My trip to Tenerife

just over 2 weeks ago, we set off for the warm sand and glistening sea of Tenerife. The holiday was mainly to relax by the pool and drink cocktails, However i couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take my camera and snap some photographs of animals on the small Canary island.

Tenerife is a great place for wildlife, although we didn’t get chance to check out Teidi national park, there we’re plenty of opportunities right where we were staying. The first animal i managed to snap was photographed right from our very own apartment balcony, and was a very familiar face. It was the African blue tit.

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Although very similar to the Eurasian blue tit, the African blue tit has slight variations to it’s markings, especially on its head. Structurally, they are thinner and more streamlined than our garden visitors in the UK, with a much less dense plumage due to warmer climates.

What i did notice about the Blue tits was baffling me. They kept flying up towards the top of a lamp post and essentially vanished out of site. So i watched, and watched, and watched…..until finally, i saw them disappear into the light! they were nesting in the light casing and i managed to get them hanging on just as they went in.

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As i carried on watching from the table on the balcony, more and more birds started to appear with familiar faces popping up everywhere!

There was a Canary island Chiffchaff tweeting away in the shrubs below

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A blackbird singing its soothing yet complex songs in the trees opposite

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Even a Spanish sparrow which is closely related to the house sparrow. It’s markings differentiate to the house sparrow and almost looks like a hybrid with speckles of white, black and browns. It’s larger than the house sparrow and has a much broader beak, very similar to the shape of a Finch’s beak.

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It was great to see such a diverse and healthy population of birds right in the heart of the town. This was most likely due to the vast amounts of tropical trees and shrubs which are found along all the pavements in Tenerife, even having there own water system in place to ensure plentiful nutrients even in warm, dry weather.

After taking pictures of birds form the apartment terrace, i really wanted to find some reptiles, and luckily enough, i did! As we walked into town, there was a small, rocky cliff face, only about 5 metres high on the side of the pavement. We suddenly heard scuffling right next to us so we stopped dead in our tracks and looked for what made the noise. We looked downwards and seen two lizards peeping from underneath a rock. I slowly got my camera out and managed to get a photograph of each one. They were a breeding pair of Gallotia galloti, AKA the Tenerife lizard.

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After we found this breeding pair we sneaked up on them every time to watch them, but most of the time, they saw us first and darted back into their home.

The highlight of my holiday was going whale watching. I’d never done it before so i thought what better place to do it than now. We left the port in a catamaran, guaranteed to see at least a whale or dolphin. As we sailed out to see, there were various gulls and sea birds, which were much harder to photograph when you are rocking side to side on a boat!

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Only 15 minutes into sailing and we came across out first sighting. It was a group of pilot whales. I was so excited i didn’t know whether to take pictures or just watch, but luckily enough, there were many of them and plenty of time to take pictures as well as take it all in.

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They were incredible to watch with a resonating feeling of relaxation and bliss. They came really close to the boat so we could see just how amazing they were and at some points, you could see their eyes surface above the water to see what was going on. Some of them were also floating on the surface, almost lifelessly. This behaviour is called logging, which they do to rest.
Unlike us, Whales cannot fully sleep and completely rest their brain, so instead they float at the surface and switch off one side of their brain to rest it and visa versa. It is essentially sleeping with one eye open.

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We also saw a mother with a calf which was swimming next to her. Unfortunately i couldn’t get a picture of them but it was a great way to end a perfect trip watching these gentle giants.

Until next time.

Spring time in the woods

Spring is an incredible season to witness outdoors, it’s my favourite time of the year for many reasons. days become longer, the weather starts getting warmer, and crucially, wildlife starts flourishing after the harsh winter weather.

A palette of greens begin to paint the landscape, bursting with colour which was previously dull and lifeless. River banks become a bed of greens, blues and whites, tingling the senses of wild garlic. Birds start calling out intricate melodies towards near potential mates, flashing various colours as they go by. Meadows sprout a multi-coloured mass of wildflowers, providing the perfect home for natures micro world.

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All of these signs lead to the event which is vital for all living organisms throughout the world……..the rebirth of nature.

