How to… Identify British Tree Species (Part 2)

A holly.tree shining bright with red berries and prickly green leaves in the grey of a wintertime woodland. An ancient evergreen yew standing watch over the final resting place of our ancestors. A colour-changing spindle cream flowered and glossy green in spring, turning to psychedelic pinks and oranges in autumn. Trees come in all shapes and sizes, often differing wildly from each other, but all can be found embedded in the landscape and culture of Britain.

In the last chapter of my How to… Identify British Tree Species guide, I focussed on 10 tree species that can easily be found across the UK, from the majestic oak to the graceful silver birch. These are but a few of the now 80 odd native and non-native species that can be found in the UK. From providing food to flood prevention, from the countryside to the city, trees can be found playing important roles across the country right now.

Following on from my last guide, part 2 covers 10 more tree species that can easily be found across Britain. This handy guide of facts, drawings, and photos is here to help you to identify these species at any time of year. Here’s to learning something new everyday!

Tree Species

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

  • Family: Rose – related to fruiting trees such as cherry and plum
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Large shrub, occasionally small tree, up to 4m, forming impenetrable thickets
  • Stems and Twigs: Young twigs downy, maturing to dark brown bark, that shows orange beneath, with thorns
  • Leaves: Small, oval, alternate, tapering to a point, toothed margins, dull above and hairy beneath
  • Flowers: Flowers are white with 5 petals and red-tipped anthers. Flowers appear late March-April, before the leaves, often alongside cold weather known as Blackthorn winter
  • Seeds: Produces round, blue-black fruit (sloes) with a single seed (stone)
  • Range and Habitat: Grows on the edge of scrub woodlands and in hedgerows

In Winter: Twigs are dark and not shiny, with thorns at least 2cm long

Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)

  • Family: Sapindaceae – related to lychee and horse chestnut
  • Origin: Non-native (introduced in the 17th century from Europe and Asia)
  • Shape and Size: Shorter and more slender tree, reaching up to 30m
  • Stems and Twigs: Bark is grey with many small fissures (not flaking), and twigs are slender and brown with tiny white spots
  • Leaves: Thin, light green leaves, opposite and have long pointed lobes
  • Flowers: Erect clusters of pale yellow flowers, before the leaves (April-May)
  • Seeds: Winged keys in opposite pairs
  • Range and Habitat: Increasingly planted and self-sown in parks, gardens, and hedges

In Winter: Distinctive shape and bark, and individual buds that are green and red

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

  • Family: Aquifoliaceae – holly trees
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Narrow-crowned, conical tree with regular branching, reaching up to 20m
  • Stems and Twigs: Bark is green when young, becoming smooth and grey with age
  • Leaves: Alternate, long, glossy, spiny teeth, and waxy on top, matt and pale green beneath
  • Flowers: White, 4-petalled and in close clusters, with male and female flowers on separate trees (May-August)
  • Seeds: Red berries with small seeds, only found on female trees
  • Range and Habitat: Can be found everywhere across the British Isles but prefers drier soils

In Winter: Evergreen spiky leaves and red berries, a symbol of Christmas

Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)

  • Family: Cornaceae – dogwoods
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Tall and deciduous sending out suckers to form dense thickets (up to 10m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Bark grey and smooth with shallow ridges, giving off a fetid smell when bruised, attractive to insects
  • Leaves: Opposite, long, oval, pointed, hairy on both sides, side veins curving forward, and no teeth. Crimson colouring in late autumn
  • Flowers: Greenish-white 4-petalled flowers (June-July)
  • Seeds: Round, bitter, black berries in clusters (sometimes called ‘dogberries’), ripening in August or September
  • Range and Habitat: Frequent in Midlands and South, grows chiefly on chalk soils, but also found in woodlands, scrub and hedges

In Winter: New twigs are bright red

Common Lime (Tilia x europaea)

  • Family: Mallow family – related to trees such as cotton and cacao
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Tall tree with long slender branches that start near the ground (up to 40m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Young bark is smooth and grey, whereas old bark is fissured
  • Leaves: Long and heart-shaped with small teeth and tapering to a point. Dark green and hairless above, whereas undersides are paler with white or buff hairs in the vein junctions
  • Flowers: Greenish-yellow 5-petalled flowers that are sweet smelling (late June-July)
  • Seeds: Encapsulated in small round hanging fruits, hairy, faintly ribbed and with pointed tips
  • Range and Habitat: Widespread in rows or avenues in streets, parks and also hedges

In Winter: Red, hairy twigs and shoots

Elder (Sambucus nigra)

  • Family: Adoxaceae – previously in the honeysuckle family , but now reclassified in moschatel
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Bushy shrub with many stems or growing into a small tree (up to 10m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Light brown bark is thick, corky, fissured, and strong smelling
  • Leaves: Long, dark green, and opposite, with leaflets in pairs, rounded, stalked and with teeth
  • Flowers: Creamy-white, small, and sweetly fragrant in flat-topped clusters with yellow anthers (May-August)
  • Seeds: Produces a juicy, edible, purplish-black berry
  • Range and Habitat: Widespread and common throughout Britain, particularly flourishing where nitrogen content high

In Winter: Pungent, hollow-stemmed twigs and often dotted with light-brown bumps

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

  • Family: Rose – related to fruit trees such as apricots and apples
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Quick growing, becoming a dense shrub or single stemmed tree (up to 15m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Bark is hairless and greyish-brown, with many small scales and sharp spines
  • Leaves: Alternate, long, toothed, shiny, lobed, and roughly oval-shaped
  • Flowers: Showy white and fragrant (sickly sweet) with 5 petals, and pink or purple anthers (late April-June). Become deep pink as they fade
  • Seeds: Fleshy fruits (haws) turn dark wine-red and contain a single seed
  • Range and Habitat: Widespread and common throughout Britain, in hedges, scrub or woodland margins

In Winter: Spines emerging alongside buds on the twigs

Beech (Fugus sylvatica)

  • Family: Beech – includes chestnuts and oaks
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Older trees have a massive, many-branched dome, whereas young trees are slimmer and more conical in outline (up to 36m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Smooth grey bark may break into small squares
  • Leaves: Long, wavy margins, alternate, hairy leaf edges, and shiny green on both surfaces
  • Flowers: Young leaves appear with yellow long-stalked male flowers on tassel-like stalks, and greenish white female flowers (May)
  • Seeds: Four-lobed husk are two triangular nutlets (mast)
  • Range and Habitat: Native in woods in the south, but widely planted elsewhere

