at the conference!

My brain is spinning as I write this, I’ve literally just got back to mid-Wales and somehow need to transform my random notes into an understandable and hopefully quite good blog post. Apologies if I fail, and also for the minimal number of photos – I was too busy taking notes to take many photos!

So why is exactly is my head spinning? Well, on Friday and Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend one of the best conservation events I have ever been to, and I’ve been to a good few events. It was a conference run by A Focus On Nature (website here, Facebook here, Twitter here), which is a network for young conservationists. Imagine the scene, a lecture hall in Cambridge full of passionate, excited and like-minded people … and then you get a tiny inkling of how amazing it was.

Normally when I meet young conservationists, there are normally 1-2 of us (exception being training days back at Dorset Wildlife Trust), so to have a hundred plus was just so fantastic and thrilling.

What actually happened at the conference? There were debates – a highly popular one being Teen Wolf: Unleashing the wild connection in children, a variety of talks (including conservation and politics, and career advice) and my favourite aspect, the workshops. For the latter, I was lucky enough to attend four brilliant ones led by truely inspiring young conservationists and since I enjoyed them so much, I’m giving them a small section each in this blog post.

If you want to read up on what was happening from a variety of people – (a) look at the blogs below, I bet that a number of those will soon have (or already have) a blog post about the conference, and (b) look at the #VisionForNature on Twitter.

Before I delve into the workshops, I just have to say a massive thank you to AFON for the conference, and to Lucy McRobert for founding it. A superb group and the best conference I’ve ever been to! However, minus points to Lucy for pointing me out to EVERYONE in the final stages of the conference (due to all the tweeting I had done). So much embarassment!

Wildlife Filmmaking, with Cain Scrimgeour

I wasn’t sure about attending this, as I’ve never done any wildlife filming (except for videoing zebra for my dissertation, but that didn’t involve worrying too much about the quality of the video). However, I decided that one of the points of coming to a conference was to learn new skills so I put my name down and turned up. I am thoroughly glad I did. First, I got to see some of Cain’s work and it is truely spectacular.

Second, I got to draw out my first ever storyboard! We were partnered up and then set the challenge to come up with a short wildlife film set in the alleyway. The theme of mine was Noticing Nature, with the first shots focussing on small things happening in the alleyway – a dandelion seed caught in a spiders’ web, an insect walking across moss. Then urban elements would start to filter in, you’d see a drainpipe in the background of a fern shot and the double yellow lines next to a feather. Then finally, the shot of the alleyway – which would include everything you’d seen previously. As someone who has never thought about this kind of thing before, I found it rather exciting and enjoyable!

Attitudes and Values in Communications, with Ralph Underhill

Again, I was a little unsure about this workshop, I didn’t know what it would cover. Boy, was my mind blown! Discussions on what values all humans hold and how people prioritise, and how they’re linked together, and how they can be affected by words and other values. It was all very deep, and I’m not entirely sure how much I will remember. However, I will definitely read up on it because I do want to communicate better and inspire more people.

Online Communications, with James Borrell

I was really looking forward to this workshop, I’d come across James Borrell sometime last year and was immediately impressed by all the work he does. In addition, I had noted that he was particularly good at communicating online, so a chance to learn from him was an absolute must! The workshop launched with a discussion on what is science communication and why is it important in conservation? We then went on to talk about the different ways in which to do so and tips for how to do so well. My favourite quote from him was “One person can have a really big impact” because that’s quite inspiring for me to try and become that one person, but also to see if I can inspire others to have an impact.

Waxwinging Lyrical: nature writing and environmental journalism, with Peter Cooper

This workshop was another must for me naturally since I write a blog! As well as discussing the differences between nature writing and environmental journalism, we looked at good examples of both and the benefits of the varying ways in which they can be done. When posed with the question “What can nature writing and environmental journalism do for the conservation movement”, I used a personal example in that my writing this blog and being so enthusiastic in general has meant that friends and family send me photos of things they see. Me being me, I’ve helped them to identify them and then encouraged them to send in their sightings to their local county recorders / national recording schemes! For me, there is almost no better outcome from this blog than inspiring non-conservationists/naturalists to contribute towards conservation.

Coming away from the conference, I feel I’ve learnt a number of things.

(a) I feel utterly inspired. Referring back to the title of this blog post, I met so many fantastic people who are due to be (and many already are) incredible heroes for the natural world. I know that we (yes, I’ve decided to include myself in there) will achieve great things in conservation – both by ourselves and as a group.

