Eggcellent News

Following my post on the 24th March, I have been watching and keeping note of the activity taking place in both the Leicester and Nottingham peregrine nests.  I left you with the news that the Nottingham pair had laid one egg, but were yet to lay their second despite being almost a week later!  I had seen Mrs P trying to lay an egg during the latter part of the week, as had many other observers, and concern began to grow as she appeared to be uncomfortable and distressed.  It was reported at the time that she was believed to be egg bound and at risk of dying!  Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust was contacted by the University to see if anything could be done, but as they are wild birds the Trust decided to let nature take its course.  Luckily, this was the correct decision because at 7:20am on Monday 26th March, the second egg finally appeared!

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The weather improved, as did Mrs P’s health and four days later, on Good Friday, she laid the third egg of the season.  Due to the cold weather and time gap between the first two eggs though, the Trust thinks that there is a chance she may have reabsorbed what would have been the second egg during that week, and that the ‘second’ egg we see in the photo above is in fact the ‘first’ egg of a new clutch and the original first egg may not be successful.  This is very interesting and I can’t wait to see if their theory is correct!

I have continued to check the cameras to see whether a fourth egg would be laid this week, but I think the Nottingham clutch is now complete.

n15All stills taken from the NTU live cameras.

The Leicester pair have also given us plenty to watch since my last post.  Their first egg was laid on the 26th March at around 5:30pm, which I didn’t actually see until the 28th.  I was very excited when I turned on the camera and saw the below shot, so grabbed a still and let several people know!  I also set up my Grandma with links to the live cameras on her tablet, as she has recently become very fond of feeding and watching ‘her’ woodpigeons, blackbirds and dunnocks in her back garden, so I knew she would love watching the peregrines (maybe not when they are eating other birds though)!

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The lovely pair welcomed their second egg on the 29th March at 3:15pm and I just so happened to check the camera 40 minutes later when they were swapping incubation duties…

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Things moved quickly and on Easter Sunday, 1st April, the female decided to get in the Easter spirit by laying their third egg during the afternoon, and then their fourth and probably final egg on the 4th April at 6:50am.  There will now be around a thirty day wait and then hopefully the hatching will begin in both Leicester and Nottingham!  If the Nottingham pair’s first egg is in fact viable, we may even see it hatch before the end of this month.

l08Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live cameras (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 – Results!

At the end of January, the RSPB held their 39th Big Garden Birdwatch, and for the third year running I took part.  Although my watch wasn’t particularly inspiring, 420,489 results were submitted across the UK and a fantastic 6,764,475 birds were counted in total!

The overall results have been published and the 2018 top 10 garden birds are:

  1. House sparrow (non-mover)
  2. Starling (non-mover)
  3. Blue tit (up one place)
  4. Blackbird (down one place)
  5. Woodpigeon (non-mover)
  6. Goldfinch (non-mover)
  7. Great tit (up one place)
  8. Robin (down one place)
  9. Long-tailed tit (up one place)
  10. Chaffinch (down one place)

This is another great year of results for the RSPB to use along with previous data to determine which species need help, and which species are thriving.

Next year will be the Big Garden Birdwatch’s 40th anniversary, so I am hoping for big things and another big count!

Easter Eggs

If you are a peregrine falcon fan like me, you may have been keeping your eye on a specific breeding pair over the last few weeks.  Perhaps you have had your binoculars out and attended a local ‘peregrine watch’, or have been tuning in to a live camera online.  As mentioned in my previous post, the birds I am watching this year are once again Nottingham Trent University’s resident peregrine falcons and Leicester Cathedral’s pair.  (I will also be keeping up to date with the Coventry peregrines via their Twitter account).

After noting that last year Mrs P, the Nottingham female, laid her first egg on 17th March, I have been periodically checking the camera since the beginning of March, during the snow storms and then spring-like weather, to look out for any signs of egg laying!  I first noticed her sitting in the scrape on 9th March so knew the pair were getting ready for this year’s season, but then the ‘beast from the east’ returned to the UK!  This did concern me as the nest box was covered in snow, but every time I checked between the 16th and 18th March, the male was hunkering down in the scrape.

