Notes on nature

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Go batty for bats this weekend

    In recognition of International Bat Night, Katie Prewett shares 10 fun facts about bats and why you should help give them a home.

    With the night’s drawing in, why not make the most of wildlife after dark and get involved in International Bat Night this weekend.

    This Saturday (29 August), as daylight turns to dusk, people all over the country will be taking part in torch-lit bat walks, talks and spooky celebrations as part of International Bat Night, an annual event organised by Eurobats.

    The Bat Conservation Trust will be holding the fifth BatFest weekend in collaboration with the Natural History Museum in London and, in Scotland, we're hosting a Bat and Moth night; all with the aim of spreading the word about the importance of these amazing creatures.

    So how much do you really know about our nocturnal flying friends? To inspire you to take part in this year’s International Bat Weekend we’ve put together 10 fun facts* that are guaranteed to make you batty for bats:

    1. Bats can fly at speeds of up to 60 mph
    2. Bats are not blind, but they can find their food in total darkness using their mouths to create sounds that bounce off nearby objects, such as moths
    3. There are three species of "vampire bats" – bats that live off the blood of animals
    4. Bats often consume their body weight in insects every night.
    5. Bats can live to the age of 30
    6. Most bats usually only have one pup a year, making them vulnerable to extinction.
    7. “The Flying Fox” is the world’s largest species of bat, with a wingspan of up to six feet. It lives on islands in the South Pacific
    8. The world’s smallest bat is the endangered bumble bee bat, found in Thailand. It is smaller than a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny
    9. Bats can survive freezing temperatures during hibernation- even after being covered in ice for periods of time
    10. Bats are more closely related to humans than they are to mice

    At this time of year, young bats no longer rely on their mother’s milk and instead start to feed themselves by catching insects. Keep your eyes peeled this weekend as bats will be dispersing from the maternity colonies that they have been in all summer and going into autumn mating roosts.

    The mating season begins in September so it’ll pay to listen carefully for purrs, clicks and buzzing - all special calls males will use to attract females. Some species of bat you’re likely to spot are natterer’s bat, lesser horseshoe bat, common pipistrelle and brown long-eared bat.

    Bats play a very important role in the environment; they are important pollinators, pest controllers and seed dispersers, yet sadly numbers have declined dramatically over the last century.

    To help give bats a home where you live, try putting up a bat box in your garden and buy some bat friendly plants. This will provide an excellent home for these nocturnal mammals and help in securing a future for bats and other wildlife.

    For more information on how to Give Nature a Home, visit rspb.org.uk/homes

    * source

  • Monday's magic moment: an electric blue blur

    Hands up if you've seen a kingfisher recently! 

    Kingfishers can be seen along streams, rivers, canals and lakes - even in the middle of our biggest cities. They're perhaps our most colourful bird, but they can be tricky to spot...

    If you've never seen a kingfisher, one thing you can do to improve your chances is to learn what they sound like.

    Kingfishers like to call as they fly over the water - it's a high-pitched whistle. If you can learn to recognise that, you can be ready for when they zoom past you! Head to our kingfisher page to listen to a sound clip and find out more.

    • Browse RSPB Images to find more gorgeous photos like this one. You can order a print or canvas of any one that takes your fancy!
  • Marvellous moths

    Have you noticed more moths in your garden recently? We certainly have here at The Lodge.

    Our wildlife experts are getting more requests for help to identify different moths, many of which are most commonly seen on summer nights.

    Here's a short guide to some of the more common examples you may see flitting around your garden at this time of year.

    Moths are often seen as drab compared to their more colourful lepidopteran cousins, butterflies.

    In fact, they're amazingly diverse in shape, size and design, with 2,500 species in the UK alone and an estimated 160,000 worldwide - many of which have yet to be formally identified.

    So, don’t be too disheartened if the moth you spot is not featured below!

    Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae)

    Cinnabar moth (Image by Charlesjsharp - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cinnabar_moth_(Tyria_jacobaeae).jpg?uselang=en-gb)

    • This medium-sized moth can be seen throughout Britain, except northern Scotland, from May to July.
    • It’s so named thanks to distinctive black-and-red markings on its forewings, which make it relatively easy to spot.
    • Its caterpillar, which can be seen in July and August, is also brightly coloured, and can be identified by its tiger-like black-and-gold stripes.

    Small magpie moth (Eurrhypara hortulata)

    Small magpie moth (Image by Will George https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2571/3692728453_1e65379c50_o.jpg)

    • The small magpie moth can be seen from June to August throughout Britain, except in the far north.
    • It gets its name from the stylish black-and-white markings on its wings.
    • Its caterpillar, which can be found feeding inside rolled stinging nettle leaves during August and September, is a fetching pale green with bold, black spots and a rusty line down its sides.

    Hummingbird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)

    Hummingbird hawk-moth (Image by Katie Fuller https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3711/19264395614_cc48e595f3_k.jpg)

    • The hummingbird hawk-moth, as its name suggests, resembles a hummingbird as it hovers, probing flowers for nectar with its long proboscis.
    • It’s hairy with a dark white-spotted abdomen, mousey-grey forewings and golden-orange hindwings.
    • Hummingbird hawk-moths fly throughout the day and can be seen throughout lowland Britain in the summer. However, they cannot survive the British winter so migrate to and from southern Europe in autumn and spring.

    Poplar hawk moth (Laothoe populi)

    Poplar hawk moth (Image by Katie Fuller https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8158/7294269320_18deaf00fc_o.jpg)

    • Probably the most common of our hawk-moths, the large poplar hawk-moth feeds and mates at night.
    • If you’re lucky, you may spot one resting on a tree trunk during the day, where it’s perfectly camouflaged thanks to grey-brown wings.
    • When resting, it positions itself strangely, with the hindwings held in front of the forewings, and its abdomen curved upwards at the rear.

    Garden tiger moth (Arctia caja)

    Garden tiger moth (Image by Katie Fuller https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5335/9499725283_234c5c57be_k.jpg)

    • The garden tiger moth is widespread throughout the UK.
    • Its chocolatey-brown forewings feature cream patterns, in contrast to its hindwings, which are orangey-red with black spots.
    • Its brown and black and exceedingly hairy caterpillar is often called a ‘woolly bear’. The hairs are an irritant and are designed to protect it from predators, so be very careful if you pick one up!

    Tell us what you see

    As the above species show, moths are amazingly diverse in terms of their colour, size and shape. But they also provide a huge number of ecological benefits, from pollinating plants to feeding birds, bats and even people.

    We’d love to hear more about the moths you see! Please leave a comment below or send us a tweet.

    There are also a number of ways you can help give these marvellous mini-beasties a home, like growing food for moths or starting a wildflower meadow.

    PS If you want to see which moths live in your garden, just leave the bathroom window open and a light on after dark. Alternatively, shine a torch on a white sheet at dusk and enjoy the show.

    Happy hunting!