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.
Archived posts: The following articles are from the month or year requested:

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016


At the end of each year, since the start of my blog, I have written a post on New Year's Eve, looking back on the year. At the end of last year, I said that this year would not have been as good as last.-  it's not every year that your first book comes out, you get to present a copy to the Royal Family, and then do live TV on the BBC with Sir David Attenborough - but this year has had its good moments.

I always enjoy writing these posts, because it reminds me of the best parts of the year, and there was quite a lot this year ! This is what I have learned...

Happy Christmas !


Happy Christmas ! I'm spending time with my family and having a great time. Sadly, it's not snowing over here, and we only had about two or three snow days in Scotland so far - I hope we get more, because it's really beautiful near my house when it snows. (Apart from a few winters ago when it got so cold it was -18c one night)

Here's a quick fun fact for Christmas. Rudolph, Santa's reindeer was actually most likely to have been a girl. How do I know this ? It's to do with the timing of when antlers fall off and regrow each year. Both male and female reindeer have antlers (which is unusual for deer - normally it's just males). Anyway, male reindeer's antlers usually fall off before Christmas time, whereas the female's antlers do not, making Rudolph more likely to be a girl (*) !

(*) Scientists tend to try and be very exact about the timings of antlers, but I've found it varies a LOT with roe deer - it depends on age, diet, health and region. I've seen roe deer still in velvet in May, and other roe deer close by with hard antlers by March. Here's my guide anyway.

Where are all the woods going?


Here's the thing: my woods are vanishing.

The badger wood ? Gone. Mortuary wood, where I left the badger to decompose ? Gone - and it was small, but an hour spent there showed it was rich with wildlife. Parts of the Pheasant Woods where I began bone collecting ? Gone. More recently, a wood near the pine marten wood was cut down. A big part of Titus Well wood was cut down for a major power line. The wood where I filmed the roe deer carcass was cut down earlier this year. And a wood just beside the main road north past my village has been cut down.

So why is it happening ? To find out, we need to go back in the past. After WWII, most of the timber was used in the war effort, and to replenish the stock, there were tax incentives to plant thousands of trees were planted in the 1960s and 70s. These trees take about 40 or 50 years to grow, so are now coming to maturity. The problem is, the tax breaks stopped in the 1990s, so there aren't enough plantations to replace those being cut down.

A win and a loss


Two quick bits of news: firstly thank you to everyone who voted for me in the Cairngorms Nature Wildlife Presenter competition, and  a big congratulations to James Miller from Surrey who was the eventual winner. I'm pretty sad not to have won, but as runner up I do get some great prizes, like a trail camera, a signed book by Iolo Willliams and a day watching wildlife in the Cairngorms. I also really enjoyed making the video, and I'll try to make some more in 2016.

Secondly, last week The Courier ranked me at #24 in their Impact power list of people in this area of Scotland who were most influential in 2015, which was very kind of them and a very nice surprise (I didn't know in advance) although quite why I'm ranked nine places higher than Professor Sue Black at CAHID (which I visited in 2011) I don't know !

Braco 200: My village - then and now !


I know this path well because it leads to the pheasant woods which is where I started bone collecting, and I've walked by it so many times. But until recently I didn't realise that but over 100 years ago, this man stood right here in this exact spot for a photograph, outside his long demolished house.

 How do I know this ? Because while I have been researching blog posts about my village for its 200th anniversary I have found loads of old photographs of my village (I'm pretty sure they're all out of copyright, which is why I've used them below). 

This weeks post is a bit different because I went out to find the exact spot where the photos were taken, and taken a new one from the exact position to show how much it has changed. Read on to find out more...

The difference between fox and badger skulls


One of the most common emails I get is asking whether a certain skull is a fox or badger skull. These can be easily confused because they are the same size, shape, can be found in the same area and are two very common woodland animals in the UK. It will be even harder to tell apart if you only have a fragment of the skull.

So...if you find a medium sized skull, how do you know whether it's a badger or fox ? Read on to find out...

At the Eden Project with the Royal Society


Before I begin, I have a very special request....see the black box at the end of this blog post for more !

Now, as some of you might know, last Sunday me and my family traveled down to Cornwall, for a VERY big event on the Monday at the Eden Project. I was going down for the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award. I was on the shortlist of with five other amazing authors.

