Viewing entries tagged
Wildlife

Iolo's Street Life

If you missed the first episode of Iolo’s Street Life, it’s showing on BBC iPlayer for the next 24days.
Here’s the Link

The next episode is on tomorrow (Friday 27th) at 7:30pm on BBC One Wales so there’s time to get it on series link if you’re able.

For those that haven’t been following my blog over the last year, this series was my first time working on a major production, commissioned by the BBC and produced by Aden Productions. I was employed by Aden as a researcher and as a researcher, it was my job to ensure that everything on the day of filming was pre-planned to ensure we made full use of the limited days we had Iolo and the production team booked.
Not an easy task when you’re dealing with subjects as unpredictable as Wildlife and as you can imagine, to ensure things went perfectly on the day, it required many hours prior, sleeping in random hotels all over the country, staying up all hours monitoring cameras, laying camera traps, speaking with local people on the phone, at their doorstep, on the streets… Pretty much anything it took to get the knowledge we needed to film wildlife on the streets.
It was a great pleasure to work on the program and everyone at Aden was so welcoming, supportive and generally such a good bunch to work alongside. I mainly worked with Associate Producer, Osian Griffiths, who helped guide me in this new role, but I also spent some time with Kathy James who was also new to the role of Researcher but she had her own series to concentrate on called Iolo: Saving the Land of the Wild. A truly epic series that touched upon some really important topics we’re facing in this country at the moment so well worth watching if you haven’t already.


I probably should have took more behind the scene pics for my own memory sake but I didn’t want to be the one playing about with my phone on a major shoot. Below are some of my setups, some footage of which you’ve already seen of the Owls and Foxes but some that also didn’t make the cut like the Otters at Haverfordwest and Sparrowhawks in Michele Hughes Garden. For every one item you see in the program, we must of had 3 extra as reserves, backup plans, or items that simple didn’t meat the criteria in the final cut.

I must admit, the whole experience filming with Iolo and being such a critical part of the filming process, was such an honour, but I’ll be totally honest, it took a tole on my mental health, and all I’ve really concentrated on since then, was getting myself back on track, both physically and mentally. Very soon I’ll be co-launching a new community interest company called ‘In Our Nature’ with Veronika Brannovic. The company aims to improve wellbeing for people who suffer with mental illness, by utilising the power of nature and everything it has to offer. More about this on a future blog post.

For now, I hope you enjoy the program, please let me know what you think via the comments, on social media ect.


In the present, I think I just about made the most of the last bit of autumn sunshine I could get, getting some more time with the Brown Hawkers at Ebbw Vale and finding a very late Male Black-tailed Skimmer which usually peaks in June-July.

Something else I stumbled upon by accident was later identified by Steve Williams, was a possible Tufa Spring. - Read more about it here. I’ve seen this before at this exact location and I’ve mistaken it for some sort of pollution incident, almost ringing NRW to check on it too as there was a burn out car nearby and I’ve found random chemical containers up there in the past. If this is a natural Tufa Spring, it'll be worth examining the flora around the pond as there may be some rare plant life that usually associates themselves with calcium-rich waters.





Gwent Naturalists

If you’re on Facebook and live in Gwent, you might be interested to join a new group called Gwent Naturalists.

It’s an extension of the Gwent Birders group that has over 600 members so far and every now and again we get questions about butterflies, moths, dragonflies and flowers, which is fine, but it made me realise that we could do with a group that covers more taxonomic groups.

We’re very lucky in gwent to have dedicated naturalists that have spent a life-time studying nature in their respective field. Whether it’s spiders, slime moulds, mosses, micro moths, birds, bats, reptiles, flowers, bees, beetles, you name it, there is somebody out there with the knowledge.
This isn’t to take away from the existing - South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre group - which I still highly recommend you join.

The Gwent Naturalists group isn’t just a place to share photos and ask for ID’s, I hope that we can use it to discuss conservation topics in our area, organise field events, and generally work together to help encapsulate our knowledge and work together towards a common goal.



