Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.
The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.
During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?
I’m not much of a fan of September. I don’t particularly like the encroachment of the darker mornings and evenings and I still have echoes of the dreaded ‘going back to school’ feeling, even though I am in my 40’s! The beautiful season of autumn as the leaves change colour is no consolation. September has been a mixed bag for David and I, but oh boy how fast it has gone! I can’t quite believe I’m writing this review!
At the beginning of September, David and I were in the middle of our holiday to the Trossachs in Scotland. I had many swims, including a sunrise, sunset, afternoon and even a night time swim at Loch Venachar and also visited the chilly waters of Loch Chon, Lubnaig, Earn and Katrine. It was a fab holiday! 😁
Our cabin for the week in Scotland had a feeding station and not only woodland birds visited but red squirrels and even a shy great spotted woodpecker!
The aviary saw the sad passing of our female silverbill, Silvie. It was a shock as Silvie had been in good health previously. I feel sorry for Bill her partner, singing all alone. 😪
September is the month we got Artie, he was a big seven this year! We celebrated by buying him a new cat tower.
One mid September weekend turned out pretty bad for our wild bird rehabilitation. We picked up two birds, who were sadly too far gone to be helped. All we could give was palliative care. We took in a pigeon who was so weak and diseased with canker that she only lasted one night. The next day we picked up a poor goldfinch who was so ill, he only lasted a few hours and passed away in David’s hands. Our only solace was that both were safe in our home, and not left vulnerable outside.
This September I have been enjoying watching some TV. I am a big fan of Silent Witness, so I am busy catching up on the new series. While visiting my mum, we are enjoying A House Through Time, which is more a social history lesson, but so interesting!
Since I am back working five days a week and my hours have changed I am doing a lot more reading while on the long commute. This month I have read the Agatha Christie thriller, Witness for the Prosecution, and have now started Libby Page’s The Island Home.
To cheer up a wet and cold end to September, here’s a picture of a cosmos, there are many of these growing around work which does lift the spirits.
A very different morning dawned on our fourth day in the Trossachs. Our weather apps had been accurate all through our holiday and this morning we weren’t surprised when a low cloud with drizzle hung over the hills. It was a chilly day, with morning temperatures reaching just 14°.
We had two swims planned this morning and I don’t think the weather detracted from the beauty of either loch. However, neither plan seemed to work out as organised.
We arrived at Loch Lubnaig with the sound of screaming teenagers piercing the air. We had sadly chosen the wrong car park to park in (pay and display) and a group of young adults in their underwear were bracing the chilled waters of the loch, but not very quietly! I had been looking forward to swimming in this loch but perhaps I should have not had a lie in and arrived much earlier? I made the most of the situation and managed a 10 minute swim, even if it wasn’t as peaceful as I had hoped!
We quickly departed Loch Lubnaig and drove a little further north towards Loch Earn. I was hoping to swim from The Four Seasons statue by Rob Mulholland, or Mirror Man. Though, again I was thwarted as I couldn’t find this mirrored sculpture. 😦 Slightly subdued I told David to turn around. I feared I wouldn’t get a swim in Loch Earn. However, we did finally manage to find parking a little further up the road, though it seemed popular with fishermen!
Just like Loch Lubnaig, I was determined to swim whatever the cost, so we made camp on a little shingle peninsula and I quickly took to the water. I managed a cold 15 minute swim in Loch Earn which was very choppy due to the wind. It was the coldest, stormiest swim of the holiday.
We retreated back towards the safe, warm confines of our cabin, where I had a warm shower and we had lunch. Since it was just after 1pm we headed into the Invertrossachs Forest (a privately owned wood) for a casual walk. We walked from the Invertrossachs car park and followed our Google Maps/GPs towards the end of the path where we stopped and admired the view of Loch Venachar. There was a hidden lochan in the woods, but with no path to be found, we retraced our steps back to the cabin.
