Isn’t that title a lot more succinct and useful than some crappy pun? I’m glad we all agree.

I took a tech savvy friend out to a river to film brook lamprey and any other fish we could get our grimy hands on. I think it was successful with my first ever views of brook lamprey being filmed, along with a large pike and lots of small mystery fish.

Look at this

I’m not sure if the twisting, jerking motion one shows it the release of eggs or sperm or if it’s to do with maintaining their hollow.

Now look at this

That’s just impressive, right?

Hoping to have similar success with grayling and river lamprey in the coming weeks.

I hate pun titles. This is officially the last one I’ll ever do, I promise. They are never good and are the bane of wildlife blogging. I’m sure Egrets, I’ve had a few has been used at least 18 million times.

I went along with the East Yorkshire Bat Group to check on some boxes at a nearby nature reserve.  The culmination of which was 4 species of bat, one completely new to me. I think it would be safe to say it’s my favourite myotis bat, being that it’s first one I’ve encountered which is identifiable. Also, it was utterly beguiling.

Here it is, shouting about something or another.

Natterer's

The pan-lister in me stirred when I noticed a small mite on it’s wing thatas can be seen here.

Natterer's and Spinturnix myoti

All my research points to it being Spinturnix myoti, a specialist of myotis bats and from what I can gather from my research, the only species to be found on a Natterer’s wing membranes.
Also, enjoy this noctule bat looking adorable.

Noctule

With some frantic googling and last minute train tickets I woke up at 5am to catch a train to Peterborough (sometime known as Peteborough for short). James, being the careful maverick he is, got to the station a smidgen before and caught sight of Billie Piper. Well, the back of Billie Piper. So he claims. If you know Billie Piper and can confirm her whereabouts on the morning of Saturday the 8th of March it would hugely helpful.

Our first stop was to see a Glossy Ibis in Nottinghamshire. James has seen roughly a million before but he allowed time in our schedule for me to catch a sneaky peek of one. The last report of it was near a farm shop which I decided would be a good place for food, seeming as they sell food. We asked the staff about “the bird” but no one seemed to know any better. James filled up on free cake samples by lying to a nice chef and I bought an onion bhaji the size of an apple. Driving around, while I shoved deep fried Indian food into my mouth, we eventually spotted a man who was staring into a field with binoculars. This is usually a good omen and it continued to be, with the man pointing at bird in nice damp field. Glossy ibis are smaller than you’d imagine and more charming for it. A mallard could comfortably hunt eat one. It looks like a little curlew with an agenda. I’m sure that is a mental image that really brings together this attempt at story telling.

Having had our fill of the little tyke, we headed northwards for the days true target. Parking in somewhere in Derbyshire we looked over James’ instructions to find our destination. If I remember correctly they written on papyrus paper, needed to be held within a beam of sunlight fed through a ancient Sumerian crystal ball and deciphered using a decoder ring. Also, they were turd instructions. We had to find Black Tor. It was described as a distinctive pile of rocks. There were a lot of piles of rocks. The only distinctive element I’ve yet to discover is that they were the pile of rocks furthest away from where we started. There is also meant to be some of ordnance survey feature but that’s stupid for some reason and I don’t count it. We trudged through muck and mire, constantly accompanied by panicked red grouse. I was also given a crash course in heather identification which I will take to my grave with me, for no reason than I really like heather now.

Cross-Leaved

Cowberry

We finally reached Black Tor. We looked around. Then we walked around. Then we saw a spot of white bounding along in the distance. It was a bloody mountain hare. We got excited. James improvised some poetry about “the moor spirit”. It was dreadful but I think he knew that. Then again it could have been brilliant; I have no inner-compass for judging these things. I even got a picture.

Mountain Hare

James got a closer picture because he is competitive like that.

 

We travelled to Bedfordshire buoyed, elated and a bit sleepy. I bought a bag of food from Tesco which James didn’t approve of because he doesn’t eat like a human being. Apparently I should be eating bags of bread or old pasta as and when I find them, whether it is in someone’s house or hanging limply from the lid of a bin.

