Bee-eaters, kestrels and Short-toed eagles

July 11th

It’s been a week since I landed at Malaga International airport, and I already have a partial tan. Aside from my melatonin functioning properly, I was jubilant and positively excited by the sight of my two beautiful short-toed eagles about 7pm yesterday evening. I was beginning to think that they had not migrated back over to the same territory! The large female was nowhere to be seen, only the two smaller previous juveniles. They have indeed grown! Both were gliding above the thermals up along the North-Western edge of the valley, then sauntered a little closer above the pine tree so I was lucky enough to get a shot of them.

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The kestrel has also been around, raucously kkkiwwkiiwwkiiwing away at any aerial and terrestrial intruder than he may come into contact with. I only just heard the bee-eaters last night too; began to think they had been scared by the goat farmer who had just recently set up his farm near our log cabin- what a jerk. Seriously, I understand it’s his land, but to scare away an entire bird colony which had previously nested in the bank there is most frustrating. I do also believe that in the mornings I can hear the magnificently resplendent Golden oriole trill out its beautiful melody. It’s been 2 years since I heard its sweet and pleasing song. An occasional kwaaakiii will also emanate from the reeds down in the valley- a warning call that is extraordinarily similar to the call of a kestrel. At ground level I’ve also encountered some rather fascinating insects, a coleopteran and some sort of lacewing or mantis? Was a really lovely hike to my favourite spot on the mountain, I remember well those times that I came up to get some rest bite from all the studying; to clear my head of worries. Some of my best poetry came from this spot! Although I most probably thought it was, see what you think of them at the end of this entry! (Bear in mind, I was about 14!).

Also great to read for fun again; something that did not actually happen or exists as a theory! What a relief. Got through most of it, will be reading David Aric’s “African Pursuit” later on, a really elaborately written masterpiece, and I have to admit it does have accurate geological and historical references to it. Couldn’t leave that out entirely. Football Fever still around here, even though Spain lost out big style, it wasn’t bad as Brazil’s 7-1 loss. Argentina Vs Germany final, must say that Germany do definitely deserve to be there, they placed a superlative match on Wednesday. Will be watching it at a friend’s BBQ on Sunday. Boy oh boy do I miss English doc’s and television. Spanish television (no offence to my half and other Spanish,) is 60% adverts, 20% dancing and singing host and 20% spoof comedies on what’s happened during the day with rather obnoxious music and dramatic voice overs. I mean to be fair I’m not actually watching any or would be during the day when I’m out at the beach, but during the evening I might as well sleep or read! The beach has been lovely, not had the courage to swim yet, a tad bit cold for my liking (I say this and its 32 degrees). But nonetheless. On now is actually a really interesting doc about Seville and its natural wonders, so I’m off to watch that, might give me inspiration for some sequences shots for tomorrow, I think I should perhaps stop panning everywhere! Also after the playback, the sound of the lens autofocusing and reducing the vibrations is rather annoying. Tomorrow I will be doing some more filming down by the river and maybe some swimming; see what the temperature is like. Will also plan the trip to Nerja which I’m very excited about! More about this most stunning of European Caves later on. I will also be planning a trip to Gibraltar, home to Europe’s only known wild apes (other than the holiday makers of course), as well as to an UNESCO world heritage site; Donana national park.- home of the elusive lynx! The coach tickets are fairly cheap so shouldn’t be a problem. Bueno, buenas noches!

The cheetah

Golden blades wave,

with the wind,

the smells of wild Africa

draw ever nearer.

A tawny dull coat

emerges from

the sea of grass,

then disappears

on the spot.

The Thompsons gazelle,

graceful grazes

by the Hullabaloo waterhole

with not a stir.

Head flashes up,

ears and nose twitching

for the hunter is

The birds fall silent,

the Kudu glare

for the mighty hunter is well aware.

A spotted blur

as the cheetah chases,

the gazelle flees,

against the kudu, races

but the Cheetah has

locked its prey;

tail as the rudder,

steering ever closer

to its prey,

ultimate speed

some might say.

Paw lunges out

catching the hoof,

with a tremendous pought

the jaws come clamping

around the throat,

the trickle of blood

that makes the tear stripe.

This is the Cheetah,

the fastest cat on the plain

the most streamline and acute

with a slender frame.