My second pair of Nightjars were victim of an egg thief just two days from hatching, so I’m giving them plenty of space as they choose their second location for clutch 2, which is so far looking to be a much wiser choice, in a clear-fell that has much more cover, making the nest less exposed. I did wonder if their first choice was a good one, as it wasn’t far from a major dog walking route, and they did get quite a few close fly-bys from Jays and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, but the list of predators for ground nesting birds is huge, so it’s lucky they’ve adapted to this by not putting all their eggs in one basket, having a second clutch as a backup plan should the first choice go wrong. With the hot weather though, I’ve turned my attention to the vast amount of insects that are now at peak.


I did note 3 Silver-washed Fritillaries on the wing this week at a local woodland which could be a good sign that this species is spreading out. I usually go to the Forest of Dean to get my Silver-washed fix but instead of doing that I’m going to make more of an effort this year to find them on my doorstep. I’ll leave you with this incredibly out of focus, cropped image :D

Nightjar and Firecrest Progress

Despite having a tough year so far, both financially and with my health, I still feel privileged to spend my free time with nature, and even more privileged to spend most of that time with Firecrests and Nightjar this season. I started the season collecting Firecrest recordings as I wanted to learn more about their mimicking behaviour. There are still many unanswered questions but I’ll update on this soon.

I’ve since got a little distracted, as Nightjar season has well and truly started. It’s almost a full time Job to keep track of the birds roosting patterns. You’ve got to be extremely cautious and committed to find roosting nightjar. Cautious because you don’t want to cause any disturbance, especially now in breeding season but also because they will inevitably see you long before you see them and flushing them is simply not an option if you wish to ever see them again. It’s a huge trust exercise and they need to learn that you are not a threat, so trampling thru breeding habitat hoping to find one is asking for problems. It’s knowing where they won’t be rather than knowing exactly where they are. I’m so glad I read up on these birds and took some great advice off experts as the last thing I would want is for my presence to have a negative impact on their breeding success. As a result I’ve witnessed some fabulous behaviour and characteristics of individual birds.

Meet Blackbeard, The male from pair no1. He prefers to roost in dense cover and as a result I’ve decided to leave him alone this season as there’s no way of approaching him silently. I’ve called him Blackbeard as he’s considerably darker than all my other Nightjars. Not just his throat, but the stripe down his breast, around his lower eye and also down his back is quite dark. He’s generally more rufous with a wider range of colours.

Blackbeard (Male no1)

Blackbeard (Male no1)

This is his current Female that I’ve named ‘bark’ as she prefers tree stumps and has consistent colouration from head to tail like tree bark without any lichen. Not a very feminine name I know but it’s descriptive enough for me to ID in the field. She was my first ever self found Nightjar. She’s now sitting on eggs but is also in deep cover so this pair I tend to enjoy watching at night only, from a vantage point, rather than pursue them in the day time and possibly cause disturbance.

Female no1

The second pair is a complete different ball-game, and are much easier to approach without making too much noise. They’re both roosting close to the ground but he likes logs or even plastic tree guards. She’s about 10 meters away in a small ditch and is now also sitting on two eggs. I’ve named male no2 silverback due to his overall light shade of grey. He was proving to be quite an attentive partner but since we’ve been having heavy rain, he’s taken to a more sheltered part of the forestry 60+ meters away which is very dry. Do you blame him? I don’t. The female however has no choice but to endure the elements till nightfall where the male then brings her food or they’ll swap over so she can feed. I do wonder if Silverback has gone off with another female while she’s been sat on the eggs as there is a female even closer to his current dry roost that’s been landing on the path and wagging her tail in front of him. He has shown interest in her so it wouldn’t surprise me if he did copulate with her too, this is common with Nightjars. Once his original female has hatched her eggs however, he should take over parental duties when the chicks are large enough, at which point he will copulate with her again, and she’ll lay a second brood elsewhere. The saying, ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is a literal strategy for these birds and in doing this, they increase their chances of survival, even if only one chick manages to fledge.

This pair is a reminder that they’re so vulnerable to predators on the ground, whether it’s snakes, other birds, deer, badgers, foxes, mice, PEOPLE.. there’s so much out there that seek to kill them, which is why they invest so much (or so little) energy into keeping up their ‘log’ act. It’s vital they aren’t seen moving in the day time. Not so easy when you’re soaking wet and cold, or boiling hot in the sun with insects crawling over you.

