Spring 2022: How It Happened

This year spring has been a blast of colour, abundance, and new beginnings. Though April experienced some cooler weather, and storms blew up here and there, on the whole spring was calm and dry. What characterised this spring most of all though was the weather being warmer in general, making spring 2022 the 5th warmest on average with a quarter less rainfall. Turbulent winter weather led to a slower start to spring, but the increasing warmer days led to spring speeding up and going out in a hurry in my home area of Dorset.

Last year weather patterns had a big influence on spring events, with events moving earlier or later as a result. For many species, events actually occurred later in spring in Dorset in 2021 due to cooler and wetter weather overall. For example, compared to 2020, oak leaves unfurled 31 days later, bluebells flowered 4 days later, and swallows arrived 5 days later. It was an unsual spring that was still joyful, but showed the unexpected impact that climate change is already having on spring events.

After the unpredictability of spring 2021, it will be interesting to see how spring events have fared this year in 2022. How is spring looking as a season overall in 2022? Did specific spring events get back on track or continue to become later? And did spring events continue to follow weather patterns? Read on to find out!

Trees

This year on my family’s farm we have seen a general trend for tree budburst, first leaf and first flowering occurring earlier than in 2021, showing dates more similar to those of 2020 or ones that were even earlier. This was true for beech (Fagus sylvatica), field maple (Acer campestre), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), english oak (Quercus robur), wild cherry (Prunus avium), and Norway maple (Acer platanoides) trees, all between 9 and 28 days earlier. This was similar for ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and silver birch (Betula pendula) trees, but ash showed budburst 10 days later and silver birch first leaves 4 days later.

For first flowers, horse chestnut and ash trees shared the earlier trend with them blooming 2 and 34 days earlier respectively. For field maple, english oak, silver birch, wild cherry, and Norway maple flowers though, flowers actually appeared anywhere between 1 to 24 days later.

Shrubs

For blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), dog rose (Rosa canina), elder (Sambucus nigra), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), lilac (Syringa vulgaris), and hazel (Crataegus monogyna) first flowering occurred earlier than in 2021. This ranged from hazel flowers 5 days earlier to blackthorn flowers 21 days earlier.

Surprisingly for first budburst and first leaf, the opposite trend was actually shown. For blackthorn, dog rose, elder, hawthorn, and lilac these spring events were seen to occur on the same day as 2021 or later by 2-13 days. As these shrub events occur more towards the start of spring, maybe the slow start to spring was having an effect. Hazel budburst occurred 12 days earlier instead, but first leaf was delayed and ended up fitting the trend, unfurling 13 days later on 24th March.

Flowers

Though snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) first showed their snowy heads 12 days earlier on 6th January, first flowering was 6 days later for daffodils (Narcissus spp.) on 25th January, 11 days later for lesser celandines (Ficaria verna) on 26th January, and 45 days later for primroses (Primula vulgaris) on 14th February.

Other spring flowering species had a more mixed response to the season, either appearing earlier or later compared to 2021, as we moved from March to April. The earlier appearers were:

  • Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) – 6 days earlier on 26th March
  • Early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) – 11 days earlier on 7th April
  • Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon) – 22 days earlier on 11th April
  • Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) – 1 day earlier on 19th April
  • Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) – 16 days earlier on 18th May

The later appearers were:

  • Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) – 2 days later on 1st April
  • Greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) – 3 days later on 4th April
  • Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) – 2 days later on 10th April
  • Cowslips (Primula veris) – 9 days later on 11th April

Grasses

This year all recorded grass species flowered earlier. Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) first flowered 18 days earlier on 22nd April, Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus) 33 days earlier on 10th May, and cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) 21 days earlier on 19th May.

Birds

With birds, the first spring events of the year occurred later on average. For example, song thrushes (Turdus philomelos) were first heard singing 18 days later on 19th January, rooks (Corvus frugilegus) were first seen building their nests 2 days later on 27th February, and blackbirds (Turdus merula) were first heard singing 6 days later on 16th February.

As we reached March, events occurred earlier than in 2021, with chiffchaffs Phylloscopus collybita) arriving 3 days earlier on 13th March, cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), and yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella) first singing 3, 7 and 14 days earlier respecitvely in April, and great-spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) first fledging 10 days earlier on 6th June. Swallows (Hirundo rustica) were an exception though first returning to our land 1 day later on 11th April.

