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.

Hunting for Corn Bunting

The one about how I came to love the summer sound of the Corn Bunting…

Until I moved to live and work in rural North and East Yorkshire a Corn Bunting was almost mythical. I’d never seen or heard one until I was working as the Wetland Project Officer on Cayton and Flixton Carrs, 10 years ago (and I’m now the wrong side of forty). One day early in my stint as project officer, at a stewardship site called Star Carr an esteemed local RSPB manager was taking a look at the site with me. Keith pointed out he could hear a singing Corn Bunting, and explained the distinctive rising crescendo of tinkling notes that is characteristic of the species.  He described it as sounding rather like a jangling bunch of keys, a description very apt when you hear the bird and which has stayed with me ever since.

Corn Buntings are now a bird I know how to find, in landscapes where they are present. In their favoured arable landscapes they tend to go for fields near or crossed by wires, typically telegraph wires but around here in Stamford Bridge even electricity pylons seem to do it for them. So about this time of year I like to go out hunting, well listening at least, for that distinctive jangling keys song of the male and report my records of territories to the local bird recorders. This is a species which nationally has undergone serious declines and is on the UK Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern, along with the likes of Linnet, Reed Bunting, Lapwing and Grey Partridge.

To look at Corn Bunting is a rather dumpy little brown job. Not unlike a skylark with its streaky breast and brownish upper parts, but the bill is quite a bit chunkier and the legs appear shorter and more hidden in the belly when perched. In flight, the Corn Bunting often has characteristic dangling legs. More often than not my first indication though is the song. I’ve even been known to catch the tinkling notes while in a car, with the windows down in a likely territory. They seem to prefer to perch up on a wire, or maybe a tree to sing.

This evening though, taking my bike on a whim to go in search of them in a familiar patch of fields near home in Stamford Bridge, I was surprised to locate two in a wheat field not crossed by telephone lines and it took me a few minutes to be sure I was onto Corn Buntings not Skylarks. There were numerous Skylarks about too, and pleasingly a young looking Yellow Wagtail in the same crop. The evening was overcast and not especially good for photos, plus they were too far away for anything decent on my phone. However, I hope you will look up the Corn Bunting and its song and maybe you too will become familiar with hunting for Corn Buntings  and develop a special fondness for the bird as I do.

 

[As an aside, Star Carr is both a farmland location in the Vale of Pickering and specifically famous scheduled archaeological site there, dating from the Mesolithic. That’s the Middle Stone Age incidentally. If this interests you in the slightest and you have never heard of Star Carr then please do check out the website I created for the Carrs Wetland Project. There is heaps of fascinating stuff on there about the wildlife, landscape and archaeology. Even though the funding came to an end for a dedicated project officer (that was me, in case you wondered where my twitter handle, @CarrsWetland came from) the website became such a repository of accumulated knowledge that I couldn’t bear to drop it.]

A Swift Update…

The one about finding Swift nests in Falsgrave…

 

30Days Wild Day 22

Today, the short walk from Falsgrave Road to the office proved immensely satisfying.  It takes all of eight to ten minutes to make this journey but for weeks I have been enjoying the screaming antics of Swifts wheeling about the skies over St John’s Road and Wykeham Street. Usually there are between six and fourteen birds. This may sound rather approximate, but when they are scything the big blue above at breakneck speed, sometimes disappearing from sight behind rooftops, crossing over and changing position very quickly it is remarkably difficult to get an accurate count of even modest numbers.

So today imagine how chuffed I was finally to see, as I slowly walked the street tracking the circling swifts, a bird make for a roofline and fleetingly stop at the edge of the roof, then fall back and fly away again. I think this was a parent Swift delivering a mouthful of midges (or some such aerial fodder) to the nest, perhaps to young poking their heads out. You don’t get long. Visits to the nest are brief and not all that frequent. To then find two more further along the street was wonderful.

Swift nests are tricky to find. In fact before this season, I think I have in my birding life only on two occasions witnessed a swift enter a nest hole on a building. They were purely chance events, when I happened to be looking in the right place at the exact moment. If a swift enters a nest site it squeezes inside and out of sight. The gaps they enter are almost imperceptible from ground level. Not like a house martin nest which is clearly visible under the eaves. When it emerges again its getaway lives up to the bird’s name. You only have fleeting moments to see one go into a nest or deliver food and fly on. As birds that spend virtually their whole lives on the wing, even sleeping in snatched moments during flight, to witness them land on a building and squirm into an unsuspected void feels a real privilege.