During our walk the weather brightened up. The clouds parted and the warm sun shone down. It was a lovely afternoon, which we decided to enjoy back on the shore of Loch Venachar. Sadly we didn’t take our cameras with us so I have no footage of David finally biting the bullet and submerging himself in the cool waters. The waters of Loch Venachar weren’t as warm as the day before, but it was much quieter on shore. As there was no one around, David, coaxed by myself, waded slowly into the shallows, the minnows nibbling at his feet. David was brave and with much encouragement, submerged his body under water. He growled as the cold water touched his skin. He held doughnut (tow float) and floated in the shallows. I was proud of him and happy that he had tried something that I love. Well done David!
Back at the cabin, after dinner we watched as the sun set. I had planned on a sunset swim and in the end it became a mad dash to get to the water before the sun set behind the mountains. I think in the end, we managed it and got some lovely shots. It was another wonderful experience. I think our holiday at Loch Venachar will stay with me for a very long time.
After the sun set, we headed back to the cabin. I had another shower and we settled down for our last night in Scotland. What an amazing week it had been!
Have you visited Loch Lubnaig or Loch Earn? Did you see the Mirror Man?
The hottest day of the holiday dawned on the Wednesday, 1st September, and another long day was planned. Since we had 24 hour access to Loch Venachar, I was itching to make the most of this and planned a sunrise swim. We crawled sleepy eyed out of bed at 5.50am and watched as mist drifted down from the hills. The water was still and it looked like a peaceful sunrise was going to take place. So, I wriggled into a swimsuit and David snatched his cameras and we headed down towards the quiet loch. The air temperature was only 7° but the water felt warmer. It was a wonderful way to wake up!
After breakfast, David and I headed towards RSPB Inversnaid on the east shore of Loch Lomond. We passed Lochs Ard and Chon and I debated which one to swim in. As we passed Loch Arklet with it’s scenic views of the Arrochar Alps, I would have plumped for that one, but being unable to find adequate parking, I decided to leave that loch for another holiday. 😛 We left the car at Inversnaid Hotel car park and walked a part of the Highland Way through Atlantic Oak woodland. We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a lost, discarded fish, sign an osprey had been around!
At lunch time we found car parking for Loch Chon which I’d decided was going to be the swim of the day. The loch was very quiet and picturesque and researching afterwards, I discovered that this loch is fabled to have the worlds largest population of faeries! I think on this day, all were sheltering from the hot midday sun!
We set up camp at a shingle beach. The water was warm and deep, and it didn’t take much time to dry afterwards. In the shallows were tiny minows and darting along the water lilies were giant dragonflies (or were they faeries?). It was beautiful, and I could have stayed there all day, but David dislikes the heat, so we packed up our picnic and headed for the relative shade of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.
We paid £3 for all day parking, though we were only there an hour. We had come to walk the white trail and to see Vestige or the Mirror Men by Rob Mulholland. These six figures of men and women made of polished stainless steel merge ethereal-like into the woodland around it. I was however, slightly underwhelmed, but we had fun lounging in hammocks and sitting on toadstools as we walked the trail.
Having done all we had planned to do that day, we arrived back at the cabin by 3pm, and found that we still had time to head down to the beach of Loch Venachar and enjoy a bit of sunbathing. David finally got his shoes and socks off and went for a paddle, while I succumbed to the water and had another swim.
In the evening, over dinner of an M&S curry, we watched the sun set before heading back out one final time for a night time swim. As I took to the water with doughnut (my tow float) lit up with a torch, bats swooped around the shore feasting on moths. The air was still and the darkness slowly crept in. I’d never had a night time swim before and it was eerie to wade into dark waters unknowing what was below or ahead of me. It was a magical moment.
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?