 

Day 2. James decided we should get up very early for us to have a chance at seeing a Lady Amherst’s pheasant. He was correct in the fact but my body disagreed. My bag of food was down to some minstrels and a few bruised bananas. The world seemed bleak. I’m not sure how much I am able to talk about the pheasants. There are some. They live in a place. That place is private. You can stand on the outside of that place and hope they come out. They almost certainly won’t. It’s like Jurassic Park in a way. The best you can hope for is that a goat will disappear. We didn’t see anything. We might have heard something but definitely didn’t.

James decided to show me around some of his new Bedfordshire haunts, including his patch and place of business, The Lodge. The name is vague enough to give the impression it could be used be used for covert surveillance. I will look into that. Fortunately the weather was rather nice, so we were entertained by a resplendence of butterflies; with brimstones being at the most numerous either of us could remember. It was like looking into a dish of melted butter. James showed me some of his local specialities including lake limpet and …

Further travelling took us to Potton Wood where the most unusual find were a pair of ammonites that seem to have been dug out of the earth. James also tried to show me some fleas which he claimed where from a small rodent nest but could easily have been the den for a dwarf tramp.

All in all the weekend gathered me 20 new species for my pan-list, which is probably equivalent to a nice day in a meadow or an oak woodland ride in July.

On my way to a gig in Scarborough, I came across this delightful gift . 

Woodcock, dead

The knife isn’t the murder weapon, but instead a tool I used to remove the head from the rest of the body. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite got into the habit of carrying cutlery everywhere with me, like the gourmand I’m destined to become, so instead I had to “borrow” the knife from a local cafe. I have checked with my moral cleric though and apparently I’m in the karmic clear due to the fact I bought a plate of chips and didn’t go mad with the salt. I think I might clean it and post it back to them just to be on safe side. Don’t want the 5-0 on my tail again.

I had to stash my haul in a nearby bush until I could purloin the aforementioned cutlery but it was originally found laying in the middle of a very public path. My working theory is that it’s the work of a peregrine, with the “angel wings” remnants being their classic leavings. Not leavings, that implies poo. There are also a butt-load of peregrines in the area. A plague in fact. One stole my crisps. Another the spirit of Christmas.

Any who, this should keep the braying public (i.e. you) happy until I get round to writing up the recent trip to Derbyshire and Bedfordshire.

Patch League

February has been slow. Well, it has for my good self. Not getting out as much as I’d hoped to and being distracted by other, more far-flung endeavors. I’ve only added a mere 24 species, largely invertebrates and plants, but several of them are new species. 3 species of beetle from the tribe Lebiinae were found on various trees. Also the strips of plastic used to protect saplings are a treasure trove of fun new species in these bleak unforgiving months. 2 of lebiinae beetles, an aphid, a Chrysomelidae beetle and enough earwigs to make someone averse to earwigs queasy were all found under these strips of plastic. They are also high enough on trees were I don’t have to bend over.

James added a revolting 69 species (16 of which were entirely new to him). He was very pleased with Roman Snail, which is understandable because it is massive. I’ve never seen one so my mental image of it being the size of a moped with bowling ball sized eyes might not be entirely accurate. Richard Comont has been steaming ahead (as expected) and everyone else has been ticking over nicely. Except Jess. Jess, if you are reading this, do more.

As is traditional, here is an extrapolation of the data

graph

 

100 Birds in Hull Challenge

I have continued my attempt to see 100 birds in Hull within a year. I’m still not entirely sure what I’m considering Hull. Paull Holme Strays doesn’t count. I am including Cottingham and Hessle though. Everything I’ve included so wouldn’t be considered too controversial so I think I’m safe from the scorn of my peers, for now.

