#InWingmanWeTrust #InSocialMediaWeTrust

Hi everyone,

So! Social Media, there is no escaping it, it’s a big part of our world, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram……Lot’s of variety for every user, 7.3 billion people in the world and of that, 3.17 billion have access to the internet in some way or another, and of that, 2.3 billion are active on Social media with the average person owning 5 – 6 different accounts.

Now, why am I banging on about social media? I’ll tell you. Social media gets lots of bad press, Cyber bullying, A false sense of connection, No privacy etc but it can be used as a very effective tool! And I have the perfect story to show you how!

I use male grooming products from a company called ‘Wingman’, more specifically I use the Face Scrub. I noticed that the scrub contained some form of roughing agent to exfoliate the skin and with the impact some of these exfoliating agents have on the environment I was curious to find out what exactly they was, so, using my facebook account I contacted them via their business page.

A few days later they replied, and told me that they would contact the manufacturer to check. A few weeks passed and they contacted me again to say how disappointed they were to find out that polyethylene is one of the 3 exfoliating agents used and despite extensive checks at the formulation stage this must have been overlooked. They seemed genuinely disappointed and assured me that they would be in contact again. What struck me was how concerned they were, and at how fast they got in contact with me, a pleasant surprise.

Wingman have now confirmed that they have notified the manufacturer and the polyethylene will be removed in the next batch, leaving them with a plastic free face scrub using only natural scrubbing agents. Perfect! Not only do Wingman donate some of the profits to help the heroes, they now help our planet by not cutting corners and using the cheap mass produced micro beads. Other companies should take note!

So, just by me using my facebook account, to send a simple 5 minute message, I have not only highlighted to a company what they were doing wrong and how it was impacting our environment, I’ve just actively made a contribution to conserving our planet and wildlife…..and it took me all of 5 minutes to get the ball rolling.

So why don’t you give it a bash, why not contact the manufacturer of your toothpaste or shower gel, use your facebook, twitter and other social media platforms and ask them why they are using these micro beads, show them that there are alternatives out there that have no or less impact on our environment and wildlife. You could change the world sat in your armchair, sofa, bed, car! If I can do it, so can you 🙂

…..And to Wingman, Thank You, Thank You for being a shining example for all other companies to aspire to! Wingman have a slogan ‘ In Wingman We Trust’ and now we certainly can!

 

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Venus Optics Macro 2:1 Lens Review

Hi everyone,

I haven’t blogged in a while so I thought I would 🙂 Starting with the review of the Venus LAOWA 60mm f2.8 2:1 Macro lens.

I was sent this lens by Venus Optics a few weeks back and decided I would take it to Greece with me on my wildlife guiding trip to test it out, although this  lens has been in the market for some time, people still haven’t herd about it, which is odd as its a fantastic lens.

The lens comes with a nice little padded pouch, but no hood, this is no issue for me but other macro lenses do come with them. The build quality seems really robust, all metal, which adds strength and durability that other similar macro lens lack.

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It’s important to note that this is an all manual lens, so along with manual focus you will have to set the aperture using the dials on the lens. I always use manual focus anyway but the setting of the aperture on the lens was new to me, and…… I kind of liked it!. I found it easier and quicker to change meaning less photo opportunities missed. If you are a macro photographer like me then you know all too well that an insect can jump, crawl or fly away in an instant and you missed your shot because you had to look at your camera to change F stop, with this you don’t, you can move the dial just as you would a focus ring whilst composing your shot, simple.

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Empusa Pennata – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

I was keen to try this lens out using only natural light mounted on my Canon 6D and it didn’t let me down, the bokeh rendering compared to other macro lens was just superb, smooth and slightly saturated colours and a sharp subject matter making the image pop.

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Blue – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

I did suffer some vignettes using this lens for portraits, but it is designed for Crop bodies so that was to be expected using it on a Full Frame 6D. It doesn’t effect macro what so ever. I wish I could have tried it out as a portrait lens, maybe they will release a full frame macro lens in the future.

I had read that some users also suffered from a warm orange tint to their photos when using this lens, But I didn’t experience any of it. The lens is a tad heavy compared to others, but its strong reliable build reflects this.