As I had been away on holiday the week before, I wasn’t sure if there was already an egg being kept warm, but it was later announced that their first egg was laid in the early hours of Sunday 18th March.  It took a few days before I got a glimpse of it, but I finally managed to grab a still image:

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I also managed to save a great shot of one of the peregrines and the egg glowing warmly on the thermal camera:

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On the 21st March, I thought Mrs P was preparing to lay her second egg, as she appeared to be in the ‘crouching’ position I witnessed last year, but there is still only one egg in the nest.  As peregrine eggs tend to be laid at 2-3 day intervals, surely another will come along this weekend…

n07All stills taken from the NTU live cameras.

Both male and female have been sharing the incubation and I expect (hope) that by Easter, this attentive pair will have their full clutch of eggs to incubate!

The Leicester pair on the other hand are yet to lay any eggs, but there is nothing to worry about as peregrines usually lay eggs in late March / early April.  The Leicester pair have however been very active – calling, posturing and scraping.  I have seen both birds on their ledge, each spending different amounts of time in and around the back of the box.

Only time will tell if they have a successful breeding season!

l01l02Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live camera (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

It’s Peregrine Time!

You may remember that last year I posted regularly about a breeding pair of peregrine falcons on Nottingham Trent University’s Newton building… well it is once again that time of year when they will begin nesting, ready to lay eggs and rear their young!  I have already started checking the live webcams and have seen the female on several occasions sitting on the ledge around the nest site, so I expect that in a month or so we will see a clutch of eggs in the scrape!  This year is extra exciting though, as not only will I be watching and blogging about the Nottingham peregrines, but also the Coventry AND Leicester pairs!

Why Coventry?  Well, last Christmas I was gifted an ‘adopted’ peregrine through Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which supports the “amazing falcon that has made its home at the top of Holy Trinity Church and Coventry Cathedral”, so of course I will be following their story over this breeding season, as well as throughout the rest of the year.

Why Leicester?  Being my home town, I have followed the Leicester Peregrine Project (a collaboration between the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society and Leicester City Council) for quite a while now, and try to spot and watch the peregrines on the Cathedral whenever I go into the city centre.  Last year I wrote about how they hoped to install a live camera, which unfortunately did not happen during the 2017 season… but I am happy and excited to find that the live stream is now available to watch on their website!  The camera is positioned brilliantly on the “5-star nest platform”, providing an intimate view of the nest site and close-ups of the gorgeous birds.  What is also great is that there is a daily written commentary alongside the video, so we won’t miss a thing – such as the fact that there has been lots of ‘bond-posturing’ and calling recently, which is a very good sign.  Last year, the Leicester pair did actually lay a clutch of eggs, but sadly they were all unsuccessful… so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we see some chicks this year!  I will make sure to keep you all posted.

IMG_20170318_150738_259© Peregrine Falcon on Leicester Cathedral, 2017

What did I see?

Last weekend was the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and I chose Saturday to do my count.  Unintentionally, I always seem to pick the day with the worst weather and this year was no exception – drizzly and windy!  As planned though, this year’s count was done in my grandma’s garden (2016 was at my mum’s and last year was at my in-law’s) as I am very interested to see the results from different locations.

rspb© the Green & the Wild

My grandma has been putting food out over winter, so after ensuring there was plenty on the grass and in the feeder, I sat in her conservatory between 11:30am – 12:30pm expecting to at least see my grandma’s regular garden visitors (2 woodpigeons and 2 magpies), but all I counted in the whole hour was a fleeting visit from a single blackbird and one woodpigeon!

As it is just as important to record no birds as it is many birds, I wasn’t disappointed but my grandma was keen for me to see the regulars, so later that afternoon once the weather had cleared up, we had another ‘birdwatch’ and would you believe it, within five minutes the lawn was crowded with two blackbirds, one of the two regular magpies and three woodpigeons, one of which was a juvenile which I found very sweet as the whole family was out for dinner together!

I didn’t manage to take any photographs of the birds this year, so instead I thought I would take part in the RSPB #ShareHowYouWear

shyw© My RSPB and some of my other wildlife charities pin badges.  I usually pick a species that represents the RSPB reserve I buy it from or is a bird that I have seen there.

