August, 2013


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Tuesday moment: invading spiders

    Although I’m sure they play a vital role in our habitats, I must admit to not being a fan of the ordinary, homing-in-on-your-jam-sandwich kind of wasp

    But donning the classic colours that scream ‘danger!’ to would be predators, the aptly named wasp spider holds much greater appeal.

    It’s only been in the UK since the 1930’s and hails from a warm spot by the Mediterranean. Its spread Northwards has been allowed by breeding with its hardier Asian counterpart to create a more resilient race of this striking spider.  

    Wasp Spider Argipe bruennichi by Richard Revels ( 

    Now if only I could happen across this exotic looking hunter catching a hated, picnic-spoiling wasp in its web, that would be a real Monday moment!

    This great close up was taken by Richard Revels just down the road in Biggleswade. Why not browse our amazing online library of wildlife photos at

  • Summer seaside delights

    Whether you visit a sandy cove, rocky shore or seaside town, there’s always something to look out for at the seaside.

    However, there’s more to the beach than sandcastles, ice cream and deckchairs – here’s my top ten wildlife highlights. Plus there’s a bonus number 11 as well...


    Gulls don’t just nick your chips – they’re a quintessential part of our seaside heritage. Whilst black-headed gulls are now losing their black heads ready for winter, listen out for the raucous calls of herring gulls, perhaps the classic seaside ‘seagull’. Don’t just ignore our gulls though, they are part of the charm of our coast and should be cherished as such.

    Herring gull. Image by Grahame Madge (


    Along with gulls, crabs are a seaside classic. Rock pools are a good place to spot these critters as they scuttle around, pincers at the ready.

    Sea anemones

    Again, you’ll be looking in rock pools for these colourful relatives of jellyfish. Except, unlike their jellyfish cousins, adult sea anemones have taken a sedentary lifestyle – anchoring themselves to rocks and catching food as it floats by. There’s likely to be several species in rock pools, how many can you find?

    Basking sharks

    OK, this might be a tough one, but it’s worth a look isn’t it? Although called a shark, these 11 metre giants are fish and have no teeth. You’ll probably need to be on the west coast of the UK, but our friends at the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) have received several sightings this year. If you do spot the world’s second biggest fish, hovering up plankton off our coast this summer, make sure you let them know...


    Often hauled out on sand bars enjoying the sun like us, there’s two resident species of seal in the UK – common and grey. Confusingly, the common seal is actually less common than its bigger grey relative. You’re more likely to see a common seal popping its head up inquisitively at you from a harbour or the beach though.


    Another creature that’ll have you peering into rock pools is the family favourite the starfish. The common starfish is the one we’ll all recognise – orange and with five arms. Amazingly, starfish can re-grow these arms if injured. That’s pretty handy, don’t you think?


    Have you ever actually looked at the seaweed you see at the seaside? Either covering rock pools, clinging to the side of jetties or simply washed up on the shore, you may be surprised to find that there are over 600 species of seaweed in the UK. That’s a lot of seaweed – and each one is supremely adapted to its habitat. See how many different ones you can see?


    Just this week one swam up the River Dee towards Chester! That one is a common dolphin, but the more familiar bottlenose dolphins are around too. Cornwall and the western side of the UK are good, as is the English Channel. But, it’s possible they’ll turn up anywhere. Don’t confuse them with their smaller cousin porpoises, though.


    You’ll find limpets clinging to rocks, and other hard surfaces. With their hard shell as protecting a soft body, they move around at high tide grazing algae and sea weed, before returning to the same resting spot. Apparently they also change sex, starting as males but then changing to females after a couple of years.

    Limpets - image by Michael Spiller (


    There’s loads of fish in rock pools, from gobies to blennies. Just watch as they dart around the little pools, looking for food and waiting for high tide, which will bring more!

    Special bonus:


    I couldn’t include fossils in my top 10 as they’re not alive! But I couldn’t leave them out completely! As a kid I scoured the pebbly north Norfolk beaches for belemnites. These are long-lost ancestors of modern day squids, and I amassed quite a collection. When the tide was out, my brother and I hunted through the chalk rock pools for ammonites – the holy grail of fossils as far as I was concerned! I never did find one though.

    What will you discover?

    So that’s my top 10, complete with special bonus fossils. How many of these can you find on the beach this summer? Wherever you visit keep your eye out and let me know what you see, or what would make your top 10...

  • Monday's Magic Moment: An imposter?

    I wandered to the canteen this morning. Nothing odd in that - probably millions of people across the country did the very same thing, hunting for a brew to start the working week.

    However, something caught my eye as listened to my colleagues regaling tales of this weekend's Birdfair - an yellow, black and chestnut bullet zipped past and landed a few metres from me. It looked all the world like a hornet.

    But even in my slightly sleepy Monday morning state, something flashed in my brain that this might be an imposter. So I took the chance and investigated the purple buddleia flowers this mysterious creature landed on. And low and behold, I was right! My Monday morning had suddenly come alive, as I stared at a hornet-mimicking hoverfly! Not sure what one looks like? Then take a look at the image below, taken by Richard Revels.

    Just like the one I saw in the flesh this morning, it shows a female Volucella zonaria to give it it's scientific name. It doesn't have an official English name, so I'm just happy to call it the UK's biggest hoverfly, and my favourite insect! It certainly put a smile on my face this Monday morning - so much so that it must be time for another brew...

    Hornet-mimicking hoverfly. Image by Richard Revels (

    This is one of thousands of images from RSPB Images. Take a look and find something to make you smile this Monday!