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. 

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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

2017 – A Year of Possibilities!

So, here we are, into the third week of 2017 and I have already been filling up the diary like mad! There are birthdays and anniversaries and Bank Holidays, and then there are the days David and I have planned away.

It has been well over a year since we last took in a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. This year we have the opportunity to see The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in their recital of Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

GABRIEL-Poster280-min.jpgWe shall also be visiting The Liverpool Playhouse to see Paul McGann in Gabriel, a powerful drama during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey.

I have an Afternoon Tea booked at Jam (courtesy of my friend Kelly) as a Valentines treat for David and I in February!

Thank you to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling for suggesting the Circle of Pine Trees‘s initiative, The Year in Books. I thought I would participate this year even though I may not get to read many books. I aim to read 40, but we shall see! Reading seems to come in fits and starts for me.

At present the first book I have read in 2017 is, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers. I am currently half way through David Jones’s In Parenthesis.

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I may be crazy but I have signed up to the challenge to #walk1000miles, sponsored by Country Walking and Live for the Outdoors. I think 1000 miles is quite doable in a year. I am taking into account, the walking to and from work, the exercises I do at home and the numerous walks in the countryside. I hope all will aid the final total in December. For the past two weeks I have totaled 50 miles. Not bad for a city girl in administration!

Once again I look forward to participating in The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild! I wonder what wild things I will get up to this year?!

In keeping with the theme, Wild in Art have more animal trails to follow this summer, among them there is a sleuth of Sun Bears in Birmingham!

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War Horse

And finally, I booked tickets to see War Horse at the Liverpool Empire two years ago! This November we will finally get to see this emotional show! I hope it’s as good as the reviews!

So there you have it, a selection of all the things I am participating in and eagerly looking forward to this year. There will undoubtedly be many, many more!

Have you made any plans for 2017?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Blogs I’ve Enjoyed in 2016.

Since it’s December and the end of the year is fast approaching, I thought I would share with you all the blogs I have been enjoying over the past 12 months!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oSharon’s wonderful Sunshine and Celandines, has become a long standing blog which I follow. She writes about food, days out/holidays and her life with gorgeous Labrador Hugo. I have enjoyed our blogging friendship and the sharing of writing topics such as joining Wild October!

Keeping with the theme of nature. Another three blogs which I look forward to reading are:

  1. Ramblings of a Roachling, where Louise posts beautiful pictures of her walks and life in the Peak District. She also blogs at 30 Days Wild!were 30 days has become a life long love affair with nature.
  2. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed writes a fantastic blog with detailed pictures and information on the critters that live in her not so manicured garden!
  3. During June’s 30 Days Wild I came across Emma’s Discovery Hub and Twitter page. Both are full of informative facts on wildlife.
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Grasmere

A source of inspiration for my recently discovered ‘wild’ swims, is SwimmingTheLakeswhere the author is challenging herself to swim every lake and tarn in the Lake District!

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Mexican Quinoa

My favourite ‘go to’ website for recipes is Chungah at Damn Delicious. Her One Pan Mexican Quinoa makes a wonderful nutritious meal and the ingredients can be swapped and changed depending what’s in the store cupboard.

When the mood grabs me, I dabble in a little creative writing. Sue’s weekly #writephoto, where she posts a visual prompt, is and can be stimulating, as you can read here.

Classical music is another big passion in my life. I don’t know how I came about Charlotte Hoather’s blog but I enjoy reading updates on her performances and her studies.

If the London theatre scene is more your thing, then Rukaya vlogs about the many stage shows happening in London!

So there you have it, a small snapshot of some of the blogs I follow. If you have any blog suggestions then do post them in the comments below. I look forward to discovering many more fantastic blogs!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Love for the Red Panda.

‘Panda’ from the Nepalese, nigalya ponya meaning bamboo footed.

23666_10150140661800271_1831177_nThe red panda was the first ‘panda’ to be know to the West as early as the 1800’s! In 1825 Frenchman Frederic Cuvier published an account describing the red panda and named the species, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, or shining cat.

By the 1840’s English naturalist Brain Houghton Hodgson had written a detailed study on the red panda or ‘Wah’. Focusing on habitat and diet.

It was not until 1869 that the giant panda was identified. However to distinguish the species, the first panda was renamed the lesser panda.

39755_425944215911_56676235911_4773054_7286609_nIt’s been eight years since I saw my first red panda, having been oblivious to their existence until then. For me it was love-at-first-sight! They seem to be a number of animals all rolled into one, which has caused countless debates as to what family or classification of animal the red panda truly is.

