Top 10 UK Mammals

Top 10s

Mammals are often the main driver for conservation campaigns. You always see things like lions, tigers, pandas and elephants as the poster animals for organisations like the WWF. Well, if you didn’t know the UK has some pretty incredible mammals of its own. Here are ten of my favourites that are all native to the UK!

1 – Grey Seal – Halichoerus grypus

Grey seals are found all over the UK. They feed on all kinds of fish and live in large colonies. In the past the seals were once hunted almost to the point of extinction, particularly in the US. However now in the UK grey seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 however this does not apply in Northern Ireland. The picture below is of the seals in Stiffkey in Norfolk which I got to see as part of my masters degree!

Photo by Duncan Harris

2 – Greater Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

This fantastic bat species can be found across the UK. They can often be seen foraging in woodlands and pastureland and nest in underground caves. The best time to see most bats is in the summer around dusk. These bats have been in decline due to fragmentation of their habitats but there has been a massive effort to conserve the species and populations have been stabilizing in the UK.

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Photo by Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider

3 – European Otter – Lutra lutra

One of the most adorable mammals in the UK is the otter. They are found around many different kinds of aquatic habitat and feed on mostly fish, eels and crayfish. They were once only found in Scotland but with conservation of water systems signs of otters have been found throughout the UK.

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Photo by Bernard Landgraf

4 – European Badger – Meles meles

This fantastic mammal is instantly recognisable. Badgers are found across the UK in countryside and woodlands. They are a nocturnal species that feed on a wide range of animal and plant matter but their favourite is earthworms. They live in family groups of four to seven individuals and live in setts underground. They are fully protected by the law but recently periodic culls have been allowed in the aim to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

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Photo from Pixabay

5 – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus

Otherwise known as the long-tailed field mouse or common field mouse, these guys are undeniably adorable. They live in woodlands and farmland. They have the perfect teeth to dig into all kinds of different seeds. Their upper front teeth have a smooth inner surface which distinguishes them from the house mouse.

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Photo by Hans Hillewaert

6 – Hazel Dormouse  – Muscardinus avellanarius

Now although all the mammals on this list are great I think this little mouse is my ultimate favourite! The Hazel Dormouse is the only species in this genus and is found in the south of England. It is also the only dormouse that is native to the UK. Dormice live predominantly in the trees and is found in hedgerows, deciduous woodland and farmland. It feeds on flowers, insects, seeds and fruits.

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Photo by Haruta Ovidiu

7 – European Hedgehog – Erinaceus europaeus

This mammal is distinctive feature of the UK countryside. It has been shown that hedgehogs thrive in many man-made habitats such as gardens, orchards and farmland. These prickly guests love it if you leave a section of your garden to grow a bit wild!

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Photo by Nicolas Zea P.

8 – Common Pipistrelle Bat – Pipistrellus pipistrellus

This bat is found all over the world but does make it’s home in the UK. They live in colonies of around 20-50 individuals in the summer and in the winter they go it alone or in small groups. It forages in a variety of habitats including open woodland and woodland edges, Mediterranean shrubland, semi-desert, farmland, rural gardens and urban areas. It feeds on small moths and flies.

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Photo by Evgeniy Yakhontov

9 – Eurasian Water Vole – Neomys fodiens

This water vole is quite large growing up to 10cm long. This species is semi-aquatic with water repelling fur. It occurs in a wide variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and coastal, including lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, bogs, damp grasslands, humid woodlands, sea shores and intertidal wetlands. It is the most aquatic of all European shrews. It hunts on land and in water for invertebrates, including crustaceans, and occasionally takes small fish and amphibians.

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10 – Eurasian Beaver – Castor fiber

The beaver was once a UK mammal species but in the 20th Century it was hunted to extinction. However there have been several projects to reintroduce the Beaver! Beavers are adapted for a semi-aquatic life, using a variety of freshwater systems, including rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, lakes, and swamps. They generally prefer freshwater habitats surrounded by woodland, but may occur in agricultural land.

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Photo by Tomasz Chmielewski

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little list, there are so many mammals that didn’t make the list so there might be a part two! Send me a cheeky tweet or a comment with your favourite mammal!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Top 10 UK Trees

Top 10s

Hello! I’m back with another top 10 list, so far I’ve done top 10 Hedgerow plants and top 10 UK birds! For this list all of the trees are UK native species!