Did you take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch this year?  If so, please share with us what you counted and of course, don’t forget to submit your results!

The Plastic Problem

As many of you will know, one of the biggest environmental problems right now is plastic pollution, specifically in our oceans!  Plastics do not go away and what is scary is the fact that over 300 million tonnes of plastic is being produced globally every year and half of this is for single use!  Furthermore, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the ocean and onto our beaches every single year… and if action isn’t taken, this figure will continue to rise, as society has produced more plastic in the last ten years than during the whole of the last century!  The average plastic bottle takes about 450 years to completely break down, meaning the plastic waste of today will be floating around the ocean or laying on the sea bed for generations.

The effect of plastics on ocean wildlife is absolutely awful.  For example, turtles choke on or get entangled in big pieces of plastic, smaller pieces fill the stomachs of seabirds leaving no room for food to feed their young, whilst microplastics (which are defined as particles less than 5mm across) are contaminated further by toxic chemicals and pesticides and are then consumed by a range of marine animals such as corals and zooplankton, which ultimately end up entering the food chain!

Thankfully this crisis has been at the forefront of discussion recently, with help from environmental charities and programmes such as Blue Planet II, as big corporations and Governments have been called upon to take action!  The UK Government’s 25 year environmental plan commits the UK to “eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042”, but I think as individuals we need to and CAN help now by making some simple life changes.

Firstly, why not find out what your plastic footprint is by using this calculator.  Once you know how you are using plastics, think about how you can reduce your usage.  I have come up with a list of 10 easy ideas:

  1. Carry a reusable bag around with you for those unexpected shopping trips
  2. Always use a reusable water bottle
  3. Take your own travel mug to coffee shops for the barista to fill up
  4. Reduce the use of sandwich bags by putting food straight into a lunchbox or Bento box
  5. Ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering drinks
  6. Use real cutlery and plates instead of disposable ones at parties
  7. Swap your plastic toothbrush for an eco-friendly bamboo one
  8. Stop using cosmetics that contain exfoliating micro-beads
  9. Avoid excessive food packaging by buying fresh and shopping wisely
  10. Recycle! Take a little extra time to check packaging and break it down properly for the different types of recycling

Do you have any other tips or suggestions for how we can all individually reduce our plastic usage?

Big Garden Birdwatch 2018

It’s January… the month of predicted snow showers and welcoming hygge… but also time to get your binoculars out and fill up your bird feeders, as the Big Garden Birdwatch is once again upon us!

That’s right, the RSPB is holding their annual birdwatch from 27th – 29th of this month and they want you to get involved.  You can request a FREE pack on their website now and that’s it, you will be set to take part in the world’s largest garden wildlife survey!  On your chosen day, simply get comfy in your garden, a room with a good view outside, your local park or green space and count the birds that you see in a single hour, making sure you jot down the maximum number of each species you see at any one time.  Once the hour is up, you will then have to log your results on the Big Garden Birdwatch website or post your paper form (within three weeks) for the RSPB to collate and analyse!

By taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, you will play a vital role in the health of the UK’s wildlife and even help “change the fortunes of an entire species“.  There’s nothing to lose!  Last year around 500,000 people took part in the birdwatch and I think we can beat that amazing figure this year – so join me in being a citizen scientist and request your pack today!

Gardens can prove a real life-saver for birds at this time of year, especially when it is frosty or snowy“, so if you are eager to count lots of birds during the survey and need some inspiration on how to attract them into your garden during the cold months (as well as all year round), check out the RSPB’s gardening tips!

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© Chaffinch.  One of the many birds I spotted near my local brook last Autumn.  2017.

The Nature of Iceland

Happy December everyone!  I hope you are all feeling jolly and are enjoying the festive season so far.

It has been a while since I have written about a specific place, but after a wonderful break and first visit to Iceland, I have been inspired to share my experience by delving into some brilliant, beautiful natural wonders!  Arriving on the evening of 23rd November, myself and partner Ed, had planned an eventful trip which certainly lived up to expectations.

