8.1.15

Azure skies

Trips to the Sierra whether it be Relumbrar, Segura, or Alcaraz are always a treat for me and one of the things I most look forward to when I'm visiting this part of the world. Today it was the turn of the Sierra del Relumbrar to be graced by our presence, so at 8am, lacking in energy, we hopped into Rafa's car to set off on our little adventure. 

Red Deer

Around an hour later, we arrived. Unlike other trips we'd made to the Relumbrar, once we had arrived we stayed in pretty much the same area, only moving within a couple of mile radius of the three small mountains which provided the centerpiece to both our trip and our views. However, with slightly different habitats as we changed level, we were able to have incredible views of a number of species of which I had previously only had fleeting views, or which hadn't cooperated for me to take a quick snap or video during my last visits. I was also able to life tick two species, Black Vulture which came right at the end of the day, and Imperial Eagle which I was lucky enough to get my first glimpse of within ten minutes of arriving, and the views just kept getting better as the day went on! Here are my photos (some of which I'm pretty proud of, not going to lie), enjoy!

Robin
Red Deer
Stonechat 

Azure-winged Magpies


Griffon Vultures



Wild Boar
Thanks for reading!

4.1.15

¡Hola 2015!

Hey everybody.

I'm  not one for giving a mahoosively in depth explanation of my absence because I'm sure you've all got busy lives to be on with (also there isn't an explanation), but here I am, back again.

My 2015 has started off in an always sunny, but not so warm corner of La Mancha... where else?! Despite the weather basically being the same as back home on our Island, with the new year arrived a miniscule amount of warmth and the opportunity for a brand new year list. A chilled out walk up to the castle and around the village provided some lovely starters for the year, including Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, and a second (but even poorer) view of Dartford Warbler, bustling among the Opuntia plastered rocks as we made our way down the village. Oh, and of course, the usual suspects House Sparrow, Starling, and Kestrel. Not bad for a morning!

Apart from a short expedition into the forest for a session of planting Holm and Kermes Oak acorns and plantlings with ARBA, where heard-only Treecreeper, Sandgrouse, and Woodlark didn't quite make the new list, our only other nature 'excursion' during the last week has been to and from the village. Fences and fences of Goldfinches and Linnets, one Kestrel, and a large unidentified raptor was yesterday's selection, but I live in hope that plenty more trips around those parts will provide me at long last with my bogey bird; Little Bustard.






Have a lovely week and I'll be back with more (hopefully more exciting) posts soon!



24.5.14

Wildlife Watching in Driffield, Spring 2014 | Video

Long time no post!

At long last I am here with another post for Pink Cuckoos, but a bit of a different one. In the past few months I have been trying my hand at making nature videos. They are basically wildlife showreels, and I have just uploaded my third and latest, which can be viewed below. So far the videos have been focused around the flora and fauna of local sites within East Yorkshire, but I'm hoping to expand into a bit of vlogging when I fly out to Spain in a couple of weeks time for the summer, in order to give an insight into the exciting species on offer on the Iberian peninsula.



I hope you enjoyed watching my video - any comments (here or over on my channel!) as well as likes would be really appreciated.

Stay tuned for my next post and video and subscribe!

6.1.14

My Recommendations | Brilliant Botany

The other day whilst surfing the web looking for botany blogs, I found a total internet gem.
     Brilliant Botany is a site full of all sorts of awesome bits and pieces and nuggets of info - stuff from gifs of pine cones opening to stunning close ups of leaves and their cells, and amazing facts such as that NASA are planning to grow plants on the MOON! (Sorry if I'm a bit slow with that news).
     If that wasn´t good enough, there is also a YouTube channel which is equally ace (especially if you´re too lazy to read a blog) - I highly recommend checking both out!

BLOG: brilliantbotany.com

YOUTUBE:

28.11.13

Bird Drawing of the Day: Woodpigeon

    Some of you might remember the series of posts that I used to call 'Biro Bird of the Day', where I showed my biro drawings of birds (duh). Encouraged by some of my friends, I've decided to start over this section renaming it 'Bird Drawing of the Day', as I feel encouraged to use new techniques such as watercolours. For my first drawing I chose one of the commonest birds of our part of the world, the Woodpigeon.

