As of February 2016, after 416 posts, and over six and a half years of blogging, I'm taking a break.
I've explained why here. There's plenty of past posts to read, though - hope you enjoy them !
Looking for a brilliant present for a young naturalist ? Buy my book ! Available from Amazon UK,
Amazon US and worldwide but buy from a local bookshop if you can.

15 things I've learned in 2013


It is a real pleasure writing this blog and replying to the hundreds of people who email me. I reckon I must have spent about six or seven hours every week either exploring, walking, finding and preparing bones, and writing posts, which is pretty amazing if you think about it.

At the end of every year that I have written on this blog I do a review of the year, so this one is my fifth one. This year has been tough at times but also fun.  Here are the fifteen things I have learned this year:

1. Don't break your leg

Yeah, don't do this. It's not nearly as fun as you might think it is. I thought at the time that I would be better in about a month but it took about six months. I could not go on walks for about five months and even then all I could do was sit in the wood and watch wildlife for an hour. I did not like being in a cast and having crutches because I could not do anything fun for a while. My leg is completely better now and I can go on walks.

For the last four months I have had a fitness schedule where I either speed walk six miles every day, or (since my birthday) I can do 28km a day on an exercise bike. Now I am MUCH fitter than I was before I broke my leg.

2. Trail cameras are FANTASTIC

For a long while I wanted a trail camera, which is a box which takes a video or takes a picture when it detects movement. That means you can leave in a wood for a while and it will record all sorts of animals without disturbing them.

I got a Bushnell trophy camera with some of my book money and it is amazing. It took a while to work out how to position it, and first of all I saw nothing but one night my a roe deer walking in front of the camera. After that I started to see a lot more roe and red deer, pheasants, and LOADS of mice. One night I went to collect it and I saw that there was a video of a pine marten !  For the two months since then the camera has been setup to try and capture as much footage of the pine marten as possible.

If you don't have a trail camera, you should definitely think about getting once. They are expensive but worth it. I'm going to blog more about what I see on my trail camera in 2014.

3. Decomposition is complicated

Six years ago, soon after I started bone collecting, dad and I found a female red deer (Dixie) freshly dead in a wood. It took three months for it to fully rot down to white bones. Ever since then, I've kind of thought that three months was about normal for decomposition, maybe longer over winter. But in April I found a road kill badger, and left it to decompose. Even after leaving it for 236 days, it still hadn't not rotted down fully. That taught me that decomposition is a lot more complicated than I had first thought.

4. Books take a long time to be written

In September last year, Ticktock Publishing started discussing with me if I wanted to write a book about bones based on my blog and on my collection. All this year I have been working on it, with my brilliant editor Jo, the cartoonist Fabio, the designer Ian and the fact-checker Paolo. It looks AMAZING and a lot of hard work has gone into it. We all finished working on it in October, and it will be in shops from February 3rd in the UK and from 4th March in the rest of the World. 

The whole process of writing a book is very complicated and there is LOTS of research and discussion with retailers and other people before it is finished. I hope you all like the book when it comes out !

5. People are kind

Ever since I started bone collecting, people and experts like Ben Garrod and Paolo Viscardi have been very kind to me. I really appreciated Ben Garrod's help with rearticulating my fox skeleton, and I really liked the tour Paolo gave me of the Horniman's stores. If you're a kid and you like museums then get to know the people who work there, they know loads and they are usually really kind.

At the end of August I came home from a day at my new school to find a lady, called Miss Ford, who I didn't know, was at my house She said that she read about me in the Telegraph Magazine in March, and she wanted to give some skulls to me. She only knew the village where I lived, so she had driven up from England and asked at my old primary school in my village, who phoned my home, and luckily my dad was in and invited her over. She stayed the night but she had to leave the next day. She gave me some amazing skulls and she was an amazing lady. She was another person who was very kind to me, as well as lots more people - too many to name here, but thank you all.

6. I don't say thank you enough 

I help a lot of people clean or ID bones via e-mail but they rarely come back and say thank you, but when I think of it, I don't say thank you enough either. A lot of people have been very nice to me this year and I did not thank them properly, so to say thank you, I have put the names of all the people that have been very kind to my in my book dedication.  I will try to say thank you more often in 2014.

7. I've spent more time watching living animals

This year I have spent more time looking at live animals than dead ones, mainly because of my broken leg, but it's helped me understand bones and skulls better. Over the summer I studied a common frog that I kept in my room in a glass tank before relasing it back into the wild. I learnt a lot about by studying the frog, watching roe deer, stalking red deer during the rut, as well as all the other animals I see on my walk.

