Garden Bioblitz and #30DaysWild

Hi all,

As many of you know, June is the month in which The Wildlife Trust start #30DaysWild, it’s an amazing challenge for you and your loved ones to get out and about enjoying our wildlife and environment. More info here ( http://action.wildlifetrusts.org/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1823&ea.campaign.id=48499 )

We have been doing the challenge since Day 1, in fact we started a tad early and had a nice trip to a local meadow, walking and relaxing a few days before.

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Day 1 – My wife and her friends went to a local park, bug hunting and tree climbing whilst I did some bug hunting.

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This is one from Day 1, even made its way onto the BBC Springwatch website.

Day 2 – We had a nice walk to another local meadow which we have never visited at this time of the year.

Day 3 – We set the moth trap up in the evening

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Day 4 – We checked the Moth Trap this morning and ID’d the species and then we took part in the Garden Bioblitz which is happening today and tomorrow. More info here ( http://www.gardenbioblitz.org/ )

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The girls getting ready to record the species in the Bioblitz.

We love the Garden Bioblitz, such a fun way of introducing the kids to the wildlife in your garden, and at the same time recording and discovering beautiful creatures! The first thing we discovered, after moving some rocks was this Red Ant nest, the girls were amazed!

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After admiring the hard working Ants for a few minutes we began to dig deeper into the garden and collect our specimens to be ID’d later. We hung an old shower curtain up, and with the help of the kids we shook the bushes and trees hoping whatever fell would land on our sheet. We actually got this Idea from watching BBC Springwatch, although they used and umbrella 🙂

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shaking the bushes

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Amber inspecting with a pot ready to capture whatever scuttles out.

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Our nephew Noah getting involved….Not sure what’s going on with Amber and Jasmine’s poses though 🙂 🙂 🙂

After a 2 hour period we began to list and ID all species we found and have some lunch.

 

In total we found :

  • Greenfly x a gazzilion
  • White lipped Snail x 3
  • Common Garden Slug x 5
  • Southern Garden Slug x 1
  • Red Ants and Larvae x way too many to count
  • Garden Snail x 10
  • Common Garden Frog x 1
  • Common rough woodlouse x 35
  • Female wolf spider and egg sack (Pardosa Sp.) x 5
  • Red Velvet Mite x 7
  • Male Wolf spider (Pardosa Sp) x 15
  • Common Garden spider x 10
  • White tailed Bumblebee x 1
  • Black Ant x 1
  • White legged Millipede x 2
  • Brown lipped Snail x 2
  • Earwig x 1
  • Small White Caterpillar x 1
  • Female Zebra Jumping Spider x 7
  • Male Zebra Jumping Spider x 5
  • Micro Moths (Various) x 3
  • Cadisfly x 15
  • Common shiny woodlouse x 19
  • Blue Bottle x 8
  • Common Green Capsid x 5
  • Harvestman
  • Sac Spider x 6
  • Meadow Brown Caterpillar x 1
  • Weevil ( possible Polydrusus tereticollis) x 1
  • Running Crab Spider x 8
  • Skipper caterpillar x 1
  • Earthworms x 10
  • Owl Midge x way too many to count
  • Hoverfly
  • Female Hairy Footed Bee
  • Sawfly Larvae
  • Small White Butterfly
  • Large White Butterfly
  • Common Wasp
  • Lacewing
  • Large dragonfly
  • Horsefly
  • Springtails
  • Fruitfly
  • Yellow Slug
  • Blackbird
  • Sparrow
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Robin
  • Magpie

Some list that for 2 hours in a small garden!!!

Of course, I had to get a photo of those Ants with my Macro Gear!

Bring on the rest of the Month 🙂

Matt

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Anxiety, Depression, Photography, Progression.

I have thought long and hard about writing this post, it’s been playing on my mind for a good few months, and today I’ve finally plucked up the courage to write and share this you.

My name, if any of you don’t already know is Matt; I’m 31, married, a father of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Amber, and 5 years ago I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder, acute paranoia and anger issues. The fact is, I had been suffering for years before hand but I never realised it.

Before the diagnosis I was living a normal life, or what was considered ‘Normal’ to me anyway, until one specific week where everything just ‘happened’, for some reason my whole world began to fragment. It started with anger issues, losing my temper at the smallest thing; it could be as stupid as the heating not coming on in time for a bath or someone asking me to do something. I found myself punching walls, kicking things, shouting at my nearest and dearest, I’d be so full of rage that I would just burst into tears…and I didn’t understand why.

