Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Fun in the Sun – flowers

Recently I’ve been in a bit of a slump with regards to my writing. However, last weekend we visited a local sunflower maze and I thought it would be a nice post to write about. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to writing it.

The knowledge of this sunflower maze came to me rather late. I saw pictures my cousin had taken and I quickly Googled where it was. It was at a farm in Tarbock, Prescot, some 25 minutes drive from us. The only problem was, that I was so late to the party that it was difficult in getting a time and date for a booking, but I persevered and managed to get an early morning slot on the very last day of opening.

In April some 35,000 sunflower seeds in the initials of the NHS were planted by a farmer, who also planted a sunflower maze. Sunflowers are a symbol of happiness and since Covid-19, happiness has been in short supply.

The day we visited was a gloomy overcast morning, luckily we had missed the rain. David and I, along with my mum and David’s parents all spent a joyful 45 minutes walking along the maze of mostly gone to seed sunflowers, but with the occasional late bloomer standing proud and golden. Along the path were bee related questions. If you answered wrongly you took a dead-end turn. All eyes were on me! I know a bit about bee ID but not that they have two pairs of wings and have five eyes. Well in reality two eyes the other three are ‘simple’ eyes that detect light. However we managed to navigate the maze as a team and much laughter was had. It was a nice way to pass an hour.

Have you been to a sunflower maze? Or any kind of maze?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: This week (22nd to 28th June) is National Insect Week, a biannual initiative organised by the Royal Entomological Society, encouraging people of all ages to learn more about insects. Insects are a diverse and ecologically important group of animals. There are over 24,000 species of insect in the UK.

So for today’s 30 Days Wild, below is a gallery showing the variety of the insect world.

What is your favourite insect?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Fifteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_15Day 15: For today’s Close up Monday, I’m delving deeper into a favourite flower of bees, bellflowers. Bellflowers or campanula (fairy bells) have around 400+ species, native to northern temperate regions. They are either annual, biennial or perennial plants, and flower from spring to late summer. Bellflowers vary in size from dwarf variations to ones reaching 6ft!

One of the most famous bellflowers is of course the bluebell. The many pictures in today’s blog are of siberian bellfowers. These semi evergreen perennials, native to former Yugoslavia have miraculously appeared in cities over the past couple of years. I love how they trail along garden walls with their pale purple hue. The star shaped flowers are always buzzing with pollinators.

What is your favourite bellflower?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Two.

TWT-30-Days-Wild_countdown_02 Day 2: Easing myself into 2020’s 30 Days Wild. Today is all about my favourite insect, bees; solitary, bumble and honey. I used to love participating in Friends of the Earth Great British Bee Count, but it hasn’t taken place for the past two years. With the weather continuing to be warm and sunny, I spent an hour sitting in the yarden enjoying the company of buff and red tailed bumblebees, blue and red mason bees, common carder bees and tree bumblebees.

Some facts on my visitors:

1. Tree bumblebees are new arrivals to the UK, arriving in the 2000’s.
2. Buff-tailed bumblebees are nectar robbers, if their proboscis is too short they bite a hole at the base of the flower to get the nectar.
3. Common Carder bees can have a colony of up to 200 bees.
4. Mason bees are solitary bees and a more efficient pollinator than bumble and honey bees.
5. Red-tailed bumblebees prefer to nest underground, sometimes in vole burrows. 

The only bee I haven’t see this year is a honey bee, but there is time for that.

Have you spotted any bees? Do you have a favourite?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #69

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?

A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?

convenienceBook I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.

Brocholes:
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.

Family meal:
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.

Moth:
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.

buff tailed bumblebee

Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.

There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!

The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.

Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!

Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.

Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today’s blog is all about bees, honeybees. David and I drove to The Bee Centre in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, for a two hour pre-booked bee experience. After donning our bee suits and taking the obligatory photos, we (of a group of nine) were escorted to the outdoor hives. Kath opened up a hive and explained what was happening in the frames.

Kath used smoke to make the bees (native black bees) more docile, while she inspected the hive. The bees gorge on honey, thinking there’s a fire so that they can take stores with them when they set up a new colony. We witnessed a drone (male) being born and lots of male/female brood cells and also the odd queen cell. It was fascinating to learn so much about life in a hive! Everyone has their own role and worker bees can fly up to three miles for food. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day and is solely dependent on being cared for by the other bees. A worker bee can live up to six weeks whereas a queen can live to five years.

After meeting the bees we returned to the centre for honey tasting. The centre has an ethical and sustainable view on beekeeping and only extract honey when there is a genuine surplus. Due to this year’s wet June the bees are having a hard time and need our help! You can do this by planting more bee friendly plants, a helpful list can be found here.

Our experience really whetted our appetite for beekeeping and whether a hive would be something our yarden could accommodate?

Have you ever kept bees? Like the idea?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_20Day 20: For today’s Throw Back Thursday I will be returning to the theme of planting for wildlife as I did in 2015. 2016 saw me celebrate the summer solstice. In 2017 I showcased bees and in 2018 I walked alpacas.

Planting for wildlife can be so rewarding. My little yarden is five years old and has some wonderful plants for birds and insects.

Such as ivy, polemonium, crocus, salvia, hellebore, red campion, passion flower and delilah.

What flowers do you grow for pollinators and birds?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x