In Winter: Often hold on to leaves and have sharply-pointed buds

Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

  • Family: Staff-vine
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Small tree or big bush up to 6m
  • Stems and Twigs: Young, smooth, greenish bark later turns grey
  • Leaves: Light green leaves are opposite, thin, oval-shaped, and pointed, with small finely toothed margins. Turn pinkish-red in autumn
  • Flowers: Small greenish-yellow flowers with 4 narrow petals (May-June)
  • Seeds: Four-lobed seed capsules, which turn a deep pinkish-red when ripe.
  • Range and Habitat: Grows throughout England and Wales, most frequent in the South, but rarer in Scotland and Ireland. Found in woods, scrub, and hedgerows, in particular on lime

In Winter: Buds and twigs are angular with four sides

Yew (Taxus baccata)

  • Family: Yew
  • Origin: Native
  • Shape and Size: Round-headed tree with dark foliage, often has many trunks (reaches up to 20m)
  • Stems and Twigs: Smooth, light brown bark flakes to red patches
  • Leaves: Needles dark green on top and matt yellow-green on underside
  • Flowers: Male and female flowers are found on separate trees. Male flower is yellow, and tiny female flower is green (February-April)
  • Seeds: Bright red ripened fruits, much enjoyed by birds, partially encloses a single seed that is poisonous to humans
  • Range and Habitat: Found in woods, scrub, screes, downs and often on lime

In Winter: Evergreen needle-like leaves present all year round

Drawings are my own work

Spring in Bloom in Dorset 2022

‘There is no time like Spring, When life’s alive in everything… Before the sun has power, To scorch the world up in his noontide hour’ – Christina Rossetti

Where for me Winter is a grey, bleak, and quiet time, Spring is the opposite. Those first Snowdrops of January whisper of the season to come, leading the way ahead for new life to follow. This opens the door for change and the blossoming of Spring. A vibrant season, Spring arrives with an explosion of colour, awe-inspiring after tough Winter months. Yellows, pinks, purples, blues, and whites, amongst others, paint a landscape of reviving green. It is a magical time!

This year has been no different, with Spring unfurling in style, though with some added meteorological unpredictability. Right now though, woodlands are carpeted with the purple hues of Bluebells, pastel blossom drips from fruiting trees, and leaves begin to envelop trees and hedgerows. It is a time to be enjoyed and relished after another tough Winter, with promise now of more new life as this season continues. Let us now celebrate the blooming of Spring 2022 so far.

Rural Dorset vs. Urban Manchester: Exploring Winter’s Wild Birds

Series in collaboration with guest writer Emma Rogan

Winter is a time when a stillness grips the landscape, activity slows, and nature slumbers. This said, if you know where to look at this time of year, life can still be found. Barn Owls hunting along rough edges at first light, chattering Starlings feeding in flocks in open spaces, or Robins fighting to defend their small territories. For birds, winter is a time when migrant visitors, such as Redwings and Fieldfare, mix with resident species, such as Greenfinches and Great-Spotted Woodpeckers. Side-by-side through cold spells and stormy showers, in cities and the countryside, these birds are staying busy to try to survive.

Last time in Rural vs. Urban, we explored the wildlife that live close to home and delved into their hidden lives, all through using simple camera traps. For Dorset-born naturalist Laura, camera trapping has allowed her to record and explore the species that live on her family’s 250 acre farm, opening up a world that would otherwise be overlooked. For Manchester-born wildlife enthusiast Emma, her highlights included seeing a Badger, a Hedgehog, and getting to know the frequent visitors to her garden, such as a lovely Blackbird couple. For both, camera trapping has been a great way to connect with nature, whilst acting as a form of escapism!

For this last instalment of the current Rural vs. Urban series, we are now in winter, with days of sparkling frosts, stormy skies, and low-hanging mist. Last weekend was the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, so for this week we explore the bird species that call our local patches home during winter. As bird species try to survive, what may differ between the challenges of a city and of a countryside landscape? Are there differences or similarities in the species seen or in their behaviour? Lets explore winter on the wing to find out!

Laura’s Rural Garden Bird Survey

Over the last few years, I have taken part each year in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch and the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch in 2020, and have enjoyed gaining a deeper knowledge of the species that visit our garden all year round. Winter is one of the best times of year for a variety and abundance of species to be experienced in our garden, and at this time of year my parents and I often enjoy a lunchtime accompanied with birdwatching from our living room window.

So on the 12th December we did just that, spending 30 minutes recording the diversity and abundance of bird species we saw in half an hour. For such a short period of time, the bird feeders in our garden delivered, with 17 species, varying from Greenfinches and Robins to a Great-Spotted Woodpecker and Starlings! By far the most abundant species though was the Goldfinch, with 14 spotted at one time, closely followed by 12 Chaffinches and 9 Blue Tits. A very good representation of our garden’s winter visitors, just missing Long-Tailed Tits and Coal Tits, the latter being amiss this year!

Emma’s Urban Garden Bird Survey

I combined my bird count with the event of the year, the Great Garden Birdwatch! We sat down with cups of tea and my dad’s iPad to record our garden visitors and contribute to this important monitoring exercise.

Expecting our birds to use their sixth sense and avoid our garden for an hour, we were pleasantly surprised to see a lot of our regulars! The Robin stopped by, as did Mr and Mrs Blackbird, who come every day for their plate of mealworms. Our bird feeders are also popular with Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits, and of course the neighbourhood Squirrels! We also have a Nuthatch who visits frequently, nibbling at our bird feeders in his distinctive upside-down stance.

My absolute favourite though are the Long-Tailed Tits, they’re so round and fluffy! Although, I will always have a soft spot for our Dunnock, who we recognise by his extra-fluffy head feathers. Even a bird can have a bad hair day! Sadly though, our Woodpecker didn’t make an appearance.

Laura’s Countryside Bird Walk

Today (Sunday 9th January) was the first beautiful day of a new month and new year. Though the air was cold, it was calm and the sun was shining, a soft golden glow. Stepping out from my back door, I was immediately hit by an abundance of avian activity. Two Carrion Crows flew over my head, cawing as they went. Goldfinches chattered from the garden, hinting at a visit from a good sized flock. A Blue Tit sung its distinctive song, a Robin ‘ticked’ in alarm, and a Blackbird watched me from a nearby fence post. I could not miss this perfect opportunity to explore the bird life that could be found on my family’s land at this time of year.

First, I headed down to our farm buildings, joined by the chattering of Starlings feeding out in the nearby fields. As usual at this time of year, the still hulking forms of the barns were being brought to life by busy birds living alongside our wintering animals. House Sparrows could be heard singing in the eaves of the barn, complimented by Great Tits calling from a lone Hawthorn tree, Collared Doves flapping here and there, and a flash of a yellow rump as one of our resident Grey Wagtails was disturbed from where it was feeding. The only thing that could add to the scene would be a Barn Owl floating by, a common sighting at dawn on the farm.