I began to blame it on my childhood, I come from a broken family, my mum and dad got divorced when I was around 10 years old, My mum had been diagnosed with MS and steadily got worse leaving me as one of her main carers and we had a mixed relationship, this was no secret to my family and close friends, she was frustrated daily, and I’d often be on the receiving end of it and as a child and teenager I didn’t understand why, it was very hard and for years this is all I could remember of our relationship, I blamed my anger issues on this. My dad, if you can call him that, disappeared from my life when I was around 14-15, not his choice, but mine. He had no time for me, and years later it was thought he was dead in the Tsunami that hit Thailand, only for it to be revealed in the press/media that he had been picked up boarding the plane and arrested for a disgusting crime, it broke and shocked me.

I never really dealt with any of these issues, until that week where everything in my head just broke down, I began to question why this happened to me, this quickly spiralled into me questioning why anything was happening to me, whether it be an argument, a fight, losing money, anything that didn’t go my way I thought the world was against me.

This led to my depression, I began to question why I was even here and I made an attempt on my life, a few times. Thinking back, I doubt I would ever have gone fully through with it; it was more a cry for attention than anything else.  Over the next few weeks things got worse, my weight plummeted, family and friends began to ask if I was ill, I would shrug it off and say I’m fine but inside my head was broken…I was broken, I had gone from 13st to 9st in a matter of weeks, but, my first beautiful daughter had arrived and I had to be strong for my wife and my daughter, so I put on a front. Then the anxiety and paranoia set in, sweat would pour from every part of me, I couldn’t walk to the shops or go anywhere without fear of someone attacking me or confronting me, in work I thought everyone was conspiring against me or talking about me, I couldn’t sleep, and then I would be over sleeping, I’d be happy some days, then extremely sad, angry, worried. My head began to get really busy, really fast, I couldn’t cope, I can only describe it as 100 people trying to talk to you at once…My motor was going at 1000% and I was about to burn out. I just wanted it all to STOP!!

 

Here I am holding my new born nephew, I was very ill in this picture.

Here I am holding my new born nephew, I was very ill in this picture.

This carried on for around 2 years, until my second beautiful daughter arrived, how I had managed to get this far was a miracle itself, and that’s when the moment of realisation set in, I couldn’t be like this anymore, I can’t keep going through life questioning everything, blaming my issues on everything that was happening around me, blaming it on my past…I was ill….Mentally ill, it was nobody’s fault. It sounds bad reading that doesn’t it, well its even worse having to admit that to yourself when you’re in denial, at least that’s what I was thinking at the time.

I decided, with the help of my wife, Mother and Mother-in-law I would go see a doctor. It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to ring them, my body sweating and heart racing but I did it, I made the appointment. To begin with I thought it would just be waste of time, until I attended the appointment. I sat in the waiting room, looking like I’d just ran a marathon, twitching, twisting, sitting up and down, heart racing, breathless,  head going into over drive, a panic attack.

My name was called, it was called again, I couldn’t move, again my name was called, I got up and entered the room. ‘Hi Matthew, what’s the problem, how can I help ‘and at that point  years of anger, sadness, worry and thoughts burst out of me in the form of uncontrollable crying, We spoke for what seemed like hours, or more like I spoke and he listened. He diagnosed me on the spot and referred me for counselling and anger management classes, I was also prescribed anti-depressants. I was also given a 6 month sick note from work, that’s when I knew it was bad, it was real.

I struggled over the next few months, I’d still have moments of anger and sadness, highs and lows, and having a better understanding of it didn’t always help the situation. Even with the help and understanding of those closest to me I still needed something, I needed to preoccupy my mind, I needed an outlet, I needed something to do, and that’s when the photography started.

I’d had a camera for a few months, but not really done anything with it, I decided I’d do some research and found a great photography forum called ‘talk photography’ aptly named as I needed to talk and learn photography. I put my first post up introducing myself as a newb and was greeted with a warm friendly welcome. It was easy as I was talking to people but not actually face to face. I’ve always had a keen interest in the natural world from being a small boy, I used to collect a weekly dinosaur magazine where you could build your own T-Rex model, I’d collect different gems and stones, even wildlife cards from sweets and other magazines, this passion that had lay dormant started to erupt back to life, and erupted life back into me. I began to attend some photography meet ups, I met some really nice people, and it got me out and about socialising with a group of people I would never had socialised with before. I started to get better at photography, staying up at night watching youtube videos or asking for advice on the forum and reading photography magazines. I couldn’t get enough of it.

