Monday, 8 June 2015

30 Days Wild- Week 1

If you've been following me on twitter you've probably seen that I've been doing the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild challenge, where I try to do something wild every day through June. The idea of these 'Random Acts of Wildness' is to make a little bit of time each day to appreciate and engage with nature. After all, as the 30 Days Wild page says,
 "All our lives are better if they’re a bit wild."
This is what I've been getting up to so far...

Monday 1st June
The first day of 30 days wild was an exciting one for me, as I was on a university field trip to the Pocklington Canal. The aim of the field work was to go pond dipping, survey numbers of certain groups of invertebrates and take a few individuals back to the lab for further work on oxygen consumption. It was brilliant fun!

I've done a bit of pond dipping before, at school, but this was probably the most exciting range of animals I've ever come across. We had water boatman, fly larvae and the other usual suspects, but that wasn't all. Caddisfly larvae, a damselfly nymph and water mites were some of the highlights, as well as a freshwater bivalve mollusc of some sort. I have absolutely no idea what species, so if anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear from you!
Clockwise from top left: The damselfly nymph, a caddisfly larvae, a water hoglouse (Asellus) and the freshwater bivalve. 
The Pocklington canal has lots of reeds, providing a great habitat for wildlife. However, it meant we had to find a gap in the reeds to stand any chance of doing the pond dipping. The gap we used happened to be close to where a family of swans were settled. They were unimpressed by a bus-load of students walking past, but quickly settled down. It was a real treat to be able to look over and watch the adults and cygnets interacting. The photos I have of the swans aren't the best I've ever taken, but considering it was using the camera on my mobile I don't mind too much!

After we'd finished with the field work, we sat and had a packed lunch next to the canal. There was birdsong everywhere, as well as the swans in the distance. It was a fantastic way to spend part of the day, and really got 30 days wild off to a great start!

Thanks to my flatmate Derek, who was in my group, for some of the photos, including the one of the clam!

Tuesday 2nd June
I spent the morning in the lab doing follow up work from the pond dipping, so decided to go for a walk in the evening to see the sunset for my random act of wildness. I'd got about 5 minutes away from my halls when I noticed a bat swooping, so stopped to try and take a photo of it. I'm so glad I did, because if not, I'd have missed out on a real treat.

The tawny owl was perched in a tree right next to the path, looking straight at me. It was absolutely stunning. I occasionally hear tawnys at night; there are lots of mature trees near me and I live near Walmgate stray which provides good habitat, so that never really surprised me, but I hadn't at all expected to get a view like that. It's definitely the best I've ever seen a tawny owl.

While I was watching the owl (and trying to convince my camera that it didn't mind the low light too much) a couple stopped to watch it too. It was a real demonstration of how wildlife can bring people together- we would never otherwise have started talking. Personally, I think owls have a particularly powerful effect on us humans. I know I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. Maybe it stems from seeing barn owls floating dreamlike over the Lincolnshire fields during long car journeys, or from a deep and abiding love for Jill Tomlinson's classic children's book "The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark," which I listened to on audio cassette so often when I was little I still know the first and last chapters almost word for word. It's one of the best books for young children I know of, and the beauty of it is explained perfectly in this piece.

I know now that owls aren't the super-intelligent birds which fiction and folklore paints them as; the corvids, which I also adore, fit that role far better. But when an owl looks you straight in the eyes, it feels like it's seeing inside you. That's a very special feeling indeed. I don't think I'll forget this wildlife encounter for a long time.

Wednesday 3rd June
I spent most of Wednesday in a training session for the Univeristy of York bloggers society (uni people, please come along next term, we'd love to see you!), so by the time I was finally free I was craving some fresh air. I decided to make the most of the weather being so gorgeous by getting off the bus a few stops early and walking through the most picturesque bits of campus.

It didn't disappoint. As well as the lake looking beautiful, as it does whenever the sun shines, the bees were out in force. It was lovely to see, especially after being reminded again how much they're struggling. Some wildflower meadow areas which I'd never found before were also full of insects, although the best picture I got (phone camera again) was from the flowerbeds near the lake. 