(b) Online communications are as important as I thought they were, so that’s a relief.

(c) I have a much greater self-confidence, I know that I have some excellent skills, abilities and ideas. Talking to people reaffirmed this, and I’m excited to continue working within conservation.

(d) Even more excitement, I have an upcoming project in the planning stages that I cannot wait to be launched. Whilst it isn’t ready to be announced publicly quite yet, talking to people at the conference has made me determined to continue with the project as everyone commented that it was a great idea. Watch this space!

(e) That I am getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone. During the conference, I made a real effort to contribute to debates – asking questions and making comments (even in the big lecture hall when everyone was there!), and to network with new people. I can be quite an introvert sometimes, so it was really and incredibly nerve-wracking. I remember tweeting after asking a question in one of the big debates, commenting that I was all shaky from the nerves. But I do have good comments to make and questions to ask, so I made myself do so. Hopefully one day, it will get easier!

As for networking, it’s a vital part of being at a conference. In particular at this one, I’ve made some brilliant contacts – finding people who are interesting in getting involved with my upcoming project, promoting where I work, hearing other people’s comments on something we’ve got in common, and getting offered opportunities!

(f) Finally, I wanted to share my #VisionForNature, shared by Twitter by Beth Aucott. Since my interests lie in engagement, I feel that this is my vision:

Lastly, I wanted to finish with giving you the opportunity to discover some of these amazing young conservationists that I met at the conference, so below is a list of bloggers and then below that, some others who don’t have a blog but at least have a Twitter account, so you can (and should) follow them there). I should note, there is no set order for the people below, I’m literally writing them down as I think of them. And if I have missed out anyone important, apologies.


Lucy McRobert (@LucyMcRobert1): http://www.afocusonnature.org/ *actually slight order preference here as Lucy is the founder of AFON so appropriate that I put her first!

Matt Williams (@mattadamw): http://mattadamwilliams.co.uk/

James Borrell (@James_Borrell): http://www.jamesborrell.com/

Cain Scrimgeour (@cainscrimgeour): http://cainscrimgeour.co.uk/

Findlay Wilder (@WildeAboutBirds): http://wildeaboutbirds.blogspot.co.uk/

Beth Aucott (@BethAucott): http://bethaucott.wordpress.com/

Lucy Radford: http://beinghummingbirds.com/

Josie Hewitt (@josiethebirder): http://blog.josiehewittphotography.co.uk/

Alex Berryman (@ABWildlifePhoto): http://alexberrymanphotography.blogspot.co.uk/?m=1

Amy Robjohns (@amythebirder): http://birdingaroundhampshire.wordpress.com/

Unknown (annoyingly I can’t find the reference of who gave this to me): http://therealark.wordpress.com/welcome-to-noahs-ark/

Sean Foote (@Portland_Nature): http://theportlandnaturalist.blogspot.co.uk/

Ryan Clark (@RyanClarkNature): http://ryanclarkecology.wordpress.com/

Mya-Rose Craig: http://birdgirluk.blogspot.co.uk/

Amy Schwartz (@lizardschwartz): http://southwaleswildlife.blogspot.co.uk/

Peter Cooper (@PeteMRCooper): http://petecooperwildlife.wordpress.com/

A Wildlife Boy (@AWildlifeBoy): http://wildlifeboy.wordpress.com/

Ed Marshall (@edmarshallphoto): http://www.edmarshallwildimages.co.uk/

Stephen Le Quesne (@SLQuesne): *currently won’t load for me, will update soon

Heather-Louise Devey (@feraheather): http://thedenofwildintrigue.blogspot.co.uk/

Other Young Conservationists on Twitter

Joe Stockwell: @Joe_stockwell

Bex Cartwright: @Bex_Cartwright

Sam Manning: @wildlifebloke

Jessica Mead: @jessmeadmarine

Sarah Hudson: @Sludderz

Chloe Goddard: @ChloeMayGoddard

Melissa Spiers: @mcspiers

Nadine Atchinson-Balmond: @nadineatch

Sarah Hodgson: @shodge_7

Emma Ackerley: @EmmaAckerley27

Matt Collis: @MattCollis9

Ricky Whelan: @RickyWhelan

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Beginning to settle in

The past week has seen me working on a variety of tasks at work – including (but definitely not limited to) making new information displays for the visitor centre, writing Facebook posts for the Trust, rearranging some of the interpretation at the centre, starting research into a report that I will be writing and of course, the usual running of the visitor centre for the long weekend (Fri-Mon).