Since my last entry on the subject my total has risen to 70 birds, which is better than completely turd. A tawny owl calling at the beginning of the month is my only entry on voice alone. At the beginning of the month I travelled to Paull with Africa and Gui and looked at Hull from the other side of Hedon Haven. This was a requirement for many species as getting to the waters edge within Hull is made very difficult by the security of the chemical works and docks. Using the public footpaths requires an 8 mile round journey and luck of the tides. Shelduck, Dunlin, Lapwing and Curlew were the rewards for our effort, but a small flock of Golden Plover failed to emerge at the correct side of the river. A Lesser Black Backed Gull was found amidst a flock of Gulls on my patch which may have held other treasures but some cads decided they were suitable targets for their golf swings. East Park kept a Jay and treecreeper hidden from my ever watchful gaze but it added Pink-footed Goose, Great Crested Grebe and Ring-Necked Parakeet to the tally. Noddle Hill found my skylarks and Priory Fields provided Rook and a real gain in the form of a Peregrine carrying its magpie quarry. Still missing several common species, sea species on the humber, summer migrants, a bunch of farmland stuff and many potential waders. This is an uncomfortably long paragraph

 

 

A lucky couple of events in the past few weeks has allowed me to obtain some pictures of one of my favourite examples of convergence. Behold the remarkably convergent front limbs of an insect and a mammal:

Mole, Talpa europaea

Image

 

 

Mole Cricket, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa

Image

 

 

 

Let’s have a close up:

Mole:

Image

Mole Cricket:

Image

 

I don’t really have much else to say. I was just impressed by how a similarity in lifestyle had led to such a wonderful similitude between such disparate groups of animals.

Bye!

As the gritty sands of time spill through our grasping fingers, January reaches its close. Tomorrow births February, bright, shiny and squealing. What joys will it bring? Who knows?

Whilst we can’t in any way predict a single event that could possibly happen in the future, we can look back on the month that has passed with eyes moist and shiny with wisdom. Here is a review of patch league for January.

The graph below shows the current totals for each of the participants:

Who is the best

As you can no doubt see, Richard Comont has thrust dramatically into the lead with 237. 57 species behind Richard is myself, on a cool 180. Robert takes third with a gentleman’s 93. Gui’s totted an admirable 66 for a first time patch-leaguer and resides in fourth place. Africa has recorded 46 species (which I imagine means she has just casually looked out of window twice in the past month). Jess is in last place with 37. Pull your finger out Jess.

Of course, the composition of our individual lists is likely to be radically different, so enjoy the individualised pie charts below which break-down the groups we have each recorded:

Richard  JamesRobert  GuiAfricaJess

Wow. Pretty intense stuff. Apparently Africa hasn’t looked at a single plant this year; a sentiment with which we can all agree. What have plants ever done for anyone?

I also made a few more graphs that display our data in different ways:

Bad graph3

Bad graph4

Bad graph1

Bad graph2

As you can see, I’m not a gifted… statistician? Is that the right word? I want to say graphologist but that’s someone who studies handwriting and tries to catch Zodiac killers.

On a personal note, I am delighted by how patch league encourages me to look more closely at things I otherwise wouldn’t, and to attempt groups I otherwise wouldn’t. So far this year I have definitively identified 13 invertebrates that I have never seen before; 2 species of springtail, 2 species of gall wasp, 2 species of beetle, 3 species of millipede, 1 species of centipede, 1 species of terrestrial flatworm, 1 species of woodlouse, and a harvestman. Additionally, I have two snails that I have identified to genus level that are awaiting confirmation of species. Both would be new for me if I can get them identified. Patch league is a beautiful endeavor.

Finally, a few thoughts that I have been mulling over this month. I would appreciate feedback from other patch-leaguers.

1. I have seen five peacocks on my patch. The bird, not the butterfly. Apparently they’ve been turning up for over a year. I would not count these on my list, as whilst they are surviving in the wild, they are not breeding and sustaining their population. I am also not counting anything that has been planted. My patch is covered with conifers and sweet chestnuts, but they have been planted here – really, their situation isn’t much different from the peacocks. I would, however, count garden plants that have clearly escaped from cultivation. For example, I found a Dalmation Bellflower growing out of a crack in a wall in my village. Obviously not planted, it must have self-seeded. What is everyone else’s opinion?

2. I have been recording aggregate species on my patch list. So far that’s bramble and common pygmy woodlouse. Is everyone happy to do this? Or should I stop?

