Friday, 25 November 2016

A Lincolnshire Rookery

  This blogpost isn't about a Rookery of the feathered kind, more the blubbery kind :)
  It's November and so already a month into one of the best wildlife events you can see on the East coast.The Lincolnshire coastline becomes a nursery for Grey Seals.Upwards of 2000 seals take over the mudflats at Donna Nook, about 25 miles North of Skegness.

  The Cows arrive to give birth while the Bulls arrive in hope of mating and having their own offspring born on these sands next Autumn.The females will suckle their pups for less than 3 weeks with their fat-rich milk before once again being ready to mate.
  Hungry pups being fed.

  There is plenty of conflict within the nursery with females getting to close too each other's pups.

  The more violent clashes seem to happen when the Bulls get a bit too confident in their pursuit of a Cow before she has weaned her pup.In this case he will abruptly be told where to go.

  It's a fantastic place to get a glimpse into the lives of these marine mammals and be able to watch the interaction between Mum and pup.
 Pup Love

 Muuumm, I don't want a kiss!

Let's play Mum, can I chew your flipper?

  The Seal numbers are just reaching their peak but some Pups will be still around til early January so still plenty of time to make a trip to the Lincolnshire coast and view this amazing wildlife spectacle.
  I will leave you with a few photos of some of the cuties there this week ;)

  Many thanks for reading.Get out there and enjoy our Wildlife :)

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Hog CRazy!!

  You know you are losing your mind when random things pop into your head. Earlier today I was thinking about doing a blogpost on last weekends Badger Trust Conference that I attended in Hertfordshire and how I unfortunately missed a talk by Hugh Warwick, Ecologist and Hedgehog expert and whilst thinking about this, the following sentence appeared in my head???

   "Twas through the leave the spikes did come"

  Except for the Hedgehog link I have no idea how that particular sentence was formed in my head. I wrote it down and as I was sat in the car doing nothing, thought of a few more lines to go with it lol

  It's now a part of the following poem I called - "A Hedgehog Year"
  ps I do not usually have random poetry coming out of my brain so this is a new thing for me ;)

                                  A Hedgehog Year by Stuart Pike

                       Twas through the leaves the spikes did come
                       To make my Hoghouse it's Winter home
                       Snuggled inside, sleeping among the leaves
                       In warmth and dry, avoiding the Big Freeze

                       For the months til Spring, she will hibernate
                       Then once again, will rise to find a mate
                       If successful, in Summer tiny Hoglets she will raise
                       Feeding and protecting them during the warmest of days

                       The young suckle, having Mum's milk pass their lips
                       Til 4 weeks later she takes them on real foraging trips
                       Into Autumn, food is plentiful and so they ate
                       Piling on the grams and so reaching their optimal Winter weight

 Well I won't be releasing a book a poetry anytime soon so don't worry ;)

 On a more serious note please do keep an eye out for young Hedgehogs that may be out during the day and need help to get through the Winter.
 We have a local Hedgehog hospital in North Lincolnshire so they will be more than glad to help if you are in the area.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

I Got The Twitches

  Okay, I'll just start by saying I am not a twitcher.I am just a regular Birder who enjoys being in the company of any of our Avian friends whether it be Goldfinches in my garden or skeins of Barnacle Geese flying in from Svalbard to Winter in the UK.
 Due to health, work and finances I am not someone who is able to drop everything and spend hundreds of pounds rushing up to the Outer Hebrides to try and see an Eastern Kingbird for instance(though I'm sure it would be very nice to do).If something interesting turns up a bit more locally then I think it would be rude not to go pay the feathered traveller a visit ;)

  Twitch One (Sept 2016)

  A few weeks ago a large blue chicken arrived in my county of North Lincolnshire.At the time I was still in Ireland and so had to hope it would stay til I got back(I didn't need to worry as 6 weeks later it is still there lol).A Western Purple Swamphen(usually found along the Mediterranean and Southern France)had decided to drop in to Alkborough Flats just 20 minutes from my house so after arriving home from Ireland at 12.30am on Sunday morning (due to a 2.5hr delay on a 40 minute flight) I was up and out by 7am in hope of seeing it.
  When I arrived at Alkborough Flats a group of birders and twitchers(as some had come up all the way from Hampshire) were already in attendance along with tv naturalist Mike Dilger who was filming for BBC The One Show.It's always great to catch up with Mike who is also a patron of the Spurn Bird Observatory.They had already got some good footage of the "Moorhen on steroids" as Mike put it and was now chatting with birders to edit into the clip for the program so I got my 3 seconds of fame on tv lol.
  My very brief The One Show appearance on BBC1;)