Satisfied with my sightings on the farm, I then headed away from my home hub, following the tracks out into the wider expanse of our land. Here I could find birds flitting along the hedgerows, such as feeding Redwings and wary Wrens. and fields busy with bird feeding activity, including Gulls, Rooks, and Pheasants.

As Fieldfare flew over head, I finished my wintery walk with a meander along one of the larger rivers on the farm. Here I could see the first Snowdrops beginning to push green shoots up from the river bank, marking the start of changes to come. This was joined by the calls of Dunnocks and the twittering of Meadow Pipits out in the fields across the river. With a count of at least 22 bird species, I felt this was a good end to my adventure.

Emma’s City Bird Walk

Manchester is home to a huge variety of urban birds. From Herons and Cormorants fishing under motorway bridges along the River Mersey, to hardy Woodpigeons in the city centre, to garden birds drawn in by feeding stations, there is always something new to see! I always love to see how many birds I can spot when I’m out for a walk, and I find that watching the birds in my garden brings me a moment of peace in the middle of busy days.

For my bird walk, I decided to head to a different park for a change! I’m lucky to live in a part of Manchester with a lot of nearby green spaces, and one of these is Didsbury Park, one of the first municipal planned parks in the city, and redesigned in the 1920’s to include recreational features which still exist today. There is also thought to be an old air-raid shelter under the football pitch! The impact of both World Wars One and Two on the local area, just a small village when WW1 began, is commemorated by a beautiful poppy field mural in the park created by graffiti artist Russell Meeham, also known as Quebek.

Suffice to say, I’ve spent many happy hours in Didsbury Park, and my bird walk was no exception! Although, I didn’t have a lot of success at spotting birds. The highlight of the walk was wondering why a group of people were gathered around a particular bush and wandering over there, to find a flock of House Sparrows singing away! My Mum and Dad remember House Sparrows as the most common bird about when they were growing up, but we’ve never actually seen one in our garden. Sadly, their populations have declined substantially in the UK in both rural and urban populations.

It’s All About The Birds!

If you open your eyes, wherever you go during winter you will see life and activity. Though from Laura’s and Emma’s adventures, Laura experienced more bird activity out and about in the countryside, both currently have vibrant gardens. This is testament to how everyone’s gardens right now are a lifeline for our wildlife, whether you live in a bustling city or a quieter piece of the countryside. They provide a valuable home in a changing landscape and prove that we can all do our bit for nature. Why not put out a bird feeder and see what you can see today?

Rural Dorset vs. Urban Manchester: Wildlife Camera Trapping in 2021

Series in collaboration with guest writer Emma Rogan

Fox cubs playing in secluded hedgerows, badgers wandering along field margins, and male pheasants displaying in woodlands. Wildlife cameras are a great way to capture the behaviour and presence of wildlife, and can open up a hidden world not so easily accessible in person. More often wildlife cameras are associated with exploring the rural, but they are also a great way to explore the world closer to home. Hedgehogs snuffling through gardens looking for food, birds jostling for space on feeders, or even rodents clearing up after avian visitors. Camera trapping allows us to connect to nature wherever we live, from rolling hills to suburban oases.

Last time in Rural vs. Urban, we embraced autumn in all its colours and forms, with the main focus being the plant and fungi stars of the show. Dorset-born naturalist Laura delved into the magnificent and colourful display autumn had to offer, and found inspiration in the season, from her writing to her baking. Joining Laura for this series, Manchester-born wildlife enthusiast Emma explored the history and culture rooted in the plants she discovered, and found a much-needed moment of calm in her busy day-to-day life. Though both found differences in their comparative landscapes, they both found fungi to be fascinating and wondrous, but an area of knowledge in need of improvement.

In this next instalment of Rural vs. Urban, we explore the use of camera traps in the two different landscapes and see how they have allowed Laura and Emma to connect with their local wildlife. We will see how species may differ between the city and countryside, as well as behaviours and even interactions between species. It will be interesting to see what we may learn from looking back at fantastic camera trap photos from both locations, as they help us to uncover the secret lives of wildlife. Join us on our adventures to find out what we discovered!

Laura’s Camera Trapping in Dorset

Over the last few years I have become well known online for my camera trap photos exploring the lives of the wildlife living on my family’s land in Dorset. In particular, each spring I keep my camera trap out 24/7, moving it between locations, to capture spring unfurling for my animal neighbours. By doing so I have gained a lot of enjoyment from seeing what I could discover, and have been able to expand my own knowledge of my local wildlife and their hidden lives. To experience some of my previous camera trap adventures, check out my earlier blog posts from 2019 and 2020.

Last year, in 2021, my camera trap did not fail to amaze me and allowed me to continue my adventure exploring and capturing local wildlife. Throughout the spring my camera moved between 6 different locations across 250 acres, varying from badger setts to woodland. Between these locations I captured a total of 13 different species in 2021, which were rabbit, badger, roe deer, fox, partridge, pheasant, grey squirrel, magpie, blackbird, field vole, hare, woodpigeon, and the humble bumblebee.

One of my highlights from 2021 was capturing some new species for my collection, even if my first photos of them were blurry . These included my first hare (or the back of one!), a field vole climbing up cow parsley stalks, and even a bumblebee buzzing about. This is one of the reasons I get excited when checking my camera trap photos, as you never know what you may discover!

Another part of camera trapping in 2021 was getting to further experience animal species living side by side in harmony. For example, at one badger sett I saw a family of badgers sharing their home with rabbits and a family of foxes. Also, at another location, I got to see fox cubs learning about their surroundings and interacting with other species, such as roe deer. Very cool!

One of my favourite parts of 2021 though, has to be all the fox families I discovered! During this year, the most commonly seen species on my camera trap, to my surprise, was the fox (at every location!). In some cases I specifically aimed to capture this species, such as staking out a possible fox den, but in others foxes just happened to be living there or passing through. So by the end of spring, I had discovered 3 litters of fox cubs and a number of frequently used fox trails. What was most special of all was getting to experience fox cubs exploring their natural habitat and interacting with each other without me disturbing them. Magical!

After camera trapping in spring, my camera trap was given a well earned break until November. To round off the year, I staked out my garden to check out the birds that call it home. To find out more, stay tuned for next week’s blog post!

Emma’s Camera Trapping in Manchester

Although the past two years have been strange and sad in many ways, my little rectangle of garden has been a constant source of joy. During the first lockdown I started to spend a lot more time in the garden, which made me curious about the lives of the insects, birds, squirrels and foxes that also call our garden their home. So, in December 2020, I got my first wildlife camera!