Long story short, I didn't win, and Professor Robert Winston's book "Utterly Amazing Science" did. The awards ceremony wasn't until lunchtime, but my family and my editor, Jo, went down to the Eden Project at 9am, because there was something we had to do first....

I need just a few seconds of your time....


I need your help ! Can you spare a few minutes to help me out ?

A few weeks I encouraged young naturalists to enter the Cairngorms Nature Young Presenter competition. I entered a video myself, talking about discovering the wildlife near my house - and now I've been shortlisted in the final ten.  Now there is a public vote to find the winner !

What I'd really like you to do....is go to this page and scroll to the bottom where the final ten videos are listed. If you think mine is the best (and I hope you do !) is to click on "Vote" next to my thumbnail. You'll be asked to login to your Facebook account (to make sure more than one person doesn't vote) and then your vote will be added. I really, really hope you can spare a few minutes to help me out - it means a lot to me ! Thanks again !

So....I didn't win....


So....the short story is I didn't win. But congratulations to Professor Robert Winston whose book "Utterly Amazing Science" who did win !

I'm down at the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award at the Eden Project in Cornwall with my amazing editor Jo Bourne (in the picture) at the moment. The shortlist (announced in May) was six amazing science books aimed at children - "365 Science Activities", "Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor", "Night Sky Watcher" and Tiny: The Invisible World of Microbes" as well as my own "Jake's Bones". In the end, after all the judging, Utterly Amazing Science" won the top prize. I'll blog more about my amazing day later in the week - but thanks to everyone who was involved in the judging, and to the Royal Society !

My 400th post - and hello Netherlands !


I'm in the middle of exams at the moment, so you may have noticed that my posts recently have been shorter than normal. But since this is my 400th blog post (really !) it seemed like the perfect time to share some good news: there's now a Dutch-language edition of my book !

They've made some changes to the cover (bye bye T-rex !) and changed the title to "Het Grote Bottennoek Van Jake" (which means "Jake's Big Book of Bones"), but otherwise it's the same great book. It's also the fourth foreign edition after the UK version, the USA version (which has my photo on the cover) and the Korean edition.

Next weekend is also going to be very exciting for me: I'm travelling down to the Eden Project in Cornwall for the awards ceremony for the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award. There are six books on the shortlist, and judging has been by childrens' groups all over the UK. Fingers crossed - and I'll post here what the result it as soon as I can (probably on the Monday evening of the 16th).

Thank you again for reading my blog and inspiring me to write 400 posts (as well as breaking through 2,000 followers on Facebook in the last week !) And here's a short video (click to read on) by the Royal Society explaining why my book is on the shortlist:

The best camouflaged animal ever ?


Before I start: I've just flown back in the last few hours from Faclan, the Hebridean Arts Festival in Stornoway. Thank you to everyone who came to my talk at An Lanntair yesterday - it was brilliant to see so many interested faces and sign so many books ! (they completely sold out). Hope to see you again soon !

 This week's post is more of a spot-the-animal. I'd left my trail camera on a roe deer path last week, about a mile west of the badger wood, and among the other things it filmed, I also had a few frames and video that looked like the picture above. Nothing there, I thought, until I looked closer. But actually, there is a quite common but *very* well camouflaged animal there ! It's one that I've only seen myself once. Can you spot it ?

Filming the badgers (video)


This week's blog post is something different - I've put together a video of the badger footage I've filmed since May ! I'm trying out different ways of sharing information, and if this video is popular I'll do more of them in the future. I blogged about how I found the badger sett back in May, and last month I blogged about the shock discovery which brought filming to an end

Three other things to quickly tell you:
  • If you fancy becoming a nature presenter, and you're aged between 10-16 and live in the UK then you have until Saturday to enter the Cairngorms Nature Your Presenter competition ! You have to put together a 90 second video of you talking to the camera, and it has to include the words: "I would like to present Cairngorms Nature because....". There's more here.
  • Next weekend I'm giving a talk in Stornoway at the Faclan Book Festival. It's going to be great, and you can buy tickets here. Hope to see you there !
  • In May it was announced that my book had been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award. The winner out of the shortlist of six will be announced on November 16th at an awards ceremony at the Eden Project in Cornwall. I'll post here who the winner is after it's been announced !
Let me know what you think of the badger video !