 The Purple Swamphen was a bit too far for my camera lens to get a clear shot so this is what one looks like just in case you see it on a lagoon near you :)

  Twitch Two (Oct 2016)

    Anyone reading newspapers, watching the news or social media may have noticed the first UK appearances of a few Siberian Accentors over the last couple of weeks.One such bird landed at Easington near Spurn Point, a regular birding patch of mine especially during migration, so a trip had to be made.
  We arrived at around 7am just as the morning light was waking and walked down the lane to join a small queue of impatient birders.We were soon joined by fellow Hen Harrier heroes and young birders Findlay Wilde(with chauffeur and Mum, Heather) and Georgia Locock.
  The Siberian Accentor was very accommodating, foraging just a few metres away in between getting hassled by the local Robins.It's mind blowing how such a small bird can make it to the East coast of Yorkshire all the way from Russia and the Far East.
  Siberian Accentor

  Findlay & Heather Wilde on the left having one of those birding moments you never forget :)

   Not only did I have the privilege of being within feet of the Siberian Accentor, I also saw my first ever Shorelark too in the scrub along the beach.

  Other birds around Spurn included Dusky Warblers, Pallas's Warblers, Raddes Warbler, Ring Ouzels, Tundra Bean Geese and hundreds of Goldcrests, Fieldfares and Redwings.Spurn is truly a Birding mecca.

  If I go to find a rare bird in my local area does that make me a "twitcher" or just an enthusiastic Birder? I'm not there for a life tick, I just want to marvel in the diversity of bird life that we are fortunate enough to share the British Isles with :)

Thanks again for reading and for getting me past 10,000 views :)

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Rats, they're not that bad are they?

  Yes, this is a quick write up about Rats.I think it's safe to say that most people's love of Nature does not extend to these highly adaptable, furry fast multipliers (in a breeding sense not Mathematics) Myself, I think they are fascinating to watch.People see Rats and think of disease or their voracious appetite but they are capable of amazing things.
  Just read about HeroRATS which are put through months of training and save thousands of lives through mine detection and TB detection and you realise how incredible these rodents are.You can even adopt one on their website below ;)

  I live next door to one pub and almost opposite another one so I occasionally see the odd Rat in the garden trying to reach the bird food but this week I had the chance to watch a whole 'mischief' of Rats, the most I counted at once was 13 scampering around.They were taking advantage of the food on offer at a feeding station in a Yorkshire Nature reserve.
  This tree stump of food was the main prize with up to 6 Rats on the top at any one time.A larger Rat(I will call Hulk after the wrestler Hulk Hogan not because he was green) arrived and started to take control.

  This dominant Rat seemed to sniff every other one that climbed on to the stump.If it passed its "smell test" they were allowed to feed if they didn't , it resorted to fisticuffs followed by being unceromoniously thrown off the stump.A bit like a Rat Royal Rumble, hence the name Hulk.
  The sniff test


  Dumped off the stump.

 I continued to watch their behaviour with interest with the younger, smaller Rats foraging around the stump and on the ground under the bird feeders.These younger ones were very wary of the Moorhen brigade and if they came too close the Rats scarpered off down their holes.

  Keeping an eye out for those pesky Moorhens.

  While watching the Rat entertainment another couple walked into the hide but as soon as the woman saw the Rats she turned and walked straight back out with her partner close behind, saying to us "She really hates Rats!"  lol
  They end up as prey victims for everything from Birds Of Prey, Foxes, Stoats, Weasels, Grey Herons and Scottish Wildcats so they do have a role to play in our ecosystem, even if there are maybe a few too many (estimated UK population around 80 million).
  Next time you come across a Rat, instead of hitching up your skirt and jumping on to the nearest bench ;) just observe it for a minute and appreciate its tenacity :)
  Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Hen Harrier Day 2016 - Peak Protest

