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.

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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

A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2019

I really can’t believe that it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019. This year was slow to start but when it began it simply snowballed! December is a month to reflect though I haven’t had much time for reflection.

Thanks to Sharon for her wildlife post, prompting me to write this blog.

Reminiscing on 2019 I had to admit there were many wildlife moments this year, none more so than the male and female sparrowhawks that seemed to have kept the pigeons away from our yarden this autumn.

In September David and I booked a relaxing badger watch at RSPB Haweswater. We saw two badgers that evening, Gremlin and Porridge. It was a welcome treat from seeing squished badgers at roadsides.

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Gremlin the badger

For 2019 I bought David and I joint membership to the RSPB, and have made full use of our membership by visiting local reserves, such as Leighton Moss and Burton Mere several times.

At Leighton Moss we fed hungry great and blue tits and spotted marsh harriers flying over the pools. In June we attended a Meet the Moths event. I got to meet a popular hawk moth and an elephant!

At Burton Mere we photographed little egrets, shoveler ducks and redshanks in the depths of winter and enjoyed a carpet of bluebells in April.

As part of our RSPB membership we also visited Conwy and South Stack reserves. At Conwy we managed to capture a rare sighting of a grey phalarope and at South Stack there were dozens of silver studded blue butterflies!

In May David and I took a day trip to Ingleton Falls. On our exploration of the falls and woodland we watched as a dipper fed her two fledglings, swimming underwater to get the freshest insects or fish. It was wonderful to watch.

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I purchased six painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, to witness the amazing spectacle of metamorphosis. I grew quite attached to my little hungry caterpillars and felt sad when they chrysalised. In two weeks I had six beautiful painted lady butterflies!

Also for 30 Days Wild I’d booked David and I on a bee experience at Samlesbury Hall. This taster session on honey bees and bee keeping made me wish I had space for a hive myself. Perhaps in the future?

Other insect highlights were common hawkers and damselflies at Brockholes and a surprise encounter with a swallowtail moth in the yarden!

To round up a mixed 30 Days Wild I chanced upon jellyfish washed up on Formby Beach.

Formby Woods was also a fabulous place to spot native red squirrels.

The summer months are always a busy time for wildlife spotting. Right outside our window we watched two gull nests and how their chicks fared. One lesser black-backed gull chick fell from its nest (high up on a chimney stack) and was heard exploring the street as he cried for his parent. Frightened the chick would be hit by a car David and I contacted a local bird rescue and found a rehabilitation home for the chick. David scooped the gull up, who we named Harald and we took him to his new home in Anfield.

In just over a week Harald was strong enough to fly and left his rehabilitation for new adventures. Good luck Harald!

For Wild October an Instagram initiative I spotted the odd fungi and also a sadly demised hedgehog.

The floral highlights this year has to be searching for the bee orchid, which I found at Port Sunlight River Park.

To complete this years round up of wildlife moments I have to include an american bird sighting, a female mockingbird which I spotted among the sparrows at The High Line, New York.

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Female Mockingbird

What have been your wildlife moments of 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #69

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?

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?

convenienceBook 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.

Brocholes:
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.

Family meal:
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.

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

Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Four.

download (1)Day 4: For this year’s 30 Days Wild, I ordered in preparation five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. I’ve known about this activity for a while now and decided that 2019 was the year to focus on the miraculous metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly. My butterfly garden and pack of five live caterpillars arrived a week before June. It’s been amazing watching them grow(doubling in size daily) for twelve days now.

I’ve grown very fond of my hungry caterpillars, but it won’t be long before they’ll create chrysalises and the next stage of the metamorphosis will begin. For today’s post I want to focus on the larval stage. Below find photos showing the caterpillars incredible growth.

Have you tried a butterfly garden? Watched your own caterpillars grow into butterflies?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Crocus field

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Ten

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_10Day 10: This Sunday David and I ventured to Brockholes, 50 minutes drive from Liverpool. Brockholes is a nature reserve on the site of an old quarry. It opened in 2011 and is managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. This 250 acre reserve has trail paths, forest walks, lakes, wetlands and a floating visitor centre.

We spent a leisurely four hours nature spotting. The highlights were: seeing a fleeing roe deer, hundreds of darting blue damselflies, dragonflies spotted over the Nook Pool, and an oystercatcher and lapwing from The Lookout hide.

Have you visited Brockholes? What was your impression?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

 

Walking Riley at Pennington Flash

Yet again, David and I have had a simply wonderful bank holiday weekend! 😀 Our plans were fitted around the changeable weather on Saturday, were we spent time visiting family. With better weather forecast for Sunday, we headed up to the Lake District for a spectacular day out (post to follow)! Monday, the hottest day of the year (so far), dawned bright with not a cloud in the sky. Our plan was a visit to the very popular Pennington Flash, with Riley in tow.