8. Some adults can make pretty stupid decisions

The Government has made some terribly bad decisions like the badger cull for starters. The badger cull is when the government allows 75% of badger in the UK, because some people think the badgers are responsible for giving cows TB. The scientific evidence shows the cull has little effect, and that it would be difficult to carry out. For example, how do you know when you have killed 75% of badgers if you don't know how many badgers there are in the first place? The government gave up in the end, but not before killing 5,000 innocent badgers. Also the Beauly to Denny power line. The power lines go through one of my favourite woods. Each power line will cost £1,000,000 so it will cost £600,000,000 altogether !

9. Museum people REALLY liked this blog

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about 21 ways I would make an amazing museum which was one of my most popular posts I have ever written ! It was read by 1,000 people in the first 24 hours, and since then has been read by another 11,000 . That is incredible.

10. Local history is really interesting

On a moor I walk on there is a lot of old houses and dad found out that at one point in the past three brothers lived in three different houses on the moor at the same time. It feel weird being in a old house that some one used to live in and loved. hundreds of years ago, and fun to research the family history of the five farmhouses which were close together but are now all deserted.

11. My boa was a python

A while ago I got a box of bones from Ben Williams containing lots of amazing skulls, one of which was supposed to be a boa constrictor. Although at the time I wrote I wasn't sure, for four years, I thought it was a boa, but when Paolo Viscardi was fact-checking my book he spotted it was actually a python. I was a bit annoyed that it has been wrong all this time, but I suppose science is all about correcting your mistakes and getting things right.

12. I've found tons more species

Every year I always see or hear new animals. This year I have seen a lot more garden birds on my bird table.Some of the new animals I have seen this year are a short-eared owl (on New Years Day 2013), a cuckoo, a sparrowhawk, a lesser redpoll (a family of them visited my birdtable),  jays,  redstarts and of course the pine marten.

13. This blog has been really popular

This year I have had:

  •  148,658 visitors (compared to 77,476 in 2012)
  • Visitors from 22 new countries, bringing the total to 195 different countries that have visited since I started.
  • 701 web comments (compared to 490 in 2012, and 1,423 in total)
  • 796 emails about Jake's Bones (compared to 557 in 2012)
  • and I now have 938 Facebook fans (more than double that of 428 a year ago)
  • and 389 followers on Twitter (can't remember what it was last year)
To put it another way, more people visited my blog in 2013 than did in the previous four years combined, so I must be doing something right.

I wrote 65 posts this year, bringing my total since I started to 284 blog posts. A BIG thank you to everyone who has visited, left a comment, or sent me an email, Twitter or Facebook message. It means a lot to me.

14. Falconry is fun

Last Christmas my parents gave me a voucher for a falconry experience, which I couldn't do until my leg had healed, so on the last day of my summer holidays  I went to the falconry. When we got there, we all got a tour of the place, and handle a harris hawk (quite similar to a buzzard, which I know a lot about). They have a lot of birds. They also have the maddest thing I have ever seen which was a raptor-bonk-hat ! I found the experience really interesting and hope to do it again.

15. Next year is going to be even better

Already 2014 looks like it's going to be an amazing year. Apart from my book coming out, Ben Garrod's six-part TV series on bones starts in January, I've the roadkill badger skeleton and the buzzard skeleton to write about, some school visits to do workshops on bones, a museum exhibition in London which I'm co-curating, and the end of July will be my fifth year of writing my blog. Have a great 2014 everyone !

Enjoy this post ? Share it !


Jon Price said...

Keep up the good work Jake. I look forward to seeing how your life as a naturalist develops. :o)
Happy New Year to you and your family.


Alexis Anastasia Bakalakos said...

I would like to thank you Jake, for your great blog posts, your interesting view of the world, your work, and your shared knowledge. You have taught me many facts that I did not know about bones and wildlife, and I greatly appreciate the time you put into your blog for other people to learn. Thank you very much! Happy new year, and enjoy yourself!

HenstridgeSJ said...

Happy New Year! Looking forward to reading your book.

Jake said...

Thank you, I hope you have a happy new year too !

Jake said...

Thank you very much indeed !

Jake said...

Ha ! Me too ! I haven't seen a printed copy yet, only a PDF !

Christine Sutcliffe said...

Here's to another year of brilliance! :D

Jake said...

Thanks !

Free counters!