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 Fifteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_15Day 15: Today’s 30 Days Wild post comes from a quick visit to Port Sunlight River Park, where I went in search of bee orchids.

This small orchid is a wonderful example of a mimic. The flower mimics a female bee (it even smells like one), enticing a male bee to come in to mate; in reality to pollinate the flower. UK bee orchids however are self pollinating but nonetheless they are beautiful. I was overjoyed to finally see and photograph them!

During our short time at Port Sunlight River Park, I watched skylarks flutter overhead. I spied a six spot burnet moth resting on red clover. Willow Warblers sang loudly and wildflowers of viper bugloss, daisies and geraniums buzzed with numerous bumblebees. Even on a grey day there was so much wildlife.

Have you seen a bee orchid? Visited Port Sunlight River Park?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: Today’s focus is our lovely planet, Earth. Currently being exhibited in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral is Gaia (the personification of Earth), a seven metre replica by Luke Jerram. Featuring detailed NASA imagery and soundtrack by BAFTA winning Dan Jones. The installation aims to create awe and a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

10 facts on the Earth:

  1. The Earth is the third planet from the sun
  2. Is 4.5 billion years old
  3. 70% of the surface is water
  4. An Earth day is actually 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds
  5. A year is 365.2564 days, creating the need for leap years
  6. The atmosphere is roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen
  7. Seasons are created by the Earth’s tilt at 23.4°
  8. The magnetic field created by the Earth’s core protects us from harmful solar rays
  9. 20% of the Earth’s O2 is produced by the Amazon Rainforest
  10. Lightening strikes the Earth up to 100 times per second

What amazing facts of our beautiful planet do you know?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

toad

Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

common blue

Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Fourteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_14Day 14: This Thursday is, Throw Back Thursday. 

In 2015 I sat in the yarden and listened to visiting goldfinch fledglings. 2016 saw me poorly sketch the visiting dunnock, and in 2017 I celebrated World Oceans Day by signing up to the Marine Conservation Plastic Challenge. For 2018 I decided to once again sign up for the Plastic Challenge. To make the step to eliminate single use plastics in my everyday life.

The challenge runs from 1st – 31st July 2018.

To aid this revolution I aim to purchase bamboo toothbrushes, turn to coconut scouring pads and reuse plastic bags.

Could you also take the challenge?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

great crested grebe

Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

large skipper

Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

strawberries

I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

starlings

On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

bird

I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

apples 1

On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

field vole

Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

RSPB – Leighton Moss

LOW RES Leighton Moss map

Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.

Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.

We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.

Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!

We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!

Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.

We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.

Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.

Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.

The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!

field vole

Field Vole

Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.

Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?

Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve

Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.

Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.

‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.

‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.

On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.

Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.

The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.

We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.

Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 4

o0OhgWNNIt’s the last full week of the Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild. How fast has June flown?! Though it’s been a challenge this year. However, I think I’ve managed to make my week four, wild with diverse activities.

If, like me you are looking for inspiration on where to visit, why not try the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Finder app? With over 2000 nature reserves it’s a helpful aid to search for the wild!

Day Twenty-two: Thursday.

Plantlife have launched The Great British Wildflower Hunt. Their aim is to help more people identify wildflowers. They have downloadable identification sheets with helpful pictures and information on 20 popular wildflowers. You can do two counts. One in the city and the other in the countryside. I opted for the city.  I was able to count a very respectable 13/20, though there is still a lot more I could learn about wildflowers.

Have you joined in this count? What were your highlights?

Day Twenty-three: Friday. 

A week ago I planted some of my accumulation of freebie wildflower seeds. One pack I received with my 30 Days Wild mailing, the other I requested via Nestle Cereals. In just seven days my seeds have sprouted into seedlings. Hopefully they will flower come August!

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Seedlings

Day Twenty-four: Saturday.