All in all I would definitely recommend this lens to my friends and fellow photographers, It will be a regular in my camera bag from now on. Reasonably priced, quality build and 2:1 macro without the need for tubes, it’s an absolute little beauty.

If you have just started to get into macro but want to get that little bit closer, then this is the lens for you!

http://www.venuslens.net/product/venus-v-dx-60mm-f2-8-ultra-macro-lens/

More shots will follow over the next few months!

Matt

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Nemoptera bipennis – Canon 6D – Venus Macro 2:1 Natural Light

 

 

 

 

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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#WildWorkPlaces

Wildlife, it’s all around us you may think, but stop what you’re doing now and have a look around? Unless you are lucky enough to work in the countryside or national trust parks etc the chances are what you see around you right now are man-made structures and concrete.  Yes we have national parks and yes we have farms and local parks, and if you are lucky some of you have beautiful gardens and that’s great, it’s a massive help, but it’s not enough.

Our wildlife has been in a rapid decline for some time and one of the main reasons is that there are not enough places for our wildlife to habitat, but we can change that.

How you might ask? Easy! #WildWorkPlaces! Let me explain more.

I was walking around the factory grounds where I work a few weeks back and noticed lots of the land that my workplace owns was just baron and not being used, square meters upon square meters of it. Madness!

I can almost guarantee that your workplace is the same! This is where #WildWorkPlaces comes into play, lets utilise that land!

I spoke with the MD of the company I work for and put across the idea of turning this land into a wild-flower meadow and/or a works garden. I told him how our wildlife, especially Bees, is in decline and we as the superior species of this planet should be doing something about it. I told him that with the companies funding and the donated time from some work colleagues we can make a difference.  If we can utilise all this wasted land across the 100s and 1000’s of workplaces in the UK, even the world, then we surely will have an impact on our wildlife.

Guess what….He Agreed! I could of kept quiet and not said anything, I could of just watched this land go to waste, now however I know that by next year, I, with the help of others, would have created a nice new habitat for the local wildlife, a place for my work colleagues to go and relax, but most importantly a place to give the local wildlife a helping hand, and that makes me feel very proud!

Now all workplaces are different, I understand that. Some of you may work in an office block in the town centres and may be sat reading this thinking, we don’t have any spare land! But you could however hang some baskets up or put some pots/planters at the entrance to your building, not only would you be helping the local Bee’s and Butterflies that fly past, you would also have a nice welcoming entrance to your building. I for one know that I would much prefer walking into work through a doorway with a nice floral display than a bog standard plain average one!  Every little space can be utilised in some way. You may not have access to soil or grass, that doesn’t matter, pots, tubs and wooden planters can easily turn a dull concreted area into a beautiful floral masterpiece, add some benches and hey presto, you have a nice works garden, a  #WildWorkPlace.

Still not convinced? Then imagine this, it’s your break time at work, the sun is shining, the skies are blue, but you’re stuck in the works canteen eating your lunch. Wouldn’t you much prefer to be sat in a works garden watching the local wildlife pop in and out and relaxing in the sunshine? I know I would. At night time these #WildWorkPlaces would become a haven and safe place for hedgehogs and other small mammals.  We really can make a difference.

I am in between talks with the Royal Botanical Gardens at present, I’m hoping that they can come on board and help spread the word and donate windflower seed packets to anyone who is willing to make that difference, but you can buy bulbs and seeds very cheaply, most of us have the odd plant pot knocking around the garden unused that could be donated and transformed into a passing buffet for our Bee’s.

If you have land around your workplace that is overgrown, then it may be best to leave it as it is, one man’s wasteland is another man’s treasure, what I mean is that overgrown area would already be teaming with wildlife. I talking more about the large concreted areas that lay waste doing nothing. If all the industrial sites across the country took part we could create a national wildlife corridor! How awesome would that be.

Now you have read all this, hopefully you’re fired up ready to make a difference, great stuff! Print this blog out and show it to your boss, show it to your colleagues, if your reading this on a mobile or tablet whilst on a bus or train then please turn and share it with someone who is sitting next you.

