Spring at the Wetlands

9 May 2021


A while ago I went for a walk around Willington Wetlands to see spring unfolding around the wetlands and to see what wildlife I could spot. I also did an Instagram takeover on the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust account, with a mini walk around the site. I thought I would share a mini photo diary and share what sightings I had that day. 


The weather keeps changing and can't decide whether to stay warm or cold, but when I visited Willington Wetlands it was a bright and sunny day with a lovely warmth and cool breeze in the air. The first bird I saw and heard when I walked into the site was a buzzard, who was circling around the grassland and soaring over the trees. Another bird of prey flew over which turned out to be a sparrowhawk, a male one which is smaller than the female and with an orange and brown streaked chest. Plenty of birds of prey can be seen around the site, such as kestrels, peregrines and occasionally marsh harriers. It's the perfect hunting ground for them. 





Another familiar sound that surrounded me as I walked down Meadow Lane towards the main wetland reserve, was a chiffchaff. To me it is the sound of spring, it's the sound I always look forward to hearing when spring arrives and I heard many of them singing away up in the trees as I wandered down the path. In fact there was a chiffchaff right in front of me, I stopped still in time to not scare it away and watched as it was singing and hopping from one branch to another. They can be a difficult bird to ID as they look very much like a willow warbler and so an easier way to determine the species would be to listen to their song as they are very different from one another. 


The wetland itself was teeming with bird life, noisy bird life I should say, because the sound coming from across the water was incredible. Lots of squawking black headed gulls and honking Canada geese was coming from the shingle and grass islands. It's understandable that there be so much noise as it's nesting season and all that commotion is mostly all about territory! I took my time to stop at each of the viewing platforms, keeping an eye out for the kingfisher that I usually see when I visit the site or just to stand for a moment to watch the breeze blow through the reedbeds. When I got down to the bottom of the trail, I stopped by the bird feeding station to see what birds were vising, although not many this time, there's usually a flock of long-tailed tits who hang about the bird feeders, but this time it was just the reed buntings and blue tits. 






I made my way back with a chorus of chiffchaffs following me along the path and chaffinches hopping from branch to branch in front of me. I took a walk back along the grassland where I spotted common stork's-bill dotted around the shorter patches of grass and many other little wildflowers that are starting to spring up. As I made my way back to my car, the buzzards were soaring through the sky again up above me and bumblebees were buzzing around the blackthorn blossom that lined the path. I look forward to visiting again in the summer time when the sand martins, dragonflies and damselflies begin to visit.  

Springtime wanderings

12 April 2021


Since I spend a lot of my time based around the Derbyshire, I thought I would take a trip down to Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and go for a walk around The Wolseley Centre. It's the HQ for Staffs Wildlife Trust and has 26 acres of grounds to explore. You can take a stroll along the river bank where you could see kingfishers speeding past in a flash of blue, a beautiful boardwalk surrounding tranquil pools and streams and there's even a sensory garden with pond and feeding stations for you to sit and relax and enjoy wildlife surrounding you. 


As soon as I stepped into the grounds, I was greeted by wildlife. Chiffchaffs were singing in the trees, ducks and geese were greeting people as they walked over with bags of feed and tadpoles were seen swimming about in the ponds. It's been a very long time since I last saw a tadpole, I think I was in reception and I remember seeing lots of little tadpoles in the pond in the school grounds. When wandering around the Wolseley Centre, I walked over to one of the pond dipping stations and couldn't believe my eyes when I saw these tiny tadpoles in the water. 




I wandered over to walk beside the river bank and a flash of blue sped along the water, a kingfisher landed on a branch for a while and then flew off again, speeding off through the trees. I felt at ease as I was stood beside the sandy river bank, watching mallard ducks swim past, blue tits chirping in the alder trees to the side of me and two grey wagtails chasing each other along the river bank. I took a walk along the boardwalk where I spotted marsh-marigold along the fringes of the pools and Canadian geese making perfect spots for their nests. I came across a very friendly robin, who wasn't afraid to swoop down from a tree and land beside me to take a few seeds that had been left on the boardwalk. 