I dabbled in every genre I could, learning and progressing myself. I entered a few competitions in magazines and won a few, I gained confidence in my work and myself as a result. One genre in particular I loved, Macro photography, Looking through that lens gave me insight into a small world, a new world, a world where all my worries and stresses went away, they didn’t exist here and I loved it, with each shot everything would stand still, just me and the subject in front of me, the only noise was my breath slowing as I began to focus and concentrate, composing, waiting for the right moment to capture, and then the elation of looking back at the moment I had just captured.

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Photography has not only helped me through my depression, stress and anxiety, it has opened new doors, a new way of life, and it helped me survive.

5 years on, I’m still here, but a better version of myself. I’ve both gained and lost things. My Mum passed away in 2014, The last few years I had with my beautiful Mum before she passed away in her sleep were some of the best, reminiscent of my childhood when I was a small boy, I’m glad that she seen me come through my depression and grow into the man I am today, she seen me get married, she had time with both of my daughters who miss her dearly, she loved how I was becoming known as a photographer, being published in magazines and appearing on BBC Autumnwatch, she would show off to anyone who visited the house.

 

My wife and my two girls are my world, everything I want and need. They get me through when everything else fails, including photography.

My wife and daughters

My wife and daughters

I’m going from strength to strength and recently I even had an exclusive gallery of my work with National Geographic, from being suicidal to this, the pinnacle of my photography. I would never have thought it possible. In 3 years I have completely transformed my life, and my attitude towards life.  I’ve created a conservation group with a bunch of fantastic inspiring people aimed at getting young children and families to do more for our natural environment and wildlife. If you would of introduced the current me to the me of 5 years ago, I would have laughed at him, mocked him,  now I see things very differently, we can all change, we can all be who we want to be.

I will never be free from depression, I still have high and low days like anyone else, but that’s all they are ‘Days’ , every one of them is different, and I can accept that. I can lock it behind a door and get on with my life.

Me and my girls now!

Me and my girls now!

There are a few reasons in which I’ve decided to write this blog, first and foremost for myself, one last bit of therapy and acceptance of who I am and what I am, and I’m proud of that, and if you are reading this going through similar, then you should also be proud of who you are. I have also recently been inspired by the likes of Chris Packham and Wentworth Miller for speaking out about Mental Health. If they can be open and tell their story to inspire and help, then so can I.

The society we live in is improving in terms of mental health awareness.  Mental health is being shoved more and more into the limelight, and as a consequence lot’s more people are getting the confidence to get the help they need. I hope this helps you too!

There are people close to me who are going through a tough time right now, and I hope, after reading this, you will see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Many of you don’t know this story, my story; you only see the smiling face, but now you know.

I hope you have read this with an open mind, and try not to look at me with the stigma that still surrounds mental health. I’m still me, still Matt.

If you would like to follow me on my photographic journey then check out my facebook page.

http://www.facebook.com/mattsmacro

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, a master calls a butterfly” – Richard Bach

Me and my happy life.

Me and my happy life.

#30DaysWild – Days 9-12

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts, I have been working the night shift this week so I haven’t had much time at all to do anything or get out with the kids.

Here is a quick recap of what we got upto.

Day 9.

We decided to stay at home and refill, wash and fill the the bird feeders and table.

Day 10.

For day 10 we decided to plant some herbs in our garden. Jasmine and Amber seemed more interested in eating them than planting them. lol!

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Day 11.

We left the car at home again and decided to walk home from school, 2.2 miles to be precise. For me it was tiring as I’m used to my car, for the girls and my wife it was a breeze as they do this everyday whilst I’m at work.

On the way past one of the local parks the girls decided to try some balancing on the large rocks.

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Day 12.

This morning when I arrived home from work at 6am I decided to pop into the garden to see what I could find. I was shocked and excited to find this Red Damselfly on one of the strawberry plants. I’ve never had one of these in the garden!! Due to the fact it was so early in the morning, this beauty hadn’t fully warmed up, meaning I could get a decent picture. I eventually left it alone to wake up, and I went to bed.

I can only assume that someone has a rather large pond near my house, either way I was glad for the visit.

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Hopefully I will get out and about more this weekend. How are you getting on with your #30DaysWild?

Thanks for reading

Matt

#30DaysWild – Day 3 #WhatsInYourGarden

Hi everyone,

Let’s just take a second to welcome back Mr Sun, Today was glorious! As I drove to work at 5am this morning the sun had just risen, some light mist on the fields, the roads were clear and the only sound you could hear was the dawn chorus of the birds…..Stunning.