Friday 24th November:  The sun didn’t rise until around 10:30am, by which time we were already out and about.  We spent the first day exploring Reykjavik, sampling several delicious pastries from Sandholt bakery and the highly rated Brauð & Co bakery, visiting Hallgrímskirkja, spotting birds we had not seen in real life before (American robins and ravens were regulars on the trip), absorbing some wonderful views along the harbour and admiring the Solfar (Sun Voyager) sculpture.  The steel sculpture is “a dream boat and an ode to the sun“, and the way in which the metal catches and reflects the sunlight is simply stunning!  We also walked under 23 life-size models of whales in the ‘Whales of Iceland’ museum.  Although entry into the museum was quite pricey, I enjoyed learning about the natural history of Icelandic waters, experiencing the immense size and magnificence of such a beautiful species, whilst also capturing some photographs which look like we had been swimming with them!

© Whales of Iceland, November 2017

Once the sun began to set, we headed back to our apartment and filled up on pasta, delicious cinnamon biscuits and tea before layering up in numerous thermals and jumpers and heading out once again at 8:30pm for our Northern Lights trip!  We were picked up at a stop around the corner from our apartment by BusTravel Iceland (which was very handy indeed) and reached our destination out in the countryside after around forty minutes.  The guide instantly led us to a snowy, dark, open area of land which was amazingly already crowned by a graceful, wide arc of cloudy green light!  (The green of the aurora is caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons from solar activity and the oxygen particles in our atmosphere).  We were lucky to have the aurora borealis above us all evening, and as time passed, the wide arc separated into thinner streaks which stretched almost from horizon to horizon and towards the end of the night, Mother Nature even treated us to an ephemeral curved aurora band with vertical rays.  Stunning!  The best way I found to see the colour distinctively was to cup my hands around the side of my temples to block any peripheral light (of which there was little anyway) and frame the aurora above me… I think this along with the nighttime darkness and cold air on my face made me feel in my own little world whilst experiencing the natural, magical spectacle.   It was certainly a memorable experience which truthfully, I haven’t stopped thinking about.

Saturday 25th November:  It was an early start for another trip with BusTravel Iceland – this time the Grand Golden Circle tour in the Southwest of Iceland!  As we travelled out into the countryside, we were able to watch the sun rise over snowy mountains before making a brief stop in Hveragerði, “the capital of hot springs” or “flower village“.  This was a lovely little town to view on the way down the mountain road as it lays on an active geothermal zone, so there were many hot springs and pillars of steam dotted throughout (even in people’s gardens) reflecting the early light, along with warmly lit greenhouses, which are heated by hot water from the volcanic hot springs.  In fact, Hveragerði “has the highest concentration of greenhouses in Iceland where residents have been harnessing geothermal energy since 1920 to provide the country with much of its home grown produce“.  We had a little wander and stretch and before returning to the bus, also had a look at a small exhibition called ‘Quake 2008’ which was all about a powerful earthquake (6.3 on the Richter scale) that struck the area on 29th May 2008.

We made five ‘highlight’ stops throughout the day – each offering something remarkable and with snow on the ground and sunny blue skies, we were both able to take some lovely photographs to save and share the beauty.

Kerið volcanic crater:  I had only seen pictures of this in spring and summer – a bright blue crater ‘lake’ looking up through a red and green embankment, so was fascinated to see it frozen over, surrounded by dark snowy slopes and patches of red rock.  It is believed that Kerið (which measures about 270m long, 170m wide and 55m deep) was once a cone volcano that erupted, clearing its full magma chamber in the process.  With no magma remaining, the cone likely collapsed into the void, resulting in the crater we see today.  The ‘lake’ naturally lays at the same level as the water table and varies between 7m and 14m throughout the year.  During our visit, it had a peaceful, still atmosphere which I would love to experience again, maybe even in the warm season to see the wonderful colours of the water and moss complementing the red volcanic rock of the caldera!

Faxi waterfall:  Faxi or Vatnsleysufoss waterfall is located on the Tungufljót river and is a striking natural wonder that glistened magically in the mid-morning sunlight for us.  At 80m wide and 7m high, Faxi had a humble charm about it and a prettiness that has remained in my mind.

