Monday, 30 March 2015

Day out with Kate MacRae

This morning I got up and packed my bags, ready for a day out with Kate MacRae (also known as WildlifeKate) at her local patch in Lichfield.

 I have been following her wildlife blog for years now, so it was very strange to actually visit her patch and see all her projects in the making. It also surprised me how similar our gardens were, adjacent to fields and enclosed by a mature hedge. However, there are just a few more wires running down the side of her garden than in mine…leading to the various wildlife cameras she had positioned around her garden, in bird boxes and lots of other feeding stations.

She has a bird watching hide in the centre of the garden, which allows her to get incredibly close to the birds visiting the feeders. I managed to get a few nice shots, especially of long-tailed tits, which are definitely more transient in my garden than in hers! Our shed is a little run down now, but over the summer I may try and create my own little birdwatching hide! 

These are just a few examples of the unclose images you can get in a hide, without the birds even knowing your there! Blue tits are one of my favourite UK bird species, and I think they're often over-looked. I voted for them in the 'Britain's National Bird' competition. I often limit myself to taking photos of the birds on the feeders, however Kate gave me the idea of using natural forms, such as branches, for the birds to perch on, resulting in a more natural, realistic representation of the birds.

Long-tailed tits are such a interesting bird to photograph, as they have cheeky personalities and very unique colouring. There long tail makes them very easy to recognise from a distance, however the hide meant that they were so close we could probably touch them! Thats the great thing about glass, the suns reflection of the glass means that the birds outside probably see nothing but the reflection of trees, allowing you to get some amazing shots.

Kate also keeps hens on her patch. They have an enclosure with a roof at the end of her garden, hence why the lighting in the picture below is so dark. I still like it though!

Her patch made my mind explode with so many ideas for my own patch. Apparently there is a great deal on at Morrison's at the moment, where they're selling wildlife homes and bee hotels for really cheap. I will have to go and buy a few of them ready for the summer holidays! As you can probably see, I keep repeating 'summer' quite often, because I don't really have much time at the moment due to revision for GCSE's starting in May. I will therefore be giving my blog a break until they're over, which will only been a few months! But for the meantime, keep an eye on my Twitter as I'm sure I'll have time to make the occasional tweet….hopefully!

In the image below, you can see the wildlife flower turf just starting to grow. It is much more effective than planting regular wild flower seed, so I might have to invest in some at some point!

As I received a Bushnell trail camera for my birthday, and Kate is an avid user of these trail cams, she showed me how to set things up, using the colour playback screen which is only available on the current top model. I'm really looking forward to setting the camera up at school again. Hopefully this time I may actually capture some badger footage, fingers crossed! Overall, today was an amazing experience, and I hope to visit Kate again in the Summer holidays and maybe even visit Yew View.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Birthday Presents...

It was my birthday on Friday, and the majority of my presents were wildlife related, obviously!

 I received a fish tank, with a filter and some oxygenating plants. I also got a Bushnell trail camera which has a colour playback and setup screen. I sold my old ProStalk trail camera to the Biology Department at my school, and I will be helping them use it for there various wildlife related clubs. I got a tawny owl paper weight along with a matching notebook. I've already nearly filled it up with loads of ideas for my patch! 

I was most excited about using my new trail camera, but I was also looking forward to studying and monitoring fresh water species in my new tank.

Whilst checking everything in my wildlife garden I noticed a HUGE clump of frogspawn. I knew that frogs were around, but I had never had frogspawn in the pond before so I was really excited. I did quite a bit of research about the life cycle of frogs, working out how long till the frogspawn would become tadpoles…..and then frogs. 

Although Wikipedia is not always reliable, it is usually quite trustworthy and useful for things like this.

I decided to take this opportunity to study these creatures, so I moved a smaller clump into my new tank. I used rainwater to fill the tank, as this is more healthy for the wildlife. I then collected pond plants and some large boulders to fill the tank, creating a natural look habitat. I used a LED light instead of a normal filament bulb so that the light would not heat up the water, as I wanted the water temperature to represent natural conditions.

I'm actually very pleased with the outcome. I have been using my macro lens to do some unclose shots of the frogspawn and other wildlife which I transferred from my pond. After the frogs are developed I will be returning them back into the wildlife garden, where they will hopefully live their life in peace. 

I calculated that (although it may not look like it), there is roughly 290 individual eggs within the clump, using the volume equation. I then calculated that the lump takes up only 4% of the whole tank space, so there is plenty of room for other wildlife, such as snails, fish and insects.

I'm hoping to take a photo of the eggs everyday, watching them develop into the tadpoles which will soon be happily swimming round the tank. I have nutrient rich fish food, and specially made liquid which keeps the water clean and does not harm the wildlife. I also made sure to position the pump filter in the right position, giving a water flow around the tank, representing a stream or calm river.

Also, if anyone has any idea of what these snails are doing, let me know! My initial though is that they were mating, but I'm not sure….

As you can see, I can use the tank to get some really good up-close of the frogspawn, lets just hope the conditions are right for the tadpoles to develop.