By:  Tania. Rose. Esteban   10s

The Spanish Imperial Eagle

He glides, cavorts,

He turns and acutes a position,

He sees nothing, blatantly swerves,

The acrobat that he is;

Dives, shoots towards gravities pull; prey.

Lost; glides in a gradient towards the heavens,

gains height in fluctuations.

He is a gliding angel, across the moors

never stopping at a first glimpse,

of the target, his target.

A tinge of lavender, a splash of mauve

as he perches, claw on prey

he lands precariously on granite.

It is hard, but cooling

as is the victim within claws,

Lifeless; as so the moor seems

but not for the Spirit,

Shadowing our realms.

By:     Tania. Rose. Esteban   10s

Malham Tarn Day 2: June 7th

Malham Tarn Day 2: June 7th

Beautiful sunshine came through our window at 5 am. I got up at 7am and decided to go for a morning run along the forest, through to the Fen. I bumped into Prof Altringham on the way too! It was such a perfect morning for a jog, and along the way, a family of Partridges scattered off into the rape seed oil fields as I approached, as well as a rabbit that sprinted ahead of me. The gorgeous trills and bird sounds filled earthy smelling air. I felt so relaxed and at peace, all the stress of the exams melting away.

Much of the day was spent preparing our experiment, looking at how pollinator behaviour is influenced by colour, patch distribution and UV. Our rather rudimentary sticks with coloured discs on them were suppose to resemble them. Once we had set up our quadrats and 1x1m patches, we set to work with making the different colours, placing them, and finally counting the number of pollinator visits.

It got a little tedious after a while, staring at discs for several hours, but luckily we had breaks in between. Towards late afternoon, we all gathered in the lab to select our mini skills workshops, I got in line last but fortunately no one had selected this evening for the bat trapping! I was very excited at the prospect of finally getting the chance to see and handle some. Dinner was a 6, which as great to chat to new people and find out about their projects as well as passions. Food was rather meaty, by the end of the week I was craving anything green!

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At 7:30pm I met up with Dr Anita Glover who was to take us down to the two boathouses and show us how to set up the harp nets. I also met the lovely Emily, Leah and Tom who also got the bat project! This is when I found out that I was going to be working on bats with Prof Altringham and Dr Glover for my final year dissertation! I can’t tell you how excited I was! Later that evening I was also fortunate to see a marvelous little tree creeper scuttling up an oak tree, my first as we walked down to set up the harp nets. I can tell you the waders were exceedingly flattering.

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I was to wade in the tarn with Anita to help prop up the metal frame consisting of two frames of fine meshes to trap the bats. A white bag directly beneath the frames would ensure anything caught would be safely collected at the bottom. I much prefer them to mist nets, which I believe to be more damaging or stressful.

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but it was so worth it. It was a really weird sensation getting into the water with waders, which seem to suck in with the pressure. We set up two by the eastern boat house. The view more than made up for the midge mob, but I was ever hopeful that we would catch something. We then set up another one by the western boathouse, then waited till 10:30pm. The first set up area unfortunately revealed nothing, but the western boathouse had caught two Daubenton´s!  When the bat detector was switched on you could hear the cracking and clicking, even bubbling sounds emanating from the net. Anita handled them with great care as she removed them from the bad, and placed them into smaller ones around her neck. We decided it was a Daubentons based on the key we were given, but I was surprised at how small and delicate they were.

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Later we caught a pregnant Soprano Pipistrelle which I got to release, it was a really elegant and delicate creature; the bat is such an incredible evolutionary quirk. I felt awful though because the poor thing fell straight out of my hands! Anita did the same as we continued to try and release her. She needed to be warmed up so Anita returned her to the pouch.

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Our identification key and a Daubenton (Myotis daubentonii) with its fold of skin it uses to trap insects on the go, over lakes, streams and ponds. Fast food on the go!

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Daubenton´s wing. You can see how fine and appreciate how delicate it is. A small mite was found on its right wing membrane. Good indicator of how infested colonies are.

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The Soprano Pipistrelle I got to release. She was certainly feisty! Amazing to think they carry a single small pup and can fly.

Throughout the night, we walked between the two set up sites to see what we had caught. Three bats made me feel rather lucky, and at 2:30am when we had finished removing the traps, I returned to bed feeling jubilant- dreaming of Pip´s and Daub´s…a FAR better way to spend an evening and late night!