I say “the usual”, but each day is different! I see different species, particularly if I’ve been moth trapping or decide to go out with a sweep net (tomorrow’s plan), listen to a variety of programs as I work if the centre is very quiet (mostly Radio 4 – Just A Minute, Ramblings, Inside Science and Costing The Earth), and every time someone walks into the centre, I know that something new will happen. I have had such a variety of conversations this week – the politics of conservation, the process of CRB checks and the Scouting movement, the bizarre forms of ladybird larvae, and of course, how cool moths are! Inevitably, I meet at least one new dog every day which I absolutely love.

So a round-up of some of this week’s wildlife. Not many butterflies as the summer draws to a close, but I did see a new favourite of mine – the Small Copper Butterfly. And I took a photo of it that is now one of my favourite butterfly photos that I’ve ever taken. It was resting on the wall of the Visitors Centre above my head, and I had to lean into the wall and look up to get the photo. I feel like it’s thinking “What are you doing?!” There were also moths about of course, including some new ones for me such as the Autumnal Rustic, Hedge Rustic and Rosy Rustic (I sense a theme …), and the ever-fabulous Canary-shouldered Thorn.

I also found a dead bee, which made me sad. But I took the opportunity to study it closely, and saw that what I believe is it’s tongue sticking out the mouth. There are three parts to the tongue it seems. Very interesting, and now I want to look into bee anatomy.

Three-part tongue?!

Three-part tongue?!

Towards the end of the week, I went to a local theatre production by Mid-Powys Youth Theatre at the Willow Globe (open air theatre- my favourite!). They were performing Humans On Trial – An Ecological Fable, and they were fantastic! The premise is that humans are trial for their actions against animals. With witnesses, a judge, a prosecution lawyer and a defence lawyer, the crimes of the accused are laid forth and debated. It’s a great play and very thought-provoking. If you get the opportunity to see it, do so!

Next week should bring even more variety as I continue moth trapping, go out with the sweep net, potentially assist on a bat survey, sort through some of the interpretation at the centre (including skulls!) and attempt some wildflower identification.


You can follow the wildlife, news and events of Gilfach by following #GilfachReserve on Twitter!

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Shersby’s back, tell a friend

Well, that break turned out to be slightly longer than planned, but a lot has happened including a life-changing decision, a couple of holidays and more!

To start with, the BIG SCARY life-changing decision. As of the beginning of August, I was no longer a trainee with Dorset Wildlife Trust but on a Jobs Growth Wales position with Radnorshire Wildlife Trust (in mid-Wales). I am now the Assistant Environmental Engagement Officer at RWT!

To cut it short, I do the day-to-day running of the visitor centre at Gilfach Reserve (follow #GilfachReserve on Twitter for wildlife sightings and events!), have started doing some of the social media for the Trust (see my most recent Facebook post!) and will be assisting with events, activities and school groups. There is also the opportunity to do more surveying, which I am thrilled about – I’m already running a moth trap at the reserve and hope to assist others in the Trust with their survey work.

So backtracking to the end of my traineeship in Dorset – despite having a new job to prepare for (and all the preparation of moving house / finding somewhere to live / etc), I still had plenty to get on with. The biggest thing that was taking over my life was planning for the Big Wild Chesil Event, a celebration of Chesil’s wildlife and the work of Dorset Wildlife Trust. It was a fabulous day in the end (albeit slightly stressful since I was the organiser!), and I think my favourite bit was probably trying some Morris Dancing – I do believe there is a photo somewhere, but I won’t look too hard for it!

I also managed to fit in some adventuring before I left Dorset, with the result of seeing a wide variety of species – some of which I hadn’t seen before. Thanks to Sean Foote for doing most of the identification!

Holiday-wise, I went a minibreak to Anglesey with family. We went off to the Anglesey Show which was fantastic! I think the most thrilling bit was the Shetland Pony Grand National, there was so much drama! And it is possibly one of the cutest things I have ever seen! We also went to Newborough Beach where I may have annoyed my parents slightly by stopping to take photos of lots of invertebrates. However, by doing so, I also saw a red squirrel which they didn’t see! No photo though as it was very quick and off in the distance. NB: why was there a red squirrel at the beach? There’s also lots of woodland there!

So yes, quite a lot has occurred and it’s all been a bit mad! But then, that’s life and I’ve been enjoying it, and I’ve seen lots of beautiful wildlife.