The first time I left my camera out overnight, I was delighted to have captured a variety of animals including squirrels, the neighbour’s cat and a fox. It’s far from unusual to spot a fox late at night in my area, but something about seeing a fox going about its usually secret business made this sighting feel special. “I got a fox!” I yelled excitedly down the stairs. From that point onwards, I had caught the camera trapping bug.

Camera trapping has allowed me to get to know the unique personalities of our garden visitors, and also to see how their behaviour towards us changed over time. Our lovely Mrs Blackbird used to wait until we’d gone back inside before she’d sneak up the side of the garden to eat her evening plate of mealworms, but now she feels brave enough to hop around the empty plate chirping indignantly until someone gets the message. We also realised that Mr and Mrs Blackbird would always come for their dinner one at a time, and would only eat half the plate each! Now that’s true love.

My most exciting capture came on an equally exciting day. On the morning of the day I was due to get my Professional level ACA results, I checked my camera and was amazed to see that a badger had stopped by for a drink! The badger must have brought good luck with him, as thankfully I passed the exams. I was also delighted to see a hedgehog wandering through my boyfriend’s garden one night. We named him Podge, and for a while he was an extremely cute regular visitor. Finally, I can’t talk about camera trapping without mentioning my love for our magpies, who have kept us well entertained all year swaggering around the garden and stealing all the snacks we put out!

One thing I’ve learned from my experience camera trapping this year is that although cities may be full of people, we have a huge variety of wildlife roaming around just outside our front doors. I hope that more people will feel inspired to get to know the wild visitors passing through their streets and gardens, and even leave out some food and water to make them feel welcome!

The Wonders of Camera Trapping

Camera trapping is a learning experience and an eye-opening adventure, providing an unedited and up-close view of the more secretive lives of our wild neighbours. For Laura, camera trapping in 2021 continued to expand her record and understanding of the animals that call her local area home. Moving forward she would like to begin collecting videos of her local wildlife and buy a new camera trap to expand her camera trapping efforts.

Giving nature a home is something every one of us can do. For Emma, camera trapping taught her that even a small green space in an urban landscape can support a huge variety of wildlife; bees, badgers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, squirrels, hedgehogs and many more! In 2022, Emma wants to make her garden a haven for wildlife, and hopefully capture a frog moving into the frog pond she and her mum built.

At a time when nature is struggling most, it is important for us all to do our bit. Sometimes it is difficult to know how, but if you can understand your local patch better, this can become a lot easier. Using a camera trap is a great and easy way to do this, allowing you to create that connection with your local wildlife, however big or small. If you would like to know more or are inspired to try it out yourself, check out Laura’s blog post about ‘How to… Use and Make the Most of a Camera Trap‘.

Wildlife Photos for 2021

Last year was an unusual one for us all, as we got used to a new reality, but for me it was also a year of colour, amazing wildlife, and fabulous adventures. I learnt alot and was able to continue to grow as a person, which includes my skill in wildlife photography and passion for communicating nature with you all. To celebrate, here’s a collection of my nature photos spanning 2021, capturing a range of themes, species and stories, and holding a feel good factor. Enjoy!

January

I began my year taking advantage of frosty mornings to capture the birds relying on our garden during the winter. Here a starling looking magnificent in its speckled plumage.

February

In 2021 I made it my mission to take my first up close photos of snowdrops. I enjoyed the challenge, brightening up a gloomier start to my year.

March

As the first signs of spring began to arrive, my focus turned to the ground and colourful spring flowers. Here a celandine peaks out its sunshine head from a thick cluster of green leaves.

April

As spring burst into life, my focus turned to the animal species now becoming active in the rural landscape. Here is a relaxed hare (and pheasant) that I ended up spending a sunny afternoon watching feed on this hillside.
Each year grey wagtails are becoming a more and more frequent sight on my family’s farmland. We now have a soft spot for them as they brighten gloomy winter days and add a flash of colour in spring sunshine.

May

In 2021 I bought my very first macro lens which I was very excited about. It was great fun to head out with no set challenge, and just see what I could find!

June

Last year was definitely the year of butterflies for me. I had alot of fun expanding my knowledge of species and getting to see an increasing number living on my family’s land, such as this meadow brown.

July

A series of photos that I took of this ladybird became some of my favourites for myself and my family in 2021!
Another one of my 2021 favourites, a spectacular marbled white!

August

There’s something special about a sunrise over water with pinks, oranges and yellows streaked across the sky like a watercolour.

September

One of my favourite places to be is between two ears exploring the countryside. Here I also had the golden glow of a setting autumn sun to make my ride even more magical.

October

Autumn has some of the best sunsets, with everyday promising something different. Here an oak tree holds on to its leaves as autumn continues its advance through the landscape.

November

A magical part of late autumn is seeing the sun rise over dewy fields covered in a blanket of wafting spiders’ webs. These are produced by thousands of small spiders active before winter arrives.

December

To round off the year, one of my wildlife activities was to plant some new fruiting trees and shrubs down in my family’s conservation field (here a crab apple). Tree planting is definitely a rewarding activity at this time of year!

Here’s to new adventures in 2022!

Rural Dorset vs. Urban Manchester: Autumnal Plants and Fungi

Series in collaboration with guest writer Emma Rogan

Autumn is a time of plenty, painted with fantastic colours, such as leaves changing, berries and nuts adorning unveiling branches, and the emergence of marvellous mushrooms. Wherever you go during this time, autumn may be moving at a different pace, but the vein of change runs throughout. In Dorset, autumn begins with the first blackberries in August, the start of the migration of birds to warmer climes, and the beginning of a bite in the early morning. In Manchester these signs can also be found, but the change in season is more easily spotted by the increasing carpet of amber leaves on the pavement. For nature, this time of bounty and activity foreshadows the days of dormancy to come.

Last time in Rural vs. Urban, Dorset-born naturalist Laura was joined by Manchester-born wildlife enthusiast and friend Emma, to explore the magical minibeasts that could be found in their local patches. From grasshoppers to froghoppers, both Laura and Emma were amazed by the variety of species they found in such a short space of time! No experts on minibeasts, just enthusiastic adults, their eyes were opened to this miniature world by slowing down and focussing on the smaller things. In this way, we can gain a lot, from escapism to inspiration.

In this next instalment of Rural vs. Urban, we move into autumn with Laura and Emma exploring their home areas to see in the change of the seasons. As colours change and leaves fall, what will location and season mean for the plant and fungi life observed? What treasures will be discovered as we go back to the golden days of autumn?