The day got better, I was promoted at work 🙂 Wahoo! The elation was short lived however, after arriving home and discovering we had a leak from the bathroom. The kitchen was flooded! Disaster! It completely put a spanner in the works for our Day 3.

So, after the plumber had been it didn’t leave us much time to get out and into the WILD.

I do another blog called #WhatsInYourGarden on a Wednesday or Thursday so I decided to merge the two blogs for Day 3 of #30DaysWild.

So #WhatsInYourGarden……….Red Ants….Quick RUUUUUUUN!

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Well that’s the 1st thing most people do, these Ants have a bad name. Why? Because they pack a painful sting! Only if they feel threatened or you disturb a nest though.

One of the most common Ant species we get in the garden, The Red Ant, Myrmica rubra, is around 4-5mm big. It favours garden soil and lawns but will form colonies under stones and rotting wood.

For me, Ants are without doubt the best insect to watch in your garden. Just spend 10 minutes each day in a different section of your garden and you are guaranteed to see an Ant carrying out its particular job.

One may be carrying a diseased or dead Ant away from the colony.

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One may be bringing back supplies.

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However ambitious.

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You may find some grazing on near by plants.

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and if you’re really lucky, one surfing 😉

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They truly are fascinating to watch, but don’t take my word for it, watch this video I filmed today of two Ants dissecting a small fly, using those powerful mandibles to rip off its wings. Sorry about the background music.

 

Enjoy

Matt

#Day45 of #100DaysofNature

Hi everybody,

I had a fantastic day today after #BBCSpringwatch shared my picture and my Macro Page on facebook, Some lovely comments, I earned a few more likes to my page and the post reached over 26,000 people, and counting 🙂

Thanks #BBCSpringwatch 🙂

Now, onto today’s capture, #Day45 of #100DaysofNature. I have never seen a spider so colourful in all my life, exact ID I’m not 100% but it is, I believe, belonging to the Theridiidae family and most likely one of the Comb Footed Spiders. I photographed and gave info on another species on #Day36, but that one was quite plain in comparison to this, and a lot smaller in size too. This one had beautiful tones of reds, yellows and oranges. It played hard to get in terms of composition for the pic, I was in some strange yoga pose trying to get this shot, who knows what my neighbors think I’m doing in the garden haha.

But anyway, here it is 🙂 and as always if you think you can ID this more specifically then please contact me through Facebook or Flickr, much appreciated 🙂

www.facebook.com/mattsmacro

www.flickr.com/mattd85

Matt

#Day44 of #100DaysofNature

Wow wow and wow again…

#Day44 of #100daysofNature and today I have one of the most extraordinary Insects I have ever found in my garden, but first let me see if you can spot it?

No? well underneath that little bit of debris on that rock lies the Larvae of The Common Green Lacewing, a predator of soft bodies insects such as Aphids. The Larva uses it’s long hollow mandibles to puncture and suck out the insides of the aphids leaving an empty skin, The Larva then creates a camouflaged home, sometimes refereed to as ‘Trash Packets’, from their empty skins to deter would be predators such as Ants. How amazing is that!!!!

When I first spotted this ‘thing’ moving on the rocks, I just assumed it was debris being blown, it was only when it started to move in a formative pattern that I realized that something was alive underneath it. How many of these have you and I disregarded in the garden as just foliage or debris? How many have we missed? I for one will be examining everything a lot more closely from now on.

Nature never fails to surprise me.

Enjoy

Matt

#Day28 0f #100DaysofNature

Hi everyone,

So #Day28 is here and today I managed to capture one of these little guys in a great place. We have a little rockery area in the garden and some of those rocks have been covered in moss, I have found various creatures walking and wriggling through the moss but never thought I would see one of these little guys as normally you see them mostly on your fence panels, What I’m talking about of course is the Zebra Jumping Spider.

Now these are awesome to watch, and just like the Wolf Spider they don’t use webs to catch their prey, instead they put those big eyes to use and jumping ability to track and stalk their next meal. Upon noticing someone observing them, they can be seen raising their head, and usually change behavior (hence the name Salticus scenicus, theatrical jumper). Next time it’s sunny go check out your fence panels and I guarantee you are sure to see at least one of these.

So here it is, species No 28, The Zebra Jumping Spider 🙂

Enjoy

Matt