There is no better feeling when you’re outdoors, seeing fledglings, ducklings and other newly born animals taking their first steps in life. A sign of a healthy ecosystem, brimming with plentiful food and a safe home.

When we spotted a little blue tit chick in a nest box, i couldn’t pass by without taking a load of photographs! Watching the parents work tirelessly to provide food for the chicks was inspiring.

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The little chick kept sitting at the entrance and we were hoping it was going to fledge right in front of us. Unfortunately it didn’t but i’m sure it did the next day. We were just incredibly lucky to see such an important time of year for these incredible birds.

At times, nature can be frightening, destructive, and life changing, but it’s the small things that make a difference to the world.

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RSPB Burton Mere

Burton mere is my local nature reserve and it’s a great place to see all sorts of wildlife. It’s main attraction is the marshlands and wetlands which attract various wading birds, sea birds, ducks, and geese.

The RSPB are an incredible charity who do conservation work, not only with birds, but other animals too. If you sign up with them, you get to enjoy every RSPB reserve around the UK absolutely free, along with many other perks.

I hope you enjoy the video and get a feel for how incredible the place is.

Maeshafn river

I’ve been a bit bogged down with assignments lately so i haven’t had much time update my blog, but I’ve finally handed in my last assignment for the year and can’t wait to get back out with my camera! I recorded some footage around Maeshafn river a few weeks back and thought i may as well put something together instead of wasting it. Plus, i got to record one of my favourite birds in the process (Dippers) so i couldn’t let an opportunity pass to make a short film.

Maeshafn is one of my favourite places in North Wales. It’s a small village located in NE Wales and is FULL of wildlife. Maeshafn boasts rivers, woodlands, grasslands and a mountain with a 360 view of the surrounding area.

Anyway, I’ll let the video do the rest of the talking.

Hope you enjoy it!

Earth day (With my dogs)

So, today is Earth day, a day in which we need to spread awareness for nature and wildlife throughout the planet. A day in which we need to focus on the foundations of life and show others different ways of contributing towards it.

Whilst out with my dogs and my camera, i decided to take a break by the river and share my thoughts and opinions on an incredibly important day and how we can do simple, little things to make a difference.

5 interesting facts about the Great spotted woodpecker

If you’re lucky enough to live near a forest, or enjoy a quiet walk in the countryside, you may have heard hundreds of bird calls. The happy high-pitched chirps of blue tits, robins and sparrows. Or the piercing low squawks of crows and buzzards. But none of those calls compare to the echoing tree tapping of the woodpecker. This sound can be heard from a great distance away and still makes me gasp and hold my breath, listening intently to see where it’s coming from. The great spotted woodpecker has incredibly intricate plumage which includes a black and white body and head, a dash of vibrant red on the lower belly (and head in young birds and males) and the distinguishing feature where the name originates….White spots on its wings!

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As well as being fascinating to look at, they also have some great adaptations…

#1. Woodpeckers can peck up to 20 times per second, sometimes getting into the region of 8,000-12,000 a day! These pecks will involve either drumming, drilling, hammering or tapping. Hammering and tapping is used to break through the wood and create a nest, communicate with other woodpeckers and attract a mate. Drumming and drilling is used mainly for territory purposes to warn other birds away.

#2. The feet of the woodpecker are zygodactyl which mean it has two toes facing forwards and two toes facing backwards. This helps the woodpecker perch on the side of the bark, giving four strong points of contact to help stabilise them.

#3. Unlike other birds, the tail feathers of the woodpecker are thick and strong to help prop them up against the side of the tree. This is then aided by an enlarged vertebrae at the end of the tail to ensure a tight hold on the thickened feathers.

#4. In between the beak and the skull, there is a cushion of absorbent tissue which removes the impact of constant pecking. For this to be 100% effective, the woodpecker must peck at a perfect 90 degree angle, ensuring all the impact is guided towards the absorbent tissue. However, just to make the mechanics that little bit better, the skull of the woodpecker is thickened with strong but spongy bone cells which protect the brain.