Below is female no2 which I’m now going to call ‘lichen’ as the contrast of her dark shoulder really makes the lighter wing strips stand out, like a patch of lichen on a branch. She also has quite short wings and a more rounded shorter head than the Male who has a long, flat head shape. Their shape does vary as they manipulate their plumage in different positions but these features are generally unmistakable in the field once you’ve spent some time with them. This is her below sitting on the eggs, it’s a cropped image and from quite far off as I’d rather not disturb her.

Lichen Nightjar Female Sitting

This next bit might make some laugh, but I certainly didn’t find it funny at the time, but a group of young irresponsible adults bumped into me one night while recording Nightjar at dusk. They didn’t bother me at first and showed very little interest in what I was doing but they did turn the music up louder in their car to annoy me. What they did next though questions their insanity.., as they must have drove all the way home, picked up a family members wind instrument (possibly trumpet), with the intent on coming back up the mountain so they could destroy any chance of me getting clean recordings. Take a listen below, you couldn’t have made this up honestly.. Skip to the end..It’s actually hilarious the more I think about it. I just can’t believe the measures some people are willing to take to disrupt other peoples lives.

Between the trumpets, I was watching quite a few bats on the wing while watching the Nightjar and all I could hear thru my headphones were the faint sound of beating wings. I did wonder if my Telinga Microphone could actually pick up such high frequencies and it turns out, IT CAN! After slowing my recording down in Logic Pro X, I was able to pick out each ‘tweet’ that the bats were producing. These tweets are not audible without slowing the recording down but i’m amazed how much detail I was able to capture. It makes me wonder how many bats are in my previous recordings and the only way of telling would be to lower the pitch or slow the recordings down. I’ve always wanted to record bat sound but always thought I would need a Bat detector to do so.

I do have 3 other pairs of Nightjar that I know roughly where they’re roosting but you need to spend weeks observing them before considering yomping thru their habitat. Please be responsible, all breeding birds are protected and I would not be pursuing them if I wasn’t 100% sure I could do so without disturbance.

Climate Change

While Britain stalls the upcoming shit-show that is Brexit, the EU continue to move on their path towards a greener future. Without the influence of EU Law, how long do you think it will take for the Uk to catch up onto the increasing threat of climate change? You’d think 20 degrees in February would be enough to silence the critics? Don’t get me wrong, it felt amazing to bath in this weeks sunshine and it did break me out of a little winter depression, but for our migratory birds, butterflies, moths and early emerging plants, if this weather takes a turn back to the depths of winter (which it could very well do), it could spell disaster for this years spring breeding season.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/uk-weather-heatwave-climate-change-global-warming-february-met-office-a8797136.html?fbclid=IwAR3EV4ML80Y0iiFKaxboe43LgRlo-cinfdEabrc9sNut7tKfn2YBYxbkNz4

The EU just voted to completely ban single use plastics such as straws, cutlery and tea stirrers. It’s something I’ve been hoping we would do also, but now… Brexit, the ‘power’ is back in our own hands, this includes our own environmental laws. Do you think we’ll set an example to the world and forge our own green path? So long as the Tory Government stay in power, I think we’ll do quite the opposite. I predict that we’ll be in such a financial mess post-brexit, that the government will consider further exploitation of our natural resources in order to make fast money.

https://futurism.com/the-byte/single-use-plastics-ban-eu?fbclid=IwAR3LsYYpJo1PzRDPpC202la88WN6K4xLIiCoqDwgWbXPWY7e3ru7wXDm9gk

Please be warned about the videos below, they may disturb some people, but I wanted you to see an example of the damage that Straws and Cutlery can do to our wildlife. The world of power needs to wake up.

Below is a pic I took a couple months ago at a fishing lake in Ebbwvale. Having spent many ours at Llandegfedd Reservoir, this is becoming an all-too common sight. Fishing nets, line, hooks, lures, all recipes for environmental disaster. I used to fish when I was young and I know from experience how easy it is to get your line caught on something, or hook snagging something in the water, and there’s nothing you can do, other than cut the line and let metres of environmental death traps go in the water. This happens all over the world, and I don’t want to directly blame the fishing industry but it’s because nets, line and rope that snag floating plastics that then turn into islands that attract marine life. Turtles, Fish, Crabs, they’re all attracted to these death traps for food and security. Before it’s too late, Law needs to change. I just hope whatever happens, the Uk will have strong leaders that fight for our future.

Blackbird Fishingline