Keeping Busy

This time of my life appears to be full of things needing done or in the process of being done. It’s great, I’m loving it! So many brilliant opportunities and just fun, exciting stuff that I have going on. However, between writing articles and application forms, and replying to emails, and volunteering, and birding/botanising/being a naturalist… I do sometimes find myself lacking things to do. And I mean besides tidying my room and taking the bin bags out…

Nevertheless, I always find some wee project that I can do to fill the time. Going back to chores for a second, I did a little bit of helping around the garden for my mum recently. Gardening is my favourite “chore” as it’s one of the few in which I’m outside, and for that reason I don’t really see it as a chore.

I realised how good gardening could be last year, when I saw my first Tree Bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, on a Cotoneaster. A good spot since they are only just spreading into this part of the UK!

Typical, dodgy iPhone-bumblebee shot

More recently, I was shearing off the edges of a Lawson Cypress that we have in the garden (I want mum to replace it with a Rowan or something) and then went on to trim the top of a hedge, and finally mum told me to go and cut the raspberry plants from last year so they were shorter.

As I was doing this, I realised that they would be quite good for weaving as a small fence for around my pond to keep all the litter and leaves out that have been blown across the field (and also to dissuade a certain small child from throwing large rocks in it). It worked well!

I was also cleaning out the leaves from my pond when I noticed little bivalves in amongst the leaves, which turned out to be an Orbshell Cockle species; Musculium lacustre.

My most recent wee spare-time project was dissecting a Tawny Owl, Strix aluco, pellet that I found on top of Agassiz Rock on my patch. Here’s my post in the Wildlife Tracks and Signs group on Facebook…

Tawny Owl, Strix aluco, pellet. Agassiz Rock, Edinburgh, Scotland. 22 Mar 2016

Owl pellets can be great for finding out what small mammals you have present in your area. My first time “pelleting” was unfortunately done on what I thought was a Tawny Owl, Strix aluco, pellet but turned out it was a misidentified Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes, scat.

I have learnt since then and this one is definitely a Tawny Owl pellet. I gave “pelleting” a go again and it has yielded results! I followed this guide made by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB):

The jaw bone that I found in the pellet keyed out as being from a Field Vole, Microtus agrestis. I did know they were present in the area but you never know, I might’ve found a Water Shrew, Neomys fodiens, which has been reported as possible in the area.

I suspect I’ll be looking for more owl pellets now that I know where to look, and I suggest you try it too!

So the end message here is, there’s always something to do! Whether it’s for your own learning, for conservation, for advancing your career, whatever. There’s always something to do.

Last thing: before typing up this post, I pestered the council about the loss of wetland habitat on my local patch, and asked them whether anything would be done. So there’s another thing to do; pester people! Speaking of which, I need to call about the high turbidity (there’s a word for you to Google) of the burn running through our campus. It’s as a result of the work of the Aberdeen Peripheral Route and can’t be good for the ecosystem involved at all.

Keeping Busy

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