Cairngorms Nature Young Presenter Competition


There is a great competition for young naturalists - and time is running out to enter !

There are two National Parks in Scotland. One of them is the Cairngorms National Park. It is located in some of the most beautiful , and is over 4,500 km² in size. Iolo Williams is a Welsh naturalist and TV presenter. He has done quite a lot of work on the BBC Autumnwatch/Winterwatch (which I was on here) and he has teamed up with the Cairngorms and the RSPB  to run a competition for young naturalists. All you have to do to enter is film a short clip.

The missing deer and the strange skull


Up until recently my trail camera has been watching a badger sett, which I wrote about here and here, but since the wood around there is being cut down it seemed the right time to move it to somewhere else, and my two little brothers, Sam (5) and Harry (4) asked if they could find somewhere to put it.

Dad took my brothers out to look for somewhere where they could leave the camera, and they went to the original pine marten wood, where I filmed a lot about two years ago. They were looking for somewhere where they knew animals might come to, and after searching the wood they found a quite fresh roe deer carcass, and left the camera there. But when they went back a week later, there was a surprise !

Five things I loved about the Wigtown Book Festival


Quick note: If you are in Stornoway on Halloween, I'm giving a talk at the Faclan book festival. If you could come along, I'd love to see you.

Last weekend I was really pleased to be doing a drop in session at the Wigtown Book Festival in Dumfries and Galloway. It was a hands-on session as part of the Childrens' Book festival, and was a bit different from previous talks I'd done, so I was really looking forward to it.

It was an early start, though ! I had to get up at 6am and leave at around 7am. Dad drove for two and a half hours to get to Wigtown, and we arrived at around 9:45am.  Wigtown is a pretty small town, but for one week every year it turns into one of the most exciting book festivals in Scotland.

A shock visitor to the badger sett !


Important news: If you're near Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway tomorrow (Sunday), I'll be showing off some of my collection between 11am and 4pm at the Wigtown Book Festival. It's a drop in session, and if you're around I'd love to meet you ! I'll blog more about what it was like next week.

Since May my trail camera has been filming at a badger sett a few miles from my village. I've been lucky enough to get some really great footage of the badgers digging out the holes, bringing up three cubs, playing together, preening each other, and coming back and forth. The wood is very isolated, so I've been leaving the trail camera for weeks at a time. Today was the first time in over three weeks that I went back to check on it - and I got an unpleasant surprise !

Braco 200: The Braco murder hunt


On the 18th January 1978, 15 police officers led by Chief Superintendent Jack Bowman walked out into the snow. They were searching the farmland to the north of my village on one of the UK's biggest murder hunts for 20 years - a spree of five murders across the UK. They were looking for the body of an elderly lady, who they believed had been killed a month earlier and over 400 miles away.

But the oddest thing is this: almost every account of the story gets one detail completely wrong, and I only found out the truth by researching it myself. - read on to find out what it is. And why were they searching at my tiny village 400 miles from the murder scene ? Also why, even after the murderer confessed, was no-one ever convicted ? Read on to find the answers to all these questions !

Chris Packham and two other newsworthy things


This week, instead of one big post, I was going to mention three things which I think are really important: the Chris Packham controversy, Paolo Viscardi's new job, and what I'll be doing at the Wigtown Book Festival at the end of the month.

If you're outside the UK you might not have heard of Chris Packham, but over here he is a very well known naturalist and broadcaster. He's best known for being one of the presenters on BBC Autumnwatch/Winterwatch/Springwatch, but before that he was a presenter on The Really Wild Show. The UK has lots of wildlife presenters, but he is one of the best known.

An interesting skull from a friend


The week before last, fellow bone collector Ric Morris came to my house for dinner with his wife and his daughter. They were on their way back from their holiday in the highlands and islands, where they went beach combing. Dad made made a lovely meal for all of us earlier that day.

After dinner, he told me that he had brought some skulls that he found on the beach for me. We went outside and he showed me the bones he had found. Most of them still had dried flesh, but one or two were clean. One of them was a skull - let's see if you can ID it. Here are some clues:

The link between red squirrels and pine martens


As you'll know if you've been following my blog for a while, there are two local animals which I see an awful lot of, despite them being rare in most of the UK. These are red squirrels, Sciurus vulgaris,(which there are loads of around here), and pine martens (which are hard to spot, but I have lots of trail camera footage of them).

