Bumblebee Beacons

The one the lure of Echinops flowers to bees…

July is almost over already, and seems to be going out on a moody note. For its last week, the weather has chosen to treat us to downpours, grey skies and a cooler feel to see out the month, with occasional interludes of hot sunshine.

In the garden the weather does nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of bumblebees on the echinops, an ornamental thistle. This tall, butch perennial is reaching its peak of glory now and even on overcast days, bumblebees can be seen in good numbers on the steely-blue stars arrayed in globes atop the Echinops.

On a dull day the flowers of this plant can seem to glow in the gloom and certainly they must shine out as beacons to bees judging by the number working methodically over its starry orbs. I suspect this is one of those plants which strongly reflects ultra-violet light, a wavelength that pollinating insects and certainly bees look to guide them.

It doesn’t seem long since I was writing my daily blogs in June for 30 Days Wild and having taken a break from the challenge I am keen to get back to the WordPress dashboard and break the blog-fast. Of course it was not the finding of daily mindful moments in nature that posed a particular difficulty, for nature is all around us even in urban environments when we take notice. Rather the challenge was to take one of those momentary experiences each day and translate it into something meaningful and, I hope, interesting for the reader. A handy run-down of all my posts during the #30DaysWild challenge in June can be found in my previous blogpost. I would welcome your feedback as I have never tried a personal daily blog before and it was hard work!

So now that I have come back to the keyboard (or touch screen at least) I wonder what I should realistically aim for over a longer period. I think a post at least once per month should be quite achievable. Of course one feels that when it is less frequent, then it behoves the blogger to write of more momentous things than when tapping out some everyday musings. I hope that this won’t be a mental block to a regular-ish

blogging habit and trust that topics will come to mind that are both informative and enjoyable to read. May I just say thank you at this point for reading and encourage you to comment if you have any feedback on my blog posts so far and what you have enjoyed most.

Life after #30dayswild

So June has come to an end and with it this year’s challenge to find a little moment of wild each day for a month, but this is not the end for me or this blog.

Practising a sort of conscious and more deliberate connection with the natural world around me has become a habit. A sort of wilful quest to find everyday wildness if you like. It may not be possible to sustain the blogging on a daily basis – that certainly has been a challenge, but an enjoyable one. However I hope to keep this blog going with regular posts and updates, just a bit less intensively that is all.

I would say that crafting the posts has been a good learning process and developed my skills in writing and communicating about nature, so it has been beneficial on that score alone, regardless of how few or how many people I have reached with my #30dayswild evangelism. But blogging every day has felt like some of my good stuff has so quickly been displaced and pushed into the past, when a lot of it, not all I’d admit, deserved promoting and sharing a bit more via social media, twitter especially, if I was not hurrying to move on to the next installment.

So this feels like a good point at which to look back on my month-long challenge and remind myself of the blog posts that perhaps escaped attention as well as those that have received some views.

Day 1  Bumbling into my first blog post of #30DaysWild a story about a bumble bee rescue.

Day 2 Doing the Doodlebug finding a Cockchafer beetle outside school. I really liked this one, a nice little tale.

Day 3  Swallows at the Swim Pool about unexpectedly finding a nest with young swallows in.

Day 4 Things are looking up a day out at Newby Hall, taking photos from a different angle. Indulging my photographer’s eye for the unusual.

Day 5 Ransoms, raindrops and ripples a rainy day walk up Peasholm Glen, seeing surprising beauty in the midst of Scarborough.

Day 6 A cordial invitation deciding to make elderflower cordial, somewhat on a whim.

Day 7 Mid-week blues blue flowers in the churchyard.

Day 8 Stormy weather capturing a strange mood on General Election day.

Day 9 Buzz Stop blitz an impromptu spot of guerilla gardening in the village.

Day 10 Mite-y mollusc and masses of mint a close look at a garden snail with mystery mites on it.

Day 11 Summer Fair running a stall at the summer fair for Stamford Bridge in Bloom.

Day 12 Bramble is the Bees Knees a nest of tree bees and a bonanza of bramble flowers.

Day 13 Hogweeds good and bad about the merits of common hogweed and the hazards of giant hogweed.

Day 14 Textures, details and street greens One of my favourite posts, this, about my latest and rather niche Instagram tendencies…

Day 15 Happy skies Cloud spotting while waiting for a bus…

Day 16 Down in the meadow A morning event about scything for grassland conservation sites in York.

Day 17 Hush Hush, Song Thrush About encountering a newly fledged Thrush in the garden.

Day 18 Lower Derwent Valley A visit to Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve.

Day 19 Counting down to the orchid count Making preparations for a botanical survey on the coast

Day 20 Bus stop birding about a little patch of nature in Malton bus station.