  A year on from Goyt Valley means it's once again time for us "mithering anti's"(I prefer to call everyone who attended "Wildlife Heroes") to voice their disgust at the continued murder of our Hen Harriers and destruction of the Natural ecosystem of the moors.
  From the removal of Predators such as Foxes, Stoats, Buzzards, Corvids(some legally) as well as the culling of large numbers of Mountain Hares due to the fact they may pass on diseases to the Grouse and of course the Hen Harriers(definitely not legally).The estate management aims to create a landscape devoid of biodiversity in order to breed an unnaturally high population of Grouse.All that matters is the size of the Grouse bag after the "Inglorious 12th" so anything that affects those numbers needs to be removed by the management.Throw in intensive heather burning, destruction of carbon-dioxide storing bogs, higher flood risks, lower biodiversity in waterways, then you have a lot of WRONG things being done just to please a few.

  Anyway , back to the "Good Guys" and Hen Harrier Day 2016.Twelve events were planned around the UK including the great day organised by the tirelesss Stewart Abbott that we had at Edale in The Peak District though due to adverse weather The Cairngorms event had to be cancelled :(
  We stayed over the previous night at a local pub which had great food and now new beer mats :)

  Around 400 people travelled to the High Peak and joined us to say "We want the law upheld and our Hen Harriers protected!" The stage was set(literally) by Nigel, Findlay & Harley Wilde though I'm sure Heather helped too ;)
 Henry was already out and about mingling with the increasing crowd of his adoring fans.

  Alan Davies(author of The Biggest Twitch) had offered to be host and after a slight sound system problem(rectified with rope and a step ladder) he soon had the crowd cheering and applauding every word and was an inspiration in between announcing the guest speakers.

  Instead of me trying to get the speakers passion across, you can listen to them yourselves.Just click each click and watch each of the amazing speeches.

  First up was Findlay Wilde, Young Birder Of The Year, Young Conservationist Of The Year and someone who will be a massive influence on conservation in the future.

  Hardyal Dhindsa, Police & Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire.

  Dr.Mark Avery, environmental campaigner, blogger and author of "Inglorious"

  Jon Stewart, National Trust General Manager for Peak District
Sorry no link yet but he is part of the team responsible for making a big statement and removing a grouse shooting license from a nearby estate :)

  Natalie Bennett, Leader of The Green Party who made an 8 hour round trip to come and support Hen Harrier Day.

  Tim Birch, Conservation Manager with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
Sorry no link yet for Tim but he spoke very passionately about what the vision is for the Peak District.Think of a return to a natural ecosystem with Hen Harriers, Peregrines and Golden Eagles back among the moors.

  Told you they are a passionate lot ;) It was also great to meet new Twitter friends for the first time like Mike(@EYbirder) and @MancRockChick and also other friends who were at their first Hen Harrier Day like Linda & Ron Lowndes :)
With organiser Stewart Abbott,Lynne and Natalie Bennett.

  Mark Avery, Natalie Bennett and Henry

  All the Hen Harrier events around the UK were a huge success from RSPB Rainham Marsh with Chris Packham & Mark Avery to RSPB Arne with Iolo Williams,
Link to Chris's speech at Rainham.

  Momentum is building and we will not go away quietly as the BASC, Countryside Alliance and others may hope, we will FIGHT and we will WIN!! On the Eve of the Inglorious 12th, 84,000+ people who joined the cause and signed the petition.
  Please sign and share with everyone you know that cares about our wildlife and environment.Let's get it to 100,000 and raise the awareness even more by having Driven Grouse Shooting debated in the House Of Commons.

  Thanks to everyone who have continued to support Birders Against Wildlife Crime and this important cause by organising, attending or donating to support Hen Harrier Days over the last 3 years.

  Remember all we are asking for is that the law is upheld and criminals who continue to abuse that law be prosecuted for murdering Birds Of Prey that have been legally protected for over 60 years.