Despite them looking slightly alike in the photos above, and both living in trees, they are completely unrelated. Squirrels are part of the rodent family (which have two sharp front teeth, with an orange outer edge), which also includes mice, voles and beavers. Pine marten are bigger, about the size of a small cat. but are from the mustelid family which includes weasels, otters and badgers. But there's one unusual link between them which not a lot of people know about.

The Viking skeletons at Jorvik


I've blogged earlier about my family holiday in England (*), but one of the places we also stopped off at was the Jorvik Viking Centre in York. It's a fantastic visitor centre which shows viking artefacts and skeletons found by archaeologists in what used to be the viking settlement of Jorvik.

One of the things I was particularly looking forward to seeing  were the viking skeletons found in and near York. Both of them had a lot of interesting pathology and diseases, and it's not often that I get to study human skeletons because even though I have been offered human bones, I have strong views on how human remains should be treated, so this was a valuable experience and something I was looking forward to. Here's what I found !

Inglorious: the hidden side of grouse hunting


First of all - a big thank you to everyone who came to hear my talk at Science and More in Gravesend last Tuesday night where I talked about my bone collection, how I started and where it has led me. It was brilliant to see so many people there and have so many interesting questions ! If you'd like to meet me I'm also speaking at the Wigtown Book Festival at the end of September, and the Stornoway Book festival at the end of October.

Anyway, back to this week. Mark Avery has written a book arguing there should be a law on grouse hunting,  how other animals die as a result and how it destroys the moor that the grouse lived on.

Can you guess which bird this is from ?


First of all: remember if you're around Gravesend this Tuesday I'm giving a talk to Science And More at 7pm 6.30pm for 7pm at No. 84 Tea Room and Eatery, 84 Parrock Road. I'll be talking about bones, how I got started, putting together my book and lots more - it'll be great to see you !

Anyway, back to this week. Well, this is an easy skull to identify. From the long beak, thicker than a snipe or an oystercatcher, it's clearly a bird that eats fish, and at 6.5cm long it's clearly the same as my heron skull...wait, did you say 6.5cm ?!?! That's much too small to be a heron.....

Six years of blogging - and a favour to ask


In all the excitement in all the past few weeks, I actually forgot that on 21st July it was the anniversary of six years since I wrote my very first blog post ! That one was about a broken swan skull, that I wrote about here. A lot has changed since then, as you can see from the photos above, but I still get excited every week to share something new with you here.

As it's my blog birthday (sort of), I would like to ask you a special favour. I have never entered any blog awards before, because the people that make up the categories seem to forget about wildlife and natural history. But these ones are different, because they are organised by BBC Wildlife Magazine (which listed me as one of the top 50 conservation heroes in the UK a few months ago).

You can nominate any blog which appears here. There are eight categories, but the one most appropriate to me is "Best Young Blogger.  If you think I deserve the award - and I hope you do ! - all you need to do is email wildlifemagazine@immediate.co.uk, with the subject line "BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards nomination". In the email you'll need to name this blog ("Jake's Bones by Jake McGowan-Lowe") and the category ("Best young blogger") and that's it ! Thank you !

Kelvingrove Museum's fundraising appeal


The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow is my favourite museum. I've been going there for as long as I can remember, and it's full of great art and hosts more then 8,000 exhibits in a beautiful old building just out of the centre of Glasgow. It's always in the top three free (all public museums are free in Scotland) visitor attractions in Scotland, and I've blogged about visiting it last year, as well as blogging about one of its dinosaur exhibits.

That's why I was delighted to help them out with their fundraising appeal to revamp the West Court in the museum - one of my favourite spaces, full of fantastic natural history exhibits, skeletons, and topped off with a suspended Spitfire flying through the gallery. This is how I was helping out with the publicity yesterday - and why I hope it will help raise £10,000 towards putting new exhibits on show ! Read on to find out more about my day, and how you can help...

Three places to catch me over the summer


This week's post was going to be a longer one - but it's taken longer than I thought to research, and my cousins are over to stay this weekend, so instead here's quick note of where you can hear me talk over the summer and autumn !