Laura’s Plants and Fungi in the Countryside

This year autumn could be felt in cold mornings and stormy weather, but did not start showing its true face until October. I first took in the change of the season with a walk to my local woods on the 6th October, seeing the ruby red gleam of Hawthorn berries and a spectacular sunset of chilly blues and pinks. I was finally inspired explore all that autumn had to offer.

So, on the next day, I ventured out into my family’s land to take in all that nature had to offer, as autumn made its slow decline towards putting the landscape to sleep. Leaves were yet to start falling on this day, other than being ripped from their branches in strong winds, but were beginning to show a change in colour. Purples, reds, yellows, oranges, browns, and also the spectacular pink of Spindle leaves. By far the most common trees to be found in my local area though, are Pedunculate Oak, Field Maple, Hazel, Blackthorn, Elder, and Hawthorn; Oaks being a personal favourite.

The warm weather this autumn has meant that it has felt even slower in its start. So it was not surprising on my walk to find a variety of flowers still out, ranging from Herb Robert and Wild Marjoram to Meadow Cranesbill and Rough Hawkbit. With their presence at least, they will have provided an extended food source for wildlife that were yet to hide for the winter, for example Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies that were still on the wing. They also added colour to the magnificent display of nature’s bounty this autumn, which included the rich reds of Rose hips and the deep blues of sloes.

The warm and damp weather also provided the perfect conditions for fruiting fungi, an area where my knowledge is yet to fledge. Two species I did learn on my exploration though, were the pale, peeling Shaggy Inkcap and the unusual hulking forms of Bracket fungus, possibly Southern. Looking for fungi showed me that every day is a learning day and that our knowledge is ever expanding!

To round off my autumn adventure, I picked some apples from our apple trees to make a family favourite, an apple cake. The cake was simple to make, but went down a treat!

Emma’s Urban Plants and Fungi Adventure

For me, no time of the year evokes a feeling of new beginnings more than September. Perhaps it’s a throwback to when September meant the start of a new school year, but the changing of the season always lifts my spirits. Autumn is the season of hot chocolate, curling up with a book, re-watching Gilmore Girls for the fourth (okay, sixth…) time, and wrapping up warm to head out for a walk in the crisp autumn sun! Which, on September 26th, is exactly what me and my partner did.

Our first stop, as usual, was the beloved Parsonage Gardens in Didsbury. This beautiful walled garden provides a home for an amazing variety of trees, looked after by a dedicated team of volunteers. My favourite is the old mulberry tree at the entrance to the gardens, but we also found a corkscrew hazel, a yew tree with bright red berries, some bamboo, a sargent’s rowan tree, a Chinese dogwood, and some ferns! I love ferns because of how ancient they are. With a fossil record dating back to the middle Devonian (383-393 million years ago) they are one of the oldest groups of plants on Earth. A piece of ancient history on our doorstep!

As we walked down the hill to Fletcher Moss Gardens, we passed the Church of St James on Stenner Lane. St James is the second oldest church in Manchester, dating back to 1275. I paused for a moment to admire the ivy spilling over the walls surrounding the church garden, before continuing on. The species we encountered as we wandered through Fletcher Moss ranged from the small (forget-me-nots) to the large (silver birch). We also found another rowan tree, the bane of witches! Rowan has an illustrious history in British folklore as red was considered the best colour for fighting evil, so it was planted by houses so that it’s red berries could protect the occupants from witches.

Our walk took us further into Stenner Woods, where we were on the lookout for fungi. This is not my area of expertise, but I’ve done my best to identify what we found! Growing on the side of a fallen log was a small mushroom which I think is a type of inkcap, and on top of another log was a large, flat mushroom with a white underside which I think is a giant polypore. Like Laura I spotted some bracket fungus, although the fungus looked to be past it’s best so I was not sure of the species! While searching through the woodland for fungi, I also came across an abandoned spider’s web adorned with raindrops which looked like crystals.

We ended our plant and fungi hunt by walking through the iconic poplar grove which leads from the river back to Stenner Lane. I had a lovely time on my autumn adventure, but I think I need to brush up on my fungus identification skills!

Autumnal Plants and Fungi

Autumn is usually defined as the season between summer and winter when leaves change colour and fall, the weather becomes cooler, and a time of full maturity is reached, such as crops becoming ripe. Autumn is so much more than this though, with it often being a favourite time of year for many, encapsulated in a feeling of cosiness, plentifulness and change. For Laura at this time of year, the sunsets are spectacular, the nights full of starry skies, and surroundings full of natural food on offer. For Emma, frost sparkles on bright leaves, the morning air becomes crisp, and the smell of hot chocolate is a welcome aroma.

This season is also a time for plants and fungi to reach the ends of their annual cycle and go out with a bang. As Laura and Emma found, autumn is a vibrant season before winter’s slumber descends on the landscape. It was interesting to see some variation between the two locations though, such as in Manchester more exotic species thrive and autumn marches forward earlier than in Dorset. This would be due to the naturally milder climate found in an urban setting, but temperatures tending to be colder in the North-West than the balmier South-West.

Still there were treasures to be found in both locations, with plants and fungi taking centre stage. Colourful, bountiful and spectacular, such species capture the imagination and provide a lifeline in nature. Engulfed in the cold and storminess of winter, we can now look back on the golden glow of autumn days with a smile, before we begin to look forward to the return of new life once again.

Rural Dorset vs. Urban Manchester: Magical Minibeasts

Series in collaboration with guest writer Emma Rogan

Rolling green hills, trees sprawling across the landscape, hedgerows thick with plant and animal life, flowers growing up here and there, and rivers flowing through it all. The light of an orange sunset cast out over the city by a soaring glass tower block, the lonely lights of a crane against an evening sky, busy streets lit up for Christmas filled with music and laughter. Everyone’s idea of idyll varies, but for nature any landscape could provide a home. Let us explore.

Growing up within her family’s 250 acres of land, for naturalist Laura, rural Dorset is home. In what may be called the ‘middle of nowhere’ for an urban adventurer, Laura grew up alongside wildlife from barn owls and hares to grass snakes, damselflies, and oak trees. With parents that nurtured her to take an interest from a young age in looking after the wildlife they saw on their doorstep, this landscape has made her the conservationist and scientist she is today. Now her home provides inspiration for her photography and writing, including her Laura’s Wild World blog. Check out her blog here.

