The Oak Tree Experiment.

On my walk to work I pass a row of oak trees. At this time of year, I noticed they had dropped lots of acorns on the ground which crunched underfoot. This got me thinking. Perhaps I could rescue a couple and experiment to see if I could grow one of them? So, I gathered a few on my recent walk and took three decent looking acorns home.

After doing some research I noted that acorns should be brown when planting. Mine were green, so I don’t know whether they will grow or not. Either way, I found a spare pot in which to plant the acorns. I made three small holes and planted the acorns before covering over with soil. I sprinkled some water and have left the pot in a sunny area. I shall update you on the progress of these little acorns and see if any of them will grow.

Have you been successful in growing a tree from seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #54

Recently, I’ve been itching to write a blog post but I’ve not had any new material. So the next best thing is to compile a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins and update you on that I’ve been up to this past week!

#walk1000miles:

I’m still counting my miles. This week I managed to walk 42 miles, bringing my annual total (to date) to 1,265 miles. I also attached my 2018 medal to the framed certificate. You can get your medal from the #walk1000miles shop.

Party Time:

David and I attended a party to celebrate the elopement of my cousin and his wife. They married earlier in the year in Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator officiating. The party at Leaf had a Las Vegas theme. There was also a photo booth for the guests to play around with.

Collecting:

Recently I obtained another Beatrix Potter 50 pence. This time it was Benjamin Bunny who I found in my change!

Book I Am Reading:

I am currently reading, and enjoying Swim Wild, a book written by the Wild Swimming Brothers, Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson.

Terracotta Warriors:

I treated mum to a visit to Liverpool’s World Museum to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibition. I didn’t take that many pictures this time as I had already visited the display in March with David. You can read about that visit here. Mum seemed to enjoy the exhibit and I managed to see the Golden Horse of Maoling, which wasn’t featured in the display when I visited in March.

Another Sparrowhawk Visit:

sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk

This Friday, just after evening dinner, I looked out towards the yarden and spied a female sparrowhawk. It was the same female who visited and snacked on a starling not two weeks earlier! You can read more about sparrowhawks here. She was sitting on the roof opposite, watching as all the goldfinches flittered past, wanting their evening meal. In turn, David and I watched her for about an hour. She sat patently, awaiting an easy target. Unfortunately, (for her prey) she did get a kill. This time it was a baby goldfinch. It’s a sad spectacle but also fascinating to witness. This female now knows lots of birds visit the yarden. I wonder if she will visit again in future?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawks have featured a few times on my blog. The first was a fleeting visit where I didn’t even have time to pick up my camera. The second visit, last year, was of a male sparrowhawk surveying the area.

The most recent visitation by this enigmatic bird arrived on a dreary August bank holiday Monday. David was just about to do the dishes when he exclaimed, ‘there’s a sparrowhawk on the wall!’

sparrowhawk female

Female Sparrowhawk

For the next half hour or so we both watched on amazed as a female sparrowhawk sat on the wall and devoured her prey, a poor little starling. We had never seen a sparrowhawk with its prey before. It was a bit gruesome and sad for the starling but you have to think with your head and not with your heart on these matters. If there were no small birds for the sparrowhawk to prey upon, then there would be no sparrowhawks either.

Due to their prey being primarily songbirds (they do eat small mammals too), sparrowhawks often come into conflict with birdwatchers. However there is no correlation between a dip in songbirds and predation by sparrowhawks. In the past there have been two studies on the influence of predation and songbird numbers. Both studies noted that there was in fact more of an increase in songbird numbers than an actual negative correlation when predated by sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawks are noted to prey on the old and infirm, creating a survival of the fittest gene pool for songbirds. Sparrowhawks feed mainly on sparrows, tits, finches and starlings, however female sparrowhawks can hunt birds as large as a pigeon. Recent research led me to discover that the sparrowhawk sometimes does not quickly dispatch of it’s prey. Anything bigger than a sparrow will face a lingering death while being eaten, if a vital organ/artery is not punctured. It made for a sobering read.

The sparrowhawk has in the past been subjected to persecution by trophy hunters and in the 1950’s their numbers crashed due to usage of pesticides such as DDT in farming. It was only after DDT was banned and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was passed protecting sparrowhawks, that their numbers increased.