Let them know about #WildWorkPlaces

Share your pictures on facebook and twitter, and Instagram, you can use the hashtag #WildWorkPlaces. Share with the world what you are doing! Show us how you are helping!

I challenge you to make a difference! No! I ask you to make a difference.

When you arrive at your workplace please go speak to the people in charge, speak to your friends and colleagues and get them on board!

Let them know about #WildWorkPlaces

Let’s utilise this wasted land, let’s not sit back anymore and watch our wildlife dwindle, let’s take back some of this land and give our wildlife a helping hand!

It doesn’t just have to be a workplace, if you are at school, college or university, wherever you see wasted land, lets utilise it!

If you plant it they will come!

I can’t wait to see what you do!

Thank You

 Matt

#30DaysWild – Day 7, Foraging, Spiders and Honey!

Hi everyone,

We’ve had some great weather here today, have you had the same?

We started the day off having a quick look in the garden for bugs. We found this very shy spider, Pisaura mirabilis,  under some bark in the flower beds. I love the face of this spider, it looks like it has tribal war paint down each side, a beautiful spider. Here it has its legs pulled in, a typical defensive position, I adopt a similar position when someone rolls me out of bed.

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Then we headed over to the fair and dog show on the common near our house. We purchased some Honey from the local Bee Keeper and I was amazed at the taste. We had a great chat about all Bees and conservation.

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Jasmine also decided she wanted to climb some trees.

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and try the idea from Day 1 which was hug a tree!

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After a few hours of fun we headed to our local farm. Inside one of the greenhouses they had old birds nests in a crate for everyone to look at, the kids were impressed.

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We also foraged for Strawberries and Gooseberries, it’s a bit early for anything else. Whilst we ventured the grounds we spotted lots of wildlife, Rabbits, kestrels, Buzzards, Butterflies, the list was endless. We also found lots of herbs and wildflowers. The girls are really in their element outdoors, in touch with the wild. So inquisitive, adventurous and happy! It’s the best way to be.

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Not sure what we will get upto this week as work will get in the way, but we will certainly try and do something each day.

Matt

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#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

What’s in your garden – You tell me!

Hi Everyone,

So it’s a new week and with the return of BBC Springwatch, Unsprung and Extra to our TV screens it seems Social Media has burst alive with Nature Enthusiast, conservationists and photographers each sharing stories, pictures and events! I love this time of year!!!

As I continue to do these blogs each week, introducing you to species that you can find in your own back garden, I have decided to make it a hashtag campaign. I will be opening up the wall on my facebook page until Autumn for you all to post pictures and stories of #WhatsInYourGarden. Hopefully by doing this we can show how diverse the wildlife is in each garden across the country, even the world. This will also give you a great excuse to get out in the garden, get the children involved and make a positive contribution the Natural World. Simply pop a picture/story on my facebook page, your own facebook/instagram/twitter or a link to your blog or page, whatever it may be. Try to identify the species and where exactly it was taken. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #WhatsInYourGarden. It doesn’t have to be just Insects, although I do love them, it could be Birds or small Mammals, any wildlife that’s in your garden.

Ant with Larva

 

You may find yourself saying “I have no wildlife in my garden”, if so then I urge you to take a closer look, not only that, try and encourage wildlife into your garden. You can do this relatively cheap. A few bedding plants and other flora carefully planted will triumph and bloom into a spectacular array of colour and fragrance and this will be great for attracting Bees, Butterflies and other flying Insects into your garden, which in turn would attract birds. Bug hotels can be constructed quite easily from bits of broken wood and bricks, bird boxes can also be purchased for under £10.   A bird feeder and food could also be purchased from the local pound stores. For a small inexpensive price you could have your garden teaming with wildlife, and believe me when I say nothing is more satisfying than watching a garden alive with wildlife out of your window.  The inquisitive and excited faces of your children as they point,laugh and research what they find and see, watching each little bird lurking, seemingly gambling its chance to fly down to the feeders to secure a quick meal, Butterflies soaring and swooping over the flower beds, Bees actively pollinating your garden, it truly is a beautiful sight. Do this and you are guaranteed wildlife magic in your garden.

So I hope you join me in exploring exactly #WhatsInYourGarden.

Matt

Solitary Bee