Guest for this series and wildlife enthusiast, Emma grew up in Manchester and will always be a city girl at heart. As a child she loved to watch nature documentaries and daydreamed about faraway places, but over time she fell in love with the wildlife that also calls Manchester its home. Emma has spent the past year documenting the lives of the insects, birds, squirrels and foxes that stop by her little rectangle of garden, and exploring the local woods alongside the River Mersey with her mum. Check out her page here.

In this brand new blog series, we take a look at the local wildlife that can be found in two very different home locations. Though at a contrast with each other, we will see how nature can make its home in both rural and urban landscapes, and the wealth of life that can be explored on anyone’s doorstep. At a time when it is so important that we protect and conserve the natural environment around us, let us inspire you as we take an adventure to explore a smaller side to nature.

Laura’s Countryside Minibeasts

Today was a warm and breezy day, perfect for walking through my family’s Dorset farmland in just a T-shirt and shorts. It was the kind of day though when you could feel the first breath of autumn in the air, kept at bay by the bleaching late-August sun. Pushing the cooler days to come to the back of my mind, I set out to try to see what smaller creatures I could find out in nature.

Journeying along tracks, through grass fields, over rivers, through tall maize, past a chalk ridge, and back home to my garden, my quest bore more and more fruits along the way. With every turn I got to experience a colourful and spectacular diversity of butterflies from small coppers to peacocks, got to be serenaded by grasshoppers singing their chirping tune, and to be joined by crane flies lazily hanging in the hazy golden light as I walked along on my own.

As my minibeast list grew, I stopped here and there to take a closer look, such as to gaze at beautifully banded snails hanging from nettles, or to photograph minibeasts, such as the curious looking froghoppers making maize leaves their home. I was loving it! The main highlight of my adventure though, had to be discovering a treasure trove of dragonfly and damselfly species on and around the pond in our conservation field. One minute I would see the golden-brown of an unknown dragonfly fly past me, before catching sight of common blue demoiselles dancing in the air and red-veined darters defending territories over the water. I was amazed at how many beautifully-coloured species I saw in such a short space of time!

When I set out on my minibeast adventure, I was not entirely sure what I would find at this late stage of August. Whatever I thought though, by the end I was having a really great time, seeing some cool minibeasts ranging from busy honey bees enjoying a medley of flowers to many butterflies adorning buddleia bushes like gemstones. It really brought home that you never know what you might find until you open your eyes to the world around you. I am no invertebrate expert, but I was still able to take in all the wonders this mini world had to offer. It was a great break from life, though more importantly, a game changer!

Emma’s Minibeast Hunt in the City

Unbelievably, the afternoon I’d planned to go on my Minibeast Hunt was beautifully warm and sunny with a slight breeze. This is a rarity in Manchester! I gleefully pulled on my walking boots and headed out with my other half to Fletcher Moss, a nearby park and woodland alongside the River Mersey. We spent an hour wandering through the Parsonage Gardens, down to the river (down, down, doooown by the riveeeer – any Baldur’s Gate 3 fans?), and through the woods, making a brief stop for ice cream along the way!

The Old Parsonage and it’s beautiful walled garden was left to the citizens of Manchester by Alderman Fletcher Moss in 1919, and has since become a much-loved community space which is carefully looked after by volunteers. The garden was buzzing with pollinators drawn in by the variety of flowers, the echinops was particularly popular! It’s always lovely to see bees out and about in Manchester, as bees are the symbol of our city.

We then walked down the hill and took a winding path towards the river. The first stop on our riverside walk was Simon Bridge, a green iron bridge across the River Mersey which was gifted to the people of Didsbury by Henry Simon in 1901. Plenty of bees, wasps and hoverflies flew past us as we walked, but our second stop came when we heard what we thought was the singing of a grasshopper! This necessitated ten minutes of searching and more than a few curious glances before we found the little guy sat solemnly on a blade of grass.

As we wandered on, our path took us away from the river and back up into Stenner Woods, a small area of woodland in the original Mersey Valley flood plain. It was at this point that a dragonfly decided to join us! Unfortunately, he wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to take a picture. We also came across a snail clinging to a thistle, and a ladybird nestled between the spines of a teasel, and a very hungry group of mint leaf beetles. Butterflies were noticeably absent, as we spotted only one female meadow brown butterfly during our walk. Our final stop was at a small pond area, where we saw what seemed to be hundreds of pond skaters!

I’ve been fond of bees for quite a few years (I even wrote my dissertation on bees!), but I don’t often take the time to pause and notice the other minibeasts that live in my local area. This minibeast hunt was a great opportunity to challenge myself to look closer, and I felt very lucky to gain a snapshot into the lives of these smallest of animals.

Minibeasts

When people think of animals they usually think of lions, bears or elephants, for example, forgetting the smaller less observed animals in nature. The minibeasts we walk past each day though, can be equally majestic and awe-inspiring. Butterflies in spectacular colours, weird and wonderful froghoppers, or wriggling hard-working earthworms. All play an important role in nature, but tend to go unnoticed and be underappreciated.

On both Emma and Laura’s minibeast adventures though, they found taking the time to focus on the smaller things eye opening. They might live in very different areas, but the green spaces they both have access to show an amazingly similar host of minibeasts. From grasshoppers to dragonflies, amazing minibeasts can be found anywhere. By challenging yourself to look closer at the smaller things in life, you can learn a lot, be provided with inspiration and even experience a moment of distraction and escape. Minibeasts are colourful, unusual, and awe-inspiring, so why not stop and find out what you could discover too?

Exploring With My Camera Trap Spring 2021

After I click open the file on my camera trap, I press next through a male pheasant strutting his stuff and a female roe deer passing through, until a photo makes me stop. There towards the back of the shot are two small brown shapes. I move through the rest of the photos as day passes into night, and watch as these two rough and tumble through the photos, exploring, playing and watching their wild neighbours go past, ending with one sitting stock still in front of the camera. My camera trap had successfully found my first litter of fox cubs of the year!

The last few years I have become known for my exploration of my family’s farm in Dorset using a camera trap. My camera trap allows me to delve into the lives of my wild neighbours without intrusion or disturbance of their natural behaviour, and to use my photos to inspire others to open their eyes and be motivated to conserve our local wildlife. It is always a rollercoaster of emotions, never knowing what my camera trap might find, but in the end it is a very rewarding experience. If you are interested in getting your own camera trap or knowing how to make the most of your own, check out my ‘How to… Use and Make the Most of a Camera Trap’ guide for some more information.

My camera trap has been a very useful tool for me over the last few years, so since 2019 I have spent my spring seasons moving my camera trap around different sites across 250 acres of farmland, taking in different species and behaviour. In 2019, I saw 12 species of birds and mammals, including families of badgers and a family of three fox cubs. In 2020, my camera trapping got even more interesting, with badger cubs, a couple of litters of fox cubs, and lots of roe deer sightings. The most enjoyable shots are always the most unexpected though, despite from time to time getting a photo bomber or two, for example in the form of our farm cat!