Thanks for reading and watching the speakers.Please share to raise awareness of what's happening in our uplands.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Walking For Tigers


  As most of you know Majella and myself have just completed a 10 mile walk along our local River Ancholme through Walk4Wildlife and in aid of Tiger Awareness projects.We had targeted to raise £500 and have surpassed that to our current total which stands at £625 :)
  It all began in May when I came across a retweeted tweet about Walk4Wildlife Events from Mark.After checking the website and finding that the only walks were very far from us I suggested to Mark about organising a walk in North Lincolnshire along our river.He thought it a great idea and immediately added it to the list of walks on the website.We then came up with the date July 23rd for our walk to give us a good few weeks to fundraise and it filled in the gap between our holiday in Wales and our campaigning for Hen Harriers which was also shortly followed by the Birding festivals.The next step was to chose which of the five charities registered to fundraise for.As big Tiger fans we decided on Tiger Awareness.Of course we would love to be in the situation where we could fundraise and help protect every animal on the planet.The hope was that over the coming weeks more people would log in, see the available walk and register to walk with us, fundraising for their own choice of animal charity but in the end it turned out to be just the two of us.It would've been three if Mark hadn't recently damaged his back.Hope you're feeling better Mark :)
  Tiger Awareness Founder Phil Davis became aware of our walk and very kindly sent us a couple of t-shirts which we proudly wore when doing a couple of carboots to boost the funds, and of course on the day of the walk.Two sponsorship forms were printed out, one for people we knew locally and one to be sent over to Ireland for Majella's family to fill in.We also created a JustGiving page to promote on social media.

  So to the big day.......due to my Arthritis I always knew it would be a challenge and having had physio a few days earlier and my physiotherapist advising NOT to do the walk, it just made me more determined to get through it and raise that money whatever.The weather forecast had predicted a very warm day with temperatures reaching over 20c before 10am so to get a head start we set off earlier than planned at around 7.15am.I had already been up since 5am to empty my Moth Trap and get my body loosened up as best I could before starting the walk.
  Setting off from Brigg

  The first 2-3 miles were the easy ones.The newly installed cycle/footpath made walking with my stick pretty comfortable.We kept stopping to watch the insect life emerge from the vegetation into the morning sun.Skipper, Whites, Ringlets, Gatekeepers, Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all appearing on the wing.Swans and Moorhen were busy on the river with their young and Majella had started the walk in Irish Mode(non-stop chatting ;)) so the first few miles quickly drifted behind us.
  Tortoiseshell Butterfly

  This Moorhen collected grass then settled back down on her 2 eggs.

  The first part of the walk along the new cycle path.

  Reaching Castlethorpe Bridge.

  From Broughton Bridge it got a bit tougher, the cycle path gave way to a farm track which had become overgrown since we checked it out a few weeks previously.
  Broughton bridge.

  The grassy farm track.

  Getting to the 3 mile marker.

  With temperatures rising (both in the weather and in me) I was now becoming a walking attraction to the local biting flying brigade which wasn't helping my change of mood.Even the sight of Dragonflies zipping around us failed to stop my irritation.
  Another bridge, the rail bridge as we get near to Bonby & Saxby.

  Reaching half way :) Majella looks happier than me lol

  We continued on, stopping regularly to top up on fluids and Kendall Mint Cake :) , passing another mile marker as we watched a pair of Kestrels hovering over the neighbouring field.A couple of miles later and we could finally see our end destination.The Cement Works we could now see in the distance was only a hundred yards from the pub we were heading for so gave us new hope we would actually make it.The only thing about walking on a straight path is you seem to walk for miles and never seem to get any closer to the building you are walking towards lol
  Looking from Horkstow bridge towards South Ferriby and the Cement Works.

  Half hour later and the Hope & Anchor was a most welcome sight.The only life to meet us were the Mute Swans on the estuary.

  We headed into the shade of the pub, grabbed a couple of drinks(after paying for them ;)) and found an empty table outside.
  Mission Accomplished!! :)

  It did feel a bit strange doing a sponsored walk where there was no one to see us off and no one to see us at the finish so if we had just driven round in the car(which would have taken 15 minutes, not 5 hours) would anyone have been the wiser lol
  As well as the mega importance of raising the money to help Tiger Awareness projects I personally wanted to prove that I could still do something useful and make a little 10 mile walk :)
  Our JustGiving page is still running if anyone would still like to help Tigers and make sure you go and check out the amazing work Tiger Awareness do at ground level with communities in India.

  I have to say a MASSIVE Thank you to my fiance Majella for agreeing to do this with me in the first place as it's not something I could've risked doing on my own.Love you loads :) x

  Thank you also to everyone who sponsored, donated, retweeted,  shared on Facebook and supported us with encouragement :) By working together we can make a difference and help save our planet and the amazing wildlife in it.

  Thanks for reading :)