The sparrowhawk is one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey. It is the perfect ambush predator, easily maneuvering in enclosed spaces such as woodland and gardens. However only 1 in 10 hunts result in a meal for the sparrowhawk. Females can be up to 25% larger than males. Sparrowhawks are relatively short lived, their maximum age is around 3 years, but some can live to around seven. They are found all over the UK apart from the Highlands of Scotland. Their eyes change colour with age, starting green and growing more yellow with maturity.

Sparrowhawks are seen as a top predator and their presence indicates that the bird population in an area is healthy. Though it was unpleasant to witness the sparrowhawk with its prey, I was amazed at seeing her in the yarden. Nature after all isn’t sunshine and flowers. I must be doing something right with the feeding of the little birds in order to bring the larger birds to the area.

Have you come close to a sparrowhawk? Seen one with it’s kill? What are your thoughts on UK raptors?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.


Further reading:

Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:

Springwatch.

Discover Wildlife.

British Bird Lovers.

RSPB.

Living with Birds.

Hello Dippy!

I’d recently read that 200,000 visitors had visited Dippy at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. That was before David and I ventured south to visit him. I don’t know what possessed me to book tickets to see Dippy on Tour for the August bank holiday! But (free) tickets I had anyway! So this Saturday we drove the two hours from Liverpool. Luckily, I had planned an hours leeway. On our journey south we hit miles of roadworks, due to the M6 being turned into a smart motorway, to be completed 2022! We also faced a junction closure. Junction 10 was closed, due to a police incident. Recent research discovered that the incident was of a man on the wrong side of a bridge! With the motorway swelled with bank holiday traffic and football supporters travelling to see Wolverhampton v Manchester City and Aston Villa v Reading matches, the delays were up to 90 minutes!

Thanks to motorway signs early informing us of the closure at junction 10, we managed to divert, (though heavily), away from the jam and navigated, thanks to the M6 toll (at £5.30 a car), back and around towards the centre of Birmingham. Adding 40 minutes to our journey.

Our meeting with Dippy was at 1pm, so you can imagine the pressure we were on to get to the museum on time. We parked up at the Bullring and with twenty minutes to spare, rushed towards Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which can be found on Chamberlain Square. The entrance to Dippy was on the Gas Hall entrance on Edmund Street.

With time to spare we checked in and walked into the Gas Hall to come face to face with Dippy, a 100 year old cast of not one, but five Diplodocus skeletons. David commented that Dippy was smaller than he’d expected, but during the time we spent with Dippy we marveled at his size. This sauropod (lizard feet) stands some 26m long, is 4m wide and stands 4m tall. I particularly liked his little face with razor sharp teeth. He roamed the earth some 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic age.

Dippy was undoubtedly the star of the attraction. The surrounding exhibit paled in comparison and sadly did not measure up to my expectation. It was a poorly comprised set of stuffed birds (with pigeons and magpies) alongside skeletons featuring a velociraptor and dodo to emphasise the link between dinosaurs and the evolution of birds. I think the Walking with Dinosaurs Arena show said it more eloquently.

‘We think of dinosaurs as…fierce creatures from a mythical world… they [were on this planet] for 170 million years. If you look closely, you’ll see, they’re not really gone, not completely…remember the raptors, the way their arms folded at the wrists?… The next time you are outside, have a look at a bird and try and imagine it 50 times bigger, with razor sharp teeth. So do not mourn the dinosaurs, they are with us still, their direct descendants are the birds.’

We spent 40 minutes with Dippy. Walked around him three times, and took lots of pictures. I was satisfied that we drove the two hours to see him. We did not linger in Birmingham, though we did casually look at the replica Typhoon, as Victoria Square held a 100 RAF event. We decided to return home, and make head way against the traffic and roadworks, which took three hours instead of two!

We got home to news that an injured pigeon was sitting outside our back door. As you know we have a long standing relationship with the descendants of dinosaurs. I found it rather fateful that this pigeon (a descendant of the T. rex) chose our step to rest upon. He was but a fledgling, his down still protruded from his adult feathers. However we could not save this particular soul. He had suffered a brain injury from what probably was a collision with a wall. His beak was all bloodied and he was labouring for breath. He passed away in our care not an hour later, wrapped him in a towel and placed in a carrier. At least he died safe and warm.