Llyn Ogwen wasn’t the first choice for a swim on our most recent trip to Wales. I had planned on swimming in Llynnau Mymbyr but on the day, as we drove passed Llynnau Mymbyr there were lots of people about on bikes and in the llyn itself there were canoes and large pink inflatable buoys! I later found out that there was a snowman triathlon happening at Capel Curig, of which there were 750m of open water swimming, 31km of road cycling and 6.1km multi terrain running. I didn’t really want to be swimming with a load of other swimmers and dodging large inflatable buoys, so we quickly ditched the day’s plan and headed to another llyn I had yet to swim in. We headed for Llyn Ogwen, a llyn I had visited on multiple occasions, most notable in 2017 when we walked all around it’s rugged footpath but had not graced it’s waters.
Just like many places in Snowdonia, Llyn Ogwen has ties with the mythology of King Arthur. Llyn Ogwen is presumed to be the llyn where Sir Bedivere cast Excalibur into after Arthur’s death. Indeed in 2017 a team of NT rangers noticed something buried in mud during work maintaining the paths. After excavation it was found to be that of a sword, dating from the 6th Century, coinciding with the time of King Arthur!
After dodging a stream of triathlon bikes, we arrived at parking near Llyn Ogwen at a very reasonable £3 for four hours and then made the short journey across the road to the rocky shore of the llyn. The July heatwave had dissipated and the water was fresh and cold. Since David had been struggling with a chest infection for weeks, it was only a quick swim. Indeed the whole adventure to Wales was short and sweet, but I aim to get back to swim in Llynnau Mymbyr sooner, rather than later.
Have you visited Llyn Ogwen or the surrounding area?
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 →
Where is the year 2021 going? We are now in August and I have very little to show for it! Time seems to be slipping through my fingers at an unimaginable speed! It’ll soon be Christmas at this rate! :p
This month has been all about positive covid-19 tests, thankfully not mine, though it feels like I am running the gauntlet and it’s only a matter of time before I catch it! All covid regulations in England were relaxed in July, it seems to be the case of just get on with it now!
My July began by taking another trip to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see the Peace Doves with mum. I think she was a little underwhelmed but we visited on a weekday morning and got to see the art installation before anyone else managed to get in the photos!
July was all about the heatwave! Just over a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures in the NW reaching 32°C. Sadly, I didn’t go on any adventures due to a member of the family being ill, but I made the most of staying local by visiting Sefton Park with Riley and Pickerings Pasture, which was full of fluttering meadow brown butterflies.
During this short heatwave, water was vital for all wildlife and after purchasing a £3 paddling pool from Asda for Steven, the herring gull, he wasn’t the only one to be seen having a pool party! The pigeons, starlings and even I, had to have a cool down in these hot temperatures!
After a month of rehabilitation, David and I released Harri. He had grown stronger during his stay with us and managed to eat by himself. Near the end of his stay he was getting a little stressed at being constrained. So the best decision we could make was to release him back to his flock and hope that he gets on ok. On his release it didn’t take him long to come out of the cage and fly up to the roof top. Good luck Harri. It’s up to you now!
Update on Harri: he has been seen visiting the yarden a couple of days after his release! Flying and eating well!
The Dyfi Project osprey chicks I have been following on YouTube, fledged in July. Ystwyth (Bobby Bach) was the last chick to fledge and I watched on a Saturday morning her first flight. It was very emotional and I have to admit I cried. They will remain in the area until they migrate to warmer climes end of August!
No sooner had we released Harri when David caught a lost racing pigeon, who he named Hercules as he was twice the size of the feral pigeons. David contacted The Royal Pigeon Racing Association and registered the number of the lost pigeon. The result came back as his owner was from Birmingham and David contacted him. David found out that Hercules was flying from Guernsey and overshot Birmingham by 100 miles! (I blame Storm Evert). However the lure of our yarden was too much not to visit for Hercules and he enjoyed a few days with the resident Scouse ladies. David and I released Hercules and hope that he makes his way back home! Safe journey Hercules.
David has also caught another sick pigeon. This time one with canker. Idris has been given medication and is being crop fed twice daily. We just hope that we have caught the infection in time. Fingers crossed.