On Tuesday 11th August at 7pm 6.30pm for 7pm, I'm giving a talk to Gravesend Skeptics In The Pub Science And More Club, at No. 84 Tea Room and Eatery, 84 Parrock Road, Gravesend.  Here's their website.

On Sunday 27th September between 11am-3pm (and this time may possibly change) I'm in the Children’s Festival Area, The Discovery Tent at the Wigtown Book Festival in Dumfries & Galloway. More details will be here in a week or so. It's a drop in session rather you can just call in and meet me, get your book signed,  and ask questions about bones - I'll have lots with me !

Then on Saturday 30th October at 5pm I'm excited to be giving a talk at Faclan Hebridean Book Festival, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Tickets will be available from September from here.

If you can make any of these - it'll be brilliant to meet you !

Finally in November, the winner of the Royal Society Young Persons Book Of The Year is announced (my book is on the shortlist of six). I know all the children's groups who are judging the books have been doing a lot of hard work, and have been encouraged to ask questions  on this Ask The Author page. (I've been replying, but for some reason the Royal Society haven't been publishing my replies yet). So if you have any questions you'd like to ask me about my book, you can do it here !

Exploring the shoreline


Last year I went with my family on holiday for a few days on the west coast of England, which is a small country to the south of Scotland. It was a quiet spot, but it was next to the beach and as I live about as far away from the sea as it is possible to get in Scotland, I was hoping to go beach combing and to look at the wildlife.

This year I was back there again for four nights - but this time I had an expert guide in Sophie Bagshaw, who is a pretty cool naturalist herself. We spent most of that time on or near the beach - and this is what I learned and found !

Learning about Tyrannosaurus


I've had a lot of T-Rex action this week. I was planning to write this post anyway, but while I was away on holiday there was this tyrannosaurus skeleton nearby (above), and my brother Sam bought a model of a T-Rex skeleton as well - and I saw Jurassic World at the cinema today ! 

 Tyrannosaurus is the biggy - one of the largest land predators ever known, one of the most studied (because lots of specimens have been found), and the best known dinosaur. Bone evidence is often the only way to understand how they lived - but this week's blog post is about something I've always found a bit weird about them.

Nine great activity ideas for the summer


Summer's here: my school broke up yesterday! (Scottish schools break up before those in the small country to the south of Scotland). I've got a lot of stuff planned for this summer, and I'll blog about those later in the holidays

If you are ever bored and looking for something to do, I have nine great ideas that I'm going to share with you. I have done all of these and they are great fun ways get out with your family during the summer. So here they are....

Nine things I have learned about predation


One of the longest experiments I have done recently was recording the decomposition and predation of a fresh dead roe deer. I began it back at the start of December, then moved my trail camera away at the end of spring. In between, I recorded hours and hours of videos of what happened to the body as it was left in the wood. For the first month, the answer was not very much - but the next two months made up for that !

One warning at the start: I know a lot of children read this blog, so be prepared that this post shows a lot of images of decomposition. None of them are too bad (well, one is a bit), but just be warned before you click on any videos...

I'm on BBC Radio Scotland again on Friday


A very quick post: I'm featured on BBC Radio Scotland's "Out For The Weekend" programme, which will be on tomorrow (Friday) between 2 and 4pm. The whole programme is great to listen to, but my piece will be in the second hour of the programme. It was recorded last Thursday when BBC producer Helen and her son Rasmus (seen in the picture above) came out on a walk with me to find bones. Rasmus is age nine but already has an fascination with bones and is a pretty good naturalist himself.

I was also featured last week in The Big Issue, where I  wrote about how important it is to look for bones, and what you can tell you about the nature around you. It's now up on the Big Issue website here.

A 200th birthday and a surprise visit


My village, Braco is 200 years old this year, and to celebrate I've already written special blog posts this year about Ardoch House, the sawmill, the Ardoch House murder and the Roman Tunnel, with more to come later in the year.

The high point of this year's celebrations was a  street party yesterday , and the unveiling of a special mosaic which is now on the school wall. I've got a little secret contribution to that mosaic, and as well as a massive surprise last night which has given me lots of new skulls to write about !

