Skomer Photo Diary

29 August 2021

 A month back I visited Skomer Island for the first time. It started with a long journey down to Pembrokeshire, my first night camping and keeping our fingers crossed for good weather for the next day as the Skomker boat had been cancelled the day before due to bad weather. Luckily the next day we woke up to sunny weather and a calm breeze and a message to say that our boat trip was still going ahead! 

Skomer Island is located a mile off the Pembrokeshire Coast, it's known for its puffins that choose this special island as their nest/breeding site during spring and summer. Not only is the island known for its puffins but for Manx shearwaters, grey seals, razorbills, short-eared owls and much more. We arrived at Lockley Lodge Visitor Centre in the morning, awaiting our boat to arrive at the dock. Once it had arrived we boarded the boat and set off towards Skomer Island. Now, I have to admit I am not the biggest fan of boats and was rather apprehensive as I stepped onto the boat. However, there was something really peaceful about this boat journey, my anxiety was pushed aside as I was mesmerised by the beauty of the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Unfortunately, we had visited the Island a little too late to see all of the puffins on the island. They return to their nesting sites at the beginning of April and tend to leave the island at the end of July. By the time we had visited there were pretty much no puffins left on Skomer. However, despite that, we did see plenty of them out on the sea as we were on our boat trip and once we reached the island there were a few sat upon the ledges of the island rock faces. 

We walked around the entire island which was surrounded by so much beauty. The views out to sea were just magnificent and we even spotted a few grey seals! Swallows were spotted circling around the farm house, many butterflies were basking in the sunshine, rabbits were hiding amongst the vegetation and oystercatchers were searching for food along the rockpools.

I hope to visit Skomer Island again when the puffins are nesting on the island!

Land on Skomer boat trip 

Skomer Island 

A Trip to Bempton Cliffs

9 August 2021

Over the past year I have been craving the sea, as there's just something about being by the sea that makes me feel so calm and peaceful. So I thought I would treat myself to a trip to the coast, but tie that in with a trip to RSPB Bempton Cliffs, a place I had been meaning to visit for a while. Bempton Cliffs is located on the Yorkshire Coast, it's spectacular chalk cliffs become home to a large number of seabirds that you can see gathering at the cliffs between March and October to raise their young. 

The night before I had checked the RSPB website for any events going on and saw that there was going to be a 'Moth Morning' event going on in the morning for National Moth Week. Of course I didn't want to miss that, so I got up early and set off to get to Bempton Cliffs for the event. The event was taking place at the back of the visitor centre and a team of RSPB staff had their professional moth trap out, that they had set the night before, ready for the moths to be identified and then released. I was very excited to see moths that I have never seen before such as the garden tiger, spectacle, common wainscot, snout, common footman and many more. We lifted up one of the egg boxes inside the trap and found a beautiful poplar hawk-moth! I'd seen photos of this moth beforehand, but couldn't quite believe how large it was. The team very kindly allowed me to release it and so I held it on my hand and felt it's long legs grip around my fingers and then I set it down in the wildflowers behind us. 

I watched as swallows and tree sparrows flew around the visitor centre. I don't get to see tree sparrows where I live and so that was such a lovely sight to see. From the visitor centre, I set off towards the cliffs to check out each of the viewing platforms. I could hear a chorus of gannets, kittiwakes and gulls as they soared across the sea and back towards the rocky cliff faces to their young. I couldn't believe just how many seabirds were crammed on the ledges of the cliffs and the noise was incredible, especially the gannets taking over with their loud, continuous call reverberating around the whole of the cliffs. 

I took a slow stroll up to one end of the cliffs and then back down again to the other side, stopping at each of the viewing platforms to watch the seabirds. The surrounding grassland above the cliffs was beautiful, surrounded in an abundance of wildflowers and tall grasses swaying in the coastal breeze. There were hundreds of ringlet butterflies, I've never seen so many of them! Skippers, small tortoishells and large whites were also spotted basking in the sunshine and collecting nectar from thistles and ragwort.

I found a quiet spot for lunch on the edge of the cliffs, it was so peaceful to sit and watch the seabirds soaring above the cliffs and across the sea. I kept my eyes peeled for the black-browed albatross, which has been a rare sighting over the past month or so, but unfortunately it kept appearing in a location when I was elsewhere along the cliffs. I took a slow stroll back to the visitor centre to walk around one of the smaller nature trails where I spotted the tree sparrows having a bath in the little pond near the woodland. 

I came back again the next day before setting off back home. I got to the reserve early in the morning to find an eerie mist blanketed across the cliffs. Once the mist cleared and the morning sunshine shone through the cracks in the clouds, I spent some time walking along the cliff top trail to take in the views across the sea. I fell in love with this place from the moment I first set foot on the reserve, I look forward to visiting again at some point soon.