Here are the videos on day 5 of our group releasing some Pip’s, was an incredible experience, the second time I got to release these incredible flying mammals.

Interview with Dr George Mc Gavin

Dr George McGavin interview about new BBC series, Monkey Planet!

​February 15th, 2014

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I had a very special guest interview with entomologist, lecturer writer, presenter and intrepid explorer Dr George McGavin! Was so excited to be able to speak to him as a huge fan of all his”Lost Land Series,” The Dark and Prehistoric autopsy. I had a bit of a hiccup when calling him via skype, as our sound system wasnt working and we couldn´t hear him! Thankfully our station manager saved the day and fixed the problem! We chatted about his two new series coming out soon, one next week about dissection on BBC 4 where we can “get up close and personal” with the human body and a very exciting 3 part series on Primates called Monkey planet that he was particularly excited about. He tells me about dissected and the incredibly talented Tom Yendell who paints with his feet and the incredible dexterity of the human hand in climbers. It´s rather good timing too as in animal physiology class I had to dissect a chicken the day after! I admit, it is pretty gory at first, but when you see how remarkble the internal organs, capilliaries, veins, muscle, bones and brain are, you begin to appreciate how complex life is. For his incredible Monkey Planet series, he travelled to Japan, to the Jigokundani Yaen-Koen monkey park to meet some rather precocious and pampered primatesand then to Thailand to meet another group who become particularly fond of his hair! He takes a look at the remarkable lives of primates (the prosimians and simians). Make sure you tune in to watch Monkey Planet on BBC one airing in April, its got some remarkable behaviour that has never been filmed before which is unbelievably exciting so we will keep everyone in Leeds posted on our website that and your fascinating two part series on Dissection starts next week so make sure you watch it!

Malham Tarn Field Trip

 Malham Villiage                     

Day 1: June 6th

 What a week it’s been! Initially feeling very tired on the 6th, 1 day after our exams, I don’t think many of us were particularly energetic about the upcoming trip. But it was fantastic! Such a beautiful part of the country, and the weather was gorgeous when we first arrived by coach at Malham Village. The 7km hike past Malham Cove, up along towards the Tarn and the field centre was truly blissful after a hard 3 months of solid studying! This small village is in the Pennines, at the southern base of the Yorkshire Dales. It’s a pretty place, surrounded by limestone dry-stone walls, and with crystal clear stream running right through the middle of the village. We all took in the stunning quintessentially British landscape and ate lunch near the stream, with a rather greedy duck. The resident Labrador dog seemed to enjoy our company, and a student who happened to have a sausage sandwich. The beautiful yew trees look like Ents on their little isolated islands as you walk towards the amphitheatre-like rock face of Malham cove. Mentioned in the Domesday Book as ‘Malgun’, Malham has been a settlement for at least a thousand years. Traces of Iron age boundaries are still visible today. One hundred years ago, Malham was a place of mills and mines. Nowadays, hill farms and tourism are the main activities, and on our last day thousands of school children were in town!  It must be said our navigational skills were somewhat challenged, as we steered left down the wrong way! It really was special traversing over the infamous Limestone Pavements.

The area contains 33 of the 50 botanically richest pavements in the UK. The limestone pavements range from those where grazing is completely excluded to areas within intensively grazed land. Where grazing is light, the pavements support a rich and diverse flora including a range of scarce species such as limestone fern, baneberry, lily of the valley and the rigid buckler fern. We kept on imagining Daniel and Emma running down them from the Harry Potter scene.

We eventually got to the field centre after 2 hours 19 minutes, a rather embarrassing time. That evening I explored the landscape, and down by the tarn I was so lucky to see my first Roe Deer! It stood there, quietly watching us and then darted off into the forest. I had left my memory card in my room…so no photo I’m afraid! We also made our way down to the Fen, a really diverse habitat Malham Tarn Fen is an outstanding example of an alkaline fen habitat which was in danger of being overwhelmed by invasive scrub and the oddly named meadowsweet. The Limestone Country Project funded the purchase of a small herd of Dexter cattle and a new building to provide winter housing for one of the National Trust’s tenant farmers to enable the grazing of 6.5 hectares of the fen. We all eventually went to bed pretty late in our rather quaint converted guest rooms.

Aspiring wildlife filmmaker