This week I'm doing some work experience with Nottinghamshire ecologist Nick Crouch, based at County Hall. Yesterday was spent in the office, learning about an ecologist's role within the County Council, looking at the process to deal with planning applications from a conservation perspective and conservation within the county.
Today however we were out in the sweltering heat all day doing practical conservation; removing a non-native species of dogwood from a small wood. It was hard work, but very rewarding, and there was plenty of wildlife at the site too. There were loads of Swifts, Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins feeding over a marshy field all day, and the wood was full of Chiffchaffs and Wrens singing away. A Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also seen, a Reed Bunting was singing and a Lesser Whitethroat briefly sang a few times. There was a large amount of Common Twayblade orchid Neottia ovata, and also some Common Spotted orchids Dactylorhiza fuchsii to kick off my orchid list. Ringlet butterflies were everywhere, as well as Meadow Browns and a few Large Skippers, and some Common Blue damselflies. On the bee front I saw 8 species, just on one small patch of brambles!
When I got home I sat out in the sun, and watched an Andrena (Mining bee) species going into a hole in our table outside, here's a still from a video I took of it as it emerged from the hole:
A cracking end to what has been a great 30 Days Wild, and a great June!
On Sunday I spent the morning horse riding, where there are plenty of Swallows darting in and out of the stables feeding young. They were quite approachable, and happily sat preening on the beams in the stable roofs whilst I watched. Then when we ride up through the field, they swoop in between the horses in their aerial acrobatic displays. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly, amongst the usual host of Wrens, Robins and Goldfinch, and a single House Martin sauntered overhead, the first I've seen there.
These past couple of days I've tried to identify the bees in my dad's garden (in Leicestershire), and comparing them to the species found at my mum's (in Nottinghamshire). So far I've found that Bombus hypnorum (Tree bumblebee) and Bombus pratorum (Early bumblebee) are the most abundant species at my dad's, whereas at my mum's there are many more Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed bumblebee), and I've only seen one Bombus pratorum. We aslo have a few Hylaeus communis (Common masked bee) at my dad's.
I also found this Green shield bug, and there was a bee I haven't been able to identify, although I have been told it might be a very worn Bombus hypnorum (Tree bumblebee), so if you can help me with the identification of this bee then please feel free to comment on this post.
On Saturday I went to Thornton Reservoir in Leicestershire for a couple of hours, in the glorious sunshine. I saw 33 species of bird, with highlights of fledgling Blue, Great and Coal Tits being fed, close Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests, a Nuthatch, and lots of whinnying Little Grebes on the reservoir. However the star of the visit was a pair of Spotted Flycatchers, which were a year tick!
On the insect front I saw Bombus vestalis (Vestal cuckoo bumblebee), Bombus lapidarius (Red-tailed bumblebee), Common Blue and Blue-tailed damselflies, and Red Admiral and Meadow Brown butterflies.
On Thursday I spent the afternoon at Attenborough Nature Reserve, and saw 48 species of bird. The highlights from the visit were close Blackcaps, Sedge & Reed Warblers, Tree Sparrows and a Lesser Whitethroat. I also saw some very interesting hoverflies; Volucella pellucens and Volucella bombylans:
Other insects included Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown butterflies, Common Blue damselflies, Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed bumblebee), Bombus hortorum (Garden bumblebee), Bombus pascuorum (Common carder bee) and Apis mellifera (Honeybee).
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I started trying to identify the bees in my garden, using an FSC chart. In my small garden at my mum's house, I found 9 species of bee, which I thought was quite surprising! The species I found were:
I enjoyed photographing the bees, as well as this Harlequin Ladybird and Ancistrocerus trifasciatus wasp:
Yesterday morning, I briefly woke up at 4am to the distant song of a Song Thrush, but it kindly didn't keep me awake. In the morning I saw or heard 17 bird species from my bedroom, including fledgling Blackbirds, Long-tailed Tits, Robins and Blue Tits. There was also a Bullfinch and a Skylark singing, and a Lesser Black-backed Gull sauntered low over the garden. I then went horse-riding, which I do on a fortnightly basis - there's always a good selection of wildlife at the stables, and as I was walking up yesterday morning there were Wrens belting their songs out, and Goldfinches twinkling in the trees above. As I was tacking up I noticed a couple of Swallow's nests in one stable, and took a moment to stand and watch as the adults zoomed past my head with a bill full of food. And as I was leaving, a Kestrel hovered over the field, the first I've seen there for a while.
On Friday and Saturday I started listing other wildlife, like moths, dragonflies, damselflies etc... with the Small Magpie moth found on Wednesday to kick off my moth list. I've been trying to identify the moths in my house too, like this White-shouldered House-moth. This Potato Leafhopper was jumping around my room one night - it was only half a centimetre long, and was surprisingly colourful when I looked closely at it.
Also the other day this Garden Chafer beetle joined me on my laptop whilst I was sat outside.
I must admit that I know extremely little about moths and insects etc... so I enlisted the help of Twitter to identify these two, however now my exams are over I'm looking forward to learning lots more about other forms of wildlife.
Yesterday I helped to lead a trip to Attenborough Nature Reserve for a small group of Junior and Year 7 pupils from my school. We spent 2 and a half hours at the reserve in the morning, and the weather was very kind to us, making the morning a great success. A total of 38 bird species were spotted or heard; some of the best birds we enjoyed watching were Common Terns, fishing Great Crested Grebes, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, singing Blackcaps, Egyptian Geese, and a singing Lesser Whitethroat was definitely the highlight of the day for me - especially because I only saw my first ever Lesser Whitethroat three days before!
Spending some time in the Sand Martin hide allowed us to get very close views of these agile birds as they fed and entered their nests, which was an unusual and special experience for the pupils. One Junior school girl was constantly asking me questions about what birds were and what they looked like, and enjoyed flicking through my field guide. One particular question she asked made me chuckle: "Why is it that when people are fat they aren't cute, but when birds are fat they're so adorable?"
We also saw Peacock and Speckled Wood butterflies, Blue-tailed damselflies, and one girl found this stunning Small Magpie moth:
The morning was fantastic, the pupils were so enthusiastic and (I hope) learnt a lot - I am very much looking forward to leading another school wildlife trip in the not too distant future.
On Wednesday I continued to work on my Turnstone painting for a while, and I painted inside so the acrylic paints were much easier to work with, here is what it's looking like now:
Today I decided to start a painting a Turnstone on a stone, and since the weather was lovely I sat in my garden to paint. However it was very bright and hot, so it was difficult to work with the fast-drying acrylics, but here is what I've done so far:
Whilst in my garden, I had a fleeting glimpse of a Sparrowhawk as it flew low over my head and darted between the houses, and I saw 3 Coal Tits and 1 begging for food, so that hopefully means that the pair I have been seeing recently have successfully reared chicks to fledge. I also noticed a Blue Tit go into a hole in the wall of my neighbour's house, so it looks like there's another nest there.
It was another day spent soaking up the sun in my garden, and very pleasant it was too.
I'm Sorrel, a young birder and wildlife artist based in the East Midlands - this is my blog all about my birding and wildlife adventures.