Day 21 Solstice Strawberries Coffee break in the garden and a first picking of wild strawberries.

Day 22 A Swift Update A story about the joy of discovering nesting Swifts in Scarborough.

Day 23 Hunting for Corn Bunting Evening bike ride from Stamford Bridge to track down a bird with which I have a special relationship.

Day 24 Getting the right mix…in my compost heap!

Day 25 Traffic Tripits A bird survey at Dalby Forest.

Day 26 Beach Huts and Pyramids Counting pyramidal orchids on North Bay cliffs, Scarborough.

Day 27 Reflecting on #30DaysWild Looking back at my reflections on last year’s #30DaysWild

Day 28 Turtle-y Brilliant A really special one….sharing my excitement at being involved in a new conservation project to help Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire.

Day 29 Twitter Hats A re-blog of one of my earlier musings on multiple social media personalities!

 

Looking back over my month of blogging, there has been a good bit of diversity in the topics I covered and I have enjoyed sharing my nature experiences. I hope they bring some insight and enjoyment to others, so please do let me know if you have appreciated any of the #30DaysWild blogs. It would be great to know.

Twitter Hats

Originally posted on Connecting for Nature:
Well the New Year is firmly underway now and I’ve been conscious for a while that I ought to have a bit of a health-check of my social media activities for the Connecting for Nature  biodiversity partnership. This became possible thanks to a generous offer from Scarborough-based Zebra Consulting to offer a fresh perspective and…

This post first appeared in Feb ’17 on the Connecting for Nature blog, musing on social media identities and the personalities we project across different channels and accounts. It should resonate with anyone who runs both a personal and a business social media account or anyone who posts on behalf of a company, brand or project etc.

I’v re-blogged it as my contribution for #30DaysWild, day 29, because it deserves a second airing.

 

 

Connecting for Nature

Well the New Year is firmly underway now and I’ve been conscious for a while that I ought to have a bit of a health-check of my social media activities for the Connecting for Nature  biodiversity partnership. This became possible thanks to a generous offer from Scarborough-based Zebra Consulting to offer a fresh perspective and a listening ear. Zebra owner Rachel Sutcliffe helped deliver our Connecting For Nature Social Media Workshop last February, which featured on this blog a year ago.

5 Connecting for Nature:one of my online personas is @CFNature

Subsequent to this free ‘Social MOT’ as one might call it, I’ve been taking stock of my various social media outputs with a sense that I might be better organized this year. This blog post is the first of several, possibly three, (and can you sense how organized I am now?) that will explore some themes of my Social MOT….this first one is about our online personas…

Part 1 –…

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Turtle-y Brilliant

The one about the new Turtle Dove conservation project in North Yorkshire

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Cropton Forest, where last spring I first got involved in the Turtle Dove volunteer surveys in the North Yorkshire Forest District.

30 days wild day 28

I nearly called this post Lovely Dove-ly, or possibly Talking Turtle. Readers of this blog who caught my Day 25 contribution, ‘Triffic Tripits’ may already have detected a propensity for corny word-play in my blog titles. (A Tripit is a birders’ contraction of Tree Pipit, if you were wondering.) Anyway, the purpose of this post is to share with you some news of a brilliant new conservation project to help Turtle Doves in North Yorkshire which got underway recently, made possible by a substantial ‘Our Heritage’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project is finessing its name as we speak. It was initially pitched to HLF as ‘Only Two Turtle Doves’ – An urgent quest to save our summer visitor’, paying homage to the bird’s usual, and for many people only, reference point the Twelve Days of Christmas carol, where two turtle doves receive mentions second only to the partridge in the pear tree.

I’ve spent some my day in the company of inspiring and enthusiastic partners of said Turtle Dove project, to which I am contributing some time and input ‘in-kind’ with my Scarborough Borough Council hat on. The North York Moors National Park, Howardian Hills AONB, Forestry Commission, RSPB and the N.E. Yorkshire Ecological Data Centre are also partners. We discussed progress since the project officer was appointed a few weeks ago.

I could wax lyrical about this project at length, but space is at a premium and much of it has been expressed better elsewhere, so instead I would like to recommend you read these recent blog posts about the North Yorkshire Turtle Dove Project. I’m sure a dedicated website and social media outputs will fire up very soon so stay alert!