At only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Pennington Flash is a local nature reserve in Leigh. Boasting a 70 hectare lake, bird hides, bridle paths and even a golf course! Pennington Flash seems to have it all.

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View from a hide

On recommendation (as it gets very busy), we arrived early, paid £1.20 (which is for all day parking) and took a leisurely 3.5 mile walk around fens, woodland and meadows. Riley seemed to enjoy himself, even taking a short dip in the flash (a term for a lake derived from mining subsidence).

Of the numerous wildlife sightings, the highlights were, lapwings (which were too far for me to photograph), a yellow iris, my first sightings of damselflies, (too fast for me to photograph) and striking common blue butterflies.

I enjoyed the walk as much as Riley and hope to revisit in future. Perhaps a more detailed visit is in store for 30 Days Wild?

Have you visited Pennington Flash? If so, what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

strawberries

I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

starlings

On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #33

Today’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Theads and Bobbins), will be a mishmash of pictures and info. I hope you don’t mind?

cartoonWork: This week has been heavy on the workload. With only working 18 hours a week, a full days work is squashed into just 3-4 hours daily. Feeling slightly under the weather and tired has made for a hard week to get through. However spirits were high at the centre I work at, as they celebrated 40 years since their opening. As part of their celebrations a local artist George Brooks was commissioned to draw caricatures of staff and people who access the day centre. Here’s my mug shot!

#walk1000miles: While in previous weeks I have been breaking my own record mileage. This week I have found less time, nor the inclination to do much than the bare minimum. My mileage for this week has been 26 miles bringing my annual total to 683 miles. Not bad but I hope to do better this following week.

New Life: For the past three weeks our blue-faced parrot finches have been laying and sitting on eggs. At first there were eight eggs laid. Then as the weeks progressed they threw a few eggs out of the nest. On Thursday David was replenishing their food and water when he stooped to have a look into the nest. ‘There’s a baby!’ he whispered.

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Baby Blue-faced Parrot Finch

‘What?’ I asked disbelieving. David nodded for me to have a look and I gazed at a tiny, naked creature writhing about the eggs. Even though the baby was blind its bulbous black eyes seemed to protrude from its head. I still can’t quite believe that our finches have had a baby. I wonder what the future will hold for the little nestling and whether there will be any siblings?

An update: Sadly our little nestling only survived two days before we found it dead. RIP little one. 😥

Metamorphosis: What with hatching eggs, fledged goldfinches, pigeons and starlings visiting the feeders, it has all been about the young ones this week! Summer is amazing for seeing new life! I recently noticed a chrysalis attached to a jasmine leaf. We could see the colour of the butterfly through the transparent casing. About two weeks ago on the very same plant I had taken a picture of a green caterpillar. The chrysalis would be the next stage of the metamorphosis!

On Friday during our daily perusal of the yarden David noticed that the chrysalis was empty and the poor, newly emerged butterfly, a large white was sitting on the floor. We picked it up and placed it on a buddleia.

We noticed it had a crumpled wing and I later read that if a newly emerged butterfly ended up on the floor, it could reduce its chance of having pristine wings. It takes a day for the wings to harden and take shape. I hope that our new friend hasn’t damaged its chances of survival. I also noticed that it had just one antenna. I read that it could have been due to a deformity in the chrysalis. The antenna helps determine smell and balance. We left the new butterfly clinging to the biddleia. Hopefully it will be able to warm its wings, the crumple unfold and be able to feed and go on its merry way. Only time will tell.

Another update: This one a little happier, (though only a little). The large white butterfly is still with us. It moved from the buddleia to the floor again, though I did see a white butterfly flutter about the rockery plants earlier in the day. Whether that was our little friend I don’t know. David took the butterfly indoors and fed it sugar/water solution. David noticed that one antennae is under developed and that the butterfly does not have control of one of its front legs. The prognosis for survival is poor, but we shall keep an eye on the butterfly and keep feeding sugar/water. That is all we can do sadly.

I was reading up on metamorphosis and what happens inside a chrysalis. Enzymes are released dissolving tissue but keeping essential organs before remodeling begins. National Geographic have an interesting report on 3D scanning of the process. You can read it here.

Book I am reading: I’ve finally picked up Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Goldfinch. I’m only a few pages into the narrative but so far I am enjoying Tartt’s writing style. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Yarden:  To cheer myself up I decided to visit a local garden centre and purchase some perennials for the yarden. There wasn’t much of a selection but I came away with an achillea (yarrow) and chrysanthemum, both had the RHS Perfect for Pollinators sign.

Looking forward: I have a few days away booked to Keswick this coming week. I am so ready for a little break away. Need to recharge my batteries or I feel I will crumble. Look out for blog posts on how the planned swim/walks pan out!

That was my (rather upsetting) week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x