A Week at Osprey

I’ve been really neglecting my blog of late but I have a reason for that, and that is…

I’ve a new job! I got a full time job at the cardio-respiratory dept at the New Royal, doing general reception/admin work. I’ve been there over two months and still enjoying it!

A few weeks into my new job, we had a week booked at a boathouse on the shores of Loch Tay. The week before the UK had temperatures reaching the early 30°s but during our week in Scotland, it felt more autumnal. In fact the water was warmer than the air temperature!

Loch Tay is the sixth largest loch in Scotland, 15 miles long and 508ft deep. It shelved off pretty quickly from our beach by the boathouse and made for a dark, mysterious swim.

The boathouse we stayed in was called Osprey. A bird that has caught my wonder these past few years. So it was fated that we should holiday there. Here’s some photos of the boathouse and the lovely roe deer that walked silently around the wooded shore.

On our journey north it rained constantly, and the rain didn’t let up during my first swim that evening. It was a splashily, wonderful swim, with mist caressing the mountains and raindrops piercing the water.

Our second day dawned a little drier and after breakfast we headed out in search of a loch or two to swim in. I had planned on doing a few swims that week, but in reality, some of the lochs were difficult to get to. The first one was Loch Kennard which looked nice on Google maps but not with a massive deforestation happening all around. We drove further up the road towards Loch Freuchie but we couldn’t find anywhere to park, so decidedly deterred, we headed back towards the boathouse and ended up doing a circula waterfall walk called the Falls of Acharn which were pleasant enough. If it was good enough for Robert Burns and the Wordsworth’s then it was good enough for David and I.

After lunch we headed to the shores of Loch Tay where I had my second swim. It was a very windy, choppy affair.

Day three was our best day!

We got up for the sunrise, but I wasn’t feeling it for a swim, so I enjoyed the show from the shore.

Later on that morning we drove towards Loch of the Lowes, a small, picturesque nature reserve where ospreys breed. This year their adults had reared two chicks. On arrival we heard a begging chick chirrup for a fish dinner but when we entered the hides, we had to wait over an hour to see an osprey. We were very lucky as we saw both chicks and David managed to get some good photos. Mine I took from the telescopes. I was elated to have seen an osprey or two but we were chilled to the bone from the cold wind blowing over the reserve.

That afternoon, the sun seemed to gain some warmth and we drove a little further down the road to Loch of Clunie. We found some off road parking and I went for another swim. It was the warmest swim of the holiday, at 20° but it was the shallowest! I waded out for what seemed like miles to get some swimmable depths.

That evening after returning back to the boathouse, I enjoyed the best night swim I’ve ever had! The water was still, moths flew overhead, bats circled around me and a male tawny owl hooted from the shore. It was a magical experience. I’m not sure it can be bettered!

Day four dawned gloomily. We took a long drive towards the shores of Loch Rannoch. It needn’t have been as long but I’d planned on swimming from a certain point and when we got there the car park was closed, so we had to find an alternative entrance. I can’t say I enjoyed the swim that much as it was rather choppy, and I was frozen to the bone by the chilling wind.

I had planned on another swim at Loch Faskally but being rather cold I decided I’d had enough and we headed back to the boathouse to enjoy our last remaining evening.

With a glass or two of wine in me, wrapped up in a blanket and listening to relaxing classical music, I sat on the veranda and watched as the gloaming settled. Bats flew over the surface of the lake, clouds parted revealing a bright half moon, and ducks snuffled on the beach below. It was a most relaxing evening.

I would definitely recommend staying at a loch side cabin, whether at Loch Tay or another loch. I may not have had the amount of swims I did as last years holiday to the Trossachs but sharing my moments with wildlife, being ospreys or hooting tawny owls was magical!

Have you shared a wonderful moment with wildlife?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Eleven.

83600543_3891625950909508_7063122637384558018_oDay 11: Continuing a theme from the past two years, Close Up, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper. These Close up days will be on Fridays for 2021!

Today’s Close Up will be all about the only true flying mammal: the bat – focusing on the common pipistrelle. Ever since I spotted a bat swoop in circles around my urban yarden last year, I have wanted to learn more about the species I think it was. Though I haven’t a bat detector I have plumped for the most common bat species in the UK – the common pipistrelle. 

The UK has 18 bat species. The common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) is a formidable predator eating up to 3,000 insects a night, despite being the smallest species of bat in the UK. The common pipistrelle weighs around a pound coin and is small enough to fit into a match box! Being small has it’s advantages as pipistrelles feed in a wide range of habitats. They are active between April and October and come out of their crevices, tree holes or bat boxes 20 minutes after sunset. Being nocturnal they rely on echolocation to find their prey. These frequencies, being higher than the human range can be picked up with devices such as bat detectors. Pipistrelles can be heard on frequencies ranging from 45 to 70kHz. 

pipistrelle-bat from the RSPB

pipistrelle-bat from the RSPB

The breeding season is between July and September thereafter females form maternity colonies and give birth to one live young in June/July. The pup only stays with its mother for a month before they are able to fly and after six weeks they become fully fledged. 

From November onwards pipistrelles go into hibernation or torpor. They achieve this by lowering their body temperature which reduces their metabolic rate, surviving on stored body fat. It’s only when the outside temperature increases that they awake to forage on newly emerged insects. 

The only zoonotic disease that some UK bats carry is rabies which is why if you find a sick bat, do not touch and contact the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228. 

In conclusion, bats are wonderful pest controllers. Some need our help as population numbers have dwindled due to changes in agricultural practices and the loss of habitat.  You can help by planting flowers that will attract insects and putting up a bat box, they are relatively inexpensive and The Wildlife Trusts have a fact sheet on how to build you own, here

Have you seen bats where you live? Have any roosting in your home?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx


Further reading:

The Wildlife Trusts

RSPB

The Woodland Trust

Bat Conservation 

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

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

toad

Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

common blue

Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

meadow3

Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

mushroom

Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

crocus 2

Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x