Showing posts from July, 2015

Animal of the Month

Welcome to Animal of the Month for July 2015. Every month, we will announce our favourite animal that has been featured on the blog at some point during the month.

Which animal has been our favourite this month?

Gatekeeper Butterfly
Red Squirrel
Eagle Owl
American Robin
Red-winged Blackbird

Winner: Polecat
Another very difficult decision for AofM. July has been packed full of wildlife, and most of it has been new and exciting. But my favourite animal featured this month just has to be the Polecat. It gave us some fantastic views and pictures, and was my personal favourite at the British Wildlife Centre. All the other contenders were exciting to see, and great creatures, the Polecat has grabbed this month's title.

Rabbit Family on the Camera-Trap!

A couple of nights ago, I put my camera-trap out on an area of garden that looked slightly disturbed. There were scrape marks, vague footprints and a few crumpled plants, so I decided to see what animal was to blame. I was in for a treat.

Overnight, a family of rabbits came to the patch of soil, and started having a look around. At first, only the young rabbits are in shot, jumping around after each other. 

But then, the mother comes into frame, and one young rabbit seems to try to sucklefrom its mother. 

Such behaviour wouldn't be seen when humans were evidently around, so it just goes to show what camera-traps can reveal. The rabbits don't seem to be disturbed by the camera-trap. In fact, they show no evidence of even knowing that it's there. The family were just going about their business.

It was a great insight into the lives of this family of rabbits. Another species to add to the camera-trapped list!

A Butterfly Bonanza

It's summer. The flowers are out in full bloom, and colour is everywhere. Summer also means butterflies, and lots of them. Over the past few days, I have come across many species of butterfly, from Large Whites to Small Skippers, and I have saved them some of the best for a blog bursting with butterflies!

I will start with my favourite of the recently seen butterflies: the Gatekeeper Butterfly. Over the past week I have seen many Gatekeepers, and they're truly beautiful butterflies. They could have been mistaken for Meadow Brown butterflies, but the extra spots and the large amount of orange confirmed them as Gatekeepers.

The next species was seen quite a few times as well. The Marbled White. This is a wonderful species of butterfly which, although it is only made up of two main colours, has brilliant markings on the inside of its wings. The mixture of black and white markings give it its name, and make it a lovely butterfly. The UK Marbled White population is generally concentr…

Micro-Pond Micro-Critters!

A year has passed since the creation of the Micro-Pond, and a lot of life has moved in. Much of this life is very small, so I decided to do a quick survey, and see if I could identify and photograph some of the creatures calling Micro-Pond their home.

One of the first things I noticed when I took a closer look inside the pond was that there were lots of very small organisms swimming around in the water. The only way to identify them was to take some of them out of the water, and look at them closer through a magnifying glass. 

The first creature I looked at was very small. In the pond I could see them in quite large groups under the surface. Each one was around 1 or 2mm in length, so to identify them I would have to take some out. I took a small amount of water out in a small jar, and from that took one of the creatures out and put it in some water on a miscroscope slide. And here is what I saw:

The critter in question was actually a Daphnia. Daphnia is a genus of very small planktonic c…

Introducing the Micro-Pond!

Almost exactly a year ago, in the summer of 2014, I decided I would like to build a garden pond. I had been thinking about it for a while, and had read many an article on the subject, so it was time to start building. And a few days later, Micro-Pond was finished. Micro-Pond is, as its name suggests, very small. The entire pond measures just 80x52cm. But with a few plants and some pebbles, it soon came to life, and was ready to be a home for a variety of animals and plants.

Now, only a year later, it is full of life. Just a quick look is all is required to see some of the life that has moved in since the pond was built. On the algae there are pond snails, and many small creatures swim around in the deeper water. Over the next few blog posts I will look more closely at some of the pond's inhabitants, and show you what is calling Micro-Pond its home.
To finish here is a step-by-step guide on how to build a simple garden pond.
1. Mark the outline using rope, chalk or string, mark out the…

British Wildlife Centre: Cat and Mouse

Whilst at the British Wildlife Centre, there were two animals that particularly caught my eye. I had never seen either of them in Britain before, so I was instantly interested, and wanted to find out more.