  1. Alder (Alnus glutinosa) – Alder is actually a pioneer species as it increases the fertility of the soil. Alder has a symbiotic relationship with with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. Fond in the root nodules, the bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis.Image result for Alnus glutinosa
  2. Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) – I have my own crab apple tree that was given to my parents when I was born which is very special to me! These trees are unique in that they will often grow alone without any other crab apple trees close by! Image result for crab apple tree
  3. Elder (Sambucus nigra) – This tree is fantastic for wildlife. The flowers provide nectar for a variety of insects and the berries are eaten by birds and mammals. Small mammals such as dormice and bank voles eat both the berries and the flowers and many moth caterpillars feed on the foliage.Image result for elder tree
  4. Oak (Quercus robur) – One of my absolute favourite trees so much so I could write this whole post about just Oak! The trees are fantastic for biodiversity when solitary but also as part of forests. They provide fantastic hard wood which is used for all sorts of things and parts of the tree were even used in traditional medicine! Image result for oak tree
  5. White Willow (Salix alba) – All willow trees were seen as trees of celebration in biblical times but over time they are now often used as symbols of mourning. You see this a lot in poetry and literature, for example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia dies by drowning near a willow tree. Image result for white willow
  6. Yew (Taxus baccata) – I have written about Yew before which goes into more of it’s poisonous nature. Another fact about Yew trees is that given their dense nature they provide fantastic nesting opportunities for many of our smaller uk bird species, particularly the goldcrest and firecrest.Image result for yew tree
  7. Bay Willow (Salix pentandra) – This willow tree has leaves that look like Bay trees hense the name! All willow trees have a history with medicine as Salicilin is found in the bark of the tree. Asprin is derived from this compound but in olden times you could chew on the bark of willow trees to relieve pain!Image result for bay willow
  8. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – Scot’s pine is the national tree for Scotland and is vital to the unique Caledonian Forest that is a habitat for other rare species such as the red squirrel.Image result for scots pine caledonian forest
  9. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) – Cherry trees are completely stunning and this species is native to the UK! There blossom is fantastic for nature as it’s early source of pollen and nectar. These trees are often used as ornamental plants but the wood is also very pretty and used to make ornamental pieces.Image result for wild cherry tree prunus avium
  10. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) – This species of tree was planted as protection against witches because this tree has red berries and the colour red was considered the best colour for fighting evil. This species grows well in high altitudes and the wood is strong and hard which makes it great for making furniture.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick romp through some UK trees! The woodland trust has lots of fantastic information on different tree species and where to find them if you are looking for more!

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Top 10 UK Birds

Top 10s

Hello! Today I want to introduce you to some of my favourite bird species. Birds are just the most fascinating things to watch and ever since my parents put a bird feeder in their garden I’ve learnt a lot about the different bird species. So without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) – Barn Owls are my favourite owl, aside from being the most beautiful owl they are also impressive hunters with incredible hearing. This hearing means they can catch prey with sound alone! Barn owl hovering
  2. Robin (Erithacus rubecula) –  Male robins can actually be quite an aggressive and territorial bird with other birds which can lead to fatalities. Over winter each robin will have a territory of approximately half a hectare. Robin on flower pot
  3. Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – These birds are one of the most widespread in the UK and can live up to 12 years old. They are an amazing bird of prey and if ever you get a chance to see them hunting its well worth a watch!Buzzard in flight head on
  4. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – These little pond dwelling birds hold a special place in my heart because the lake at Bath Spa University had loads of them. They were the first bird species I could properly identify. I mean it also helps that they are adorable! Image result for moorhen
  5. Swan (Cygnus olor) – I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without Swans. Again there was a resident pair at Bath Spa Uni that had signets ever year. They were very protective of their nests as swans are and I once had to run defence for my friend who was working on the lake and distract the swan!Mute swan swimming
  6. Crow (Corvus corone) – I have had my issues with crows in the past but they still are incredibly intelligent animals! They can recognise faces and even hold grudges! Image result for carrion crow
  7. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – Sparrow populations have declined by up to 62% in the last 25 years and now they are on the IUCN red list. House sparrow (female)
  8. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – These are undeniably one of the most stunning bird species on this list and can be seen almost everywhere in the UK apart from the very north and west of Scotland.Image result
  9. White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)- This is the largest UK bird species and went extinct in the 20th century from hunting and egg-collecting but has since been reintroduced. They are truly fantastic birds of prey and stunning to watch. Image result for white tailed eagle uk
  10. Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Another beautiful little bird that are a delight to sit and watch. In the winter they have family flocks that can be up to 20 birds in size!