This spring I have been out and about once again on the farm with my camera trap. This year I selected six different sites across our land, with the hope of capturing some of the normal sights, along with some new ones. As the spring has now come to an end, activity has dropped across these sites, and thus it is time to see how spring has been captured by my camera trap this year.

Camera Trapping Spring 2021

Quarry Field Badger Sett

My first camera trapping site this year was an active badger sett to the east of my family’s land. It sits between a silage field and a maize field in a wide and thick hedgerow, and is a great crossroads for animals passing through. I have used this site in previous years for camera trapping, with varying success, such as last year’s highlights of badger cubs and a lively, lone fox cub.

This year I set my camera trap up at the sett for a week (3rd-10th April), moving the position and angle every other day to increase my chances of capturing wildlife. It paid off as I had a successful first week, with rabbits, roe deer, badgers, and a fox.

Due to seeing a lone fox cub at this site last year, the presence of an adult fox at the sett once again led me to return with my camera trap seven weeks later for another week (27th May-1st June). My hunch paid off as my camera trap returned photos of two fox cubs playing, living alongside a badger family, and being fed by a parent.

Gill Hill Copse

For my next site, I set my camera trap up within a copse surrounded by a cow grazing field west of the Quarry Field badger sett. During early spring this is a great site to capture wildlife moving through the landscape as the copse is a great stopping place. I have used this site before, and last year I saw species, such as roe deer and foxes.

This year I used my camera in the copse for just one week (11th-18th April), but moved its position within the copse every couple of days. I captured photos of a territorial male pheasant, an adult badger, a grey squirrel, an adult fox, and a rather comical sequence of photos of two female roe deer being spied on by a hiding male. As vegetation in the copse grows up and spring progresses, camera trapping success decreases at this site, but it was nice to see some life early on this spring.

Dorset County Council Wood

For my third site, I set my camera trap within a small, young wood that can be found at the centre of my family’s land, bordered by a road and a meadow. I have used this wood before, with some positive sightings in 2019 of foxes and badgers passing through.

This year I tried the wood again for a couple of days (19th-24th April), with some overall disappointing results. A male pheasant and magpie were seen, with an adult fox being seen twice, but overall the wood was quiet, reflecting a lack of diversity evident in this unmanaged woodland. I did not return to the wood again during this spring as a result.

Badger Field Sett

For my fourth camera trapping site, I returned to an active badger sett towards the centre of my family’s land. The sett is bordered by grazing land on both sides, and is set within a wide, thick hedge, extending out into the field on its east side. Last year I used my camera trap to look within the sett and to the sett entrances on either side, and saw adult badgers, badger cubs, and an adult fox. This was unsurprising as the sett is a thriving mixed site for badgers, foxes and rabbits alike.

This year I positioned my camera trap first on the western side of the sett (25th-27th April), before positioning it directly within the area above the sett (4th-7th May). Pointing my camera trap at the animal track running along the side of the sett, I captured an adult badger, adult fox, and my first hare! Above the sett, my camera trap was more active, capturing lots of badger activity, woodpigeons, blackbirds, and red-legged partridges, and a surprising sighting of a field vole climbing vegetation. It was a lovely sequence of photos!

Badger Alley

For my fifth site, I chose to return to one of my favourite locations, the familiarly known Badger Alley. Badger Alley is an enclosed footpath that has dug out animal holes along half of its length, split into two old badger setts. In 2019 this was a super site for seeing badgers wondering its length, but last year it was obvious that wildlife numbers had declined, badgers in particular.

This year I spent two stints setting up my camera trap along Badger Alley. Firstly, I spent five days with my camera trap trained on the non-active lower sett, changing the camera’s position after two days (10th-14th May). Amongst photos of a female roe deer and a displaying male pheasant, I got lots of really lovely photos of two fox cubs playing and exploring their world.

I then returned to Badger Alley in June, moving my camera from the non-active lower sett (5th-11th June) to the sett further up (11th-14th June). By now my camera trap found that the family of foxes had moved on, with only the female and new male roe deer appearing at the lower sett. What was really sad, was finding that Badger Alley has now been fully abandoned by badgers, with the higher sett now being home to just rabbits. A slightly disappointing end to my camera trap’s time at Badger Alley!

Monkwood

To finish camera trapping during the spring season, I took a bet on a site where there was a possibility of finding another litter of fox cubs. This site was a hedge in the middle of cow grazing land, where I had not previously camera trapped before. I chose to set my camera trap up on a fence post pointing along the hedgeline where I had found holes into the hedge, and left my camera for a couple of days (14th-16th June).

On retrieving my camera trap, I was excited to find that my instincts had been right and my camera trap had shot photos of two fox cubs and an adult. It was a lovely end to my spring camera trapping season!

My 30 Days Wild 2021: A Wild Month

June has been one of those months that has passed by in the blink of an eye. Rainy days quickly moved into scorching heat and then back to rain, framing the last of spring’s events. Every day I have tried to be outside as much as possible, with my happy place being out in nature. From work to down time, my life and hobbies revolve around the wild and the natural world around me. This is why I love to share my experiences with others, to excite, inspire, and instill, and to help motivate people to protect and conserve what is left of our natural world.

It is not surprising then that I am always up for a wild challenge. Last year this took the form of the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, an annual nature challenge that has now run for 6 years, with more than a million people taking part last year. This challenge aims to bring people closer to nature whilst making a positive difference for wildlife and its conservation. All you have to do is complete one ‘Random Act of Wildness’ each day for the whole of June. It is that simple!

Last year I really enjoyed participating in 30 Days Wild, with the challenge enriching my days, helping me to relax, and allowing me to develop a deeper connection with the natural world around me. It also gave me an added focus on days that were busy and stressful, keeping me centred and moving forward. My Random Acts of Wildness ranged from making bird food and picking fruit, to dissecting barn owl pellets and learning my chalkland wildflower species. So it was an easy decision this year to take part once again.

Here’s what I got up to during 30 Days Wild 2021:

Day 1: Tuesday 1st (Work)

For the start of my 30 Days Wild, I began strong.

After failing to find an active kestrel nest last year, I finally found the natural nest I had been hoping for! I also checked and moved my camera trap after a week out at a badger sett, discovering my second family of foxes of this year, with it being by far my best camera trapping season yet!

