...today, or even this weekend, it might not quite be a big surprise, but how about we all get out and celebrate the UK’s woodlands?
It doesn’t have to be to a big day out, maybe just an afternoon stroll. But there’s plenty of good places in the UK, and they’re all different, many with easy access and facilities. We’ve got plenty of woodland reserves too, that are all worth exploring.
I’ll probably be wandering through the gently sloping arable fields near me, up to Potton Wood. It’s a tranquil spot, where just the sound of warbling blackcaps, chiffchaffs singing their name and fluty blackbirds fills the air.
Assuming the sun comes out, I’ll be hoping to see some of our most conspicuous insects: butterflies. Being a wood, there ought to be some of the small, spotty speckled woods about.
In my part of the UK, they’re a lovely dark brown colour with yellowy spots. The males are very territorial, and will defend their sunny woodland glade against rivals, before alighting in a sunny spot, waiting for any females to pass through their patch.
Seeing the wood from the trees
Fingers crossed I’ll also bump into a roe deer. These little critters are brilliantly camouflaged amongst the trees, but once they pop out into the glades you can get a great view. Be careful though, as they’re wary and blend back into the wood as quickly as they appeared.
There’s a myriad of other wildlife in woodlands though, from the tiniest insects through medium-sized mammals up to the trees themselves. Make sure you take closer look at these trees! Ancient, twisted and gnarly oaks, tall pines, wispy willows and all the others that make up our woodland are all beautiful in their own right, not just as homes for wildlife.
Let us know!
Have a great weekend and let me know how your trip down to woods goes. What did you see? Where did you go? Let me and everyone know so we can all revel in the glory of our woodlands.
Ps. Fingers crossed for the weather, otherwise I guess I’ll be at home watching Wimbledon or the football along with everyone else!
This week sees the start of National Insect Week. So, to celebrate, I've picked this simply stunning image of two hoverflies alighting on a coneflower. Hoverflies are some of my favourite insects, with their intricate patterns and habit of micmicking bees and wasps.
These two are marmalade hoverflies. They're probably what you'd think of as the quintessential hoverfly. It helps that they're common and widespread: you more than likely have them in your garden. But there's lots of species, so why not take a closer look next time you see a delicate little fly hovering in your borders?
Sue Kennedy took this photo - it's one of thousands of wildlife photos on RSPB Images. They're all available to view, and even buy. It would look great on your wall, wouldn't it?
Happy National Insect Week!
Did you know it's Moth Night - a celebration of the UK's moths and learning more about them.
As you can see from the photo above (pine, elephant, eyed and poplar hawkmoths that came to my garden on Tuesday night), they aren't all boring - far from it. They come in a weird and wonderful array of shapes, colours, sizes and patterns.
Only a tiny number of them eat clothes, so no need to worry unduly about that. Sam has written more about her new-found appreciation for moths on her blog while Stuart is intrigued by moth names - see what you think!
What to do
Have you seen any interesting moths in your garden - or even in your house?
Did you know that there are six species of reptile native to the UK? (you might already know if you saw Countryfile last night!). This beauty is a sand lizard, very rare in the UK and only found in a few places - one of which is our nature reserve at Arne in Dorset. You can see the other five species there too, if you're very lucky.
You can enjoy this photo, by Geoff Simpson, and many more on the RSPB Images website.
This weekend sees Father's Day (is your card safely in the post?). For most birds, it's the mother who does the bulk of keeping the eggs warm and later caring for the chicks, but for some it's Dad who takes over...
The red-necked phalarope is a rare and very interesting bird. It's a wader which breeds mostly in the Arctic (in Europe, Asia and North America), but there's also a small population in Scotland (you can see them at our nature reserves at Loch na Muilne, on the isle of Lewis, and Fetlar on Shetland).
Interestingly, it's the female phalarope that's more colourful, and she gets to do all the courtship displays and 'singing'. The male gets lumbered with the job of keeping the eggs warm, looking after the young - his duller feathers help keep him camouflaged while sitting on the nest.
Here's how things work in the rather unconventional phalarope household.
Wham, bam, thankyou... sir
The female red-necked phalarope chases males and competes with other females for a breeding territory. Of course, the female lays the eggs, but that's where her involvement stops.
She leaves the male, who incubates the eggs and looks after the fluffy chicks, which are able to run around soon after hatching.
After doing her bit, the female may pursue another mate and lay another clutch of eggs, leaving the dads to look after things. In fact, she might only be in the UK for six weeks!
Then she's free to leave and make her way to the tropical oceans to spend the winter feeding on plankton far out at sea. For a bird which weighs little more than a house sparrow, it's quite an extreme lifestyle, but with their semi-webbed feet, phalaropes are up to the task.
Big daddy or little daddy?
In species where females do the 'normal' thing and do all (or most of) the caring for the young, the female is usually smaller than the male. It's easier for a smaller individual to carry out the hard work required for caring for chicks. Some scientists also think that a shorter beak might be more helpful if you're the parent who's helping small chicks to feed in their first few days of life.
Because egg-laying takes up energy and resources, it makes sense for the female red-necked phalarope to be a bigger bird than the male (this difference is also seen in birds of prey - for example the female sparrowhawk is up to 25 per cent bigger than the male).
But what's less clear is why male phalaropes have taken what's more commonly a 'female' role...