Geysir Geothermal area:  This was our longest stop of the day as it included lunch and the extra time meant that we were able to slowly walk around the geothermal field and witness some impressive hot spring action!  It is believed that the entire field has a surface area of 3km², but most of the springs are aligned along a 100m wide strip.  The Great ‘Geysir’ is a large hot spring in this area and gives its name to hot springs all over the world – the name is actually derived from the Old Norse Icelandic verb geysa, meaning “to gush”Although Geysir is relatively inactive itself anymore, he was once a powerful marvel, reaching heights of 170m at one point, but as our guide explained “he is now in retirement”… but just as magnificent as ever!

‘Strokkur’ is now the most energetic spring in Iceland.  It spouts every ten minutes (or less as we saw it occur several times) and generally reaches between 10m and 20m in height, yet has been known to reach 40m!  Like Geysir, Strokkur’s power has fluctuated over time.  In 1789, it began mightily spouting water, gas and steam, yet by 1830 had calmed down and actually had to be encouraged to spout by people with stones and turf!  Between 1896 (after an earthquake) and 1920, it subsided completely twice with slight activity occurring occasionally in between the years, but in 1963, on the recommendation of the Geysir committee, “a 40m deep hole was drilled from the bottom of its basin” after which it has been spouting regularly ever since.

As well as the spectacular geysers, we also saw smaller bubbling hot springs, mud pots and steam eruptions from fumaroles.  Once again, the blue sky, snow and this time ice made for some awesome bright and reflective photographs, but it also meant that these natural sights were accompanied by sights of people sliding in slow motion and slipping over, so if you do visit in winter and want to remain upright (like Ed and I managed to) either take in the surroundings calmly by walking slowly or as the signs suggest in certain areas, wear crampons!

Gullfoss waterfall:  Of the locations on the Golden Circle tour, Gullfoss or the ‘Golden’ Waterfall (which gives the tour its name) is probably the most famous.  It has been named as one of the world’s top ten waterfalls and in 1979, officially became a nature reserve to permanently protect it and to allow visitors to safely enjoy the impressive site and sight.  Being the largest volume fall in Europe, Gullfoss has an average flow of 1400m³/s in the summertime and 80m³/s in the wintertime, which cascades down 32m in two stages into a commanding canyon (70m high and 2.5km long) below.  This canyon “was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic flood waves and is lengthened by 25cm (9.8in) a year by the constant erosion from the water”.

As we visited the majestic Gullfoss in November, a lot of the ‘falling’ water was actually frozen mid-flow, which looked absolutely amazing and dreamlike in the ambient amber light of the setting sun!  I was interested to later learn that a waterfall freezes in such a way because the flow of water ‘supercools’ (experiences a temperature less than its freezing point without becoming a solid) and consequently slows down which causes the water molecules to stick together and form tiny, solid particles of ‘frazil ice’.  There are three vantage points from which the waterfall can be viewed (the lowest of which was closed whilst we were there for safety as it was very slippy), so we were able to get a clear look at this well known beautiful area of nature.

Þingvellir:  ‘Thingvellir’ National Park or ‘Parliament Plains’ was our final stop of the tour, and what an awe-inspiring stop it was!  On the way there, our guide explained that the Alþing general assembly was established around 930 AD and the Icelandic parliament continued to assemble at Þingvellir until 1798 to have important discussions and plan significant events.  Even today, the people of Iceland meet there for special occasions and dates, so it has become “a protected national shrine” and was accepted on the World Heritage list for its cultural values in 2004.  “The Environmental Policy of the Thingvellir National Park was approved by the Thingvellir Committee to ensure that the internal work of the national park is in accordance with the management plan of the park and to make sure that the actions of the park are environmentally responsible”.

