Signs of Spring in the Yarden

With the weather warming up this week (and the days finally getting longer), I took the opportunity to have a wander around the yarden to see how the plants had fared over the cold winter. Sadly my fuschia isn’t looking it’s best, but hopefully it will pull through, as it’s a great autumn flower.

Throughout winter the herb rosemary has flowered it’s delicate blue flowers and I noticed its colour was joined by flashes of purple and yellow from the crocus and the green leaves of perfumed hyacinths, which I thought had been overshadowed by an azalea. I even spotted the leafy promise of bluebells that will hopefully flower in April/May. I’ve two hellebores, one I thought was being swamped by a dwarf rhododendron and cotoneaster, but I noticed it’s purple and white flowers bending in the breeze. There are also an abundance of buds on the star magnolia and camellia.

The pond also seems to have braved the frosts and the oxygenating plant within, is still vibrant. Hopefully we will have lots of aquatic life enjoying our tiny pond this year.

Calls from the visiting birds has also changed in recent weeks. The goldfinches have moved on from the winter chatter to their now playful chirp and waggle of their tails in the hope of attracting a mate.

What signs of spring have you noticed recently?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Bird Count for RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021!

This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.

I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.

Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2021

During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.

How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?

Thanks for popping by,

Christine xx

My January

Taking inspiration from Sharon’s blog post Januarying, I thought I would write my own version. After all the lights and nervous excitement of December and Christmas, January can be a depressing month. The nights are long and dark, the pavements treacherous, coated with ice and the parks are waterlogged. Though spring is around the corner it seems far away in a bleak January. Then add lock-down three and there seems very little to be cheerful about.

This January, the weather in Liverpool has been a mix of frosty mornings, with a sprinkling of ice and snow and then a deluge of rain and mud. I’ve tried to make the most of my limited time out and about and walks with Riley are a treat most days. However his walks have been curtailed somewhat with his diagnosis of arthritis and having to take medication for the rest of his life.

In December I returned to work for only two days of the week at the office. Once lock-down three was announced my hours were cut to one day a week. During the days I am not in work I am busy binging on The Crown. They have been mostly good episodes with the odd boring one.

Looking back at the films we have watched this January, there seems to be an evident theme; that of superheroes.

  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Avengers: End Game
  • Superman: Homecoming

The internet during the lock-downs has been a lifeline for most people, keeping families connected. For my family is hasn’t been any different. Via a downloadable programme on the computer, we have been able to join other family members remotely in game nights and quizzes. It has been most entertaining!

Watching the visiting garden birds this winter has been very therapeutic. The last weekend of January is traditionally reserved for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. For the past eight years I have looked forward to spending an hour watching the birds visit my yarden. I find it a most peaceful and enjoyable experience. 2021 won’t be any different and I am hoping the usual suspects will visit, like Steven the ‘sea’ gull and the charms of goldfinches. I even spotted the annual visitation of the chiffchaff on Saturday, I wonder if he will make an appearance in this years count?

How have you spent January? Kept warm in doors or ventured out in the snow?

Take care,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2020

However restrictive life in 2020 has been, wildlife and nature has been very restorative, definitely a pick me up in times of stress. During the first lock-down, the air was less crowded with the sounds of road and air traffic which made it all that more fresher than it had in years. Though my wildlife moments have been less in numbers this year, it has been nice to just notice and celebrate the small things, like an ashy mining bee resting on a lilac in the yarden and spotting mermaid’s purses washed up on Formby Beach.

Summer is a busy time for wildlife rehabilitation. Our only success this year has been Ava the pigeon who we crop fed while tackling her canker infection. We also rescued a very young lesser black-backed gull chick who had fallen from its steep roof nest and could not be put back. Luckily, thanks to the kind rehabbers of a local volunteer group, we found a home for Benjamin.

During June a male herring gull befriended us and came by daily for cat food or kitchen scraps. Then in August to our surprise he brought along with him his three crying fledglings! For about a month the three youngsters came for food along with Steven the adult. It was cute watching the three fledglings fight over food and then become independent. However, once autumn arrived Steven chased them away to find their own territories. It was a nice glimpse into the lives of herring gulls and I learned the different vocalisations they communicate with.

Spotting wildlife that you haven’t seen before can give you such a rush! I felt this excitement when I spied the looping flight of a bat around our walled yarden. Planting for wildlife really does work!

There have been other wildlife highlights too, that I’ve not been able to photograph; like a kestrel hunting in the local park and a brief glimpse of a holy blue butterfly.