Goodbye old friend... A blog post 8 months overdue



BEN
???? - 2013


Some of you may have seen my post 'Ben...', which I published almost a year ago on here. For those who don't know about 'Ben', to cut a long story short, he's a Churchyard Beetle (Blaps mucronata). He was given to me by my Dad's old Biology teacher, and was sent in the post in a small sandwich container with only some cucumber and a small piece of kitchen towel to his name. Chuchyard Beetles are members of the Tenebrionidae family. They are black, of about 28-30ish mm in size with  slightly pointed abdomen, are flightless, and their habitat of choice (as the name suggests) are dark, damp environments. A letter was sent along with Ben, giving me some information about him, and one of the key points made by David Nash (the biology teacher in question) was that this species wasn't going to live for a great deal of years. I received Ben in February 2003.
        Fast forward to the eve of my 20th birthday, the 8th of April 2013 and Ben was still alive (a decade later!) though wasn't acting himself. He would often 'play dead' as I like to describe it, laying on his back and not moving for a while, but after a gentle nudge with my finger or a pencil he usually came around and was back to crawling around his mini artificial desert in no time. But that night, was different. Ben had been lying, not on his back, but not moving for a few days. Much longer than he would usually play dead. I am sad to confirm that at around midnight between the 8th of April and the 9th (my birthday) 2013, Ben passed on.

Here is Ben's obituary, written by David Nash and featured in the latest issue of Suffolk Naturalists' Society magazine, White Admiral.

I would like to thank David for sending me Ben, who has seen me through half of my life, and who has given me much fascination and has been my most loyal pet. May you rest in piece my coloepterous friend.

The obituary can be found here, and the article 'Is a pet for life even if it is only a Churchyard Beetle?'' here. Unfortunately, the back issues of White Admiral are not available from 2003, and there for the first article is not accessible online. Finally, I also recommend a read of White Admiral which, particularly for those of you in and around Suffolk, provides an excellent read. http://www.sns.org.uk/pages/wad.shtml



19.11.13

Pressing Matters pt. 1 | Flora

My Herbarium: Way too girly, I know.

For the past five months or so, I have been working on a herbarium. For those of you who maybe don't know what a herbarium is (I didn't until this year, shamefully, considering I am studying for a Zoology degree and my parents are basically botanists), it is a collection of pressed plant specimens, each with a label to give information about that particular plant, and is something often created by universities or botanical gardens, along with other organisations and individuals.
        For me, my herbarium started out as just something for me to learn a little about plants but just have a nice time compiling. Now however, my purposes have changed somewhat. Although I still want it to be something to do for my own enjoyment in my free time, it has totally changed my perspective on plants, and in fact Plants are becoming to me just as, if not more interesting than birds.
        My herbarium wasn't at first as succesful as some other people's (my lack of a botanical press making me a little lazy to get all my books out and pile them on top of specimens, to blame), but after my trip to Spain I was able to really garner some motivation - how could I not with the stunning diversity of Flora there, and so my herbarium is now up to (enter number) species. 

One of my first herbarium plates. The old label design, which was definitely lacking in useful information.

A bunch of keys: tackling identification
As someone who had never really looked all that closely at plants before, my method of identifying the plants mostly involved looking at a photo guide or just the drawings in key, a mortal sin to most biologists

Pressing matters
Having a press isn't necessary in order to have a successful herbarium, though it does make things a little easier and quicker and mean you can have everything in once place as opposed to having piles of books everywhere. I'm looking to get a press for about forty pounds or less, which seems to be the average price and there is one on the Watkins & Doncaster website that seems as though it would be perfect for both using at home as well as out in the field, in order to start pressing the plants whilst as fresh as possible.
        Sadly, being the poor-ish student that I am, money doesn't always permit purchasing luxuries such as botanical presses, and so for now books are my only option. But this also means that creating a Herbarium can be one of the cheapest natural pursuits out there. All that is required are some big heavy books, some newspaper for absorbing the excess water from the plants (remember to change this regularly), the plants themselves (of course), and some paper to mount them on which could be just simple A4; all things you're likely to have lying around the house.