It was rather a mixed day. I’d say Dippy was worth the visit, even if we had to fight through roadworks, delays and road closures to get to him. Dippy will be touring the UK until 2020. If, like us, you hadn’t seen him when he was resident at the Natural History Museum, London, then you can catch him at these other locations:

If you have seen Dippy before, what were your recollections? Do dinosaurs interest you? If so what are your favourites and why?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-five

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_25Day 25: Today’s Close Up Monday is all about goldfinches.

This colourful finch has been on the increase in the UK, mainly due to changes in feeding habits, enjoying seeds from garden feeders. They ranked #6 in the 2018 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

A very sociable bird, in autumn they flock in charms of 100+.

They predominantly eat seeds (sunflower and niger among others) but also eat aphids. Males are the only ones who can access the seeds from teasel heads. In Victorian times they were captured in their thousands for caged displays. They can have up to three broods a year and nest in trees and bushes.

In the past my yarden has attracted charms of some 20+ birds. Do you have any goldfinches visiting your feeders? They are such pretty birds.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #48

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

An Impromptu Day Off Work:

On Wednesday my boss called in sick, meaning I was not needed. So faced with a day off work, I made a trip to the local Costa for a coffee with mum. 🙂

The Yarden:

This week I have been watching a dunnock couple visit the yarden for grubs and bugs. I spied the male dunnock in the magnolia tree, so I snapped a poor picture of him before he flew away.

Also, I have one lowly snake’s head fritillary that has grown from bulb. I don’t know what happened to the other bulbs I planted!

30 Days Wild:

It’s that time of year again… time to sign up to some wonderful summertime initiatives. You can now sign up for The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Can you do something wild everyday this June?

Bee Count:

Friend’s of the Earth’s popular survey The Great British Bee Count begins on the 17th May. I love spending time with our energetic pollinators. An app for recording sightings will be released in the near future.

1d2a33a64763975083cb72df60f8Book I am Reading:

Having finally finished Ben Okri’s psychedelic The Famished Road. I have now picked up Ted Hughes’ collection of poems and short stories, Wodwo. The choice was inspired by reading Mark Haddon’s short story, Wodwo in his collection, The Pier Falls.

Have you read Ted Hughes? What’s your favourite book of his?

#Walk 1000 Miles:

We spent a good hour this Sunday walking around Sefton Park. The daffodils were out en-masse and were a lovely splash of colour on a rather drab day! My total for this week has been 38 miles walked, bringing my annual total to 540 miles.

If you are partaking in the challenge, how are you getting on?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #42

sefton park palm house run 1

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series, Sunday Sevens. Here’s a quick update on my week.

Walking the Dog:

I thought I’d begin this week’s post with our run with Riley. It seems like every weekend when we arrive at Sefton Park, it hails on us. Today it was also blowing a gale! Riley didn’t seem to mind though as we followed his path around the park. We had a good 2 mile walk and even spotted parakeets flying from the tree tops.

#walk1000miles:

Tying in neatly with dog walking, is the #walk1000miles challenge. This week I’ve been feeling pretty lazy. Though recently recovering from a chill, I’ve had no excuse to not crank up the miles. However I’ve just felt to tired. I think the coldness of February is filtering into my bones, making me want to hibernate. I keep dreaming of warmer days. They will be here soon. I just need to get through the winter months. My weekly total has been 27 miles, bringing my annual mileage to 196 miles.

A Year in Books:

This week I’ve picked up Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. I can’t remember who suggested it to me but at present I am enjoying the story and characters. I think this book will be bitter sweet. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Aviary:

This week sadly our little aviary has become one less as we found Paris, one of our male owl finches, had passed away. He had been fluffed up for quite some time. I had hoped it was just with the cold, but it must have been with some illness. He was adorable and my love affair with owl finches will continue. I think they are so beautiful.

A New Friend:

Keeping with the avian theme. This week I’ve been trying to gain the trust of a visiting robin. He’s pretty brave and sings softly to me as I hold out the bird food to him. Sadly I’ve not been able to have him eating from my hand but he has been hopping close by. He watches me as I lay the food out and when I turn my back he jumps down and helps himself to the fare. I’ve been enjoying his daily visits. Long may they continue.