Day 2: Wednesday 2nd (Day Off)

I love an adventure, and so today I ventured out into my local area in the rain to take in as many different habitats and species as possible, with the highlight being 4 red kites sitting in a tree on my family’s land. After drying off and allowing the rain to pass, that afternoon I headed back outside, this time to test my brand new macro lens and get stuck in to the world of the small.

Day 3: Thursday 3rd (Day Off)

For my second day off, I made the most of free time and went for a long ride with a friend, the highlight being riding through chalk grasslands, embellished with colourful flowers and melodious birds. Being on horseback in this way allows me to take in a range of wildlife in a short period of time and also give me great up-close views.

Day 4: Friday 4th (Work)

For spring, my wildlife blog has been back up and running, and every Friday has been a Wild Friday. For this week, my new post was all about the spring bluebells, which are one of my favourite parts of spring each year. Check it out on my blog now!

Day 5: Saturday 5th (Work)

After a long day at work, I still had energy to work on some of my nature projects. This included putting my dad together a list of all the bird species seen on my family’s land in the last year (65!), and learning how to fill in nest records for the BTO’s Nest Record Scheme, beginning with a blackbird’s, kestrel’s, and barn owl’s nest.

Day 6: Sunday 6th (Work)

A week ago I cleared a small wildlife area of docks and sowed some homemade wildlife mixes, so this evening after work I headed over to the area to do some management and to water the seeds. I then headed home to finish off my day with Thursday’s and Friday’s missed episodes of Springwatch.

Day 7: Monday 7th (Work)

After catching my neice’s cold, today I felt particularly under the weather. It was a perfect way then to spend my evening curled up in an armchair reading some lovely nature blogs to cheer myself up before an early night.

Day 8: Tuesday 8th (Work)

My happy place is out in nature, and so I have been enjoying working at the moment on my family’s farm in Dorset, and keeping an open mind to what I might discover during day-to-day life. Today I had everything from peacock butterflies and Lackey moth caterpillars, to yellowhammers singing and brown hares grazing within 10 metres of me!

Day 9: Wednesday 9th (Day Off)

I began my first of two days by heading to my bird ringing trainer’s private nature reserve to help with summer maintenance work, before returning home to check the kestrel nest and to head round to my next door neighbour’s to look for active swallow nests (4 so far!).

Day 10: Thursday 10th (Day Off)

For my second day off, I had a lovely relaxing hack with Marsha exploring a new route near my home, and spent time watching and counting the birds visiting the feeders in my garden. From pheasants and house sparrows to goldfinches and greenfinches, all species and their abundance are recorded in my garden and sent off at the end of the week to the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch scheme.

Day 11: Friday 11th (Work)

Today after work I spent time expanding my wildlife knowledge through reading the BTO’s Lifecycle magazine and BBC Wildlife magazine, and watching the very last episode of 2021’s Springwatch.

Day 12: Saturday 12th (Work)

Today I used my lunch break to take photos of the bees buzzing around the poached egg flowers in my family’s garden using my brand new macro lens (very exciting!). My evening was then spent relaxing with my family in my brother and sister-in-law’s garden for a lovely family bbq in the setting sun.

Day 13: Sunday 13th (Work)

Last year I completed a self-set challenge to find an example of wildlife for every letter of the alphabet during just 1 day. Today I decided to have a go once again, but with the added challenge of finding different examples compared to last year. It was tough, but I did it!

Day 14: Monday 14th (Work)

After a long day at work, I spent some time exploring Twitter’s wildlife community, visiting some of my favourite and some new pages. Why not check them out yourself to find out what they have been getting up to?

Day 15: Tuesday 15th (Work)

After work, I had a really lovely evening checking my family’s barn owl nest box and kestrel tree nest with fully licensed members of my ringing group. We were excited to find the adult female barn owl brooding 4 young and the adult female kestrel feeding 3 two week old chicks!

Day 16: Wednesday 16th (Day Off)

To finish off a jam packed day off, I went for a lovely evening walk that began with just me and my camera and ended with me also carrying my camera trap and family’s farm cat. He likes to have a walk, but he gets tired too easily!

Day 17: Thursday 17th (Day Off)

Around my usual horse riding today, I kept myself busy with my wildlife photography, using my camera, taking photos off of memory cards, organising photos, and sorting my camera trap.

Day 18: Friday 18th (Work)

Today was another ‘Wild Friday‘ on my blog meaning a brand new blog post went up all about how spring 2021 unfurled. A little scientific, a little anecdotal, and a little visual-based, it was an enjoyable piece to write.

Day 19: Saturday 19th (Work)

Today I have been very busy looking after my parents’ farm whilst they are away. It has been a great opportunity to take in all that the farm has to offer and to appreciate all the work my parents have done and are doing for wildlife on the farm, from digging ponds to planting trees.

For more information check out my 2020 blog post called ‘Giving Nature a Home on the Farm’.

Day 20: Sunday 20th (Work)

After a busy few days looking after the farm, this afternoon I took some time to relax with my family, and be a proud aunt seeing how my very intelligent neice is learning more and more about wildlife. To top off my day, I took part in the Wildlife Trusts Big Wild Quiz, getting a respectable 28 out of 35.

Day 21: Monday 21st (Work)

Nature has a strong influence on british culture, influencing everything from music to art and literature. Nature is also a great inspiration for my own creativity, for example encouraging me to improve my own ability to draw and sketch, and to use my drawings to illustrate my wild ‘How to’ guides.

Day 22: Tuesday 22nd (Work)

After a busy day at work, I decided that for today’s Random Act of Wildness I would make a valuable donation to Dorset Wildlife Trust. Any donation that can be made is important for such organisations to be able to do their conservation work, such as rewilding and habitat management.

Day 23: Wednesday 23rd (Day Off)

Around a lovely much needed catch up with and old friend, I spent my day off countryside walking, checking swallow nests, and baking. I followed suit of last year’s baking, and kept it simple with yummy sponge cakes with wild decorations, in the form of flowers, butterflies and leaves. A lot of fun!

Day 24: Thursday 24th (Day Off)

Today I spent my day checking barn owl nest boxes with Dorset County Council and Alan who I ring with at Conservation Action. Such experiences always feel like a privilege to me and it was a great training experience, topped off with ringing 3 out of 4 of my swallow nests.

Day 25: Friday 25th (Work)

Today was Wild Friday on my blog, with this week’s post being all about my how spring looked for me personally, featuring 16 of my favourite photos from the season. They are either aesthetically pleasing, a great memory, or just bring me joy. Check it out now!

Day 26: Saturday 26th (Work)

Today on a much needed afternoon off, activities included exploring a road verge in my local area to ID plants with my mum (24 wildflower species), and picking elderflower heads to make this year’s elderflower cordial.