June was and will always be all about The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, an annual challenge, asking participants to do something nature based each day for 30 days. Though I may not have blogged every day this year (I’ve been feeling too jaded for that – and there’s lots going on behind the scenes here too), I managed to post daily on Instagram. Here’s a small recap of some of the wild things that I’ve been doing this June.
I’ve Visited Brockholes and Lunt Meadows, Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Reserves, wild swam in Brothers Water, the Lake District. Spotted Wild flowers while on a walk to work. Gave a bumblebee sugar water for energy, watched lovely sunsets. Enjoyed a trip to the beach and discovered apples growing on my apple tree.
Have you spotted any wildlife where you live? What have been your highlights?
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.
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.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
Starling Picture by David Evans
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!
Red Mason Bee
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Large White Butterfly
Swallow Tailed Moth
Red Tailed Bumblebee
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?
Day 2: Easing myself into 2020’s 30 Days Wild. Today is all about my favourite insect, bees; solitary, bumble and honey. I used to love participating in Friends of the Earth Great British Bee Count, but it hasn’t taken place for the past two years. With the weather continuing to be warm and sunny, I spent an hour sitting in the yarden enjoying the company of buff and red tailed bumblebees, blue and red mason bees, common carder bees and tree bumblebees.
Some facts on my visitors:
1. Tree bumblebees are new arrivals to the UK, arriving in the 2000’s.
2. Buff-tailed bumblebees are nectar robbers, if their proboscis is too short they bite a hole at the base of the flower to get the nectar.
3. Common Carder bees can have a colony of up to 200 bees.
4. Mason bees are solitary bees and a more efficient pollinator than bumble and honey bees.
5. Red-tailed bumblebees prefer to nest underground, sometimes in vole burrows.
Common carder bee
Blue Mason Bee
Red Tailed Bumblebee
The only bee I haven’t see this year is a honey bee, but there is time for that.
Have you spotted any bees? Do you have a favourite?
It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.
Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?
The Lion King 2019
A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?
Book I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.
Swallow Tailed Moth
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.
Buff tailed bumblebee
A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!
Day 2: and Saturday was a complete wash out! With a shopping trip planned to Cheshire Oaks for dry bags for future wild swims. I decided to incorporate a visit to a local nature reserve Dibbinsdale. However on emerging from the Queensway Tunnel the rain was falling in rods! I was not dressed for rain! I stood in ballet shoes with no coat! But we decided to take a short visit to the reserve none the less. We plan to revisit on a drier day. 🙂
Dibbinsdale Nature Reserve, Wirral, boasts 74 acres of woodland, wetlands and meadows, with three miles of walking paths. On our short walk we rescued a bumblebee who was struggling in the rain and snapped shots of comfrey and meadow cranesbill. The river Dibbin runs through the reserve and looked inviting for a paddle come sunnier days.
Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.
Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.
‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.
‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.
On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.
Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.
Great Crested Grebe
The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.
We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.
Small White Butterfly
As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.
Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?
This week I have spent most of my time in the yarden! The NW of England has had some lovely long spells of warm, spring weather. Warm enough for me to bring out my bandeau dresses and coat my skin in SPF. Artie has also enjoyed stretching his legs and worrying resting bumblebees who when flying off, seemed to urinate!!
The yarden is looking verdant. Spring bulbs are flowering and trees/shrubs are heavy with dense foliage. The air has been laced with singing dunnocks/blackbirds and the happy buzz of bees and other pollinators.
Tree Bumblebee on rhododendron
I recently read that rhododendron pollen can be toxic to bees. I hope the nectar from my plant is not detrimental to this busy tree bumblebee!
Keeping with the theme of nature. I have signed up to take part in The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Day’s Wild 2016. Last year, lovely Sharon fromSunsine and Celandines got me interested in the scheme and I had a wonderful June observing nature more closely. Why not sign up and join in the fun?
This Friday, 22nd April was Earth Day. Their campaign, to ‘motivate people into action,’ in regard to the welfare of our planet. I particularly liked the ‘doodles’ on Google’s search page. This one was my favourite!
Earlier in the week we had a blue tit visiting. He spied the cat hair we had left out for birds nests and I caught video footage, (though not great) of him trying to take the whole bundle! I saw him fly off with most of it in his beak. So somewhere, Artie’s hair lines the nest of a blue tit!
This week I have begun to read Dan Brown’s Inferno. I tried to read it a couple of years ago and failed. I thought with the film coming out later in the year I would attempt it again. Talking of books. I have applied for a library card. I haven’t registered with a library for years, but thought it would be a good idea to do so. I can pick and chose what books I read now without the cost.
This weekend, England celebrated the 400 year anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. The Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London commissioned The Complete Walk, a screening of ten minute productions of each of his 37 plays. Liverpool was the only city in the UK to also screen these films and I was excited by the opportunity to see some of my favourite plays. I dragged David along with me to some iconic venues in the city, such as St George’s Hall, Liverpool Cathedral and the Tate. We also visited some more unusual venues, I particularly liked the grand feel to the hotel Aloft, which I later read is a renovation of the Royal Insurance Building and Ziferblat, which is a pay per minute cafe.
