10 Years of RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch!

This weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve participated since 2012, when feeding the garden birds helped me through a bereavement. Since then, I’ve seen some wonderful visitors to our urban yarden.

In 2012, two blue tits sparked my feeding frenzy and every day since then I’ve left seed out for the garden birds.

Steven the herring gull is a recent superstar of the yarden. He started visiting after the 1st lockdown in March 2020 and since then he has brought his spouse and six of his babies, along with him. He gets fed left over eggs, chicken, cat and dog food and fish. He is a very spoilt gull but my aim is to just supplement his food not be a replacement.

In 2012 I was amazed when droves of goldfinch charms began visiting the feeders. During the past years I have spent hundreds of £££s on sunflower hearts for these gorgeous and gregarious finches.

My favourite garden bird is the dunnock. Sporadically, over the years the yarden has been host to one or two dunnocks who are a joy to watch hop about the undergrowth.

Over the years swathes of starlings have alighted upon the yarden, devouring the fat balls on offer. Numbers of up to 20-30+ are not uncommon. Their delightful squabbling is a feast for the eyes.

David is a friend of the pigeon, once war hero, now lowly street scavenger. Hoppy was a prima donna among the pigeon superstars who frequented our yarden. Sadly she passed away in 2021 but her memory lives on to this day. She is buried under the honeysuckle and this spring will become a beautiful crocus.

This January 2022, the yarden has been eerily silent. Where there were large charms of goldfinches feasting on sunflower hearts, only a lone bachelor visits. I’m not sure what has happened to my visitors? Is it the impact of the avian flu epidemic or have they just found better feeding grounds? Sadly, I am not so excited about this years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, though being my 10th anniversary, I should be celebrating. Here’s the data from my 2022 Birdwatch.

I did the count 11am to 12noon on Sunday 30 January 2022. The weather was cloudy but mild and then gradually became calm and sunny. It was a very quiet garden birdwatch. Over the hour all that visited were the regular pigeons, Steven the gull and a curious magpie who was on the look out for monkey nuts. I knew this years birdwatch would be my worst to date, there just isn’t the variety that usually visits, which makes me feel sad. A lone goldfinch, robin and two blue tits all visited afterwards, which didn’t sweeten the mood.

If you participated in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, how did your count go?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hopefully welcoming in the new year and wishing it would be better than 2020. Though this year has been fraught with worries and more uncertainty, nature, as always has been a constant companion. A quietude among the madness of life. Here’s my wildlife moments of 2021!

I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool and the amount of wildlife that frequents my small walled, inner city terraced yarden is truly amazing. If you look closely, wildlife is everywhere and certain species herald the seasons! I know that spring is around the corner when I spy a passing chiffchaff hunting hungrily for insects in my yarden before it moves on to better pastures.

The yarden is a haven to an array of avian species; this year I managed to save a stunned baby goldfinch who recovered after 30 mintues of heat therapy. Then there is of course the male sparrowhawk who has been visiting over the autumn. The small birds may not like him, but I think he is spectacular!

One mammal that was seen frequently during the summer months in the yarden and gave me such a buzz whenever I saw him/her was Batty, the common pipistrelle (I think). Like clockwork, after sundown, Batty would appear swooping and looping as he/she hunted the midges and moths that the yarden flowers attract. Bats are fantastic!

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild this year, I made a hoverfly lagoon. Though I was not sure if it was successful, I did notice more hoverflies in the yarden than usual. So, perhaps it was.

Another insect that was a first for me this year was a four spotted chaser which I photographed at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Other highlights from a nature filled day out at Brockholes, was my first ever sighting of a common tern, a male reed bunting, Kevin the Kestrel hunting and having a dust bath, as well as an abundance of marsh orchids around the reserve.

Wildflowers have been the star of Liverpool this 2021. They sprouted in parks all over the city. Among the colourful displays was the gorgeous cosmos. Also during a walk around the city, I came across a strange flower to be growing along the sidewalk, a common flax. Not sure how that seeded itself there!

I’ve noticed recently that in my local park, a kestrel has moved in. Not sure if it’s just one or several but it’s nice so see him/her flying around when I’m standing waiting for the bus to work. I’ve also spotted a buzzard scouting the park too and one day I managed to get a photo, though sadly only on my phone.

During our wonderful week away to The Trossachs in Scotland, we spied hungry red squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker all enjoying the peanuts on the cabin feeders.