Braco 200: The complete history of Ardoch House


If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that Ardoch House is a massive fascination of mine ! It began because I used to search for bones on the old Ardoch Estate, which is the nearest wood to my village, and I discovered the old ice houses there. After I blogged about that in 2011, Mr Forbes in Canada emailed me, because he had visited the old Ardoch estate in 1984 while researching his family history, found the derelict house, but when he came back in 1989 the house had completely vanished !

 I blogged about the mystery of where it had gone in 2012, and did some more research at RCHAMS shortly after. I also blogged about the old Roman Fort, which was next to the house, and how I found an ancient tunnel, as well as researching the Ardoch House murder. Every time I have done a new post I have had emails from people who have been researching their family history, and found a connection to Ardoch House.

Since then I have done a lot of research through newspaper archives, so I decided to put everything I found in one place, which I will update whenever I find something new. I know it's not bones or wildlife - but I'll be back to that with my next post !

Newsround, Radio 4 and the Hunterian


Since I was named as one of the most influential conservationists by BBC Wildlife Magazine I've been incredibly busy with media things. This last week is probably the last of the main appearances for a bit, but what a week it's been !

On Tuesday CBBC Newsround ran a piece about me that they filmed the week before, and yesterday morning I was live on  BBC Radio 4's on Saturday Live programme with Reginald D Hunter, Andre Anderson and Juliet Russell - after which I met up with my editor Jo and Paolo Viscardi, who was the scientific advisor on my book ! This is how it went....

Where you can find me this week....


I've got another busy week coming up this week, and this is where you can find me....

  • I was filmed for Newsround last week, talking about BBC Wildlife Power List and showing the amazing Martin Dougan where to find bones. That is set to go out on Wednesday at 4.20pm on CBBC (but might change !)
  • I'm on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live programme on Saturday at 9.00am. I'll be in the studio at Broadcasting House ( where I was last there for The One Show, just before Christmas).
  • Next Monday A week on Monday I'll have a piece about exploring for bones for the Big Issue's "Pause" column - I think it's in all the UK editions, but will have to check to make sure.
  • And I've got two big talks coming up; one in England in August and one in Scotland in October . I'll post about those nearer the time !
I'll probably do a quick behind the scenes blog post about Newsround and Radio 4 next week, as well as links to watch/listen to the programmes.

Finding the badgers


For a long time, whenever anyone asked what wildlife lived near me, I always used to say that there were no badgers nearby.  Even though I had often seen badgers dead by the motorway, about 15 miles south of here, I always assumed that there weren't any nearby.

I had asked the local gamekeepers, all of whom denied seeing anything nearby, and I had kept my eyes open but never saw anything even close.  Even after I found the dead badger about a mile from my house, I didn't get much further. It was only in the last few months that I decided to take a closer look...and this is what I found !

Two big BBC appearances


As you'll know from my last three posts, I had a pretty busy week with doing media things last week. It began with being included on the BBC Wildlife Magazine power list, and I was featured in all sorts of newspapers because of that, then my book was shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Award, which brought more publicity as well.

During the week I got two calls, one from BBC Radio Scotland in Glasgow, and one from the BBC Breakfast programme in Manchester. I was happy to agree to both, and this is week's post about what it was like to be behind the scenes there !

My brilliant news, part three....


Okay, this has been one of the busiest weeks I can remember...I'm even in The Times today (Scottish edition and website)....and to end it, tomorrow (Sunday) morning I'll be on the sofa at the BBC Breakfast studio in Manchester, talking about bone collecting, being on the BBC Wildlife Power List, and about how it feels to have my book shortlisted for the Royal Society Young Person's Book Award !

I'm pretty excited about that. I'll be tweeting while I am down in England (a small country to the south of Scotland) and next week I'll be blogging about what that was like as well as what it was like behind the scenes with my interview with Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland earlier this week ! 

My brilliant news part two...


This seems to be the week where everything is happening. I've known about this news for a few weeks, but it had to be kept quiet until it was officially announced !

Anyway - I am SO proud that my book has been shortlisted as one of the six contenders in the running for the 2015 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize, awarded annually to the best science book for children aged up to 14. (That is, books aimed at people up to 14, not written by them, although mine is both)

The winning book will be chosen by groups of young people from over 100 schools and youth groups across the UK, and will be announced at a dinner in London in November. It's a huge achievement just to be on the shortlist, and it shows how amazing my editor Jo Bourne and publisher Octopus are. Here's the full shortlist.... and I have one more bit of great news this week, and I will announce that in the next few days !