Spotting Insects at the Local Nature Trail

21 June 2021

Each year during late spring and into summer, I always take a walk down to my local nature trail to see the beautiful display of wildflowers at the little meadow that grows at the end of the trail. At the moment the meadow has the beautiful, bright colour palette of red campion, creeping buttercup, welsh poppies and many other types of wildflowers sweeping throughout. I remember last year, during a low point in my life, I wandered along this meadow each day during summer and felt so much more calm as I watched the flowers sway gently in the breeze and butterflies dancing around me, landing gracefully on the flower petals. That feeling of calm came back to me recently as I wandered the wildflower meadow again. 

I have a big love for insects, I find them so fascinating and could spend hours watching them. A wildflower meadow is a perfect spot to see many different species of insects, however we don't have enough meadows for them. Sadly our insect numbers are declining rapidly, with habitat loss being one of the biggest issues. Fortunately there are little things that we can do to help insects thrive again, such as signing petitions/joining campaigns, community gardening and planting our own mini wildflower patches. 

I love that I have a little wildflower meadow to visit locally, it was planted a few years back and has been blooming each spring and summer ever since. Walking around the meadow I came across a number of bumblebees such as common carders and buff tails, common blue damselflies were spotted along with the banded demoiselle. I spotted hairy shield bugs hiding amongst the folds of leaves and ladybirds creeping up stems. Many butterflies were fluttering around the meadow, common blues, holly blues, orange tips, large whites and small whites. I was filled with joy to see so many insects surrounding this little wildflower patch, I see plenty in the garden but not as much as this. It gave me hope that there are more communities coming together to provide a home for nature. 

We have just over one week left of 30DaysWild, so why search for your local wildflower meadow and go on an insect hunt! I look forward to visiting this little patch again soon, especially when the oxeye daisies take over, it's such a wonderful display. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for more species of insects around this spot. 

Bitterns Booming and Grasshopper Warblers at Middleton Lakes

7 June 2021

It had been a year since I visited Middleton Lakes for the first time and so two months back I decided to go back to explore the wetlands and woodland paths. Middleton Lakes is a RSPB reserve, nestled away in the heart of the River Tame Valley in Tamworth. The reserve has a network of wetlands, meadows and woodland trails to explore and is home to a variety of wildlife. I went out to the reserve on one sunny Saturday to see what wildlife I could find. 

As soon as I got out of my car, two swallows zoomed past my head, circled the sky and landed on a telephone wire to the edge of the car park. I couldn't believe it as I had only just seen my first ever swallow a week ago and there they were, with their long pointed tails, glossy blue feathers and red throats, metres away from me. I set off through the woodland trail which was surrounded by a sea of bluebells, with the scent of pungent wild garlic floating in the air. I made my way along the path and headed towards the wetland trail. Along the way I spotted two orange tip butterflies chasing each other in the air and landing on the cuckoo flowers amongst the long grass. I spotted many butterflies around Middleton Lakes that day including peacocks, speckled wood and a brimstone. 

I stopped for a while at the bridge over the canal and took in the beautiful views of the rapeseed fields. There were two friendly mallard ducks who were waddling along the bridge, followed by robins and chaffinches swooping down towards some bird seed that had been left on the bridge. I walked over the bridge and made my way to the start of the wetland trail where the first sound I heard was a loud, high pitched, grasshopper like sound coming from the long grass beside the wetland. Camouflaged against the long grass, perched on a low hanging branch was a grasshopper warbler! You can certainly understand where this warbler gets its name from as it makes this loud, insect-like reeling noise. Unfortunately this bird is now on the red list as its numbers have plummeted over the years, so I was very happy to have been lucky enough to see one for the first time at Middleton Lakes. 

After watching the grasshopper warbler for a while, I made my way along the trail watching wading birds spread out across the different pockets of wetland pools. Then all of a sudden, from what I think came from the reedbeds in front of me, was the sound of the famous bittern 'boom'. I couldn't believe it, it sounded exactly like someone was blowing a tune into an empty bottle. A local birder who was only a few metres away from me stopped to listen to the bittern too. We stood for a while waiting and we were very lucky to hear the sound of the bittern again! 

I saw plenty of butterflies whilst walking around the reserve. There were brimstones, small tortoiseshells, orange tips, peacocks and even a speckled wood which was lovely to see. Mayflies danced in the sky and many bumblebees were spotted buzzing around the wildflowers that were springing up. After a good walk around the reserve I made my way back towards the woodland and heard my first cuckoo of the year. A friendly robin was perched on a branch right in front of me as I walked back towards the car park. I left some bird seed on a wooden pallet as it wasn't too sure about whether to land on my hand, which it very nearly did! There are quite a few tame robins and other birds around the site and so I would recommend keeping some bird seed to hand! 

I look forward to visiting again soon, especially as I have been told that there are barn owls around the site, which unfortunately I missed as I was heading to the car park. Now that summer is on the way, I'm sure the reserve is going to be bursting with even more life. 

RSPB Middleton Lakes

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