Updated 28 September 2018 - New blog post - The #PeoplesWalkforWildlife

Friday, 28 September 2018

An afternoon walk down Rhossili, Gower

Date:  28 September 2018
Location:  Rhossili, Gower
Weather:  Sunny with a slight breeze

A long over-due walk down the outstanding beautiful Gower and it's jewel in the crown, Rhossili 

It's been awhile since we ventured down Gower, so seeing as we had the afternoon free we decided to head to Rhossili, one of the most glorious parts of the Gower Peninsula. It is only a 40 minute drive and the weather was beautiful.

Rhossili is owned by the National Trust, so not being members we had to pay for parking (£2.50 for 2 hours, £5.00 for all day). There's plenty of parking and a few eateries around, but we just wanted some fresh air and to see what wildlife we could discover.

We headed straight towards the Worm and it wasn't long before we heard that familiar squawking of Choughs. We could see two, but unfortunately couldn't get a pic, but it didn't matter as it was just great to see them again.

Arty photo with Worms Head in the background
We were debating whether to walk over to the Worm, but we thought we may have left it too late and we didn't want to be marooned there. So we sat on the cliffs and scanned the ocean and cliff faces to see what wildlife we could spot. We saw a Kestrel a number of times and a few Rock Pipits. We also saw a number of butterflies, especially Red Admirals and Peacocks. 

Red Admiral
We continued exploring and I saw a large bird sitting on a nearby wall. I could see it was a Kestrel, perhaps the one we had seen earlier? But it was beautiful, I think it's a female and she sat there for quite awhile and for the first time I managed to get some good pics of the bird.

Beautiful Kestrel
Kestrel striking a pose
Another pic of the awesome Kestrel
Other bird life we spotted was Ravens, Stonechat, Dunnocks, Wheatears and lots of gulls, including Lesser and Black Backed Gulls.

Pied Wagtail
Apart from birds, there were quite a few fungi on the ground, here are just three photos of some of the different ones we found.

A rather large fungi
Tiny little puffballs?
A lovely looking mushroom
As we started walking back to the car we decided to pop into the sunflower field. This year the Gower National Trust planted 400,000 sunflowers. This is amazing for bees and birds will absolutely love the seeds when they are finished flowering. Next year they plan to plant lavender fields too...this will be awesome! Unfortunately, we left it too late to fully appreciate the sunflowers in all their glory, but we did find a few that were still flowering. Next year I will have to come and see them earlier :) - If you want to see what they looked like just type 'sunflowers Rhossili' into Google to see all the amazing pics.

Most of the sunflowers were dead (but with lots and lots of sunflower seeds for birds)
I found one sunflower though that was still shining bright :)
We had a fantastic time with our spare few hours and we don't understand why we don't explore the Gower more often (its literally on our doorstep!) - The sun was setting and created that lovely warm Autumn glow over the bay. I took one last pic as I looked back on the bay and it's no surprise that this is an Area of Outstanding Beauty.

Beautiful warm glow from the setting sun over the coast
The sun sets behind the worm and we say goodbye to Rhossili 

Sunday, 23 September 2018

A wonderful and powerful day in London for the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife

Date:  22 September 2018
Location:  Hyde Park, London
Weather:  Very, very, very wet (but it didn't stop us smiling!)

Today we made history. Dan and myself (and 10,000 others) marched through the City of London on the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife organised by Chris Packham. 

I have always been a keyboard wildlife activist: signing petitions, writing to MPs and sharing awareness on social media, but I have never actually physically marched for something I believe in. When Chris Packham announced that he was going to to do the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife back in June I knew then I MUST do it, I HAD to make a stand for British wildlife.

The week leading up the walk was a very busy one, I had lots of work on and was really tired. Once Friday night came I put work behind me and the adrenaline started pumping. Finally, I had a chance to do something for wildlife: for all the badgers that are being culled, for all the foxes that are illegally killed, for all our marine life that is being poisoned and for all our birds that have declined dramatically over the last 40 years.

Our journey began at 5am, when we drove up the M4 from South Wales to the City of London. After parking, a few tube stops later we finally got to Hyde Park at around 9:30am. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to Hyde Park before and was excited when I spotted countless Ringed  Parakeets, Egyptian Geese, Grey Squirrels, Starlings and Greylag Geese. I am sure there are many more species in the park but this is what we spotted walking through towards Speakers Corner.