Thursday 4th June
Thursday was a fairly quiet day for me, so I decided to take a book, some tea and a croissant to a bench by the lake and sit in the sunshine. All of the birds were very active, but there was a repetitive high pitched squeaking which really caught my attention. It turned out that two coot chicks were responsible. 

I was stood close to the side of the lake when I heard a noise and the whole family came over the bank just in front of me. I don't know which of us was more surprised!

 The parents calmed down very quickly, and the chicks never seemed bothered at all by the fact I was there, so instead of trying to move and potentially startling them again, I stayed still while they started wandering around me. It was such a treat to see them so close up- how tolerant the wildlife here on campus is never ceases to surprise me.

The chicks were at that clumsy, intermediate stage, where they're big enough to wander a little way away from their parents, but still beg constantly for food (and look more than a little daft when they try to flap their wings). They're the oldest coot chicks I've seen so far this year, older than the family I have been following, which I'll hopefully be posting about soon. 

Friday 5th June
Friday was more waterfowl, but this time it was a moorhen family rather than a coot. I went out to look for the great crested grebe family I've been following (no photos of them just yet, I'll save that for another post) and on the way I found this little beauty.

There were two chicks along with an adult, and although both chicks were doing very well, this one found a floating can to use as a resting place. Although it's amusing at first, this really highlighted the pervasive role our litter plays in the lives of wildlife. The university campus is normally kept very clean, with lots of bins and regular litter picking, but with a lake in the middle there's only so much which can be done. And while this may be relatively non-threatening, the same certainly can't be said for all the rubbish out in the environment.

Saturday 6th June 

As you can see, my phone camera decided to have some fun while I was filming Fridays 30 days wild random act of wildness! The weather had turned, with a much cooler and windier day that anything we'd had so far in June. I love walks when it's windy, and the sound of the trees is like the sea in Autumn,  It's such an exhilarating feeling. I didn't see much wildlife, most of the animals were probably sheltering, but there was a blackbird braving the weather. Blackbird song is something else which I find incredibly powerful. It brings to mind long summer holidays and evening walks with my family or my friends, or sitting out in the garden as the dusk comes in around me.

Sunday 7th June
For Sunday, I took inspiration from the Wildlife Trusts' 30 days wild booklet and decided to "feel the cool grass beneath my feet," so while I was in York, I picked up some food, went to museum gardens and had a picnic barefoot. It's something which is so lovely to do, but so easy to forget about. Again it's something which reminds me of summers spent playing in the garden as a child. That's one of the things I'm enjoying the most about doing 30 days wild. There's a brilliant line on the website which sums it up perfectly for me: "After all, nature makes us all feel young at heart, so why should kids have all the fun?" My first year at university is drawing to an end, and I've absolutely loved it, but every so often it strikes me just how much has changed this past year. So much has happened, and it's sometimes a lot to process. So sometimes slowing down and taking time out of my day is exactly what I need.


  1. Wow you were so close to the cute coot chicks! fab photos. Even when our resident tawny is sat in a tree above me I still cant get a good shot- need a better lens!

    Thanks for sharing your week of random acts of wildness.

    Miss Tulip x
    The Thrifty Magpies Nest

    1. Thanks! Yes, I couldn't believe they came so close! I'm not quite sure how my photos worked that well, I use a bridge camera and it's not normally great in low light but somehow it all seemed to work out!

      I hope you enjoyed the post!

      Alexandra xx

  2. Great post!

    I particularly like the photos of the tawny owl. i know exactly what you mean about them becoming a talking point. Not far from where I live there's a holle in a tree which in some winters is a tawny owl roost and all through the winter walkers and birdwatchers walking near the tree will always ask each other about the owl!

    1. Thanks!

      It must be lovely having somewhere you know there's a good chance of seeing owls- I love the idea of it being the talking point all winter!

      Alexandra xx