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

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Thirty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: For my final post of 2020’s 30 Days Wild, I shall look to the future. There are several questions I want to address.

  • How does spending time in nature make me feel?
  • What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year?
  • How can I help wildlife more?

Firstly, who would have thought that I’d be able to blog everyday during a pandemic? When lockdown commenced I have to admit that I became a little worried on how I would be able to make 2020’s 30 Days Wild exciting and interesting for my readers. Hopefully I have managed to keep you all interested and entertained and a little more educated along the way. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot participating in this initiative. Like badgers are the UK’s largest predator. There’s around 40 species of ladybird in the UK. Dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from each other. Great Tits have territory wars with pied flycatchers. The UK’s tallest tree, the Douglas Fir has a non-flammable bark which protects forests from fires. Gulls can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that filter out salt. 

Part of what makes blogging everyday for 30 Days Wild a challenge, is which new topics to cover. Though the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, we do have an array of wildlife that should be celebrated. I’ve not even scratched the surface in my blog, and I know there is a lot more to learn. I may focus a lot on birds but that is because they are easily surveyed. I would love to know more about trees, insects, arachnids and marine life. Which brings me to one of the questions I want to raise, What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year? Keep being observant and open to wildlife is a positive thought. I think having a childlike look on the world isn’t a bad thing. Continuing to read blogs, follow nature sites and keeping an eye open for new wildlife sightings are easy ways to carry on being wild.

At the beginning of the year David and I became members of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust. Because of Covid I’ve not been able to visit sites in this area but I hope to do so in the future. Joining a Wildlife Trust, the RSPB or the Woodland Trust is one small way to carry on being wild and also to help wildlife more. Feeding the birds all year round is another small thing one can do and an easy task too. Planting nectar rich plants for pollinators is another positive action and can be done on a small balcony or in a garden. Sign petitions and shout out for wildlife by writing to your MP! Go on litter picks. Join webinars (I’ve recently watched two from The Wildlife Trusts, on owls and wildflowers), and even tweet, blog or Instagram your findings. Sharing your knowledge will help others learn too.

Lastly, how does spending time in nature make me feel? 

I believe nature is a great healer and it has been scientifically proven. From shinrin yoku or forest bathing to the joys and health benefits of wild swimming. Just spending 20 minutes a day walking in your local park, at the beach or woodland helps improve mood and promotes positive mental health. When I am feeling blue or struggling for motivation just observing the wildlife around me helps greatly. For me feeding the garden birds helped me overcome a bereavement. Do you know of when nature helped you during a difficult time?

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Thank you for joining in my 2020 30 Days Wild. Hopefully we can do it all again next year?!

Until then and for the final time, Stay Wild!

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 Sixteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_16Day 16: Today’s 30 Days Wild is all about birdsong and hopefully being able to ID them more easily.

On my daily walk with Riley there are a number of birdsongs that I hear. I can ID a robin and a blackbird’s song but get confused when a chaffinch and wren add to the mix.

Here are some of the birds that live in my local park, that I hope to be able to ID more efficiently next time I’m out walking the dog.

robin

Robin

The Robin: Hopefully the easiest song to recall? The robin is part of the flycatcher and chat family. Other chat’s known are the stonechat, redstart and even nightingale. The robin is the gardener’s friend. I mainly see them of a winter, hence red breasts on Christmas cards. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Blackbird: my favourite bird song of all. The blackbird, the song of long, warm summer nights and early summer mornings. You can familiarise yourself with its song here. The blackbird is part of the thrush family. They like to eat insects, berries and worms. The females are confusingly brown but the males are strikingly black with yellow beaks. If you like their song here’s a one hour long rendition of their song, found here.

The Wren: This diminutive bird surely makes up for its size when singing its melodious repetitive song which lasts up to six seconds. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Chaffinch: I don’t know why but I always struggle with the song of the robin and the chaffinch. The robin though has a higher pitched song to the chaffinch, the chaffinch song can be found here.