Shopping:

Saturday was all about shopping. David and I headed into Liverpool city centre before driving through the tunnel to Cheshire Oaks, where I managed to get a white fleece from Mountain Warehouse. David was looking for waterproof jackets, this was one of his favourites.

Yarden:

I thought I’d finish this post with an update on the yarden. I have one lowly snowdrop blooming. It looks rather chewed upon but at least it has made a show. I have a few more iris flowering and thought their petals looked nice with raindrops on them.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Colour Bingo!

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oDrawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.

The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?

 

Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!

I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.

I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.

Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.

Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.

Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.

For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.

borage

Borage

I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its blue instead.

Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

Candlemas

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Candlemas

This Friday was Candlemas – Festival of light. Candlemas has many connotations. For the Christian’s, it represents Mary’s presentation of the young Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. To others it’s Imbolc, a Gaelic festival signalling the beginning of spring, and since 1886 the day has also been known as Groundhog Day. Whatever your beliefs, the season of spring does seem to be close at hand.

For the past few weeks I have been looking for signs of spring. Thanks to the Woodland Trust‘s Nature Detectives, I have spotted my first blooming willow catkins and snowdrops.

However there seems to be many superstitions regarding this time of year between the Shortest Day and the March equinox. Of the Christian saying:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

This belief means that if the day of Candlemas is bright and sunny, then superstition would determine that winter hasn’t ended for the season. This is also the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. If, (groundhog) Phil see’s his shadow (on a sunny day) then the poor rodent, will predict another six weeks of winter.

This year, both Candlemas was a sunny, fair day here in the NW of England and Punxsutawney Phil (in Philadelphia, U.S.A) did indeed see his shadow. Meaning there could be another six weeks of winter.

I on the other hand don’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t ignore nature. There is so much blossoming around me. From Hellebores and irises, to daffodils (in parks) and crocuses in my yarden. Even in the grasp of winter there is life, all around.

This weekend I have also spotted the visiting chiffchaff to my yarden. He/she is always spotted around this time, flitting about the yarden. This year I was amazed at how brash the chiffchaff was, fluttering at the dinning room window and landing in the window boxes. I’ve managed to get some new footage of this seasonal visitor. We tend to only see the chiffchaff around wintertime.

So whether you think spring is around the corner or six weeks away. Spring will be here in no time, and then fast on its heels will be summer. The seasons of the years go so fast. We need to savour the passing of time.

While I was watching the wildlife outside my window. I enjoyed a cup of tea from my recently bought mug. It is of the same design as my Enchanted Forest plates. I love it!

What signs of spring have you seen? Let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

BIG Garden Birdwatch 2018

For the past five years I’ve been participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Over the years I have seen fluctuations in bird numbers and species. This year before the count, it had been the poorest showing of birds in a long time. I don’t know whether this is due to the goldfinches being scared, yes you read that correctly, scared of the seed I bought for them from Haiths? Or whether it’s due to being a mild January, where there’s more abundant foods elsewhere? Either way when I came to sit down with a cup of coffee in hand I wasn’t expecting much of a show. However the birds had other ideas!

This year, the only day I could fit in the hour long bird watch was Sunday, between 12.10pm and 1.20pm. While a enjoyed a relaxing lunch, I gazed out of the window to where the bird feeders were all topped up!

I didn’t have to wait too long for the first visitors, the starlings, who in turn bring a cascade of flocks of goldfinches and pigeons. My tally for the hour was as follows.

  • 8 starlings
  • 10 goldfinches
  • 9 pigeons (featuring a prima donna display from the rescue pigeon, Hoppy)
  • A swift visitation by 1 dunnock
  • An equally brief visit by 1 blue tit

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The yarden this winter has generally attracted two blue tits, but the other was no where to be seen. I have spotted a visiting robin on most days, (which the dunnock could have chased away), and two great tits have visited occasionally. On Friday last, I saw what was either three long tailed tits, or wagtails, they stayed all too briefly for me to ID them!

So, there you have it, my tally for 2018’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I wonder what species I’ll see in 2019?

What species did you record if you participated?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x