What wildlife moments of 2020 have you seen?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

The Oak Tree Experiment – Update

acorns

Acorns

Two years ago I wrote about collecting acorns on my walk to work and then returning home and planting them in the hope they would grow into oak trees. You can read that post here.

Since writing that first post, I had given up hope and forgotten about the little acorns I had planted. Notice my surprise whilst releasing the second batch of painted lady butterflies from Insect Lore, I glanced into a pot and noticed what looked to me like oak leaves. I asked David for confirmation and he agreed.

oak tree

Baby Oak Tree

I was stunned and overjoyed. We have our very own little oak tree! It may have taken two years but we have success!

Have you successfully grew a tree from its seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Nineteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_19Day 19: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll try and ID a feather. While walking Riley to and from our local park I have been looking for fallen feathers. Many have been pigeon feathers but the other day I spied a black and white feather. At first I thought it was a magpie feather but I wasn’t certain. After doing a quick search on Google, my first instinct was right. It is a magpie feather!

On looking at the Feather Atlas website, part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there is a detailed entry on magpie feathers. On this site it states that the feather I found was a primary wing feather of the magpie. Primary meaning closest to the wing tip and most birds have about 10 of these on each wing. Without primary feathers a bird can’t fly.

The magpie (pica pica) is a member of the corvid (crow) family, and is an omnivore and a scavenger. They will only predate on songbird nests in the breeding season and during winter months they largely eat berries and grains. Magpies live up to five years and are seen throughout the year. They are sociable birds and during winter create roosts of up to 200 individuals. Being none migratory they don’t stray far from where they fledged. Folklore surrounds the magpie from being bearers of good luck to being in league with the devil the popular rhyme ‘one for sorrow’ is associated with this bird.

One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told, Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird, You must not miss.

Have you found any interesting bird feathers?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Eighteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: Today’s 30 Days Wild is Throw Back Thursday!

In 2015 I made fat balls for the visiting wild birds. I tried to ID a feather in 2016. We visited Claremont Farm, Wirral and picked our own strawberries in 2017. I got up close with a herdwick sheep in 2018 and in 2019 I focused on facts about the moon.

For 2020’s 30 Days Wild I’ll return to making fat balls for the birds. This year I didn’t melt the fat I used it at room temperature and mixed it with my hands with a selection of seeds and grains. It was a messy job but I managed to shape the balls much easier than if I was pouring a hot mixture into molds. For the cups I pierced two holes in the bottom and fed a length of string through, looping at the top to create a handle in which to hang. I then filled with the messy fat and seed mixture and popped them in the yarden. I just need to see a sparrow or starling on them now to see how successful they have been this year!

Have you made fat balls for the birds? How did you make yours?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Seventeen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17: For today’s RAW or Random Act of Wildness, The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app has chosen: inhale a wild scent – take a few seconds to inhale a wildflower, plant or leaves.  

So, I spent a leisurely couple of minutes pottering about the yarden.

inhale a wild scentI have a few herbs growing in the yarden so I made a bee line for them. Crushing some leaves between my finger and thumb I sampled the scents of fennel, lavender, rosemary and mint. The feathery leaves of the fennel released a very potent scent. Whereas the lavender was much easier on the nose and Artie loved the mint!

What’s your favourite wild scent? Mine has to be the headyness of hawthorne flowers.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Six.

download (2)Day 6: Today’s 30 Days Wild is to ID a plant. I have two plants that have appeared by themselves in my yarden. One I have ID’d the other not. I’ll post both and if you can help shed light on the other then please do let me know. I’ve been itching to know!

The first plant has been growing in my yarden for the past couple of years and only in 2020 have I ID’d it as a wood-sorrel (Oxalis).

Wood-sorrell is a woodland plant found all over the UK and is an indicator of ancient woodlands. However the RHS states that wood-sorrell can be a serious weed in the garden! The wood-sorrell has distinctive heart shaped, trefoil leaves. Of a night the leaves fold up, whilst during the day they open out. The flowers self-pollinate by the process of Cleistogamy (pollination and fertilisation occurs before the flower has opened). Wood-sorrell is an edible plant, though sour tasting and in the past has been used to treat scurvy due to being high in vitamin C.

The second picture is of my mystery plant. It has no flowers and is almost 5 foot (1.5m) in height (I’ve not pruned it). I found it growing among my camellia last year, which I had to dig out and separate. This year I’ve watched as it has grew and grew and grew. It’s only in a small pot too. Do you have any idea what it can be? PlantSnap or Pl@ntNet apps have come up blank.

Do let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x