Insects

The majority of insects I recorded were first seen on the wing on our land earlier than in 2021, making the most of our more stable weather, These were:

  • Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) – 27 days earlier on 3rd March
  • 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) – 1 day earlier on 19th March
  • Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) – 10 days earlier on 20th March
  • Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) – 16 days earlier on 22nd March
  • Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) – 26 days earlier on 23rd March
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) – 14 days earlier on 24th March
  • Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) – 53 days earlier on 21st April
  • Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae) – 14 days earlier on 8th May
  • Painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) – 43 days earlier on 17th May
  • Meadow brown butterfly (Maniola jurtina) – 27 days earlier on 22nd May
  • Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) – 31 days earlier on 17th June

The exceptions were the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) that emerged 19 days later on 18th March and orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) first seen 18 days later on 18th April.

Summary

This year during spring, plants tended to flower earlier, which could be due to the on average less turbulent weather, alongside the possibility of stress responses being triggered by the increasing temperatures at times. As a result flowers appeared earlier and went over more quickly.

Budburst and leaves did not follow as consistent a trend, but on average plants went through these spring events later than 2021. This may be due to many of these events occurring more towards the beginning of spring, when day length and temperature increases would have only just started to take an effect. Bird events followed spring in general with a slow start and a quick finish, whilst insects emerged earlier, as expected after last year’s unpredictable weather.

This year I have enjoyed all that spring had to offer, though it felt like once it got started it rushed through to its finish. In the moment it was a glorious season, but was cut short in its splendour. Being my favourite season, this year I was particularly sad when the season went over in to summer. Let’s see what will happen during the seasons to come and enjoy the adventures to be had!

Spring In Photos 2022

Spring this year has been a joyful and colourful experience. In 2020, spring was a lifeline during lockdown. In 2021, spring was a turbulent and unpredictable season, with some real wonderous moments to behold. This year though, I have simply enjoyed every moment that spring had to offer, watching as the season swelled into being and slipped out once again with the heat of the summer sun.

This spring the season began slower, but reached its peak quickly once it got going. In Dorset, from blossom and bursting leaves to nesting birds and breeding mammals, spring bloomed spectacularly, with so much new life on offer. During this time I made lots of adventures out with my camera and took many, many photos. Here are just a few of my favourites from spring 2022.

Spring 2022: In Photos

Sunset Damson Blossom – This year the blossom of fruiting trees was fantastic. Our damson tree blossomed without being bitten by frost or hit by strong winds, so hopefully it will be a good year for damsons

Lambing at Home – My mum has her own mini flock of Lleyn ewes, a Lleyn ram, and a Charolais ram, and for us spring would not be spring without lambs springing around the fields!

Horse Chestnut Flowers – Often tree flowers are simple, green and unassuming, but not those of horse chestnut trees. Horse chestnut flowers form a candelabra of fantastic white flowers with dots of pink and yellow, towering high in the boughs of the trees

Woodland Minibeasts – This year during the bluebell bloom, I focused on exploring the hidden life amongst the bluebells (check out my previous post for more). One of my finds during my hunts was this fly which looks to be a St. Mark’s fly. This fly gets its name due to emerging around St. Mark’s Day in April each year

Oak Flowers – Though horse chestnut flowers are showy, some tree flowers are fantastic in a subtler way. The flowers of English oak trees hang down in green streamers from their branches, looking pretty swaying softly in gentle spring breezes

Up Close With Stitchwort Flowers – Stitchwort flowers or ‘Shirt-buttons’ are white stars spotting the countryside throughout spring. Taking a closer look, this particular flower looks weird and wonderful with stamens that curl around each other

Super Snail – This white-lipped snail is a simple, but colourful individual amongst the green of spring. Their swirling shells are a great subject to photograph

Wild Cherry Blossom – Every year one of my favourite flowering trees is the Wild Cherry. There’s nothing like banches covered in blankets of white set against a bright green backdrop of new leaves

Fabulous First Frogspawn – In 2020, we started digging a pond in our own mini nature reserve at home on our farm. This year we were excited to find our very first frogspawn! It was amazing to watch the tadpoles change and transform over time

1 O’Clock, 2 O’Clock, Dandelion Clock – All children find magic and wonderment in dandelion clocks and their parachute seeds. Even as an adult I still find inspiration in their fragile globe-like forms

Majestic Beasts – My mum has her own herd of beef cross suckler cows and an Aberdeen angus bull that are free range and raise their own calves. We especially enjoy watching the calves grow up and grow into themselves over their very first year of life

Apple Blossom – As a family we have always enjoyed growing and foraging for our own food in our local area. Though last year was not a very good year for fruit, this year looks to be a better year, apples included

Woodland Spider – Just like the St. Mark’s fly, whilst exploring a woodland of bluebells, I found this species of orb-weaver spider. The bluebells were home to many, many of these little arachnids all weaving their webs between flowers, waiting to catch a meal

