Lock Down Wildlife

Since lock down I have been enjoying nature and birding from the garden.  I joined the BTO Garden Bird Watch, which due to lockdown is now free membership.  I have been recording the birds, mammals, insects in our garden and using a camera trap to record the activity throughout the night.  Was interesting to see a Magpie pick-up some bread, take it to the bird bath to make it wet and then eat some before flying off I presume to its nest with the rest.   Over the past 8 weeks I have recorded 18 different species of bird with my Greenfinch being my favourite actually in our garden.

This sunburst shows the reporting rate of the communities of common birds recorded in my garden

We have been building a nature friendly garden with different plants that flower throughout the year, plus have bug hotels, area of long grass, leaf and wood piles, compost heap, pond, bird bath and feeders.  In our bird feeders we leave out sun flower hearts, meal worms, fat balls and occasionally food scraps.  The Carrion Crow likes the chicken leg bones and I caught it on video flying off with them.  Many of the species of bird that I have seen in the garden have used the bird bath including a Jay and a Chiffchaff.

I now have Nocmig (nocturnal migration) equipment to record bird song as they fly over the house.  I leave the microphone out, then analyse the data looking though the sonogram and listening for bird calls.  It is easier to look for birds viewing the sonogram as I can flick through looking at the patterns. 

Grey Plover Sonogram

I have had some surprises of birds fly over garden that I did not expect such as Greenshank, different Plovers, Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Scoter, Coot and Moorhen.  These birds normally are found on large bodies of water such as a Chafford Gorges or the Thames. 

Birds migrate in April as we change seasons and May onwards is the breading season.  I found that birds have different migration calls than they do during the day, such as a female Cuckoo.  There is a group of about 30 of us that share information and knowledge which has helped me learn about the different calls.   

I have a moth trap that has a special bulb that attracts moths towards the trap at night.  The above is a Compact 20w Skinner Trap that I have which runs off of a battery so I can take it to different places unlike mains powered traps. 

I have been catching moths in the trap and with sweep net then putting them in pots so that I can identify them.  Last year I caught my first Elephant Hawk moth which was very exciting.  Recently in the garden I have had Treble bar, Brimstone, Angel Shades, plus many more.  Also I have a bat detector and had a Common Pipistrelle fly over the garden whilst I was moth trapping.

The 3rd May was international dawn chorus day and my dad & I started at 4am on our bikes going to Grays and Warren Gorges.  This time of year birds are calling for mates, plus announcing their presence guarding their territory, if you get up early it is the best time to hear many bird songs.  We managed to see and hear over 50 species of bird, the most surprising was Shelduck that dropped into the water.  We had Song Thrush, Robin and Blackbirds as they were the first to wake up, then the Warblers such as Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and Blackcap joined in.  It was nice to be out with no-one else around listening to the bird songs. 

Sunrise Dawn Chorus Chafford Warren Gorge

I have been going out on my bike whilst also bird watching to Rainham Marshes, Chafford Gorge and Davey Down.  I’ve been using MiMove App to record the trips that I have been making.  The highlights have been a singing Firecrest and Garden Warbler at Davey Down.  Also have had Sparrow Hawk, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Tawny Owl.  At Rainham I located a Great Tit nest in a hole in a pole at a bike restriction gate, which was unexpected.

On Saturday 16th May I took part with a group of likeminded friends from Orkney, London, Oxford, Norfolk, Wales, Devon and Cornwall on a 24 hour garden bird watch.  It was interesting to see the different types of birds that were seen throughout the country.  One had 300 puffins flying off shore, whilst another had a badger visit his garden, plus Bee Eater, Short Eared Owl, Great and Artic Skua’s were also seen.  My best was a Spotted Flycatcher, Cuckoo, Peregrine Falcon, Greenfinch & Goldfinch either heard or seen from the garden. 

Bug hunting has also been another activity that I have been doing in the garden and at the back of my house.  I’ve been using a camera with a macro lens, plus a handheld microscope to get detailed look at what I have found.  I have used my friends, books and the internet to identify different species, including bees, beetles, weevils, butterflies, spiders and other insects.  I have found rare species including glow worm larvae and a Xerolyosa Nemoralis (Spider on found in south east England).  One of my favourite finds was a Green Hairstreak Butterfly.

I have found over 250 different species during lockdown but my actual list is over 350 for the garden and out the back of our house.  Throughout the whole of lockdown from the garden I have managed 80 species of birds, if I include bike rides I’ve seen 110 different species of birds.  The best birds that I have had are Long Eared Owl, Grasshopper Warbler, Nightingale, Little Gull and Spotted Flycatcher.

My dad set-up a fish tank for some Tadpoles so that can watch them grow and have recently started to develop legs and arms. 