Greenfinch: The biggest eye opener on the list has been the song of the greenfinch! I always thought that the song of the greenfinch was the alarm call of the robin. We learn something new everyday and today the scratchy sound of the greenfinch isn’t the alarm call of a robin at all!! You can familiarise yourself with the greenfinch song here

The Song Thrush: I see song thrushes on my walks, but can never get a good picture of them. Being part of the same family as the blackbird, you can hear the similar tones in this thrush’s song. You can familiarise yourself with the song thrush melody here. Their conservation status is red. If you’d like to listen to an hours recording of the song thrush song, you can find it here.

So there you have it, six bird songs from my local birds. The RSPB website, found here is invaluable to understanding UK bird songs. YouTube videos are also a great help. There are also phone apps which can help ID bird songs, Warblr is a good resource and Merlin.

Which bird song do you like the best? My favourite will always be the blackbird.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Nine.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_09Day 9: Today’s 30 Days Wild is a bit of a dirty one. We all know that keeping bird feeders clean is just one small action we can do to help stop the spread of infectious avian diseases, so today I am getting my hands dirty and giving my bird feeders a much needed clean. It’s not a job I relish as congealed, moldy birdseed isn’t the nicest thing to touch but its a small price to pay for keeping my visiting feathered friends healthy, especially since they are bringing their fledglings with them.

There, all nice and clean. Within minutes of putting the feeders back up, goldfinches visited.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day One.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01 Day 1: Who would have thought that during a raging pandemic, the likes the world hasn’t seen in a hundred years, that nature would be taking centre stage. With many people restricted to their homes, and less traffic on the roads the air has smelt cleaner, the stars easier to see. The change in seasons from winter into spring has unfolded before our very eyes.

Step into June and The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, the annual celebration of all things wild-life! This year, as in previous years I shall endeavour to blog every day. Continuing the theme from the past two years, Monday’s shall be called: Close Up Monday’s, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper.

great tit 1

Great Tit

To start off 2020’s 30 Days Wild the first Close Up Monday will be all about the largest member of the tit family, the great tit. My interest in focusing on this bird was piqued when I recently saw someone post a picture of a great tit with a dead mouse on social media. I always thought they were seed and insect eaters but apparently they have been known to murder other birds, pied flycatchers in particular! I don’t know why I found this information startling as I’ve had murderous finches in my own aviary, so it happening in nature shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. 

So without further ado let’s get to know the great tit a bit better.

The great tit (Parus major) came seventh in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020. This woodland bird, larger than a blue tit is increasingly becoming more common in urban settings, enjoying garden feeding stations and bullying smaller birds. Some studies have shown that UK great tits have evolved longer beaks than their European neighbours, a reason for this could be an adaption to accessing bird feeders.

Great tit’s can be seen all year round in the UK but I usually see them in my Liverpool yarden around May-June during the breeding period and during winter months too. They enjoy a range of seeds and insects. This spring I watched with amusement as a great tit fluttered about the ivy hunting out spiders. European great tits have been recorded to attack and eat hibernating bats. Recently some studies from the Netherlands have voiced concerns over climate change creating territorial conflict between great tits and migrating pied flycatchers, with great tit’s looking to have the upper hand.

great tit 2

Great Tit coming into land!

Great tit’s are recognised by their ‘teacher teacher’ call and have a lifespan of three years. They build their nests in tree holes or nest boxes, and can have up to nine eggs a brood. Their conservation status is green with an estimated two million birds in the UK. In 2012 I had the enjoyment of great tit parents bringing their two chicks to our yarden.

Do you have great tit’s visiting your garden? What is your favourite member of the tit family? Mine are the long-tailed tits, or titmice, they are just balls of fluff!