The Thingvellir National Park is part of a “fissure zone” that runs through Iceland and is situated on the tectonic plate boundaries of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (the boundary between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates).   There was so much to see – mountains, trees, rocky cliffs and valleys, all of which were covered in crisp, white snow.  It was simply breathtaking – reminiscent of vintage Christmas card scenes!  I feel that a whole day could definitely be spent there, so I would love to go back and explore even further than we did.  One section would be Lake Þingvallavatn which lies partially in the National Park and sounds spectacular:  “The lake is particularly fertile and rich in vegetation, despite the very cold temperatures.  A third of the bottom area is covered by vegetation, and there is a large amount of algae.  Low-growing vegetation extends out to a depth of 10 metres while higher vegetation forms a large growing-belt to 10-30 metres deep.  A total of 150 types of plants have been found and 50 kinds of invertebrates, from the shore to the center”.

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© Þingvellir National Park, November 2017

Once we were back on the bus, our guide thought it would be apt to sing the Icelandic national anthem to us.  I had not heard it before, but apparently it is notorious for being extremely challenging to sing, due to its large vocal range of high and low registers, but she was absolutely fantastic!  A lovely end to a wonderful tour.  Back in Reykjavik, we treated ourselves to a nice warm dinner of wild mushroom soup from Svarta Kaffið, a cosy eatery which offers two soup options served in a large crusty bread roll!  We then settled down in our apartment and slept very well ready for our final day.

Sunday 26th November:  We enjoyed a relaxing morning in Reykjavik, walking around and looking in the shops for a couple of mementos.  Being Christmas time, we had learnt about the interesting Icelandic Christmas traditions and folklore which instead of Santa Claus, includes thirteen ‘Yule Lads‘ who descend from the mountains to visit the towns and “wreak mischief in the nights leading up to Christmas”, but to also leave small gifts in the shoes of good children, or potatoes for the naughty children!  We agreed that it would be appropriate and fun to buy a bauble with a Yule Lad on, so had a read through them and chose our favourite – ‘Pottasleikir’.

“Pot Licker, the fifth one,

was a funny sort of chap.

When kids were given scrapings,

he’d come to the door and tap”.

(Excerpt from the poem “Jólasveinavísur” by Jóhannes frá Kötlum)

At 2pm we set off on our final trip in Iceland – the Blue Lagoon!  We had been keeping our eye on the weather forecast and snow was predicted for the afternoon, so we were in for a magical time.  The snow started to fall right on cue whilst we were travelling and within an hour we had arrived.  After getting changed, showering and slathering plenty of conditioner through our hair, we met at the indoor mouth of the lagoon and made our way into the mineral-rich, hot blue water, through a door and out into the open.  “The geothermal water originates 2,000 metres below the surface, where freshwater and seawater combine at extreme temperatures.  It is then harnessed via drilling holes at a nearby geothermal power plant, Svartsengi, to create electricity and hot water for nearby communities.  On its way to the surface, the water picks up silica and minerals. When the water emerges, its temperature is generally between 37°C and 40°C”.  

It was a surreal and ethereal experience – with the steam rising and snow rapidly falling, we were in a white-out for the majority of our time there, so we couldn’t really see many people, which was nice as it is a popular place, so made us feel like we were alone at times and didn’t feel busy at all.  Everyone was relaxed and quiet, so it was lovely and peaceful.  We slowly swam around, tried out the silica mud mask and chilled out in the dreamy waters.  (If you do go, look out for people with their mobile phones wrapped in plastic bags, taking selfies and holding them above their heads instead of relaxing – it’s very bizarre)!  When we were well and truly ‘pruned’, we changed back into our layers, hopped on to a Reykjavik Excursions bus and travelled back to the capital.  We had a bite to eat at Reykjavik Chips (for the second time on our trip because the chips were so amazing) and ended our visit to Iceland reinvigorated and content.

Our first trip to Iceland was amazing and certainly somewhere I would go again.  Have you been, or perhaps you are planning a trip there?  I would love to hear what you did or what you have planned!

Big Butterfly Count Results

At the beginning of summer, I posted about the Big Butterfly Count which was held throughout July and August to gain an understanding of the health of our environment.  I took part and recorded a handful of species so was interested to see what other people had spotted when the results were recently released.

Despite the weather being poor this summer, resulting in relatively scarce numbers of butterflies, the number of participants for the survey was extremely high!  It has been reported that over 60,400 people took part – an increase of 66% compared to the 2016 count, which I think is absolutely fantastic!!  Because of this, 62,547 counts were submitted (a 64% increase on the previous year), meaning the environmental health assessment and protection plans have been helped greatly.

