47/365 – A Barbadian Caterpillar

This stunning caterpillar caught my eye in Barbados and grew massive in the time we were there. You would think that when it turned into a butterfly it would be just as beautiful. But it doesn’t it pupates into a large but very brown moth!

Frangipani caterpillar

Frangipani moth caterpillar

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44/365 – Teal

The Teal is the smallest duck in the UK. They are widespread but extremely nervous hiding away along the edges of waterways.

Male Teal Foraging

Male Teal Foraging

Starlings

We regularly get starlings feeding on the fat balls in our garden. However it has declined  as a breeding bird in the UK. Each autumn into winter our resident birds are joined by huge numbers of birds come over from the continent to winter here. They will gather together in the evening into spectacular murmurations where they swirl overhead as they prepare to roost.

Starling soaking up the sun

Starling soaking up the sun

They are dark, thrush sized bird with longish pointed bills and short tails. They have a big head and short tailed with a striding walk. They have glossy, iridescent plumage which has a sheen like oil on water when caught in the sun. In winter it will gain more white spots and its beak will darken in colour.

Adult and juvenile starling

Adult and juvenile starling

Juvenile Starlings can cause some confusion when spotted as they have none of the sparkling plumage of their parents.

Adult starling feeding juvenile

Adult starling feeding juvenile

Self Publishing

From a very early age I always told people that one day I’d write a book. I had no idea what about but I was going to publish a book. My photography gave me a story so about three years ago I thought why not, let’s give it a go.

Now I’m not a fan of Amazon but they do offer anyone the chance to become a published author so my book was until recently available to download and be read via the Kindle App. That all changed just before Christmas when I got an e-mail asking my why don’t I publish my book in paperback!! So why not, it was only ever I suppose a vanity project. I never expected anyone to actually buy it. But they did, and all the money raised from the sales have gone to my local nature reserve.

So I set about producing my book as a paperback. However it isn’t just a case of sending off the same files and hey presto a book appears. I spent two quite frustrating days re-sizing all the images to a higher DPI which then meant the pagination was all over the shop. I then had to design a cover and set a price. The cheapest I could sell it at was ¬£12.99 and from that I would make the princely sum of ¬£0.25!! Vanity can be so unrewarding.

I finally bodged it together and Amazon accepted my upload and told me my book would be able to purchase in 48 hours!! It was actually available on their site within 24 hours so I bought one using my prime account and it arrived the next day. What a totally mind blowing experience from upload to my doorstep in less than 2 days!

I bought another copy for my mum for Christmas (she was absolutely amazed) which she has been lending to all the neighbours! She just laughs when I tell her to get them to buy a copy! And to be honest I thought that would be that for the paperback. But I just checked my Amazon account and its sold a few copies as has the Kindle version, so it’s time to work on the sequel.

A Year Looking for Otters anyone?

A Year Looking for Kingfishers is available by clicking here.

A Year Looking for Kingfishers

A Year Looking for Kingfishers

Re-Joining the Tufty Club

Until fairly recently the only Red squirrel I’d ever seen was Tufty the road safety squirrel who helped teach me to the cross the road. I had a fleeting glimpse of one in the Lake District years ago and then last year in Scotland we saw a couple. So last week I decided to drive over to Formby on the West coast where there is a colony of them in a pine forest close to the beach.

The Red squirrel was decimated by the introduction of the Grey squirrel which pushed it out of its strongholds by over-competing with it for food and also by the squirrel pox which came with the Greys. The greys were resistant to the disease but it almost wiped out the Reds.

Red squirrel eating

Red squirrel eating

The Greys quickly took over the Red’s environment but they hung on in small colonies in remote parts of Scotland and Northern England. The population at Formby is one of 17 Red Squirrel strongholds in the North of England. The plantation conifer woodlands on National Trust land is a good habitat for the Reds as they like to feed on the seeds found in the pine cones. As the pine cones tend to grow near the end of the branches Grey Squirrels struggle to get to them, because of their heavier weight, making the area less attractive for this species to live in. The volunteers who monitor and feed the Reds are also on the lookout for any Greys which are trapped and moved away.

Red squirrel after some nuts

Red squirrel after some nuts

Red squirrels usually have russet red fur, although coat colour can vary with some reds appearing very grey or almost black (and some grey squirrels can have red fur down their backs and on their feet). They are small with ear tuffs which are larger in winter,- while grey squirrels are stockier and rounder. There is little difference between males and females, which makes it difficult to distinguish between the sexes.

Red squirrel on the hunt for nuts

Red squirrel on the hunt for nuts

The squirrels are very inquisitive and know they will get a free meal off a lot of the visitors so aren’t afraid of coming up close and some will take food from your hand. They can easily be heard as they chirrup to each other in the trees and make quite a racket as they race from branch to branch. They cache food throughout the trees and the undergrowth burying what they don’t eat for leaner times. They are also able to tell good nuts from bad by weighing them up in their paws.

Cute fascinating and a great day out, lets hope they continue to bounce back and become a more regular sight throughout the country.

Red squirrel caching nuts

Red squirrel burying food for later

Out On The Wiley, Windy Moors

To steal from Ms Bush it certainly was when I ventured onto the moors recently.

As soon as I stepped out of the car I was greeted by a pair of hunting kestrels who both hovered above my head before swooping away to try another spot. They were joined by a third at one point and there was always at least one clearly visible.

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The ground was frozen solid and there was a harsh wind which really bit through your clothes. It didn’t seem to bother a flock of fieldfares who were feeding on one of the fields. These winter visitors arrive each year from more Northern climes so the freezing moors were probably a milder place than their usual feeding grounds. There were around 20 mixed in with a flock of starlings who flew from field to wire and back again.

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A trip to the moors wouldn’t be complete without my usual shock from disturbing a pheasant, and this trip was no different as this handsome fellow jumped out from behind a wall just as I looked over it. He was joined later by a stunning female resplendent in the winter sun.

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