Beautiful Blackthorn Blossom – Every year one of my favourite parts of spring is blackthorn. The snow white flowers of blackthorn winter bring colour to the landscape at a time when things are still grey and spring is only just trickling in

Portland Pets – This year I spent some time photographing my neighbour’s pedigree Portland flock. These small sheep, topped off with curling horns, have a great character and warm colour to them which make it a joy to take their portraits again and again

Life Amongst the Bluebells

‘When you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise’, and in late April to early May, this surprise comes in the form of a fantastic mass event! During this time, our woodlands are blanketed with a sweeping carpet of colour; a rich mass of violet-blue, made up of thousands of nodding heads. This popular spring spectacle is a heady treat for the senses, epitomising the beauty of British springtime. This is not all that our woodlands have to offer at this time though, with the Bluebells making us overlook some humbler stars of the show.

So when walking through the Bluebells, why not stop and look around you for a moment. ‘Daddy’s-shirt-buttons’ or Greater Stitchwort can be found dotted throughout the woodland carpet, white star-shaped flowers on slender stems. In thicker patches of green, clusters of green-centred stars can also be found on sturdy stems, their pungent scent giving them away as the flowers of Wild Garlic. These are joined closer to the ground by the white-cupped faces of the Wood Anemone, heads turned to the sun, merging into the galaxy of colour.

The palette is added to by splashes of pink and yellow. Shining yellow stars of Lesser Celandine float above heart-shaped leaves. The green-spiked Yellow Archangel, like a nettle, adorned with rings of butter-yellow flowers, each with their own hood. You can also find Early Purple Orchids beneath the trees, pink spikes growing from purple-splattered green leaves. Closer to the ground, the glittering pink faces of Herb Robert add to the show.

Amongst the Bluebells, there is not just a colourful backdrop of flowers to be found, but a hidden world to be discovered. Down at Bluebell level, the woodland floor comes alive. Spiders spin webs from Bluebell to Bluebell hoping to catch a meal, whilst Bumblebees fly from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen for their colonies. They are joined by a fantastic array of flies, varying in size, shape, and colour.

If you take an even closer look at the flowers, you might even find some more hidden characters that capture your mind and inspire your imagination. Camouflaged spiders, weird and wonderful weevils, colourful shield bugs, fascinating beetles, and even patchwork snails are waiting to be found. Minibeasts and their tiny worlds can create a sense of calm and simple joy, an easy example being a graceful Butterfly gently flitting by through dappled spring sunshine.

Walking through the Bluebells is a wonderful visual experience, but if you open your ears, then another world can also be added to this. The fluting notes of the Song Thrush, the onomatopoeic song of the Chiffchaff, the melodic Robin, or the powerful trilling song of the Wren. All flow together to create a symphony of bird song, a soundtrack fit for the spectacle that is the blooming of the Bluebells.

‘When you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise’, and in spring this might just be bigger than you expect. Next time the Bluebells are blooming, why not stop and see what you might find amongst those nodding heads.

Beautiful Barn Owls Breeding In 2021

Heart racing with excitement as I take that first step on to the ladder. One step, two step, and the next and the next, until I reach the box high in the rafters of the empty barn. Tap, tap on the side of the box to double check that the adult has left, before reaching quietly for the latch. As I carefully open the little door to the box, I then get my first peak of what may lay inside. There, at the back of the box, balls of downy feathers topped each with a pair of inquisitive eyes outlined by a heart of new feathers. Hope, elation, and pure joy – Original Piece

Iconic, distinct, and delightful, Barn Owls are a much-loved species of the British countryside. This protected species is often less commonly seen though, emerging on silent wings to hunt mainly at dawn and dusk. They are a particularly special species for my family, being an important indicator of the health of British farmland, such as our own, whilst also being a charismatic species to live alongside.

My family’s relationship with Barn Owls began in 2015, with the putting up of a nest box in one of our farm barns. Though Barn Owls have always been in our area, previously in very low numbers, our nest box finally allowed us to draw a pair of Barn Owls right into the heart of our farmland. This box has led to 7 years, so far, of regular Barn Owl sightings, the annual ringing of chicks, and a growing Barn Owl population. To find out more about the last 7 years, check out my previous Barn Owl blog posts.

The year of 2020 was a tough one for humans, but a more productive one for Barn Owls. Though we did not end up discovering any wild nesting pairs on the farm that year, we once again had Barn Owls in our barn nest box. The pair hatched 4 chicks from 4 eggs, and raised 2 successfully to fledging in August. This was a special moment as these were the very first Barn Owl chicks that I got to ring myself. Following this success, we had a super winter of seeing Barn Owls hunting every day the weather was settled.