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-tit/

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/tits-crests-and-warblers/great-tit

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/great-tit/

A brain-eating species called the great tit is threatening other birds — thanks to climate change

https://www.sciencealert.com/climate-breakdown-has-turned-this-adorable-birb-into-a-violent-killer

First Line Fridays

Taking inspiration from Cathy’s post, introducing First Line Fridays. A weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author. I decided to give it a go myself.

The below is from the book I am currently reading.

2013. The bed sheet was twisted as tight as I could physically wrench it and tied off tightly on to one of the beams above. In the absence of rope, or rationality, it would have to do.

A bit of a gloomy start to a book, but it does pick up and as you may have guessed, the content is how bird watching and taking in nature overall, has a positive effect on mental health.

bird therapy

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Now a permanent fixture in my calendar, the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this year fell between 25th -27th January 2020. I decided to do my hourly count on the Sunday, 11am to 12pm. Earlier I had topped up the yarden feeders in preparation. I boiled the kettle and made a pot of Bird and Wild espresso coffee which I got free with my order of the lovely RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch mug!

I sat by the window and waited for my feathered friends to visit. Though my tally was not as varied as previous years, there were no visits from the dunnock, robin or starlings. I did count 14 goldfinches, 9 pigeons and two noisy blue tits within the hour. The weather was grey and squally with a chilling breeze making the 8°C feel colder. I was hoping for a visit from the sparrowhawk, but she kept out of sight.

rspb big garden birdwatch

Graph of my count

If you were joining in with the count, how did you do?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #68

You all know how much I love updating you all in a Sunday Sevens! I’ve managed to collate enough info this week for a post. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising the successful series.

Burton Mere:
Sunday 21st July 2019 was RSPB Burton Mere‘s 40th anniversary pin badge launch. David and I made our way to the reserve on this special occasion to purchase the much anticipated badge. The badge ID was unknown until we arrived. It was a cattle egret! A species that has nested and reared young in previous years. I paid the £2 donation and we enjoyed a few hours walking about the reserve.

Doris:
David has been curing pigeons again! This time a female pigeon with a sore eye, who was unable to close her beak. After a few attempts at capture, David managed to catch her and quickly discovered that she had canker, a bacterium that if left untreated can kill pigeons. David has bought tablets to treat this disease so after an overnight stay at Rescue No.49, Doris was released and has been seen frequenting the yarden every day this week. Thanks David for saving another life!

Doggy Day:
After all the uncertainty recently about David’s job, re: redundancies and reshuffling, an event at David’s work called Puppy Day helped him release the stresses and strains of daily life by spending time with dalmatian puppies.

Gulls:
During recent research I’ve discovered that there is no such thing as a seagull. They are just gulls seen at the seaside! However since their food and habitat is being encroached by humans these gulls are becoming more prevalent inland. The nesting gulls around our home I have learned are two different types. The gull nest to the back of our house is a herring gull and the nest to the front, I have identified as a lesser black-backed gull. On Friday the chick to the back had fallen from the nest (chimney stack) and now cries for food whilst on the roof. The adult tends to this chick so I am not too concerned. 

Watching birds while it rained:
This weekend was a rather damp squib, in more ways than one!! It rained constantly all day Saturday, so I decided to spend a good hour watching the birds visiting the yarden feeders. I saw four species of bird, 7 goldfinches, 5 sparrows, (who are so adventurous and like to explore every corner of the yarden). 13 Starlings and 4 pigeons. I even spotted a poor bedraggled honeybee trying to dodge the raindrops!

window

View from the window

#walk1000miles:
I’ve forgotten to calculate my miles recently. So when I did add up this week’s mileage, I found that I had walked 35 miles, bringing my annual total to 1,177!

Book I am reading?
Having finished The Heights by Juliet Bell I am left wondering what to read next. Any ideas??

riley

Riley:
I’ve noticed that since Riley has hit the prime age of 10, he has slowed down a lot. He no longer plays for as long as he used too and he stop and starts when going for a long walk. I worry for him. Do you have any tips on looking after an older dog?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x