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

The Year That Was 2020!

We are well into a new year and it’s taken me a while to compile the video for our 2020, but here it is! It may not have been a year where we had rich experiences but we came out unscathed, valuing the small things in life. The joy of family and friends, of hearing the birds singing or feeling the prickle of sunlight on your skin. 2020 was definitely a year to make you think and be thankful for all that you have.

Like everyone else, here’s wishing 2021 is a more fulfilling year.

Thanks for following my blog and for your continued support!

Wishing you good health and joy in your life.

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

Chrimbly Countdown – Tree

Linking in with this Friday’s Hawthorns December Photo Hunt. Today’s theme is: Tree – a snap shot of your tree, this year’s, last year’s, the black and white one of you as a tiny tot helping to decorate,  the one on the village square, that shiny white one in the shop, a native tree bedecked with lights and bird feeders – any festive tree 🙂 

2020 Christmas Tree

Due to 2020 being a dire year and with stresses at home, I decided to put up my little 4′ Christmas tree earlier than the usual 1st December. So mid November, out came the tree and decorations. I spent the next two hours decorating the tree with polar bears and birds, it was very therapeutic. I know black trees are not in fashion at the moment, but I like the striking contrast between the black boughs and the white twinkling lights.

What do you think of my little tree?

Thanks for reading,

Merry Christmas!

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

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 Thirteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13 Day 13: I’ve been feeling down these past few days so a bit of a lazy post for today’s 30 Days Wild I’m afraid. Today’s blog is a poem from Philip Larkin, taken from the illustrated anthology, Birds, from The British Museum, edited by Mavis Pilbeam.

We have another patient in the form of a pigeon called Pete who has a sore wing. Fingers crossed he makes a full recovery.

Pigeons

On shallow slates the pigeons shift together,
Backing against a thin rain from the west
Blown across each sunk head and settled feather,
Huddling round the warm stack suits them best,
Till winter daylight weakens and they grow
Hardly defined against the brickwork. Soon,
Light from a small intense lopsided moon
Shows them, black as their shadows, sleeping so.

What are your thoughts on pigeons?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Five.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_05Day 5: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ve decided to watch a webcam. There are so many wildlife webcams that it’s hard to chose. Just a quick search on Google brings up hundreds of links. Here’s a few I’ve watched over the past couple of weeks.

What are your go to favourite webcams?

The Wildlife Trusts’ web-page (here) is a good start to find wildlife webcams to watch. There’s webcams on mammals as well as birds.

If you like ospreys then you’ll find there are numerous webcams and websites dedicated to this beautiful bird. One of my favourite and the most clear camera is the Dyfi Osprey Project, found here, they have two chicks at present.

If peregrines are more your thing then Salisbury, Winchester and Leamington Spa all have peregrine webcams, but be quick their chicks are pretty big!

The Nest Box on Facebook, here, have a selection of webcams streaming live 24/7. This week I watched as six blue tit chicks from Cumbria fledged. The Nest Box still has streams of kestrel and starling nests.

These web-sites are all from the UK, but there can be found webcams from around the world. I hope you enjoy looking at some of these webcams and searching for your own.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x