#5. This omnivorous bird will eat all sorts of insects including spiders, ants, beetles and flies. They will also hunt around the trunk, digging out grubs, larvae and other foods rich in protein. Throughout the winter period, nuts and conifer seeds are crucial for the woodpeckers survival as these equate to around 30% of the birds daily requirements. Although their main diet consists of bugs and the occasional nut or seed, they are also known to invade other cavity nesting birds to eat the eggs.

Our trip to Snowdonia

Snowdonia is an iconic region of Wales, home of the widely visited and tallest mountain in Wales, Snowdon. We visited an area called Cwm Idwal which was ranked by radio times, the 7th greatest natural wonder in Britain.

The corrie is surrounded by a diversity of lush vegetation and wild shrubs which create a blanket over a neatly cut landscape, carved out by ancient glaciers. Waterfalls rush down the mountains and slowly carve there way through the rock face. Wild goats graze on the steep banks whilst Great crested Grebes sail through the choppy water. This intricate jigsaw of rocks and mountains is a great attraction for photographers, walkers, hikers and even climbers. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the North Wales area.

Egretta garzetta

Egretta garzetta, the scientific name for the little Egret. This slender-necked bird is part of the small heron family and is found mainly in southern UK and Ireland. It can also be spotted throughout Africa, Asia, Australasia and other parts of Europe. Unlike it’s larger cousin; the great white Egret, the little Egret has a dark bill, bright yellow feet and is smaller in stature. In the summer, the little Egret produces extra plumage on its chest and back, with two distinguishing long feathers which flow down the back of its head. These birds can be seen quite often walking through marsh land and ponds, tapping their feet on the floor to disturb any prey that may be close by.

INTERESTING FACT: In the 19th century, little Egrets were hunted and killed for there elegant plumage on the back of their head. It was mainly used in the decoration of hats. As popularity increased for such a rare accessory, prices soared, making these feathers more valuable than gold. This caused sales to rocket throughout Britain seeing millions of Egret skins passed through dealers. Obviously, due to excessive hunting the little Egrets numbers went into decline, causing the overall population to fall dangerously low. However, in the 1950’s conservation laws were put into place which saw the end of the Egret plumage trade. Since then, the little Egret has bounced back with thousands of breeding pairs throughout the world with a population which continues to increase.

A happy ending to a sad story.

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Natural weavers

As well as studying full time at university, I also work for a conservation company which covers a broad range of jobs such as newt fencing, hedge laying, pond building, ground clearing and vegetation management. Whilst carrying out these jobs you are most likely to come across all sorts of wildlife, some more unexpected than others. But sometimes you will come across the most simplest forms of nature which fascinate you just the same, which is what happened last Wednesday.

we had to go and cut back Typha in two ponds which were located next to a canal. Typha is an invasive species which grows excessively in shallow ponds and makes it hard for other plants to thrive, causing an imbalance in the ponds natural ecosystem. Therefore the Typha must be cut back at the surface to allow species to grow.

Whilst my colleague was cutting he came across a nest with 6 eggs in it! We stopped the cutting and made sure everything was ok and it was all still intact, which thankfully it was. On closer inspection of the nest we could see that it had been made by Typha being weaved in and out of the stalks, just like a human would weave a wicker basket. It was sturdy and rigid. The nest belonged to a Moorhen which was at the side of the pond, so we quickly finished off the Typha and left so she could get back to looking after her eggs. It was incredible to see such a complex structure from such a small animal. It just goes to show that no matter how big or small an animal is, their intelligence should never be taken for granted

Little Grebe fishing

The other day i signed up to the RSPB at my local nature reserve. I spent the day walking around wetlands and grasslands seeing birds that i never thought i would see in this area. what a great reserve! i will more than definitely be going back quite frequently to try and capture more pictures of all the stunning birds.
On my way around, i mainly took pictures to try and get used to my new camera but because i’m also interested in film making, i wanted to see how the zoomed in videos turned out, which were great! i managed to catch this little Grebe diving for fish which i just couldn’t resist taking a video of. Hope you enjoy it just as much as i did