Here is an excellent summary blog, rich with useful links, on the North York Moors National Park blog, (which incidentally I recommend you follow), announcing the imminent project: https://northyorkmoorsnationalpark.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/two-turtle-doves-one-turtle-dove-and-then-there-were-none/ 

This one (on the same NYMoors blog) is a first missive by the new-in-post Turtle Dove Project Officer, Richard Baines, who will be based at The Park offices for the three years of the conservation programme: https://northyorkmoorsnationalpark.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/turtle-doves-back-with-a-purr/

If your appetite is undimmed you can see my earlier announcement about the project on the Connecting for Nature blog and sense my excitement to be involved in a humble capacity as a steering group member:

https://connectingfornature.wordpress.com/2017/04/05/two-turtle-doves-exciting-conservation-project-secures-funding/

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Dawn at Dalby Forest listening for Turtle Doves on 25/6/17
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Some dense hawthorn scrub where Turtle Doves might choose to nest
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The North Yorkshire forests, like Dalby are proving to be Important for Turtle Doves.

Reflecting on #30DaysWild

The one about the blog’s origins

Day 27

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It may not have escaped your notice that it was very rainy today. I’ve been confined mostly to the office, and grateful for it if I’m honest. But with the end in sight for 30dayswild it seems timely to reflect on the process and take stock. What better excuse then, to re-publish a post of mine from a year ago which first appeared on my wetland project blog. It raises some very pertinent points and offers an interesting perspective on my approach this year compared to last. You will even see the birth of this very blog was a twinkle in my eye back then!

Reflecting on #30DaysWild

Prompted by an email from the Wildlife Trusts I filled in a quick survey following up on my experiences of the 30 Days Wild challenge this June, the now annual gauntlet thrown down to ordinary people to undertake random acts of wildness every day for a month. Now, we all get requests for feedback surveys on this, that and the other; mostly they are a bit of an un-solicited chore. However, I feel that this initiative is a very worthwhile one for spreading the message of letting nature and wildness into our daily lives so I took a few minutes to respond. (If you took part in #30DaysWild yourself and want to shape the campaign next year you can do likewise using this link https://wildlifetrusts.typeform.com/to/aEvj9h )

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Instagram Post for Day 17 of #30DaysWild, 17/06/16 inspired by a surprise beetle encounter.

As when I took part in #30DaysWild previously, I found that by committing to a pattern of posting on social media (I tried to send a daily Instagram post, which was also shared to my Facebook timeline) this ‘public’ sharing element gave me a greater impetus to try to do something each day – I felt that I was under some scrutiny…

…Whether or not my followers and friends would have noticed, let alone challenge me on it, were I to miss the odd day is a moot point. Even when sometimes I nearly missed (quick, dusk is falling!), or on a few occasions I posted something retrospectively the next day, the 30 days wild habit makes you more aware of nature moments in your daily life. During the month of June, and this was not the first year I’ve taken part, it meant I was always looking out for wild experiences that I could share. In this way, though it’s a challenge to sustain for a month, I find it trains one to think about ways to share and be evangelical about one’s relationship with nature. Which is no bad thing, is it?

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Day 18 saw me getting up close with nature in York and one of my favourite shots on the phone was this whorl of Woundwort flowers.

Post Script.

Last time around as this year, I chose to use Instagram as my modus operani, using the #30DaysWild hashtag and simultaneously selecting ‘share to Facebook’ and to my Twitter feed. However this means it goes on my personal FB timeline and not to FB groups that I am a member of such as 30DaysWild (or more specifically ConnectingforNature and Stamford BridgeinBloom, my go-to places for daily posting activity these days). If I’m brave and willing to commit the time perhaps one year I’ll do it as a daily blog… but that’s still a bit daunting and I’m not sure I have the discipline to set to it of an evening after the day job. Posting on the 30 Days Wild Facebook gp seems a good option as it now has several thousand people and so a much bigger reach than my other social accounts but are we ‘preaching to the converted’?

I wonder what others feel and how it works for other full-time employed people? If I am brutally honest I sometimes imagine that the stay-at-home mums with preschool kids are best represented (and envied) on the 30days FB gp for their inventive #30DaysWild activities. I’m very lucky to have a day job and commute that can take me to beautiful wild places, a back garden and village which places nature on the doorstep and a strong affinity already to zero in on natures details. How is it for the busy professional or indoor worker to undertake the challenge? How daunted might they be by the scope and inventiveness of others posting their exploits. The wild experience is just as important, arguably moreso for them, as its more out of their way to make a daily wildness habit.

Did you do 30DaysWild? What are your thoughts about it? Did you share any random acts of wildness on social media? Above all do tell the Wildlife Trusts about it, (Here is that link again https://wildlifetrusts.typeform.com/to/aEvj9h ) as it really will help them to finesse and grow the campaign next time around.

This post originally appeared in August 2016, on The Carrs Wetland Project blog.

Beach huts and Pyramids

The one about a special orchid count in Scarborough.