Today as we were visiting local pet shops I decided to visit a nature reserve we drive past every-time we travel from Liverpool to St. Helens. Stanley Bank is a nature reserve with an easy 1 mile walk. It’s part of the larger Sankey Valley Country Park. On a rather grey day there wasn’t many insects on the wing. There were however lots of wildflowers gracing the path as we followed a stream, watching a pied wagtail flit from bank to bank. There were lots of bird song from the canopy of trees above our heads. I could identify a blackbird, blue and great tits and wood pigeons. Here’s a few pictures I took of our short woodland walk.

Day Twenty-five: Sunday.

The plan for today was to visit Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby. I had planned the weekend around the weather forecast which said that Saturday was to be drizzly and Sunday just a grey day. However Saturday’s visit to St. Helens remained rainless while waking up on Sunday the rain fell like rods. Feeling a little miffed to say the least, I dawdled breakfast and then left for Lunt at 10am, when thankfully the rain started to ease up.

Only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Lunt Meadows is 77ha of land along the River Alt. It is a relatively new reserve being only opened to the public since 2015. The habitats include wetland and fens. During our visit we only saw a handful of other walkers, mainly with their dogs. David and I took a leisurely three hours to walk around the reserve.

During excavations of Lunt Meadows archaeologists discovered a rare Mesolithic settlement by a group of nomadic stone-age hunter gatherers who lived in the area 8,000 years ago. It made me think of what their life must have been like and what they would think of the area today. If you are interested in what the archaeologists found, you can read more here.

While walking along the River Alt, we enjoyed watching swifts swoop past us. It made me feel dizzy watching them as they skimmed over the water. I later read that they live their life of the wing, even sleeping whilst flying! Butterflies we had disturbed fluttered before us. I was excited to see my first sighting of a large skipper! The air was filled with the chatter of warblers and the hum of bees. At one stage even small toads hopped across our path. We managed to pick one up and its padded feet felt cold and wet. Here’s just a small selection of pictures David and I took of our wonderful visit.

We will definitely visit Lunt Meadows again, hopefully in better weather!

Where is your favourite nature reserve?

Day Twenty-six: Monday. 

Inspired by a photo featured on Thomas Heaton’s photography YouTube by Cora Iwanowsky, David set out in search of a garden snail to photograph. He searched our yarden, under overhanging plants and behind pots. After selecting the right model, he gathered stones from our fireplace and placed them in our fountain. He then positioned the model at the pinnacle of the display. He quickly took some photographs before putting the snail back in the yarden, none the wiser of what had just occurred. Here’s David’s attempt.

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Snail on Stone by David Evans

David’s antics got me thinking about garden snails and that I knew nothing about them. So here’s a few facts about these abundant garden friend or foe.

  • Are classed as a terrestrial gastropod mollusk.
  • Are native to Europe.
  • Have a flat “muscular foot” that helps them move, aided by the release of mucus to reduce friction (hence snail trails).
  • Feasts on plant matter and debris.
  • Has nocturnal habits and rests during the day.
  • During hot periods they can retract into their shell and seal it shut, this induces a hibernation state and they can remain like this for several months.
  • Most hibernate during the winter.
  • Their fastest speed is only 1.3 centimeters per second.
  • They are hermaphrodite (both male and female) but need another snail for sperm transfer.
  • Can lay up to 100 eggs and up to six batches a year.
  • Are a food in France and Spain.

Who would have thought the common garden snail could be so fascinating! Their induced hibernation amazed me!

Day Twenty-seven: Tuesday. 

wild-challenge-blue-badge-experience

The RSPB’s Wild Challenge, is an initiative to get children and families that little bit more wild. I think it is a great resource once 30 Days Wild has ended. There are three levels of challenges, bronze, silver and gold, with a list of activities to achieve before each level is reached and a certificate awarded. Having a wild sleep-out, learning about moths and going on a bug safari are some of the activities you can participate in.

Have you signed up for this challenge? What are your thoughts on the initiative?

Day Twenty-eight: Wednesday. 

As we were visiting family this evening and didn’t have much time available for anything too wild! David and I decided to take Riley to Newsham Park. Riley having not been to this park before, was excited at all the new smells. He even chased and barked at the congregating seagulls. Indeed it was weather for seagulls as it had been raining all day. The field we let Riley run free was sodden with water and soon Riley and our feet were soaked too! The park boasts two lakes, a band stand and Newsham House which Queen Victoria visited during her reign. However, all we managed to visit on this dreary evening was the gardens.