I fell in love with the sensory garden, which has a section of raised flower beds with pollinating plants, mini ponds full of colour, bird feeding station for the birds and plenty more. I could have sat for hours watching the birds swoop to the feeders, coal tits, blue tits, robins and dunnocks were seen at the feeders and in the trees. I saw a song thrush hopping amongst the shrubs, flicking up the leaves and dirt with its beak so that it could look for insects to eat. I spotted a female wood duck, which I've only ever seen at WWT reserves and didn't realise that it's a duck that isn't native to the UK. 






Wherever I wandered, spring was surrounding me. Leaves growing on the trees, flowers blooming, birds singing and plenty of life in the ponds and rivers. There's nothing I love more than springtime wanderings. 


The Wolseley Centre 


Frogs at the Nature Trail

5 April 2021

I've always had a fascination with frogs. They've been visiting the garden for as long as I can remember, hopping around the borders in search of a good meal amongst the shrubs and stones. We've had small ones, large ones and each with different blends of earthy colours. I had never thought to build a pond in the garden until last year, when the first lockdown started and I decided to make a mini pond in the border. I was very surprised to see that one of the resident frogs appeared in the pond a week later after building it. I am yet to see the garden frog, but around two weeks ago I heard that there were lots of frogs down at my local nature trail and so I just couldn't resist going out for a walk with my camera to see if I could capture some frog photos. 


The first thing I could hear as I was walking towards the location of the frogs, was this loud croaking noise. I couldn't believe it, all of these male frogs competing against each other with their loud croaking chorus that reverberated around the woodland. I wandered along the path and there they were, little frog heads poking out of the water below the banks, surrounded by clumps of jelly like spawn. I crouched down to take some photos and to my surprise watched as two frogs swam towards me and stared right into the camera lens with their large eyes that sparkle like gold dust. I could have watched them for hours, there must have been around 20 of them scattered around that part of the woodland, swimming about in the shallow body of water that collects at the bottom of the woodland banks.


Unfortunately, due to hardly any rainfall over the past few weeks and the frogs choosing not much of a great place for their spawn, they have ventured elsewhere and the water levels have decreased massively. I hope that they have wandered back to the main pond at the beginning of the trail, which is a much more perfect spot for them to breed!


Have you seen any frogs lately?


A Visitor at the Pond 

Common Frog - Wildlife Trust

How to create a mini pond - Wildlife Trust


Wetland Wanderings

7 March 2021

If you asked me what my favourite type of reserve to explore is, I'd find it rather difficult to give one answer. I love walking around a variety of different types of reserves, each and every one of them are very different to each other and offer so much wildlife to see. Wetland reserves are a favourite of mine to visit, purely for the sounds of wetland birds out at water and on land. I must admit, my wetland bird ID skills aren't as great as my garden bird ID skills, but whenever I'm out visiting a wetland reserve I'll take notice of the information boards and try and spot the birds that are listed. 


I walked around a favourite wetland reserve of mine a couple of weeks ago. Most of the wetland birds were too far away to get photos, but I was glad I bought my binoculars with me so that I could get a good enough view across the wetland. I normally see a kingfisher each time I visit and this time I spotted a flash of blue, zoom across one of the flooded gravel pits. A gaggle of geese were heard in the distance, over on the grassland beside the waters edge and suddenly a group of four herons took off from the ground and flew off across the water. I had never seen so many herons before!

I took a wander down towards the end of the trail, to watch the birds visit the feeders. Long-tailed tits, blue tits, great tits, reed buntings, robins, blackbirds and dunnocks were all out at the feeders. I absolutely love watching the long-tailed tits at the fatball feeders, as so many of them visit this one particular feeder. Sometimes I can get so close and stand almost underneath the feeder, quietly watching them with my camera at the ready and they never seem bothered by my presence. 





On my way back, I took the longer route back to the car so that I can wander along the edges of the smaller flooded gravel pits. I heard a distinctive sound in the distance, a song thrush singing loudly with its repeated phrases that it sings. A robin greeted me, who was perched on a buddleia branch and a dunnock was also heard singing nearby. There's just something so refreshing about walking around a wetland, for me, I think it's being by water and listening to the sounds of gulls, geese and many other birds that visit the wetlands. I recommend searching for your local wetland reserve and take a wander along its paths, you just never know what you might come across.