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Hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the avian world! What’s your favourite bird let me know in the comments!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Nina Seale – Conservation Conversations

Conservation Conversations

ninaI’m so excited to present my first interviewee for Conservation Conversations. This wonderful woman is not only an incredibly talented writer herself, she’s also a great artist and of course is passionate about the environment. Nina Seale is currently working for the World Land Trust as a writer and editor but in the past has had the opportunity to interview some amazing environmentalists. Here is what she had to say to my questions.

  1. Starting off with something simple, what is your favourite species and why?

That’s quite tricky, as there are several groups which I would say I find really interesting and love to watch in the wild, such as whales and cephalopods. But the animal which I would say is my favourite would be the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica). Having ties to the UK and South Africa, I am terribly envious of a bird which gets to enjoy summer in both. Also, I think swallows have the most beautiful flight of any bird- they seem to carve impossible paths into the sky, as fast and acrobatic as a tiny, iridescent fighter jet.

  1. So now I’m going to quiz you about your career in this sector, firstly why did you decide to get into conservation?

I always knew I wanted to work with animals, and my first idea was to become a vet. But after doing some work experience in South Africa when I was sixteen, I realised the very last thing I wanted to do was work in a small town, in a small clinic, on small animals fixing small problems. I wanted to make a difference, and help animals living in the wild.

  1. Sometimes working in conservation or the environment sector can be difficult, what inspires you to keep going in your career?

Right now, living in the UK, it is very difficult to live a life where you don’t make bad decisions for the environment. If you love wildlife and want to travel, you leave a big carbon footprint. If you buy almost any prepared food, it has palm oil in it. Drive to work, eat imported food, leave the light on, the list goes on. But you have to believe you can do something. You start with the little things, but I want to do big things too. That’s what keeps me going.

  1. What’s next on your career bucket list?

Having something published in BBC Wildlife magazine, I think.

  1. What’s been your career highlight so far?

Interviewing Jane Goodall. (WOW)

  1. Our world is pretty amazing with lots of wonderful things happening in the natural world. What natural phenomenon would you like to see or have seen?

I’m going to scuba dive in Whyalla for the cuttlefish breeding season this year- that is high on my bucket list!

  1. If you could let the general public know one thing about conservation what would it be?

I think I would say that my experience so far has told me that true conservation work is about working with people. We are the problem. A wild tiger doesn’t need your money, he can afford to live so long as he has his forest. So you give your money to the man who owns that forest, so he sees the value of the forest without turning it into a plantation. He’s the one who needs your money, and so if you are choosing a career in conservation, or a charity to support, you should always look out for the ones which will put your support where it needs to be- in the communities living alongside wildlife-rich areas.

  1. Now if you could change one thing about how the world works what would you change and why?

Either take palm oil out of the global equation or eliminate the wildlife-damaging Chinese traditional medicine practices. I think those are self-explanatory.

Now for a little favourites quick round!

  1. Favourite sound?

The call of the black-bellied bustard. It sounds like a champagne cork!

  1. Favourite fact?

Rooks and ravens build pair bonds by kissing (or bill twining/holding, sometimes called clacking. But it’s basically kissing and it is super cute).

  1. Favourite snack?

Salt and vinegar McCoys.

  1. Favourite word?

Iridescent.

  1. Favourite curse word? 

Cankerblossom. (I think this is the best curse word I’ve ever heard)

  1. Least favourite word?

Ugly. Like my above favourite word, it refers to the inside and out of something, as well as (I think) being onomatopoeic.

And finally…

  1. What’s your best piece of advice for someone who wants to do better for the environment?

From where I’m sitting, I’d first off say please don’t lose hope. There are enough people who don’t care, who won’t do anything, for those of us who do care to be discouraged. And I would say try to find a cause or charity you believe in, and think you can make a difference with. I started doing that about four years ago when I found out about World Land Trust and started sending regular donations as a WLT Friend. I believed sending them money to protect habitats was one of the most effective things I could do. When this job came up to work for them, and use my skills to help their work, I jumped at it. I gave up a job I loved as a safari guide in South Africa to make a difference for conservation, and now I’ve been working for them eight months, and I know it was the right decision.

 

Thank you so much Nina for answering my questions. Truly an inspirational interview. The World Land Trust, as Nina said, is a fantastic charity so if you’d like to discover more from them click here. If you’d like to hear more from Nina I would strongly suggest checking out her work on her website ninaseale.com. She’s also on all of the social media as @hirundonova

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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