The wonderful press of Gui, I had the privilege of using during the summer in Spainland. 

Labels
Labelling your herbarium is key. What you include is totally up to you, and is likely to depend what you'll be using yours for. The minimum information needed, is the plant name, and it's always a good idea to make sure you include the Scientific name, as this is the most reliable and many plants have a number of different common names. For example, at first I only saw my herbarium as a recreational thing, so my labels were pretty simple with only the Common and Scientific names, the order (not very useful really...), date, who collected it, and where. If your herbarium is for science, then you can add as many other categories as you like, such as family, biotype etc etc. Taking a look on the Google images at other people's herbariums may prove helpful as it did for me, as many templates for labels can be found.

Newer label design (Spanish edition) which sounds much cleverer.

Compiling your herbarium
Once I have mounted the plants I keep them in plastic wallets in a lever-arch file. This has worked for me so far, and the plastic wallets are a good two in one, protecting the plants but allowing you to see them at the same time. However, as my collection has somewhat expanded, this isn't providing the best storage for me any more, and I have a few options. A cheap option would be to keep the plants in their existing wallets, but to have instead of the lever-arch file, one of those boxes you see alongside them in shops (I apologise if that makes no sense, I don't know what they're called). Alternatively, I'm also considering removing the plastic wallets, and putting each specimen in an individual paper folder with a label on the inside, and then just piling them up with something heavy on top and sticking them into a drawer or cupboard or shelf (as I have seen many others do). These are all I've thought of so far, so if anybody out there has any suggestions of alternatives I'd be very grateful if you'd leave me a comment.
        If this all seems like too much effort (which duh, it often is for me), there are other ways of Herbariuming, one of which I will talk about later in this post.

The perfect storage option for an ever-growing herbarium. 

Caught green handed
There are, of course, plants which by law cannot be pressed. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the Orchidaceae family which is protected in Britain, but there are many other species which should not be picked given their threatened status, not only because we are told not to but also it is a shame when it is much nicer to see these in there natural habitat in all their glory. Information on which plants you cannot pick, can be found here. 

Photo(synthesis)
As I mentioned earlier there are other ways of creating a herbarium, if, for whatever reason, pressing isn't for you. The best alternative (that I have come across so far) is of course a photographic herbarium, which can too yield awesome results. Although I do have many pressed specimens, there are some plants which cannot be pressed very well, for example some flowers, and also succulent plants, as this would lead to damaging the plants, and in the case of the flowers perhaps detracting from their true beauty as the colour seems to become a lot less vivid after pressing and they tend to lose their shape (though maybe in some cases it could be that I just haven't mastered the technique). It might also be that some plants which it is illegal to pick and pres, or that you simply don't have the space to have books piled everywhere, or the time to be keeping an eye on your specimens to check the paper's dry and they're pressing well etc etc. Either way, part of my herbarium is digital, and it is a great way to show off your photography. You can create an online database or page which is quicker to refer than a physical herbarium, and it makes a nice addition to your blog or website.
        I myself have made one, though as it currently stands it's basically a photographic list of all the plants I've seen, without any useful information. But I'm working on it! You can see that here.

My new favourite tree.
Growing
Unfortunately, this time of year isn't the greatest for pressing as most plants are without flowers, and many without leaves too. For this reason, I'll only be photographing any plants I see of interest, rather than collecting specimens, as it is a good way to get record of how the plants look at different times of the year and provide yourself with a reference for identification.
       I'm looking forward to when everything is back to being green and in bloom, and to collecting some new and interesting flora to add to my collection, in my new patches, further afield in the UK, and once again in Spain. And hopefully by then I'll have a press to make it all so much easier!

One of the nicest smelling specimens in the herbarium.


DISCLAIMER: (after the post) I apologise for the unfunny titles
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