For 2021, I had the privilege of getting more involved in Barn Owl nest box checks across Dorset with Conservation Action (CA). This project aims to preserve and conserve nature, to promote wildlife conservation, and to undertake research and monitoring of wildlife populations. As part of CA’s work, the last few years Barn Owl boxes have been checked on Dorset County Council farms (in which my family’s farm originally came under). From being involved in some of these nest box checks and from a few private Barn Owl boxes (not including my family’s own), I got to check 6 boxes and ring 10 chicks. It was a great experience, not to be missed!

My own Barn Owl nest box was first checked last year on the 15th June. On this day we found that the resident pair had hatched 4 chicks from 4 eggs in the box, all 4 being under 7 days old. We were also able to catch and ring the adult female, allowing us to identify her as a first time breeder at 2 years old. We then made sure the Barn Owls were not further disturbed for a month, before excitingly checking the box once again. Unfortunately the 2 smallest chicks and 1 of the larger chicks did not make it, probably due to the weather, leaving 1 strong healthy chick to survive to fledging.

What happened with our Barn Owls fitted in with the trend for 2021. Out of 81 boxes checked, only 21 boxes (26%) were being used by a pair, down from 39% in 2020. This reflects that Barn Owls were having a more difficult year, following a cold, then wet spring. Despite this, on average 2 owlets survived per box, a better statistic, reflecting the similar brood size average for 2020. With such turbulent weather, we were still very happy to have one Barn Owl chick fledge from the box in 2021.

After another winter (2021-2022) seeing Barn Owls hunting most days, we are looking forward to this year’s Barn Owl breeding season. By now we have seen a pair regularly around our nest box and have made a first licensed check of the box. Things are looking positive, so stay tuned to see how breeding goes on my family’s farm this year. Each year habitat changes and improves on our land, so we will also be interested to see how a new year and hopefully more stable weather will affect our Barn Owls. Here’s to a hopefully more successful 2022!

Barn Owls are a protected species, so all nest boxes were checked under full license, with all Barn Owls being ringed under license and special supervision. All birds handed were always put first in all situations, with minimum disturbance being made to the nesting birds and sites. Barn Owls are ringed to allow us to gain greater knowledge of this species to help better conserve this species and their preferred habitats.

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

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‘.

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.

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.

Day 27: Sunday 27th (Work)

For the last 2 years I have been enjoying training as a bird ringer, and have become a member of my trainer’s conservation group called Conservation Action. We are based in Dorset and the South West and aim to protect, restore and preserve biodiversity, promote conservation, and to research and monitor the state of nature.

For more information, check out our website at www.conservationactionuk.org or our Twitter and Instagram pages.

Day 28: Monday 28th (Work)

Though my happy place is being outside in all weathers, today was one of those days when I got a bit too wet and then a bit too sweaty. The day was still very productive, so I felt content at the end of the day to head home and curl up with my current wild book: Gavin Thurston’s ‘Journeys into the Wild: Secret Life of a Cameraman’.

Day 29: Tuesday 29th (Work)

Today I accidentally found a bird’s nest at waist height in a hedge on my family’s farm, spent a lovely half hour out in my garden, the flowers thick with bumblebees, and ringed my final of first brood swallow nest.

Day 30: Wednesday 30th (Day Off)

Today I had a glorious last day of 30 Days Wild. I had a lovely early morning walk with my mum, took photos of the many butterflies on the farm at the moment, and finished the day checking barn owl boxes with my bird ringing training as the sun set

A lovely, active and wild month spent in some of the best ways possible!

Spring Countryside Camera Trapping 2020

Through the stillness of an early morning mist, a shape appears, carefully stepping through the short undergrowth. She weaves through the trees, stopping to pick and browse as she goes. Then she stops, motionless. Ears pricked she listens out into the gloom, something catching her attention. Magnificent silhouette, the more impressive for her swollen belly, a sign of new life to come. Here she is captured, a glimpse of a world unknown, forever immortalised in a frame.

Camera traps provide a window into another world, one that is often unseen and unknown. As technology improves and efforts increase, humans are now capturing the natural world in increasing detail, observing new behaviours, and keeping track of wildlife that would otherwise be difficult to monitor. Camera traps also provide us as individuals with the opportunity to open our eyes to the world that lies outside our doors. To find out more about camera traps, how to use them, and for some inspiration, check out my ‘How to… Use and Make the Most of a Camera Trap’ post.