On the final Saturday of July David and I had a short adventure to Snowdonia. We had intended on visiting Llynnau Mymbyr but there was a triathlon going on so we had to quickly change plans and headed to Llyn Ogwen instead for a very chilly and rainy swim!
That was my July, how was yours? Did you enjoy the hot weather or kept to the shade?
Day 30: Gaining inspiration from last year’s 30 Days Wild, Wednesdays will be RAW days, meaning Random Acts of Wildness. In this series I’ll be using The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app, and the 365 Days Wild book to help choose the day’s theme.
For today’s RAW, I’ve decided to check up on my wildflower seeds and hoverfly lagoon.
I’ve had more success with the wildflower seeds than the hoverfly lagoon. Quite a few of the seeds have sprouted and looking good for flowering come the following months. When inspecting the hoverfly lagoon, all I spotted was decomposing grass and leaves with quite an obnoxious smell. I had to cover my nose! I didn’t see any rat-tailed maggots unfortunately, but I’ll keep the lagoon for the rest of the summer and see how it goes.
I have found this years 30 Days Wild rather hard to complete, especially the final 14 days. I’ve been so exhausted from travelling to work and back and then stresses at home. It’s been a real struggle, but I can say, I’ve achieved what I didn’t think I could, that of posting every day for 30 days! Some of the post may have been below par, but I’ve tried to write about a mix of wildlife and nature in the UK and on my doorstep.
Here’s a recap of what I got up to!
June 2021 started off with a bang with the Big Wild Breakfast, the following days saw me looking for insects and finding crustaceans, visiting RSPB Burton Mere and Wildlife Trusts’ reserves, Brockholes and Lunt Meadows. I did a litter pick in my local park and took a walk to a nearby cemetery. I spotted a surprising flower growing along the streets of Liverpool, flax and photographed stunning wildflowers.
Big Wild Breakfast
Toxteth Park Cemetery
I hope you have enjoyed following my 2021 30 Days Wild. It’s been tough!
For the final time, thanks for reading, and stay wild!
Day 4: 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 one of my favourite insects: hoverflies!
Hoverflies or Syrphidae are known as true flies in the order of Diptera (having only one pair of wings). There are around 280 hoverfly species in the UK, which are active between the months of March to November. They are an excellent example of mimics (Batesian). The adults mimic the yellow and black stripes of bees and wasps (but are harmless), while their larvae mimic slugs, therefore looking undesirable food for a predator.
Hover fly, or drone
Hoverfly life cycle
Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers
The life cycle of a hoverfly is that of a fly: adult, egg, larvae and pupa. While some adults feed on dead insects, the majority feed on nectar and pollen. Hoverflies are an underrated champion of pollination. Recent studies have shown that hoverflies pollinate flowers, trees and grasses. Whereas hoverfly larvae are helpful in the garden by eating unwanted aphids and other pests, while some larvae feed on fungi and parasitise bumblebee nests. For the conclusion of this post I shall focus on the larvae that are aquatic.
rat tailed maggot microsopy.uk.org
Buzz Club have an initiative to create Hoverfly Lagoons. These lagoons are to aid hoverflies with aquatic larvae to find appropriate breeding environments. Some larvae of hoverfly species prefer to eat the detritus of decaying matter, hence the creation of stagnant pools. Unfortunately named rat-tailed maggots, these larvae of the Myathropa and Helophilus and the drone fly (Eristalis) have tail like snorkels which help them breathe, while they enjoy the aquatic environment and eat rotten plant matter. Ellen Rothery and Dave Goulson have created some great hoverflies lagoons. Here’s more information on creating a hoverfly lagoon for yourself.
For this years 30 Days Wild, I have tried to recreate a hoverfly lagoon myself. In the past our small pond has been a welcome habitat for hoverfly larvae but I wanted to try my hand at creating a hoverfly lagoon from scratch. I used an old ceramic container, some grass cuttings, (I got from the local park), twigs (for the adults to land on), a handful of leaf litter and some water. I’ll survey near the end of 30 Days Wild and let you know if I get any success in finding any hoverfly larvae!