This year I’ve also been lucky enough to see some stunning sunrise and sunsets.

David and I kept our memberships with the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts’ this year and enjoyed many days out. At Burton Mere we were serenaded by a very gregarious reed warbler and photographed a bowl of spoonbills

During our visit to Leighton Moss, we saw a great white egret and there was a stand off between a dragonfly and a fly!

At Lunt Meadows, we spent half an hour with a family of swallows and I snapped a picture of a greylag goose and a black tailed godwit.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at all the wildlife I’ve been lucky enough to see? What wildlife moments of 2021 have you enjoyed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My October

My birthday month hasn’t been so kind to me this year. It’s been a month of severe stresses and worries and not much fun in between. David has had many trips to the hospital this month, after his pneumonia diagnosis during the summer. We all feared the worst but after a PET scan, we finally got some good news that it wasn’t the disease we all dreaded. However, the specialist doesn’t really know what is wrong with David’s lung and there will be another scan in three months time. Fingers crossed all will be well.

The beginning of October, saw David and I take a visit to the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. However, this years festival wasn’t as good as previous years and the selection of apples was limited. We did come away with some sunset and ellison orange but even the apples weren’t at their best this year.

Our aviary lost yet another resident, the lady gouldian finch, Nero. Nero suffered from neurological issues and had become paralysed down one side. He did manage heroically but in the end he passed away. Fly free little one.

During an early morning start at work, I witnessed a wonderful autumn sunrise with mist enshrouded fields. It was a beautiful beginning to a day.

We had another success with our pigeon rehabilitation. Mocha came to us with a runny tummy and breathing issues. We treated for coccidiosis, a parasite that affects the digestive system. We saw an improvement after two days of giving the medication and then Mocha stayed with us for a further five days when we treated for canker, and kept her warm. Her respiratory difficulties eased and we released her back to the wild, but not before giving her a white leg ring, so we can keep track of who we have helped. Soon our yarden visitors will all have leg bracelets on. 🙂

In October, we finished watching all 10 series of Stargate, which we thoroughly enjoyed! We also watched the controversial Squid Game, which was both horrific and sad in equal measure and we have just finished the second series of the supernatural Locke and Key. Do you have any recommendations on what to watch next?

It’s that time of year again when sparrowhawk visits increase. One Saturday we were visited by a male sparrowhawk who stayed around the area for over half an hour. He managed to get a meal a few days later.

At the end of October we made a quick visit to Liverpool’s City Centre to see the River of Light Festival. We visited the light festival in March, but I though this October’s selection of lights were better than in March!

David’s family had a get together for Halloween. Some of us dressed up. I went as a Jaffa from Stargate. I wanted to go as Teal’c but the bald wig I bought didn’t cover my hair so I had to go as a makeshift Jaffa instead. Did you do anything fun for Halloween?

For the past couple of years I’ve celebrated my birthday with a cold water swim! This year, since The Lake District was underwater with streams that were once paths, I decided to choose Snowdonia as the place to celebrate. Llynnau Mymbyr was the llyn I chose and it was such a wonderful birthday swim with the Snowdon massif looking glorious in rich autumn sunshine. I dried off with my new towel, the ordinance survey map of Snowdonia.

That was my October, how was yours? Do you like this time of year with the crisp mornings and golden trees or like me, just want to hibernate?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My August

I can’t quite believe that it’s almost the end of summer. August for me is a time for mourning. Mourning the warmth, the lighter days and all the wonderful wildlife that visit my yarden. I’m not sure if others notice it, but there’s a slight shift in the angle of sunshine, a scent of autumn is carried on the wind, and in my yarden there is the scratchy call of hundreds of starlings eating their way through all the fat cakes I make. August is summer’s swan song and the song of the starling, is for me, the sound of autumn.

The month began by celebrating David’s birthday. He wanted to go to Leighton Moss to get to grips with his new camera. So we headed up the motorway and spent a peaceful couple of hours spotting birds and enjoying nature.

The wildlife highlight for me this month has been watching the visiting bat, Batty and their friend hunt around the yarden. One night Batty was particularly energetic, hunting moths and midges, turning summersaults in the air.

The other evening we were witness to a spectacular sunset. I tend to miss many sunsets but this one made the whole sky look like it was on fire!

In June I sowed a packet of wildflower seeds for 30 Days Wild. This month they are finally flowering. I have field marigold and camomile growing with a host of field poppies, that are attracting bumblebees and hoverflies.