3. Genus level IDs. I feel we need to make some sort of judgement about this. A suggestion that I have been considering is asking Robert to add another category to our spreadsheets – ‘genus level IDs’. Of course, that would separate the record from their true group.

4. Finally, does anyone else think that vertebrates are over-split? Or invertebrates are over-lumped? I wouldn’t mind a ‘mollusc’ category, an ‘insect’ category, and a ‘crustacean’ category, to name just three. What does everyone else think?

Good luck in February! Can we all hit 100 species by March?

I decided, at the precipice of the new year, that 2014 should be a year where I embark on a personal challenge. I have challenged myself to mind 100 species of birds within the boundaries of Hull in 2014. This could be foolish. I have previously only personally recorded 96 birds in my entire life in Hull.

As of today I have achieved 54% of my goal (that is 54 species). If I continue at this rate I should see 788.4 species of bird within Hull in 2014. I think that is more than all the species of bird recorded in the UK ever. So that will be impressive.

I’m still missing a few easy species. No Goldcrest yet, nor Song Thrush. In fact, I no longer know of a place where I can definitely see a Song Thrush. And I still haven’t visited the farmland between Willerby and Cottingham, which should yield several new birds (Yellowhammer, Partridges, Skylark). I have found a few trickier and unexpected species, the aforementioned Tree Sparrow was a highlight, and a Woodcock flushed along the river was a coup.

On hearing that a Firecrest had been reported at St. Andrews Quay I erupted into action, by which I mean I went 4 days later. I’ve never walked there from the city centre before but I was delighted by how enjoyable my meandering was, considering it basically is through an industrial estate. High tide meant there was little mud to scan across but several Turnstones (a new Hull bird for the year) and Redshank. Another new species was Linnet singing from some sort of tall metal structure.

 

On reaching the Quay a Kestrel flew over , causing a hidden Pheasant (new species for Hull) amongst the reeds to call out in fright, or maybe delight. I’m not sure what it’s agenda was. I bothered some bushes by the restaurant where the Firecrest was reported, but no luck. It always was a long shot but the Turnstones and Pheasant kept me in high spirits.

Redshank

Something that sounded like a Water Rail made a sound, but I wasn’t sure. It could have a been a little pig, so I sought it along the reed. Upon reaching the north side of the disused dock I flushed a Snipe out. Flushed is a strong word. I walked 10 metres away from it and it panicked. If it had just kept schtump I would never had known it was there. Snipe is high point. Not a bird I had expected at all, with no where in the vicinity being typically ideal for them. On trying to relocate it, and maybe find a Jack Snipe, I noticed a man staring at me from the top of the abandoned building. He seemed… fucking dodgy so I decided to make my leave. I walked back to town, re-enjoying the Turnstone, finding a flock of 6 Stock Dove (another new Hull bird) and treated myself to a bag of yoghurt covered banana chips. I then plonked on a seat at home and saw a Blackcap in the garden (another new bird).

Turnstones

Hopefully my trip along the farmland areas will prove as fruitful.

I joined the East Yorkshire Bat Group today to see what bats could be seen hibernating in a disused railway tunnel. Amidst the discarded codeine tablets and sheep skulls we managed to find a few Brown Long Eared Bats tucked away for the winter.

The numbers of lepidoptera* on offer where far great though with 36 Heralds and 8 Peacock butterflies. To top things off was a new species for me in the form of this Tissue (Triphosa dubitata). A new moth in January? Scandalous, I know.

Tissue

*My spellcheck is trying to correct lepidoptera to teleprompter. I appreciate its bravado. 

Added a few new species today, Pied Wagtail, Woodcock (flushed from near the heath). Quite excitingly, I also saw this fungus:

Pizza Waxcap

Which is called Hygrophorus speciosus. It was only discovered at The Lodge in the 80′s, and this is it’s only known site in Britain, which makes it a pretty pleasing species to see.

I also saw this rotting apple this morning:

Mouldy Apple

And I wondered if it was a particular species that was causing the white growths. A little bit of research made me suspect that either Monilinia fructigena or Penicillium expansum could be the culprit. I’ve put it on ispot to try and garner an ID.

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