Dan and I with one of the official posters for the #PeoplesWalkForWildlife
Wide awake at 5am and adrenaline is kicking in....London, here we come...
Hyde Park - The Egyptian Geese don't seem to want to come on the march!
Below are some of the other wildlife we spotted in the park...

Quite a few people were already there: the RSPB, Wildlife Trust, WWF, London National Park City and The League Against Cruel Sports were amongst the organisations that had stalls there with activities for kids (and big kids like me) - I created a banner on the RSPB Stall, where I picked the humble starling (one of my favourite birds) and wrote the message "SAVE ME" on it. We chatted to like-minded people, picked up a manifesto and spotted some wildlife royalty, including Bill Oddie, Martin Hughes-Games and, of course, Chris Packham.

People starting to gather around the stage around 10am
The banner I created on the RSPB stand and the fox mask I got on the WWF stand...now I am ready for the march! 
Martin Hughes-Games being interviewed
The legend Bill Oddie
Chris Packham and Lindsey Chapman interviewing some little nature lovers :)
As the time was approaching 12 noon, more and more people accumulated and the costumes and banners were amazing! From spectacular owls created out of recycled items to an awesome bat puppet where you were able to feed it a (sock) midge. It was just awesome and mind-blowing, then like most British events, it started to rain! It wasn't forecast, infact the Met Office said it was light cloud and sun all day. But a bit of rain wasn't going to dampen our spirits...no way!

Me with a turtle dove - I have only ever seen a real  one once in my lifetime :(

Spectacular owls, with such an important message about fracking
Brilliant display protesting against single used plastics.
There's a giant bat behind us! This guy (and the midges) stole the show
12 noon and the rain was continuing to pour down. Chris Packham comes on the stage singing "Raindrops keep falling on my head..." We didn't care we were getting soaked, we just cheered and enjoyed the next hour of information and entertainment. The info was mainly about the People's Manifesto and it's ministers. Passionate speeches from Dominic Dyer, powerful messages told by Ruth Tingay and tear jerking speech by the awesome 15 year old Bella Lack. Every single person who spoke on the stage was inspiring, emotional and deserved every single cheer they received. Entertainment was provided by Saskia Eng who sang 'What a Wonderful World' and Grace Petrie. But it was when Billy Bragg sang 'Where have all the flowers gone' the tears started flowing, he should really record it and release it with the new lyrics...I have bee trying to find a video of the whole song, but check out the below video of a section of the song posted by @TheBadgerGroup  on Twitter.
At 1pm it was time to walk through the City of London to deliver the manifesto to the Environment Minister Michael Gove at Downing Street. We didn't know which way to go, but just followed the thousands who were carrying banners and powerful messages for the public and government. Before the walk Chris Packham had urged people to download a birdsong track from his website for all the millions of birds we have lost. We put our mobiles up to full volume and played it loud. Up until the walk we didn't appreciate how many people were actually there, but there were thousands! We ended up in the middle of the march and as we walked through London there were people as far as the eye could see both in front and behind...

Being part of the crowd I can't really take a photo to emphases the amount of people there, so check out this tweet from Chris Packham and you will have a better understanding how many people actually took part...

I have heard that there was an estimated 10,000 people marching, no chanting, no trouble - just bird song and peaceful people of all ages who want to save our wildlife. We eventually got to Downing Street where Chris Packham continued his speech and introduced us to more of the manifesto ministers including the wonderful Mark Avery and George Monbiot, whose final words of the day were about rewilding and left us all with hope that we can change the future of our wildlife for the better. Unfortunately Michael Gove didn't make an appearance (what a surprise!) but the manifesto and a petition were handed into 10 Downing Street by Chris Packham and six young and inspiring wildlife heroes.

Chris Packham

Mark Avery
George Monbiot
The crowd outside Downing Street...
...and the same amount behind us!
I am so happy I ventured all the way to London to be part of this amazing march. You always think something like this will create violence or animosity, but the only noise I heard was beautiful bird song and people talking about wildlife...it was just perfect. When the talk was over, we started to walk away from the crowds and saw the amazing Iolo Williams, we have met him a few times in the past and he recognised us...he shook our hands and said 'thank you both for coming' - that was the icing on the cake, we wouldn't have missed it for the world.