My brilliant news, part one....


Sooo....it's been a busy week !

I did say last week that I had some news to announce: I'm in the BBC Wildlife Magazine's "Power List" of the most influential conservationists. I'm ranked at #40, which is a bit of a surprise since I'm not even one of the top 40 most influential people even in my own house, but thank you to everyone at  BBC Wildlife Magazine for including me, and for the panel of experts for choosing me as well ! And a big congratulations to the other brilliant teenagers Findlay Wilde and Georgia Locock who are on the list - they are both amazing naturalists and bloggers.

I'm appearing tomorrow (Thursday) on BBC Radio Scotland to talk about this with Kaye Adams at 11.30am, which I'm really looking forward to. My second bit of news probably won't be announced until a bit later in the week, possibly even at the weekend. But here's some of the news coverage from this week !

One simple change that could save animals' lives


This is going to be a bit of a busy week for me blogging, because I've got an announcement tomorrow (some of you might know what it's going to be about) and more news on Thursday (bet you don't know that one, though).

Anyway - I thought I would take the opportunity of tomorrow's news to write about something that has been bothering me for a while - something that kills animals, and that could be easily fixed with one small change. And here it is....

The mystery of red/blue 57


I've written before about the odd things I find in the countryside when I'm searching for bones, like 150 year old pottery, old poison bottles or metal propellors and cow hooves.  This week's post is about finding something that will be obvious to some, but will need explaining to others.

These two tags were up on a part of the estate near my village, up close to the castle. It's partly woodland, partly scrub clearings and partly an old fishing lake, and it's petty much unexplored and deserted. More importantly, there are a few red deer down here, as well as roe deer. But when I found these numbered tags, there weren't any deer to be seen - but there was another mystery to be solved.

A week in the woods


As you'll know if you've been reading my blog for a while, I love my trail camera -  a small but durable wildlife cameras that takes video or stills whenever wildlife go by. I've used mine to film pine marten, roe deer, red deer, as well as what was feeding off a roe deer body. Last year I even blogged about everything I learned about using my trail camera.

It's great to have because it shows a lot of unexpected wildlife. When I broke my leg and couldn't walk far, I used to set myself the challenge of sitting in the woods for an hour and recording what I saw. But what could you see if you sat there for a whole week ? Well, just before I went away over Easter, I set up my trail camera in a new wood - and this is what it filmed.

Can you spot what is unusual about this ?


One of the great things about seeing the bones of a particular animal often is that you get to spot when there are minor things which are different. As you will know if you read my blog regularly, the animal I most often see and find are deer, both roe and red deer. That's what this skull is of - a roe - that's the easy bit !

I found it a few weeks ago, and quickly spotted that something was a bit unusual. You probably won't spot it from the photo - unless you really know deer really well - but read on if you want to know what makes this roe deer a little bit special.

What do I see on my daily walk ?


For the last couple of years there's a walk I try and do every day, sometimes twice a day, in winter and summer. It's a popular walk, about three miles long, and you often see other people and joggers out, as well as all the farm and estate vehicles.  So you wouldn't expect to see much wildlife there - or would you ?

When I'm out, I see all sorts from new born lambs to field mice. The walk has loads of trees beside the path that hosts all kinds of animals. I often see red kites or buzzards gliding, stoats, squirrels and deer - and maybe even a kingfisher ! Read on to find out more.

A brilliant find: my first meenyuun skull !


I seem to always have brilliant luck around this time of year in finding skulls: look at what I picked up on my walk last night ! It's my first even meenyuun skull, and this looks like a Meenyuun gru monocular because of the single eye socket, although you tend to find them in groups with the other main European two-eyed variant Meenyuun gru binocular. 

They seem to be fairly widespread across the world, but this is the first I've seen them in Scotland. They are usually quite easy to spot because of their bright yellow colour. It's difficult to judge age from the adult teeth, since all meenyuuns are highly juvenile, but it looks like a young adult. Meenyuuns are frugivores, and feed mainly on apples and bananas, and come from the same Mayduppus family as cranochan, haggis and gruffalo.

