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The Little Things In Life

Hi everyone,

It has been a while since I have posted a blog post. This one is quite honest but is also filled with lots of wildlife 🙂 .  A lot of stuff has happened in the last few months in my life, most of it seemingly rather bad. As those of you that follow me on Twitter may have noticed, I have been struggling with my mental health, which has seemingly led to other problems in my life and is why my condition recently worsened. This combined with a challenging and stressful new job has meant that things haven’t been great if I am honest, and in fact feel like they can’t get much worse. Anyway, this blog post is less about that, and more about a weekend away I had in the Lake District, to try take my mind off things.

I was invited to come to the Lake District with some colleagues from the Wildlife Trust, and people that used to work here, for a weekend of looking at plants. I thought I knew a lot about plants, but these people knew a lot more and it was a chance for me to learn a lot from them, and get distracted by insects along the way. The Lake District is a place full of happy memories for me, which unfortunately feel like very painful ones. So I knew this trip would be a challenge.

I have basically had to reassess my life again and go back to basics. One thing that someone told me lately, which has really stuck a chord with me, is that mindfulness isn’t necessarily about concentrating on your breathing, it is about noticing the small, insignificant things. Something that I do normally, focusing on small insects etc., but I sometimes forget to do when my mind is decidedly foggy.

The natural world is a great source of support for me. Sometimes it is nice to feel cosy and enclosed, and a walk in a wood can sometimes do that. But equally I love open landscapes. Most of the sites we visited were open boggy sites, which usually means beautiful, breath-taking scenery. I love mountains and the lakes are certainly a place to be for them. You can see for miles and see that the world goes on, even if you are struggling. There is hope.


The small pearl-bordered fritillary had to be one of my insect highlights of the weekend. I some saw earlier in the day from afar, but suddenly one flew past me. I literally dropped everything but my camera and proceeded to track it down, running through the sphagnum bog to get a photo. It kindly stopped for a second enabling me to get a photo, it isn’t a great photo… but it is enough. A memory of a beautiful species in a spectacular habitat.


Unfortunately in Buckinghamshire we are rather lacking in heathland, and even more so in wet heathland, so it was a real treat to get stuck into some of those sites. I have a real love for Sphagnum mosses, even though I can’t identify them. There is nothing quite like experiencing a quaking bog, feeling the squishy sphagnum underneath. I also find watching cotton grass blow in the wind is also very good for the soul, so it was wonderful to take that all in.


Sedges and ferns also featured heavily in the weekend, both groups which I have limited experience in. Who knew there were so many sedges in Britain!!! We went to Eycott Hill, where we managed over 15 species in the day, a number of which were uncommon or rare and some of which I could identify again by myself now. I was also intrigued by Wilson’s Filmy Fern. This was a tiny, delicate species growing on vertical wet rocks at one of the sites we went to. A nice species to see. I was also rather fond of the parsley fern that we saw at Eycott Hill.


The very nice, and uncommon Carex pauciflora – Few-flowered Sedge


Parsley Fern – Cryptogramma crispa


Star Sedge  – Carex echinata


Wilson’s filmy fern – Hymenophyllum wilsonii


Lemon-scented fern – Oreopteris limbosperma


Tall bog sedge – Carex magellanica


I also managed to add two new orchids to my list.. northern marsh and heath spotted orchids, both lovely species. We also went on a twitch for yarrow broomrape, a ‘vulnerable’ plant in Britain. After getting excited after finding the wrong broomrape species (common broomrape), we eventually found the yarrow broomrape, which is a delicate purple colour.


Heath spotted-orchid – Dactylorhiza maculata


Yarrow broomrape – Orobanche purpurea

I couldn’t go to the Lake District and not look for bees, I managed to find a number of workers of Bombus monticola, the bilberry bumble. This isn’t a new species for me, but is absolutely adorable! I also managed to find Andrena laponica, which is a new species for me and it was lovely to try and show some of the botanists the wonders of bees!


Bombus monticola


Bogbean  – Menyanthes trifoliata

I am yet to finish identifying everything and collating all my records from the weekend, but it is fair to say that I saw a number of new species which is always exciting. There may well be some real highlights that I have missed in the things I have yet to identify.

The trip was a break away from my day-to-day life, and in regards to my personal struggles, I have been listening to some kind and helpful people and I am taking steps to try to improve my situation.

On balance, it was a lovely weekend. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

PS it is two years today since I went swimming in a wild swim in the middle of London. It is mentioned in this blog post



End of an era

This week is my last as a Natural Talent trainee. I have just posted my last blog post for them, which can be read by clicking on the photo below


2017: Plans + Resolutions

All in all, 2016 was a great year for me, I had a great time on my traineeship. I learnt a lot of survey skills and learnt a lot about things I never expected to learn about. 2016 was also the year that I fell in love, but I harp on enough about that on Twitter.

