This post is a bit of a dry run for the iSPOT records that I’ll be making shortly. I found the website a while ago when I needed some help identifying a strange fluffy yellow caterpillar that had stripped my willow bare. Here is the critter that started something of an obsession.
iSpot is a part of the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), a partnership led by Imperial College London, which aims to create and inspire a new generation of nature lovers by getting people to explore, study, enjoy and protect their local environment. People upload their observations of wildlife, help each other identify them and discuss what they’ve seen.
I quickly found out that I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did, but that fellow recorders are keen to comment and share. I now use the website as a kind of diary of the new things that I see (rather like those kids ‘I-Spy’ car and digger books) and to get help when I don’t have a clue!
So here are my new ‘spots’: On Monday I spotted my first Little Owl ever (so excited).
I’d recently been reading a colleague’s blog and had discovered that Wimpole is home to some Little Owls (Athene noctua). I managed to speak to Megan about the owls and have been looking out for them ever since. No joy for a week, but then on that lovely sunny Monday of this week I saw this beauty sitting in the preferred oak that I’d been told about. Luckily had my pocket camera with me I was able to take this highly zoomed picture from the car with no disturbance to the little owl. I shall continue to watch out for him.
Later, on the way home we saw this nuthatch, but he was flighty and fast. I’ve not seen a nuthatch in years. He was creeping up the tree trunks, circling them in ascending spirals in his search for insects, but flew down when something caught his attention here. We couldn’t see his lovely blue back in the shade, but on the ground it showed up quite well.
Next ‘spot’ was a bird that I’ve glimpsed many times, but has always evaded photographic capture. However, I’ve discovered that this tiny goldcrest has a favourite hunting ground along the front of the tightly clipped yew hedges in the walled garden. A line of Teucrium fruticans in front of the yew acts as a lacy shield so that I can get reasonably close, unnoticed, for a good view of him.
Along with the similar firecrest, he rates as the UKs smallest bird. In fact, since I couldn’t see any orange in the stripe on his head, this is likely to be a female.
The final ‘spot’ of the week was heard rather than seen. There are currently hundreds of redwings in the park at Wimpole. They were gathered in the tops of the trees along the pleasure grounds when I was walking in and the sound was deafening, like kids out in the playground at breaktime. Here is a digitally-zoomed view of a few of them.
You can just make out the distinctive cream eye strip. These birds will soon be leaving to return to Scandinavia, so it was nice to spot them before they go.
Fortunately, I’ve finally timed a wildlife post to coincide with Tina’s monthly Wildlife meme. I hope that you will visit Tina’s blog to check out some of the colourful feathered friends that she’s been seeing (including some strangely familiar starlings).