There were 20 target butterfly and moth species in the 2017 Big Butterfly Count and the results can be found on the website (and are as follows):

 Species

Abundance % change from 2016
1 Gatekeeper 93171 24%
2 Red Admiral 73161 75%
3 Meadow Brown 69528 -23%
4 Small White 61812 -37%
5 Large White 61064 -38%
6 Peacock 29454 1%
7 Comma 22436 90%
8 Small Tortoiseshell 20267 4%
9 Common Blue 19567 109%
10 Speckled Wood 18639 15%
11 Ringlet 18381 -57%
12 Green-veined White 16456 -38%
13 Six-spot Burnet 9517 -28%
14 Painted Lady 8737 31%
15 Large Skipper 6579 -49%
16 Holly Blue 5929 -5%
17 Small Copper 5814 62%
18 Brimstone 5281 -7%
19 Marbled White 4894 -67%
20 Silver Y 1923 -2%

The species with the highest abundance this year was the Gatekeeper.  The Comma and Common Blue also both did very well with a 90% and 109% increase compared to 2016 respectively.  However, the species I was most interested in finding out about was the Red Admiral.  I did not count any during my survey, but saw many during September and even October (so far) in different parts of the UK, more than I recall seeing before in fact, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that “numbers of this powerful, migratory butterfly soared during 2017″, and it recorded its best ever Big Butterfly Count performance!

IMG_20170924_134722_535© Red Admiral, September 2017

Whilst several species increased compared to last year’s numbers, there were of course some that did not do so well.  Counts of the three common ‘whites’ all decreased along with several others including the Ringlet and Large Skipper.  The least counted species from the target list was the Silver Y moth which saw a decrease of -2%.

With the high overall count and mixed results, it is important to remember that butterflies in the UK are still under threat from both human and natural factors.  Intensive farming, pesticides and urbanisation have all contributed to the loss of butterfly habitat, whilst summers over the last 10 years have been relatively and increasingly damper, which is not the best condition for butterflies and moths as it impacts their food sources and breeding.  This knowledge and growing awareness however, should hopefully encourage more and more people to take part in this important annual survey and ultimately build up a bigger picture of the health of our environment.

If you would like to see what species were spotted in your area, you can view the results map here.

Bees at the UoL Botanic Garden

One of my favourite local places to go for a stroll is the University of Leicester Botanic Garden.  I have frequently visited the Garden for many years and have lots of fond memories there right back to primary school!  I now work for the University and am happy to be linked to this beautiful natural space.  I am even more happy to know that the Botanic Garden is “home to almost half of the total number of bumblebee species native to Britain”.

Back in June you may have read my Bee post about their decline in the UK which is largely due to changes in agricultural practices, the removal of flowers from the landscape, the loss of habitat and exposure to harmful pesticides.  And although this general decline is occurring in bumblebee species, bee populations in the Botanic Garden are actually thriving!  Bumblebee survey and identification workshops have been held within the Garden over the last few months and the results have revealed that eleven of the twenty-four species of UK bumblebee reside there, seven of which are social bumblebees and four are cuckoo-bumbles.

I actually spotted and photographed many bees and pollinators there this summer too, which you can view on my Instagram account.

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© Pollinators at Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden is a lovely place to visit and relax and is one of the most diverse gardens in the region with a herb garden, woodland and herbaceous borders, rock gardens, a water garden, special collections of Skimmia, Aubrieta, and hardy Fuchsia, and a series of glasshouses displaying temperate and tropical plants, alpines and succulents.  Guided tours are offered as well as education and adult learning programmes, workshops and special events such as the LRWT Wild about Gardens Week, which last year was all about bat conservation!  You can even become a Friend of the Garden to promote and support the development of the Garden’s plant collections and amenities.

The Botanic Garden is free to enter, although it does accept donations.  It is open throughout the year, seven days a week (except 25th December, 26th December and 1st January), 10.00am to 4.00pm (5.00pm in British Summer time).