The first of these animals is the European Polecat. When we first arrived at the enclosure, we could see nothing, much like some of the others. But very soon after we first looked in, we saw a little head poke out from a tunnel. The Polecat looked like it had just been sleeping, and had popped out to see what was going on. In the sunlight, the animal, even though we could see just the head, looked brilliant.

I had heard of these animals before but never properly seen one. They are native to Britain, and were once widespread across the country, but were almost exterminated in the 1900s due to trapping and other forms of prosecution. By the late 20th century though, they had made a return to many parts of Southern England and Wales. Now that these mammals are making a comeback, it seems…

British Wildlife Centre: part 2

This is part 2 of a few posts from the British Wildlife Centre. Click here to read part 1.

After the birds and the squirrels, we decided to head on and have a look at some of the larger mammals at the centre.

The first of these mammals was the Scottish Wildcat. Scottish Wildcats are native to Britain, and have outlived wolves, lynx and bears in this country, so they're pretty impressive animals. Unfortunately though, their future is uncertain. Being very shy animals, they are very wary of humans, but as we invade their habitat, they end up coming into contact with us. Wildcats end up breeding with our domestic cats, producing hybrids which are no longer pure Scottish Wildcats. Slowly the population is becoming less pure, and soon there may be no true Scottish Wildcats left. It was great to see one at the centre, although it most likely wasn't pure, as there could be as little as 400 true wildcats left. It also had quite a lot of white on its body, meaning it is probably slightly…

British Wildlife Centre: part 1

In the countryside of Surrey, near the border with Kent, is a small centre which has possibly the finest collection of native species in Britain. The British Wildlife Centre. We had been planning to go for the past two years, but had never gotten round it. But yesterday, we travelled a short way across Surrey, and paid a visit.

The British Wildlife Centre is home to over 40 different native species for visitors to see, and although the majority are captive, they do have a nature reserve section where other wild animals can be seen as well. The centre really gave me a great opportunity to appreciate the brilliant wildlife that we have in our country. We always see the beautiful animals from abroad on our tv screens, but Britain certainly has its fair share of wonderful wildlife.

We started off our walk by heading to the Red Squirrel enclosure. The enclosure is a large area of trees and grass, with an elevated walkway around the edge. The Red Squirrels are very inquisitive, and often came…

Meadow Brown Butterflies

Whilst out and about in Surrey yesterday, I came across a small patch of meadow. An area of grass with various wild flowers and plants popping up all over the place. And when I looked around, I saw possibly as many as 20 butterflies flying over this small area of meadow. I have never seen so many butterflies in one place before. The butterflies in question were Meadow Browns, and they were brilliant. Every now and then, one would stop nearby, and open its wings, allowing me to take a closer look at its colouring and to take a few pictures.

The Meadow Brown is a medium sized butterfly and is one of the commonest grassland butterflies. After doing a bit of research, I realised that it isn't that uncommon to see adult Meadow Browns in large numbers together. These butterflies are on the wing from June to September and are also active in dull weather when other butterflies may not be as active.

It was a great find and a proves that you can find wildlife anywhere, even when you aren'…

Guest Post - Toronto Urban Birding!

Toronto!  Concrete jungle, home to 6 million people and by 2020 could have largest number of condominiums in the world! Doesn’t sound promising, but being situated on Lake Ontario and having more than 1,600 public parks sounds like there could be a lot out there to see.
May aim was to complete a 2 hour run alongside the lake and through a couple of the largest parks in Toronto to check out the local birdlife. Despite the fact that most of the spring migrants have now left, I was advised that quite a few species should still be around, to raise their young. No binoculars today though, just a pocket camera and a keen eye!
On arrival at the lake there was a lot of activity both in the air, on the water and in the trees. Very large numbers of swallows and swifts were feeding over the water and equally large numbers of house sparrows were feeding at the waters edge. In addition, there was a healthy population of a new species for me, the red-winged blackbird, which I must admit are a very “…