Do you have a meenyuun skull ? Leave a comment if you do.

Braco 200: The deserted sawmill


This will be one of a series of posts this year that I will be writing for the history of my village which was founded 200 years ago this year. And I know it's not a great idea for child bloggers to list the place where they live, but it's been mentioned in pretty much every newspaper article about me ever, so it's no great secret.

In my village there is a great walk along farm tracks through one of the big estates near my village. I walk there most days, often first thing in the morning before school or last thing at night to see animals like roe deer, red kite and salmon. Although a lot of people in the village use that walk, only a few know that just a few metres from the track is an amazing old building hidden from view.

Water mills were quite common in the area about 150 years ago, and the force of the water was use to drive something, like a mechanical wood saw or a grain grinder. This building is mostly destroyed, with no roof left, but the huge water wheel remains, half visible. Here is what I found.

Inspiring a primary school class


Here's something I thought I would share with you this week - it's a video I did for class nine at Dunmore Primary School in Oxfordshire. Their student teacher, Mrs Long (whose son also has a nature blog), sent me an email asking  if I could send them a message to inspire them as they were beginning a week of learning about bones and would be using my book as a guide.

I thought this was a brilliant idea, and did two videos, the one above which I did for them at the start of the week, and which posed a little mystery for the class to solve. (They also sent me a video of the class back at the end of the week which was brilliant to see - thanks Class nine !)

If you're a teacher and your class will be studying bones, and you'd like something like this, then send me an email and I'll try to help out. I can't promise anything, because the videos take a while to film and edit, but I will try and do something. Here's the other video which gave the answer to the skull puzzle !

Why we should reintroduce lynx


Imagine walking through the woods on a bright spring morning, the trees silent, except from the tweeting of birds. Then you get the strange feeling that you are being followed, stalked even. Then you catch  glimpse of an orange body, and see the tell-tale tufts on the ears.  You know what it is- but it a predator that has been extinct in the UK for 1300 years !

This could happen soon. The Lynx UK Trust is suggesting a scheme that is trying to get lynx re-introduced in to Scotland. If it is approved, they will bring four to six lynx onto each of three privately owned estates in Norfolk, Cumbria and Aberdeenshire that have loads of shelter and are rich in deer. And it won't be as dangerous as you think: unlike many big cats, lynx prefer to stay well away from humans.

The incredible frog skeleton


Ever since I was young, frogs have been one of my favourite animals. and a few years ago I even had a young frog in my room for a short while to study it, which I kept in an old fish tank. You can read about that here. I've always thought that frogs are cool with the way they have adapted to jump and swim.

The day after I appeared on The One Show, I received a kind email from a man called Mr Lydamore asking me if I would like a frog skeleton.It had been in his family for a long time after he found it under a cooker - he doesn't know how long it was there, but it could have been decades. It was a very kind offer ! This is what I've learned from it:

Puzzles from my inbox


In the six years that I've been blogging about bones I must have received thousands of emails,  some of which are from people who have enjoyed my book , some asking me how to clean bones but the most common question I get is "can you me identify this bone ?"

Most of the stuff is pretty easy, like common deer or sheep skulls, but others are more difficult, where I have to check with other experts. Twitter is brilliant for this, and that's where I usually ask, and even if people don't know, they'll know someone who does. Here are some of the most interesting ones I have had recently.

Braco 200: The murder at Ardoch House


This is one of the special posts I'm doing this year to celebrate my village, which is 200 years old this year. I've written posts before on Ardoch House, an old country house near the village, in which I found there had been a murder in the house in 1851. This week I went to Edinburgh to find out exactly what happened 160 years ago.

At 7.30pm on the evening of Friday 28th February 1851, three servants sat down to supper in the kitchen at Ardoch House. By the following Sunday, one would be dead, one would be under arrest for murder in Dunblane Gaol having confessed to the fatal blow, and the murder weapon, a blood-covered poker, would have been taken by police in evidence.

But two and a half months later, the accused would walk free from court after an entire jury refused to find her guilty. So what happened in Ardoch House that night ? As far as I know this story has never been published anywhere since it happened, so I had to track down the documents from 160 years ago to find out what happened.

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