2017 is looking like it will bring new opportunities and challenges and I am trying to be positive about what it may bring. The start of a new year also gives me a chance to think of targets for the year ahead. As always I would like to submit more records and record more species this year. More specifically though I would like to try again at bryophytes as they are a lovely group and I have a few shoeboxes full of them that need identification. I also have a backlog of insects to identify so I would love to clear that in 2017. would also like the records I submit to be of higher quality, giving more information about numbers, ecology etc. I would also like to use the iRecord app more as it is great and will help track more specifically where I walk when recording wildlife. I have set myself a target of recording 500 species this year that I have never seen before, I think this will be quite a challenge. The table at the bottom of this blog post shows how many species I have recorded in each taxonomic group and where I would like to try and focus on recording new species in 2017. Trying to record new species is more than just for fun though, it pushes me into new groups and in the end makes me a more rounded naturalist.

My role with Buglife and Natural England has been great, but is sadly coming to an end towards the end of February. This position really increased my self-confidence, so I would like to continue to  improve upon this by running more workshops, doing more talks etc and helping more people. I have been lucky enough to be taught by lots of great naturalists, so it will be nice to do more to pass this on while strengthening my own identification and outreach skills. I am now on the look out for new opportunities.

This year I will also continue to help influence recording and conservation with my positions on the BWARS, BSBI and AFON committees, and look forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

I would also like to climb more fells this year, I have had the most amazing time when I have been in the Lake District with Sophie, so I hope to conquer more of the Wainwright fells in 2017.


Total Before 2016 2016 Total Number of Additions in 2016 2017 Target
Algae 2 3 1 10
Slime Moulds 1 1 0 1
Protists 0 0 0 0
Lichens 39 40 1 50
Fungi 63 64 1 75
Bryophytes 45 50 5 100
Vascular Plants 478 531 53 600
Sponges 0 0 0 0
Comb-jellies 0 0 0 0
Cnidarians 3 3 0 5
Molluscs 59 62 3 75
Bryozoans 0 0 0 0
Annelid Worms 4 4 0 10
Platyhelminth Worms 1 1 0 1
Sea-spiders 0 0 0 0
Arachnids 40 42 2 50
Myriapods 7 7 0 10
Crustaceans 14 15 1 20
Springtails etc. 4 4 0 10
3-tailed Bristletails 1 1 0 1
Odonata 21 25 0 30
Orthopteroids 15 19 4 20
Hemipteroids 81 87 6 100
Hymenoptera 122 155 33 200
Coleoptera 121 233 112 310
Diptera 120 146 26 185
Butterflies 37 37 0 40
Moths 306 328 22 410
Remaining Insect Orders 16 17 1 30
Echinoderms 0 0 0 0
Tunicates 0 0 0 0
Fish 6 6 0 10
Reptiles 4 4 0 4
Amphibians 5 5 0 5
Birds 164 178 14 200
Mammals 17 29 2 35
Other Animals 0 0 0 0


1806 2097 291



Guest Blog Post for BSBI

My blog post for the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland was published yesterday. It talks about A Focus on Nature, the largest youth nature network in the UK. Why not have a read.


Latest Traineeship Blog Post

To see my latest blog post, please click on the photo below 🙂



The Beginning of the End

At the end of January I started a position which would change my life in more ways than I imagined, a role that has given me more confidence in my abilities and myself. A position that I didn’t think I was good enough for but applied on a whim and was chosen out of hundreds of applicants. This coming Monday I am going to the Natural History Museum in Oxford to check / identify my final specimens from Blenheim Palace and Woodwalton Fen. After this I will be spending most of my time writing everything up and aiming to get my Blenheim Palace survey work published in a journal. I only have a few months left of my traineeship and am now looking for new opportunities, I am very thankful for all that TCV, Natural England and Buglife have done for me, and Esmee Fairbairn for funding my internship. I have learnt an incredible amount about myself, invertebrates and people too. The work I have done will influence management of two nationally (if not internationally) important sites and that has been a real motivator for me. This last year or so hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding. I hope to keep blogging in the next few months with my progress. I will leave you with some lovely dead wood associated beetles from Blenheim Palace 🙂



What about the little things?

A few days ago BBC Science and Environment posted a rather infuriating article entitled ‘World wildlife ‘falls by 58% in 40 years” . Not only is this infuriating but misleading too. The data is based on vertebrates. I have nothing against vertebrates at all, but they do not encompass wildlife as a whole. It may not surprise readers of this blog to hear that I love all wildlife, especially the things that others dismiss and think unimportant. I have always been interested in the things that I feel matter most, the smaller things in life. I have been lucky enough to have been paid for the last 9 months to care about invertebrates, and hope to find a role that will allow me to continue recording wildlife when my job finishes in 3 months time.

We know a lot about vertebrates relatively speaking, but that doesn’t mean that plants, lichens, fungi, invertebrates (the list goes on and on…) should be dismissed. We cannot protect what we do not know exists though, which is why biological recording seems to have become my life over the last few years. I have rather enjoyed studying minuscule beetles this year that spend most of their lives as larvae in dead wood in trees, recycling nutrients and going unnoticed. The State of Nature Report this year has gone a long way to highlight declines in less well known groups, and I am pleased to see lots of biological recording projects are looking at trickier groups now including the up and coming Biolinks and WildSide projects. But more needs to be done to end this vertebrate bias. It is really not healthy for us or the environment. All life is wonderful, all life can be charismatic, all life matters.