Of the productions we saw, my favourites are as follows: The Tempest, I found Douglas Hodge walking out into the sea at the end very touching! James Norton was fantastic as Richard II, I just wish it wasn’t viewed on a small TV screen in a railway tourist centre, and Much Ado About Nothing with Samuel West and Catherine Parkinson precisely captured the prickly romance between Benedick and Beatrice. The only downside (or upside) to seeing these ten minute films is that they make you crave to see the whole performance!
Have you been to any Shakespeare Celebrations this weekend? Do you indeed like the Bard?
This past week I have embarked on the You with Jamie Oliver app. It’s all about positive changes you can do, one little step at a time. You are set daily/weekly challenges. Previous one’s I have had were, ‘the best part of the day‘, ‘what makes you happy‘, and ‘think positive.‘ You take a picture to symbolise the topic. One was to show ‘beauty around you.’ So I took a picture of a Passion Flower.
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
This past week however I have found it rather difficult to be positive, what with the boiler being serviced and a leaking pump found! It made us £300 the poorer, though come the winter we will hopefully be toasty!
This weekend has been fun. We had planned on going to Chester Zoo before our membership ran out, but the weather was dodgy so we spent the weekend at home.
It was Saturday after 4.30pm which I really enjoyed. With the radio cranked up as Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies, celebrated Hans Zimmer’s music. I embarked on chopping vegetables and cooking the evening dinner. I used and adapted Jools Oliver’s Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup. My volumes are to serve three people.
1 large leek
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 x 400 g tin of borlotti or cannellini beans. (I used borlotti beans)
1 litre low salt vegetable
Hand full of barley
35 g baby spinach or kale (I used kale)
150 g frozen peas/ green beans. (I just used a handful of peas and 75g of green beans)
Freshly ground black pepper
Start by preparing the base of your soup. Peel, roughly chop the carrot and potato, trim, wash and roughly chop the leek. Peel and very finely slice the garlic, chop the onion and then pick and finely chop the rosemary.
Heat a lug of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the rosemary. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped carrot, leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly, with the lid on.
Add the beans (drained), chopped potato (small,) and a hand full of barley. Then finally add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes – add a little more stock or water if you think it needs it. (Leave the lid on.)
Finally, add the spinach or kale and chopped green beans/peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still vibrant green. (Keep the lid on.) Have a taste and season, if needed, then tuck in.
Serve with bread… I was requested to make Focaccia.
Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup
The recipe for Focaccia was taken from an Asda seasonal brochure.
250g of Strong White Bread Flour
1 level tsp salt
7g of easy bake yeast
2tbsp of reduced fat olive oil
On red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Chopped sprigs of fresh oregano, (I used some from the garden!)
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl
Pour in the oil and used 15ml of tepid water, mix the ingredients together to form a soft dough
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and begin to need, adding more flour until the dough is of a smooth texture.
Place the dough in a bowl and put somewhere warm for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
While the dough is proving, chop and fly the red onion and garlic. Leave to one side once cooked.
Chop some oregano and leave to one side
Once the dough has risen, knock back and then flatten into required shape.
With your finger press small indentations into the top of the dough and then sprinkle the onion, garlic and oregano on top.
Put in a pre warmed oven at gas mark 6/200° and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
Remove from oven, and serve.
Sunday was a lovely early Autumn day. The sun shone and David and I spent over three hours in the garden, cleaning and pruning. I planted some of my bulbs, of Aliums and Snake Heads for the coming spring. Fingers crossed they grow!
Artie enjoyed spending time in the garden and in between terrorising the bumblebees and honey bees, he relaxed taking in the sun.
We still have many birds visiting the feeders, and not an hour goes by that numerous Goldfinches are seen feasting on the Sunflower/Nyger seeds.
For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.
Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room
The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.
Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!
Sedum and Honey Bee
Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.
Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
400g of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)
I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)
While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.
I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!
I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!
The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!
Peruvian Quinoa Stew
I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.
The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂
Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!
The news from the garden this weekend is that we DO have Honey Bees visiting the flowers! I saw up to seven at one time enjoying the Salvia, the Borage and the Dahlia. This year I seem to have a greater variety of plants for the visiting bees to enjoy. The Bumblebees also enjoy visiting the Dahlia and Borage as well as the Passion Flower.
The bird feeders have well and truly been ‘attacked’ this weekend! We have many species of garden bird visiting as listed below.
House Sparrows, have continued to visit in numbers of up to eight if not more!
Goldfinch charms have visited numbering over 12, most are fledglings.
Starlings have made a noisy return. This years fledglings are now getting their adult coats and love the fat blocks on offer.
Pigeons are too many to count and follow the smaller birds into the garden as they know there will be many seeds dropped.
The Dunnock has made a welcome return, though not the same one as visited previously. This one seems to be very bold and stands his/her ground in relation to competition from the Pigeons! A most welcome visitor to the garden!
I can’t say I have seen the Blue Tits this week as it’s mainly Sparrows and Goldfinches that I see, but I hope they manage to visit the feeders.