#30DaysWild Day 26

Today between 10 and 3.45 I was to be found within tennis-ball-lobbing distance of Scarborough’s North Beach. I know this because I found a stray ball and chucked it down in the hope its owner could better find it down there than on the steep skittery scree of what we call The Orchid Terrace. This seafront cliff slope is enclosed by a post and wire fence, more for keeping casual visitors off it than for inclusion or exclusion of any grazing animals (domestic or otherwise). It marks out a long rectangle some twelve to fifteen metres wide by about 175m long, running parallel to but above the rooftops of the colourful wooden beach huts.

People can pass by it without ever suspecting the spectacular show of wildflowers just a shout away from the beach, and many do! In some ways one is thankful that the steepness and apparent inaccessibility keep this site from being trampled, though the evidence of occasional litter, bottles etc. attest to the fact that some people do spend time there, though maybe not to appreciate the flora, bees and butterflies.

I was busy carrying out a full count (not a sample) which has been done by a dedicated local naturalist, Mr Peter Robinson for the last 12 years or so and quantifies the total number of orchid flower spikes of three species within this enclosure. They are Pyramidal, Common Spotted and Bee orchid. The first is usually the most numerous and this year spectacularly so, hence the title of this post.

We have counts every year showing he remarkable fluctuations in number from one season to the next. The total will run into several thousand. I had to dash to catch my bus, but will update this post when I find out the final tally from his recording sheet. We did 80 transects of about two metres width, marked out with string and the peak number on any single transects was 127 if I recall. Typically more like 50 per transect, so I’m expecting a final tally around four to five thousand.

I’m pretty impressed that Peter and I between us managed to complete the count in one day. My calves will tell the tale in the morning as the steep slope and all that setting out string lines makes for a lot of climbing up and down. In between I did manage to sneak some pictures, and they tell the beauty of the site better than I can describe it.

 

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Post Script – 3/7/17 Final count update

Last week I had a bus to catch so I dashed off without seeing the final tally. Peter Robinson called into the office this week and left me with a copy of the results table. Final counts for 2017 are: 68 Bee orchids, 971 Common Spotted orchid, 6198 Pyramidal orchids, making a grand total of all species of 7237 flower spikes, up considerably on the three and a half thousand counted last year! The increase is made up mostly of Pyramidal which last year numbered 2890, so more than double. Compare this with the best of recent counts for Bee Orchids, indeed all species in 2014 when 319 Bee, 1350 Common and 10324 Pyramid contributed to a record total just shy of twelve thousand.

Incidentally the dataset makes for a fascinating study, if anyone cares to analyse it for us, of the waxing and waning fortunes of orchids on a single site. Tantalisingly in 2003, only the second year Peter counted (and in those early days just the Bee orchids), there were 950 Ophrys apifera, but a good year for Bee orchid is not always a good year for Pyramidal. Peter’s records also include a one time survey of the associated flora and would be interesting to see if the other species relate to the fortunes of the Orchidaceae.

So if this stuff is right up your alley and you fancy doing some botanical fieldwork for us, please get in touch.

‘Triffic Tripits

The one about listening for Turtle Doves but finding Tree Pipits instead…

30 Days Wild day 25

Yesterday I was up with the lark and the tree pipit to conduct a follow up bird survey in Dalby Forest. My first visit was in late May. As then , I made arrangement to camp at  Ellerburn campsite with a three thirty am alarm call and hike up to the Pexton Moor entrance toll of Dalby, for this was my allocated 1km square.

I am one of about thirty volunteer bird surveyors contributing to a new conservation project for Turtle Doves, an iconic summer visitor to Britain which is an increasingly rare sight and sound. You will no doubt hear more about this project if you follow the conservation blog of the North York Moors National Park, (link here) which is hosting the project officer and has received Heritage Lottery funding for the scheme.

You may also like to read my blog on Connecting for Nature, introducing the ‘Two Turtle Doves’ project, when funding was confirmed recently, but in this post I am sharing some photos from my early morning explorations. I have to say I generally head into Dalby Forest on the toll road without pausing at the Pexton Moor area, near the entrance, so it was a joy to discover that there is such interesting nature to see even before you enter the forest proper.

Briefly, the purpose of my visit was to listen specifically for purring Turtle Doves, as part of a wider survey of randomised OS grid squares across the forest. There were some patches of suitable habitat for the bird but by no means was it guaranteed to encounter any. Fortunately the survey also asked for tallies of some additional species of conservation concern, and I was able to confirm not one but two Tree Pipit territories meet in my square, in an eminently suitable ‘tripit’ habitat east of the entrance toll. The males have a distinctive song, usually delivered from a lofty perch in otherwise open forest clearings. I was really pleased with this record, as until a few years ago I had never seen or heard Tree Pipits, so these self-found birds are extra special. And they go on my survey return. No Turtle Doves in this square, this time….but perhaps the Turtle Dove Project will help the existing breeding population elsewhere in North Yorkshire’s forests to expand. I hope you hear more about the project in the media soon and follow its progress.