Bumblebees & Butterflies

28 February 2021

The days are getting lighter, the dawn chorus is beginning and the crocuses and daffodils are blooming. Spring is in the air, I can feel it and I can certainly see it too. As I write this blog post, I'm sat at the desk in the dining area, I keep looking out of the patio door windows to see the sun shining at the bottom of the garden. Not long ago, I spotted something flutter in the sunshine, so I quickly grabbed my camera, popped on my wellies (it's still a bit muddy in the garden) and to my surprise saw that it was a small tortoiseshell butterfly. The first small tortoiseshell in the garden! I don't know a lot about butterflies, but I do know that they are one of the first butterflies to appear in spring.

 

The other day I had just finished clearing out some leaves from my pond when I heard a buzzing noise behind me. Again, I quickly grabbed my camera and spotted a bumblebee enjoying the first taste of nectar from the pink dawn viburnum in the garden. I don't really know much about bumblebees either, but know that the queen bees are the ones to emerge first from their winter hibernation. I'm looking forward to doing a bumblebee ID course very soon and to do my own butterfly ID research too. I also look forward to when all the spring and summer flowers come into bloom over the next few months, I'll be growing plenty of wildflowers for the insects!






Nature Trails and Wildlife Sightings

21 February 2021

I don't think I've ever been so pleased to see the start of lighter mornings and evenings and pockets of spring starting to show up wherever I go. It's been a very cold winter and I've found it more difficult than most winters as a lot of the time I have been working outdoors and no matter how many layers of thermals I wear, my body doesn't seem to cope well in the cold. However, I've been enjoying every moment of working outdoors in nature, but it's been the nicest feeling of all to have moments where the sun shines through the trees and I feel the warmth from the sun on my face. Its that time of year again, where I can feel spring on its way. 


Although I have a brilliant opportunity to be able to get out to different nature reserves for my traineeship during the week, in my spare time I've been exploring nature nearby and enjoying moments of quiet with my camera in hand and capturing photos of wildlife surrounding me. I love a good nature walk, I love walking along paths that lead off into the woodlands where I'm able to stop and listen to the birds singing up in the trees. The other week I was walking through a woodland part of a nature reserve and could hear the long-tailed tits up in the trees, I looked up and there they were, about five or so of them switching from branch to branch and pecking at the catkins on the silver birch trees. I could hear blue tits and great tits, not to mention a robin too who was singing loudly in a tree next to me. I looked across to a large oak tree right in front of me and caught a glimpse of a tree creeper, scaling the length of the tree. 

I scattered some sunflower hearts onto a bird table and first to appear was a robin, who hopped down from the tree beside me and swooped towards the table, grabbing some seeds in its beak and flying back to a branch. I could see on a hazel branch, surrounded by long, golden catkins was a great tit who was eyeing up the seeds. He quickly swooped down to the table and within a blink of an eye he was back in the tree with a beakfull of seeds. Hiding amongst the bramble was a dunnock, a secretive bird who knew exactly when best to get a snack. Another trail lead through to a pond dipping area and a boardwalk towards the lake. Sneaking around the reedbeds was a coot, which during spring time will create a very messy looking nest on water. Out towards the lake I could hear Canada geese and some greylag geese across the far end of the lake. I was pleased to have spotted a great crested grebe, with its piercing red eyes and orange ruff around its neck.

I've mentioned plenty of times that you never have to travel far to explore nature, it could quite simply be in your own back garden, out at your local park, at a nearby nature reserve or woodland. Even when I'm walking to the village shops, I'll always keep an eye out for all kinds of nature. Whether that be snowdrops lining the church grounds, a song thrush and redwing on the ground looking for insects or looking at the buds on trees to try and identify them. You never have to look far for nature. 

Photos taken at Hilton Gravel Pits Nature Reserve 



Woodland Wanderings in the Snow

7 February 2021


I always seem to miss the opportunity to go out with my camera on a snow day and so when we had a good amount of snow two weeks ago, I had some spare time in the morning and decided to wrap up warm and go for a wander around the local woodlands to see what photographs I could get in the snow. I hadn't seen this much snow in such a long time. A month ago we had some snow, but this time round it was at least 4 inches or more! The paths around the woodland has completely disappeared under a thick blanket of snow and all the trees were dressed in white. The morning sunlight was peering through the clouds and shone down upon the snow covered ground which looked like glitter. It was truly magical to walk amongst the snow covered woodland.



