#30DaysWild Days 1-10: Flower Power

The first ten days of #30DaysWild have been lovely.  My random acts of wildness have been gentle, calming and have allowed me to slow down and take time for myself.  Flowers have been prevalent during this first third of the challenge, as well as personal learning, which I believe is very important.

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1. To begin the month, I planted the #30DaysWild biodegradable paper flowers which are full of wildflower seeds, in my garden.  I am looking forward to seeing what grows.

2. On my walk home from work I spotted some eye-catching flowers growing at the edge of the pavement across the street.  They were pink and yellow and reminded me of rhubarb and custard sweets.  I took some photographs on my phone and then did some investigating and was able to ID them as Snapdragons!  This has inspired me to start learning how to identify flowers, I would love to be able to walk along and name the different flowers I see.

IMG_20180601_172116607_3© Snapdragons – the Green & the Wild

3. We had been planning for a while to take my grandma to Leicester Botanic Garden, as she had not been there for years.  Finally the weather was ideal enough for a visit, so my grandma, mum, boyfriend and I spent the afternoon there taking photographs, admiring the insects and of course, beautiful array of flowers.

4. To help with my flower ID mission and also relax me in the evenings, I bought a Kew Gardens dot-to-dot book.  It is based on original artworks and includes colour plates to help learn and accurately colour in the final drawings.

5. I have been out in my yard a few times with my bat detector this season, but have failed to pick up any echolocation signals.  I decided to try again on the 5th, but still nothing!  Last year I detected some pipistrelles flying above my house and the tree in my garden, but not very frequently so perhaps it’s simply down to timing.

6. After seeing puffins for the first time on Skomer Island back in May, I have fallen in love with them and keep seeing fantastic photos and learning things about them online.  Some of the information I read encouraged me to do my own research and three of my favourite puffin facts are:

  • Puffins usually pair up with the same partner every breeding season and may be together for 20 years!
  • In winter, puffins orange feet fade and they shed their outer colourful bills, leaving smaller, duller ones behind.  The colour grows back and returns ready for the next breeding season.
  • When it is not breeding season, puffins live out at sea for the rest of the year – floating on the waves, swimming and diving for small fish.

7. I decided to get learning again and do some more online environmental courses, so signed up to three on Futurelearn:

  • Unleash Your Potential: Sustainable Futures with the University of Bristol.  Through this I will learn about the sustainability challenges of the modern world, and ways in which I can make a positive contribution to society.
  • Citizen Science: Living Soils, Growing Food with the University of Dundee.  Through this I will learn about approaches to food growing that can help regenerate soil and solve environmental issues.
  • And in August I will start Concepts in Sustainable Development: An Introduction to the Key Issues with the University of Leicester, which will enable me to explore some of the key issues in sustainability, tackling the big questions with examples from around the world.

8. I ordered a free Guide to Animal Kindness from the RSPCA.  It is full of inspiration and ideas of how to be and encourage others to be #AnimalKind, such as picking up litter to prevent injuries or making your garden wildlife friendly.

9. I sowed a virtual seed with Grow Wild to pledge my support and help raise awareness of the importance of wild flowers and their impact on our wellbeing.  This year my seed ended up being a Ribwort Plantain.  Join me and sow a virtual seed too – you will be able to view the map and see how many other people have taken action to transform your area as well as the rest of the UK.

10. A splendid Sunday morning called for an outdoor stroll.  We thought it would be nice to have a walk around Thornton reservoir, but upon arrival realised that everyone else thought that too which meant there was nowhere to park!  We continued driving until we found a nice park, small woods and old village where we were able to get some fresh air!

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RSPB Middleton Lakes

With the excessive precipitation and topsy-turvy weather over the last few months, it has been difficult to get out and about at the weekends for a ‘proper walk’, but a couple of weeks ago it was warm and dry enough for an excursion to a nature reserve.  It was easy to pick which one – RSPB Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire – as myself and partner Ed had visited in 2016 and really enjoyed it, so had been keen to return ever since.

We arrived just before lunchtime and parked up in the well-kept car park which is free for RSPB members or a reasonable £3 for non-members.  From the car park you can either head through a small wooded area to a little square of shops and eateries, as well as Middleton Hallor in the other direction past the RSPB hut straight to the reserve.  We decided to have some lunch first in Bake180 Coffee Shop which offers a variety of light bites, treats and drinks, and also sells the RSPB pin badges if you want to add to your collection, which is exactly what I did.  I donated some money and chose a blue tit and pied wagtail.  Once we had finished eating, we headed back through the car park, picked up a map from the RSPB hut, which also has lots of information leaflets, badges and a chalkboard with interesting daily sightings written on it by visitors, and then we made our way into the reserve.

Middleton Lakes is a relatively young RSPB reserve, having been acquired in 2007.  It has since been developed into a lovely site which benefits numerous bird species as well as other wildlife such as otters and of course, the visitors.  The site is described as “one of the best birdwatching sites in the area”, which I certainly agree with as it is divided into sections – water, woodland, grassland and reedbeds, and has various viewpoints, a large lookout, nature trails, a rookery and a heronry!  The conservation work and management that has been done already and continues to take place at Middleton Lakes is ultimately creating a ‘refuge’ for many beautiful birds and excitingly, the RSPB say that it “will become the most important site for breeding waders in the Midlands”.

 It was really enjoyable exploring the different areas of the reserve and spotting the wildlife related to the surrounding nature and environments.  Our favourite spots were a large grass snake (the first either of us had seen in the wild) and a beautiful pheasant who casually wandered up to us through the grass and took a liking to Ed.  He stayed at our feet for a lengthy photo-shoot and good old feather study, and followed Ed’s steps until we could stay no longer.  I was very pleased with my photographs of the pheasant and many stunning plants throughout the reserve, some of which you can view on my Instagram page.

I plan to visit Middleton Lakes more often and explore it further, so keep your eye out for future posts about my current favourite nature reserve.  In the meantime I would love to hear about your favourite nature reserves!

DSC01295 (2)© RSPB Middleton Lakes, April 2018

Big Butterfly Count

Tomorrow is the start of this year’s ‘Big Butterfly Count‘ – a nationwide survey (and the world’s largest butterfly survey) held by the British charity, Butterfly Conservation and Waitrose, to gain an understanding of the health of our environment.  Counting butterflies helps determine natural health as they “react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators“.  If we begin to see a reduction in butterfly numbers and/or species, it could warn us of other wildlife declines.

To take part, you simply have to count the butterflies that you see in any location within a 15 minute time period.  Like the Big Garden Birdwatch, if you are counting in a single area, you should count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time.  However, if you decide to count the butterflies you see on a 15 minute walk for example, then you can add up the number of each species that you come across.

Your results, even if you see no butterflies, will not only support the environmental health assessment, but also help the charity identify species’ trends and consequently develop protection plans.

To help you with your 15 minute butterfly count, you can download a useful identification chart from the Butterfly Conservation!  Once your sightings have been tallied up, you then simply have to submit your results online or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.

The Big Butterfly Count runs from Friday 14 July to Sunday 6 August, so if you find yourself with a spare 15 minutes, do something wild, get counting and have fun!

pb© Peacock Butterfly