To read the manifesto you can check it out here

Friday, 1 June 2018

The babies have arrived! Day 1 #30DaysWild

So today is the start of the Wildlife Trust's 30 Days Wild - This will be my 4th year to do it and with my career change (I am now a self-employed freelance designer) I wasn't going to do it.

Then I heard that familiar noise I hear each year - 30+ starlings in the garden! I closed my laptop and ran to get my camera. It was hard to count them all, but the parents had brought the babies and they were rowdy!

The suet pellets and coconut shell was gone within a few hours and they were going nuts for the mealworm. It got so wild and loud at one point I had to just shut the door and try and get back to work.

I am so happy they are back and mad me realise that work should NOT stand in the way of nature, and I will once again carry on with the annual tradition of #30DaysWild

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Booming Bitterns & Hungry Hobbies at RSPB Ham Wall

Date:  3 May 2018
Location:  RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset
Weather:  Sunny, but a little chilly

For a few days we decided to venture to Somerset and visit some of the nature reserves there. We knew Ham Wall was a great place to see Bitterns and Hobby so that was our first stop.

We were staying in Glastonbury and Ham Wall was just a short drive away. It was easy to find and we arrive around 9.30am, parking was great, with lots of spaces.

It wasn't long before we spotted our first wildlife: a Swan on the pond near the car park, then as we walked a little deeper into the reserve we heard that familiar sound 'cuckoo, cuckoo' - excitement kicked in and we desperately tried to spot it. A helpful gentleman helped us out by letting us look through his scope and there it was, my first sighting of a Cuckoo this year :)

The visitor centre at Ham Wall
Beautiful pond with a solitary Mute Swan
Terrible pic I know...but it's a Cuckoo! My first sighting of 2018
We saw a few members of the RSPB who were monitoring Bitterns and they pointed out a Hobby in a far away tree, I could see it through my binoculars but too far away to get a picture. They then pointed out a Marsh Harrier, Cetti's Warbler and a Bittern flew from one reed bed to another. It was all too much to take in, so many lifers in a few minutes I had to sit down :) - We had literally been here less than half an hour and we had already seen almost all our target birds, this was awesome!

The only Bittern pic we could get between us, but its a bittern! (another lifer)
The Cetti's Warbler was a bit more obliging for a pic
From here we made our way to the Avalon Hide, on the way we spotted Great White Egret, Herons, and more Hobbies flying around. There were also Great Crested Grebe, Buzzards and we could hear the Bitterns booming. Butterflies like Peacocks and Red Admirals were plentiful and the views of Glastonbury Tor was spectacular too.

Peacock Butterfly

Great White Egret
Great Crested Grebe
Grey Heron
Views of Glastonbury Tor

Unfortunately it was quite quiet at the Avalon Hide, we sat there for about half an hour and didn;t see any Marsh Harriers or Bitterns so we decided to make our way back to the car for something to eat. On the way back the RSPB were still counting the bitterns and pointed out a lovely Whitethroat and a Common Tern, the first Tern we had seen this year. We got back to the car and refuelled with a sandwich - we both agreed Ham Wall was awesome!

Common Tern next to a Black Headed Gull
A pretty Whitethroat
After lunch we had a quick look around the car park where a Black Redstart had been spotted, but we didn't see it. We then made our way back into the reserve and back to the Avalon Hide. We saw a Heron being mobbed by Black Headed Gulls, Cormorant, Buzzards and a Swan flying above.

Mute Swan
Heron being mobbed by Black Headed Gulls
Just before we approached the hide Dan spotted something sitting in the trees. I look into my binoculars and there was the most beautiful Hobby. He must had sat there for 10 minutes and we have some pretty good pics. What a stunning bird, I had never seen one before and I wasn't disappointed. We we got the Avalon hide there was a bit of excitement and someone pointed out a Tawny Owl sitting on his nest box. We took a seat and it wasn't long before a pair of Marsh Harriers flew over the reeds. So exciting, another lifer for us :)

Tawny Owl
Marsh Harrier

The time was getting on a bit and we were feeling a bit tired, so we decided to call it a day. We were so glad we ventured to Ham Wall, we saw so many birds and so many lifers bringing my #My200BirdYear up to 117. We look forward to return later on in the year. As we walked back we saw an adorable Gladwell family, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler and a pair of Swans flew over us in the car park :)

Sedge Warbler
Reed Bunting
Gladwell mum and chicks
Swans flying above as we arrived back in the carpark