During the evenings David and I have been watching some older TV shows, both I hadn’t seen before. We started the month with Ricky Gervais’s The Office and now getting through the seasons of Stargate SG1.

At present I am reading The Mabinogion, a set of Celtic Welsh tales, suggested to me by fellow blogger Charlotte Hoather.

All of the Dyfi Ospreys have embarked on their migration south. Safe travels my gorgeous Ystwyth, (Bobby Bach). I wish them all well on their travels. I don’t know why, but the leaving of these beautiful birds makes me feel sad. Another sign that summer is ending. 😦

On a day off work, I was cleaning the bird feeders when I saw a bird strike the kitchen window with a thud! I rushed out into the yarden and discovered a baby goldfinch lying on its back, still breathing. I scooped him up and put him in the hospital cage with the heat lamp on and a hot water bottle. Within half an hour he had perked up and was fluttering about the cage. So, to lessen the stress, David and I let him free. I hope he recovers from his collision. Fly free little one.

My August 2021 ends in spectacular fashion! The Airbnb we had booked for my birthday last year, (and which we had to cancel due to Covid-19 restrictions), luckily we managed to re-booked in April. Thankfully Covid-19 restrictions have eased and we have finally managed to get to this beautiful loch side cabin in Scotland!

Well, that was my August, with a lot of wildlife sightings! How was your August? Did you get up to any adventures?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Birthday Trip!

It was David’s birthday on Monday! To celebrate the day, he wanted to visit a nature reserve to test out his new telephoto lens. So we got up early on a bright August morning and headed up the motorway to … Continue reading

My February

Following on from my January post, I thought I would continue the monthly update theme as a new series for 2021. February can sometimes be the coldest and darkest of months. This year’s February began cold and frosty with frigid days and bone chilling nights but the month ended with mild winds and the scent of spring on the air. 🙂

David had a well earned few days off work in February. Whilst still in lock-down we stayed local and took a walk to Liverpool’s Sefton Park with an excitable Riley. David managed to feed a few squirrels and crows with the monkey nuts we had brought with us, while I had a captive audience of geese, coots and gulls enjoying the bird seed I offered them. I love feeding the birds on the lake, it makes me feel such a child again!

In January’s post I commented that I had seen the first, brief visit from the chiffchaff. Well he/she visited again, enjoying the insects on the laurel bush! David didn’t grab his camera quite quick enough, so I had to make do with a grainy photo I managed to get off my phone. Isn’t he so cute? The harbinger of spring?

Even though the mornings and evenings are getting lighter, these February nights seem cold and dark for some reason. This month I’ve been snuggling up in bed most nights and have managed to rekindle my reading. I’ve just finished Cilka’s Journey (a semi-fictional account of a survivor of Auschwitz who was imprisoned in a Russian gulag) and have begun The Glass House a mystery by Eve Chase.

I’m still only working one day a week, so using my free time to watch some series I’ve not seen before. I know I am very late to the party but I’ve been enjoying watching the 90’s American sitcom Friends. I’ve also caught up with the second series of The Bay and the Netflix sensation, Bridgerton.

I know Valentine’s Day is very commercial but I still like to celebrate it none the less. When I was single I would buy myself something nice as an act of self love, and now I’m in a long standing relationship, I celebrate the day by ordering a nice curry so we can both enjoy it. As a little token I bought David this cute little bumblebee (or did I buy her for myself?) She’s so sweet! 🙂

I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine the end of February and I had a few side effects, like shaking and sweating and aches and pains. Thankfully these were short lived and I’m feeling much better now.

To end the month, we got a new patient, Elliott a feral pigeon, who we spotted sitting in someone’s front yard while on a walk with Riley. On our way back from the park, the pigeon was still vulnerable so David caught him and brought him home with us. He’s being treated for canker and coccidiosis, let’s hope he gets better soon!

How have you spent February? Do you like the long, dark nights or looking forward to spring?

Take care,

Christine x

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

A Year in Film 2020: Advent Calendar – Day Twenty-two

It’s day twenty-two of my Christmas film advent calendar. Tonight’s film is:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Christine’s rating: ✩✩ David’s rating: ✩✩✩

Grinch lives in solitude just outside Whoville. He hates the townsfolk and despises Christmas. Cindy Lou, a six-year-old girl who believes in the spirit of the festival, sets out to reform him.

Not my favourite Christmas movie. The Grinch I feel was clinically depressed. He needed a hug.

Have you seen this Christmas movie? What did you think?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x