We also have some Painted Lady Butterflies Caterpillars that started off very small and have grown over couple weeks and now have turned to chrysalis.  So far two of the five have emerged, I am waiting and am hoping that I witness the others emerging after their transformation. 

Nature has really helped us get through the lockdown period in our house as it is great for your mental and physical wellbeing and helps you relax. 

Bird Fair August 2019

This year British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water is donating its proceeds to Cambodia’s Big 5, White-shouldered Ibis, Giant Ibis, White-rumped Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.

Rutland WaterRutland Water Dunlin Hide

Once we had finished putting up the tent we went to the main marquee to watch Moth Trap Releasing with Phil Stirling and Richard Lewington.  They had good selection including a few hawk moths such as poplar, elephant and privet.

There was heavy rain on Friday that meant the site was very muddy all weekend, but I managed to do a moth trap Saturday evening.  I trapped Peach Blossom, Magpie, Golden Spot, plus a few more that were new.

Few moths from the event and my moth trap

At the Wild Zone we did pond dipping and bug hunting with Mike Dilger and found a lot of different life.  Had a good selection of beetles including ground, lesser stag and violet ground beetles.

On the pond dip we had couple new finds including screech beetle larva, pirate otter spider and a caterpiller.  Our friend Neil known as pond man, Nick Baker, RSPB, Leicester Wild Life Trust and Richard Lewington were not able to identify whilst we was at the show.  We managed to identify it as a Parapoynx Sratiotata moth caterpiller, one of four different aquatic moths in the UK that Richard and Neil later confirmed.

Selection from pond dipping and bug hunting

A handy thing about staying on site is that you can get up early in the morning to catch the early birds.  Such as White Throat, Lesser White Throat, Blue, Great, Marsh & Long Ttailed Tits,Bull, Gold and Chaffinches, Willow Warbler, plus excellent views of Chiffchaffs.  We had a couple trips out on the reserve bird watching including a walk with the BTO younger birders.

We managed to find Black Tern and Ruddy Shelduck and identify ourselves, plus later had help identify Yellow Legged Gull.  A Wood Sandpiper dropped in for a short while then flew off and a Great White Egret stalked for food.

There was also great views of Osprey’s during the weekend flying, on the nest, plus managed to get a photo of one with a fish.

A variety of birds over the weekend

Was great to have so many people on the BTO walk, more than last year.

BTOYoungBirdersBTO Young Birders and Naturalists

OverallI had a great weekend and caught up with many of my friends, plus made some new ones.

Twitter links of some young naturalists that I met
Toby Carter – @tobywarbler
Calum Mckellar –  @mckellar_calum
Kabir Kaul – @kaulofthewilduk
Arjun Dutta – @arjundutta210

Minsmere 5 Jan 2019

Had a good day out at Minsmere, managed to see three types of swan including, Bewick, Mute and Whooper.  Took a long walk at Dunwick Pools to get a Green Winged Teal, new bird for me.  Ended the day with a Winter Moth on the car Window.

Bird Fair 2018

This year’s Bird Fair was the 30th Anniversary and this year’s project was to create a haven for Argentina’s Flamingos.

My favourite part of the weekend was the bird ringing stand and I was lucky to release a Tree Creeper.

There were lots of celebrities at the fair, Nigel Marvin helped us when doing a bug hunt.  We also did some pond dipping and Nick Baker gave an informative talk about pond life.  Bill Oddie and Mike Dilger were funny when on stage doing bird pointless.  Also met Chris Packman, Stephen Moss and Iolo Williams, all were interested in the home made T-Shirts me and my brother made.

We went out in the evening to find some moths and got up early to walk round the hides and saw Opsrey.  Took a walk and found the Red Necked Phalarope at the Goldeneye Hide, though it was distant.  Managed to see 82 different bird species during the weekend of the 115 recorded.

T-Shirts that me and my brother made.


Late Night Mothing at Rainham

Today (08/09/17) was another late night opening and moth trapping .We didn’t go around the reserve because it was pouring down with rain. We set up the moth trap a bit later.

As soon as we set it up a snout flew in and that was the only snout of the night.   Shortly after a Plume moth flew in, but didn’t land so we were unable to catch it. There were Brimstone moths like last week but not as many, instead we had lots of Square Spot Rustics. There were also a few Common and Silky Wainscots. Immediately after an Oak Hook Tip flew into the trap followed by a Blood-Vein but this moth didn’t want to be caught and flew right over the trap. Other moths I caught were:-

Setaceous Hebrew Character, Dusky Thorn, Yellow Stern, 4 Old Ladys, Common Carpet, Light Emerald and Angle Shade. The best part of the night was capturing one called a Flounced Rustic this has not been seen at Rainham Marshes before so this was a real treat for everyone.

Here are some pictures that I took