A deathly moth and an aerial artist…

So this week is Remember a Charity in your Will week, and I’ve been asking all the staff to fill in their Bucket List. Partly because we want you to tell us your Bucket List – we’re running a competition… you can win afternoon tea… it will be delicious… you should enter

Anyway! I asked a few colleagues to tell me their Bucket List, and it’s been fascinating what people have come up with. What started as a cute little idea to post pictures of on Twitter and Facebook has genuinely inspired us all to actually think about what we dream of doing. So I’ve taken this opportunity to blog about a Bucket List that contains several musts for any wildlife lover. Introducing… Simon:

Simon (Your Wild Life Project Coordinator)
Simon (Your Wild Life Project Coordinator)

See the neat little product placement of the entrance to Brandon Marsh behind Simon there? You should come and visit us… just sayin’.

Simon has had various roles at the Trust, and currently he’s coordinating the Your Wild Life Project in North Solihull. He’s also a wildlife photographer and involved with A Focus On Nature, a network specifically for younger people working in, or hoping to work in, the conservation sector.

Simon bucket list

I’m going to focus on the home-grown wildlife phenomena on the list, because it’s just as stunning as anything that you’ll find abroad. The beautiful hen harrier, with its owl-like features, still suffers terrible persecution due to its predating on birds such as grouse. In 2012 there was only one pair of hen harriers that attempted to breed in the entire UK, and their population numbers have fallen by 20% since 2004. However, they can still be seen, largely on moorlands, in the north of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their incredible agility has led to them being given the nickname “skydancer” and this small clip is just a very small taster of the magical experience of watching them. A very worthy Bucket List aim.

N.B. The RSPB’s Skydancer campaign has been raising awareness of hen harrier conservation and you can find more information on the campaign here.

The other UK wildlife ambition of Simon’s is to catch a deaths-head hawkmoth in a moth trap. These moths are migrants rather than natives, coming in the spring from Europe. They’re the largest moth to be seen in the UK and have a wonderfully colourful history. The markings on the thorax of the deaths-head hawkmoth look something like a skull, and consequently there is a huge amount of folklore surrounding these rare creatures – including apparently sending King George III into one of his episodes of madness. They also feature in Thomas Hardy (of course – how could such an apparently ghostly work of nature not appear in Thomas Hardy?). They have a wingspan of up to 13cm, and will invade bees’ nests in search of honey – the ‘skull’ may well be markings designed to look a worker bee as opposed to the rather creepier alternative. Some research has shown that the moth is able to disguise itself from the bees by giving off a smell containing some of the same compounds as the honeybees themselves. For more fabulous facts about deaths-head hawkmoths, have read of this article, and this page on the Butterfly Conservation website.

So there you go, a couple of highlights from a wildlife-themed Bucket List. What’s on yours? Remember that competition I mentioned? Now is the time to enter it.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Emma

p.s. You can follow Simon, and see his wonderful wildlife photography on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

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