Are they bear-cats? They are cat sized (always a plus in my book) and rather bear-like, though they are not part of the ursidae family.

They bark like a dog: There is little published evidence but the red panda is highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper.

Their vocalisations sound similar to birds:

A living fossil: Recent DNA studies have concluded that the red panda is in its own family of the Ailuridae, being part of the super-family the Musteloidea, (weasels, skunks and raccoons).

The only similarity with giant pandas is their diet (bamboo) and the false thumb, an elongated wrist bone that acts like a sixth digit. It helps with holding food and climbing, especially head first!

Red pandas are found largely in temperate, deciduous forests, from Nepal to China and Myanmar. There are two subspecies, Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. Their red fur, one of the densest of all mammals (for insulation), is perfect camouflage during autumn.

Due to living in Himalayan regions, red pandas prefer cooler days. Winter is the best time to find them active.

Although they have a penchant for bamboo, eating up to 45% of their body weight a day, red pandas are classed as carnivores. They eat fruit, insects, eggs and small birds.

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Feeding Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park

Red pandas have a slow metabolism due to being unable to digest bamboo properly, hence being rather sedentary. I’ve noticed many zoo guests just walk past red panda enclosures because they have been asleep up a tree. In most cases you need to visit several times in the hope of catching one awake. Being a crepuscular animal doesn’t help either as they are more active at dawn and dusk.

They are solitary animals, only coming together for mating. The female is only receptive one day a year. The breeding season is usually January to April with birth around June/July. The litter usually consists of one to four cubs, but usually two.

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Photo by David Evans

In 2010 I was honoured to witness Chester Zoo’s female red panda, Lushui move her cub, Lily from nest to nest. They do this to avoid predators. Cubs come out of the nest from around three months, and stay with their mothers for about a year before finding their own territory. Their lifespan in captivity can reach 15 years.

However beautiful red pandas are, they are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to them are deforestation, hunting, poaching and illegal trade. In China there is a traditional custom dating back to around the 13th century where red panda pelts are given to newlyweds as a sign of ‘good luck’. Red pandas are also predated upon by snow leopards and martens.

Conservation: Exact numbers of red pandas in Asia are relatively unknown, estimates say up to 10,000 adults. There is a worldwide effort to protect the red panda and its habitat. In many of the countries where the red panda is found, their habitat has been designated areas of protection, though these areas are hard to police. The Red Panda Network liaise with ‘forest guardians’ to educate and highlight the need to conserve red panda habitat. They are also working directly with the creators of the Panchthar-Ilam-Singhalila (PIS corridor), which will be the first Red Panda Protected Forest.

In captivity there are two long term initiatives for breeding, the Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) and the European Endangered Species Programme (EES) which offers a ‘stud book’ of potential mates.

Popular culture: There have been a number of depictions of red pandas on many platforms over the years. Another name for the red panda is the Fire Fox. Mozilla use this name for their web browser, though their logo is ambiguous.

Cinema: In 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda with Shifu, being a lose representation of a red panda! A year earlier an animated Barbie film, the Island Princess had a red panda as a friendly aide.

In 2013 Pocket Gems released a game called Animal Adventure with a red panda as one of the main characters.

14115498_10153971399038869_7066728288936528819_oThe future…is still uncertain.

At the time of writing, the WWF have announced that the giant panda’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable. Hopefully the red panda being under the ‘umbrella’ of conservational efforts for the giant panda, will start to feel the effects of these protection methods soon?

 

And finally: Sadly, earlier this year, the Red Panda Network announced that poaching of the red panda had increased in 2016! Their annual International Red Panda Day (17th September 2016) will focus on anti-poaching initiatives.

The road ahead may still be long but there is hope for the future of the red panda. Conservation efforts are starting to produce results for not only the giant panda but tigers also, why not for the red panda? They have so much going for them. To me they are sweet, endearing animals, they are all superstars, none other than Ming Ming!

Thanks for reading.

Christine x


Further reading:

Angela Glatston: Red Panda: Biology and Conservation of the First Panda.

Whence the Red Panda? Flynn JJ, Nedbal MA, Dragoo JW, Honeycutt RL.

http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/about-the-red-panda/

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/red-panda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda

If you have been inspired by what you have read, then why not continue the message? You can join in with this years International Red Panda Day at your local animal park/zoo.