I was lucky to see quite a few birds out in the snow. I saw plenty of robins and one of them was about an arms length away from me, perched on a tree branch and singing a song to me. If only I had bought some seeds with me, it seemed to enjoy my company with or without seeds. I saw a charm of goldfinches high up in the birch trees. They stood out the most against the snow, with their bright red faces. They were an absolute joy to watch, pecking at the catkins on the trees and hanging upside down on the branches. I also spotted blue tits, great tits, house sparrows and a brief glimpse of a chaffinch. I haven't walked down this part of a nearby woodlands in a while and never knew just how much wildlife you can spot down there. I hope to get back down there soon whenever I go on my local wanderings.




Whilst walking through the woodlands, with the soft crunch of snow underneath my wellies, the fresh cold air, sun warm on my face and bird song in the trees, I thought to myself just how much calmer I've been this past month. My traineeship has a lot to do with that, spending pretty much most of my time outdoors has been the best thing for me. I'm where I was always meant to be, working outdoors, surrounded by nature. It's made me realise just how much being outdoors is good for me, my anxiety will always be there, but when I'm busy doing the things I enjoy, my mind feels calmer. A month has gone by and I have been enjoying every moment and I still have plenty more to learn. I shall be back with more updates soon!


Snow Day and the Help of Nature

2 January 2021


We had snow for the first time in a while this week, I woke up on Tuesday morning to a blanket of snow dressed across the street and thick flurries of snow falling from the sky. It was such a magical scene, just the scene I was hoping for this side of winter. I spent most of the day stood in the middle of the garden, wrapped up in my parka and bobble hat, taking photos of the birds swooping into the garden and perching on the snow covered branches and feeders. It was lovely to see the regular robin visitor who was flying back and forth into the garden taking some sunflower hearts from one of the feeders. The snow has just about melted completely, but I hope that we'll have another snow day soon!


Normally at the end of the year I would write a round-up post of my adventures throughout the year, however 2020 has been quite the year for us all, one of the most toughest years I've ever been through for sure. At the start of the first lockdown, back in March, I fell back into a deep depression due to a horrible breakup, work troubles and of course the pandemic. For weeks I was unable to pick up my camera, with no interest in anything at all. I stayed in my room for most days, with a horrible low feeling consuming me and on the days where I managed to get outside other than for going to work, I walked aimlessly around the village in a world of my own.



But then spring began to bloom beautifully and it was as if something was trying to bloom inside me as I began to notice the things I love again. I walked along the local nature trail, watching the sunlight catch the petals of forget-me-nots, saw ducklings swimming around their mother in the local pond and stood listening to the birds in the trees. I finally picked up my camera again, walking back along the trails to capture the golden hour sunlight at the wildflower meadow, capture the bees and butterflies amongst a sea of oxeye daisies and try my hand and taking photos of the birds I spotted on my walks. Slowly, nature began to pull me out of the fog that was surrounding me and I began to see a way forward. Nature became my biggest distraction this year, it always has been, but this year it helped me more than anything. 


A lot changed for me this year and during my low point, I felt very stuck without a path to follow anymore. But once I began to get myself out of that low point, I forged a completely new path, one that I probably wouldn't have discovered if my first path hadn't disappeared. I decided that nature is something I love the most, something that I always truly thrive in and so I took on volunteering with my local community and then landed a traineeship to get myself stuck into nature conservation. It's a brand new journey and I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me. 

After what has been a very difficult year for us all, I hope that things will start to get better in the weeks and months to come. Should things get too much, remember that nature is always there for you. A robin singing in your back garden, wildflowers springing up wherever you go and a breeze blowing through the trees in the woodlands. I sometimes set myself a few goals for each new year and alongside some personal ones, my number one goal is to continue to explore new things in nature. Last year taught me a lot about spending more time to appreciate the simple things and that's exactly what I plan on doing this year because, even the smallest things in nature can help so much.


Wishing you all a Happy New Year and all the best for this year.