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If a tree falls in the forest …

This week has seen a lot of office work again as I try to get everything sorted for summer, and my big event at the event of July. I was lamenting time spent indoors at the beginning of the week when walking back to my car, when a beautiful Small Tortoiseshell butterfly landed on the steps in front of me. What a stunning specimen!

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly

I was let out of the office on Wednesday for some summer tree identification. After some theory and samples in the morning at DWT’s HQ, we headed out to Thorncombe Woods near Dorchester. It’s a nice mix of conifers, hazel coppice and sycamores. It was a lot of un, and I think I’m more confident with tree ID from their leaves, though I do need to practice – quite difficult at Chesil Beach!!

We saw some fab wildlife at Brooklands before we left, and some dragonflies / damselflies at a pond in Thorncombe.

On Thursday, I took the new Chesil / Lorton trainee (Yup, there’s a new one! She’s called Nadine and she’s cool), to Lorton Meadows so she could see the other spot where she would be working. It was a glorious day, though a tad breezy – there weren’t as many butterflies as I hoped. However, our butterfly / Odonata species list was still impressive: Red Admiral, Marbled White, Small Skipper, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Darter Dragonfly, Emperor Dragonfly, Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly. Not bad for a quick walk! There may have been a couple of other species, but they didn’t stay still long enough to be photographed (I’m not good enough to ID most species in flight although I can do a couple now!).

My favourite photo from Lorton - an immature male Common Darter dragonfly, resting on the branch of an apple tree!

My favourite photo from Lorton – an immature male Common Darter dragonfly, resting on the branch of an apple tree!

A short (in comparison to other blog posts) but sweet blog post there about this week’s wildlife. In other news, my extra writing last week about the Ladybird app has since resulted in me being asked to become a tester for the new version of the app AND an Android tester for the Wildlife Trusts app (currently just available in Apple)!

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Wildlife despite office days

Aye, I know, it’s a Monday and I’m posting now instead of a Sunday. But I’d worked all day on the Sunday at a food fair (more later), having camped overnight (therefore an early wake-up) and finishing with a 3-ish hour long drive back to Dorset. Thus I got home and collapsed.

In all honesty, my last week hasn’t been as jam-packed as most of my traineeship has been so far. I begun the week helping the Lorton Conservation Officer with a school group on a river in Dorchester, specifically I was helping with the kick sampling part to find the invertebrates living in the river. We found a nice variety, including a few different types of mayfly nymphs – squat, burrowing, swimming and I think flattened as well! Unfortunately no photos as I was too busy in the river!

The rest of the week was pretty much all in the office. A lot of the work I do means sitting at a computer for a long time, or on the phone! I escaped to Portland one evening and went for a walk on Broadcroft Quarry. There were a few different species of butterflies about – Marbled White, Ringlet, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and a few blues. I also saw some bunnies (musn’t say the R-word on Portland!), and managed to get a decent photo of a Whitethroat (bird)!

Another trip to Surrey saw me being roped into helping my partner’s relatives at a food fair. It was being held at Priory Farm and had a range of local producers. We were selling Yum Cha iced tea, and it was actually very enjoyable. Being in community engagement anyway, I do enjoy interacting with people. Plus I love the iced tea (sour plum flavour is lush – drinking it as I write this post!) so it was quite easy to be enthusiastic about it.

NB: Don’t you just love my scarf here? It was a gift – probably one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

And that’s my week! Like I said, not overly busy wildlife-wise but I got lots done in the office so its swings and roundabouts. Oh, before I forget, I did get featured in the local newspaper, Dorset Echo, for the bird ringing that I helped with a couple of weeks ago. A bit of promotion from last time I was in there – this time I got a photo AND a quote!


With a GBB Gull chick

With a GBB Gull chick

I’ll take this opportunity to bring your attention to my favourite wildlife app – iRecord Ladybirds. It’s part of the UK Ladybird Survey, run by Dr Helen Roy of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. I particularly like this app as you can compare your photo of the ladybird to images on the app, and compare them side by side, which is so useful! As part of the record, you fill in all the usual details – location (can be done by GPS), habitat (options available), number seen, etc.

Ladybird in Wareham

Ladybird in Wareham

Best of all – it’s FREE! I may have graduated but I’m still in student mode and enjoy free things! It’s available on both Apple and Android systems. It’s so easy to do, so I thoroughly recommend it!

I’m also investigating other wildlife apps, so do comment if you do / don’t want me to discuss them on my blog!