Summary:

Even though the weather was unsettled this week, we did manage to see lots of wildlife. Highlights for me was visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and seeing that my wildflower seeds have sprouted.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015:  Passion Flowers and a trip to Norwich

2016: Moth sighting and no tech day

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #30

I wasn’t going to participate in this weeks, Sunday Sevens, devised by NatalieHaving been a full week at work, I thought there wasn’t much time for anything else. However I have a few updates which may interest you. So here’s my week!

Wild Swimming: Sunday saw David and I head for the Lake District to walk among the Rannerdale bluebells and to have my first swim of the new season in Crummock Water! I hope there will be many more swim/walks to come.

I.Ding a tree: This week, on my walk in-between bus stops to work, my olfactory receptors have been under assault by a rich, sweet scent. A Path I take is flanked with hedges that have white blossom. I didn’t know what species of plant it was, so I went in search of answers. I Used the Woodland Trust’s British Trees IDand discovered it was a Hawthorn Tree. Most commonly found in hedgerows and also known as the May tree as it blossoms predominantly in May. If you would like to know more about the Hawthorn follow this link for videos and useful information.

#walk1000miles: With leaving for work a little earlier so I can walk longer between bus stops and getting back into a routine on the treadmill means my mileage for the week has been 28.8 miles, which is my best yet! Bringing my overall total to 453 miles!

Collecting: While counting the petty cash at work, my boss, Sue and I have been scouring the 50p’s in the hope of finding more Beatrix Potter coins. During the week, we struck lucky and found a second coin!

Book I am reading: I managed to get through The Lonely, it seemed a story about nothing as everything was alluded to. I have now picked up The Kite Runner. I bought the Kindle version last year and forgot all about it, until this week when I was thinking about what book to read next. I am enjoying it so far, the narrative is well written.

Nestle bee seeds

Nestle Plan Bee: Recently I thought I would try Nestle’s Shredded Wheat – Honey and Nut cereal. I was excited to read on their packaging that they have an initiative of offering free wildflower seeds with any purchase.

  • Did you know, that 97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930’s.
  • 70% of UK crops depend on bees to survive.
  • Since 1990 the UK alone has lost 20 species of bees and 35 are considered under threat.

With the help of initiatives like Nestle’s, we can all do our little bit for bees and other pollinators. All you need to do is go to www.nestle-cereals.com/uk/en/plan-bee, buy one of the three cereals with the offer, and enter your details along with the cereal box’s bar-code. My seeds took a week to arrive and I was over the moon! I just have to find some space in my yarden to plant them now! 🙂

30 days wild

30 Days Wild: If free seeds from cereal companies wasn’t enough, I received my Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild pack on Friday. Among the goodies was a huge wall poster, stickers and a small packet of free wildflower seeds! I also ordered a pack for businesses as I liked the face masks featuring a fox and bunting which will grace the yarden. I am excited for this years’ 30 Days Wild. I cannot wait to see what wonders I will discover! June is only a few weeks away! Have you signed up?

Cooking: I had a culinary melt down this Saturday. I just didn’t know what to cook! There are so many recipes online, but I didn’t want to cook any of them! I was just in a funny mood! So while I was crying, David stepped in and rustled up a reasonably quick vegetable masala. The microwaved potatoes coated in turmeric and garlic were a revelation!

The Yarden: To finish off this post, (I’ve seemed to have waffled on longer than expected). I will share some photos of the yarden. The aquilegia has bloomed yet again and has many heads for the visiting pollinators. On Friday David and I were cleaning up from feeding Hoppy (the pigeon) and her friends, when the friendly cat that has been visiting the yarden walked along the wall and jumped down to say hello. She is a very friendly cat, a bit too friendly! We watched, as she trampled my cat mint, rolling around in ecstasy. We think she has a human family as we only see her around 7pm of a week day. I’d hate for her to be a stray and homeless.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Until the next Sunday Sevens!

Christine x