30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-nine.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_29Day 29: For the last Close up Monday of 2020’s 30 Days Wild I’ll be focusing on gulls. I don’t know if many of you remember Harald the lesser black-backed gull chick who we helped last year, after falling from his roof top nest? Well, this past week we’ve had to save his sibling (from this years brood) from a similar fate. He was found unharmed, calling to his parent from the pavement. David scooped him up and we found a place for him at a local rehabber.

It got me wondering why are these gulls nesting in urban settings? I turned to the RSPB for more information. Apparently since the 1940’s herring and lesser black-backed gulls have nested on rooftops. The reason for this is unknown but the consensus is the ever abundance of food and predator free breeding sites. In my area of Liverpool it has only been the last few years that we have seen gull nests on chimney stacks. They do seem to be becoming more prevalent and it seems that gulls prefer to return yearly to the same nesting ground.

Last year we watched two gull nests, one a herring and another a lesser black-backed gull. The herring gull had three chicks but only one survived to fledging, whereas the black-backed gull had two chicks and both, though aided by humans, after falling from the roof were taken to be rehabilitated.

This year we only have the lesser black-backed gull nest in the road, however already one chick has been found dead in a neighbours yard after, again falling out of the nest and the latest rescue, Benjamin the tiny chick we found crying in the road.

All gulls are protected under the The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The most synonymous gull to the UK psyche is the herring gull. Though there seems to be an abundance of them in cities and by the sea-side they are in fact endangered due to population declines and listed red on the UK’s birds of conservation concern. This year we have a regular herring gull who visits multiple times daily. I fear he will get used to human contact but he enjoys the abundance of cat food we have and its better than the food waste going to landfill.

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Steven the herring gull

A little information on both species:

Both are omnivores, mate for life and can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that flush out excess salt. Both herring and lesser black-backed gulls have similar life spans of up to 15 years. Lesser black-backed gulls’ UK conservation status is amber.

What is your take on ‘sea’ gulls?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twelve.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_12Day 12: Today’s 30 Days Wild is going to be a ladybird hunt. Right or wrong I prefer to call them ladybugs!! On my daily walk with Riley we follow a path close to a railway line. At present the embankment is full of nettles and I’ve seen shinning red against the greenery, lots of ladybugs. Native or not (harlequin) I’ve decided to take a count of how many ladybugs I see on my walk.

On today’s walk I spotted a grand total of 24 ladybugs, a mixture of native and harlequin. In one section of the walk there were an abundance of ladybird larvae. They do seem to like nettles and knapweed.

It looks like the photos I have captured are all harlequin ladybugs, however I have seen some two, seven spot and 16 spot ladybirds during my count. I find it quite hard to tell native ladybirds from harlequins. Maybe the white eyes are a give away?

There are around 40 native ladybirds in the UK. Their redness is a sign to predators that they bitter tasting, they also exude a liquid that detracts birds and ants. Adults hibernate in winter. Their larvae are voracious aphid eaters.

Harlequin ladybirds are from Asia and arrived in the UK in 2004. They are more prevalent in towns, hence seeing more in a local park. They are larger than the native ladybird and out compete natives in prey and will eat other ladybird’s eggs and larvae.

Have you seen any ladybirds where you live?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Four.

download (1)Day 4: I began my 30 Days Wild adventures in 2015. Since then I have learned a new appreciation for arachnids, helped countless exhausted bees and learned a few more bird songs. Continuing on from the past two years of 30 Days Wild, Thursday’s will be know as Throw Back Thursday’s! Preparing for this post, I realised that the calendar for 2020 is the same as 2015. On the fourth day of June 2015 I planted wildflower seeds.

In 2016 I marvelled at the flowers on maris bard potatoes. 2017 saw me pick flowers and grasses for a nature table. I got up close and personal in 2018 with a cellar spider and in 2019 I watched as my painted lady caterpillars grew and grew and grew!

So for 2020’s Throw Back Thursday I will create another nature table.

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Nature Table

All my finds are from a local park. On display are many types of grasses, elder and cow parsley flowers, a fallen sycamore leaf and seed (helicopter), daisies, clover, poplar tree seeds, (that look like cotton wool) and even a pigeon feather. A nature table that depicts early summer.

Have you created a nature table?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

New York, New York!

Finally life is getting back to normal after David and I took a five night stay away to the city that never sleeps, New York. We booked the trip in September in the spirit of live for the moment, and in no time the holiday was upon us and David and I were jetting across the Atlantic.

We walked 73 miles down avenues and across streets. Downtown, Uptown, Harlem and Chelsea. Wandered the High Line and explored Central Park. Had a burger at Toms and waffles at a chocolate bar. Towered above the city at World One, before delving into the depths of a submarine. Fought the crowds on Fifth Avenue and marveled at the panorama from The Rockefeller. Stood in awe at the Brooklyn Bridge and went DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Reflected at the 9/11 Memorial and took a ferry ride to Staten Island. All in all we had a fabulous trip. Here’s a flavour of our holiday.

Have you visited New York? If not which attraction would you like to visit?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #58

It’s Sunday! Time for a Sunday Sevens!

Baking:

To keep himself occupied, David has been baking. He first made an espresso devil’s food cake and then chocolate chip cookies. They were both very yummy if not fattening!

Walks with Riley:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley in tow visited a cold Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve. We walked three miles around the reserve and observed hundreds of teals flying around the frozen pools. We were also blessed to see two roe deer bounding towards woodland.

#walk1000miles:

My miles for this week has been 45, bringing my annual total to date to 260 miles.

A Year in Books:

My Year in Books is not going so well. I am still plodding my way through Minette Walter’s medieval novel, The Turn of Midnight. I am enjoying this book far better than the first but I am only snatching moments to read whilst on the bus to work. In preparation for future reads I’ve bought more books! I’ve a library full of classics to read but just can’t face them! So I keep buying more modern titles.

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Books

What book/s are you enjoying at present?

RSPB Membership:

This week David and I have become members of the RSPB. I still had money from my birthday and Christmas, so I decided to purchase a RSPB membership as there are a few reserves nearby that I want to revisit, Leighton Moss being one of them.

My Wild City:

Also this week I signed up to participate in the Wildlife Trusts’, My Wild City. The aim is to ‘reconnect people with their gardens, and local green spaces to create wildlife corridors for both people and wildlife.’ The initiative is aimed at Manchester but I decided to sign up anyway and see what my small yarden can do. Perhaps you can sign up too?

Beach (bonus picture):

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Selfie at Formby Point

Today we took Riley to Formby Point, my brother and his girlfriend, Ashlea came along for the ride. Much fun was had by all.

So that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for devising the series.

Sunday Sevens #56

It’s been ages since I’ve written a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins). So as 2018 draws to a close I’ve decided to compile one last Sunday Sevens to top off a wonderful Christmas week.

Christmas:

To get into the festive spirit, Mum and I attended a Carol Service at the local church. While on Christmas Day, David and I played host to our parents for a wonderful Christmas dinner.

Walking the dog:

Over the festive period we managed to get out and about with Riley. I enjoyed the walks as much as Riley and my miles totted up nicely. My final week’s mileage for #walk1000miles is 30.

Music:

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Zimmer Vs Williams

On Thursday David and I attended a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. The programme was Zimmer vs Williams and featured music from films such as Star Wars, E.T, The Dark Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean. I enjoyed the concert, David was less enamoured.

Wildlife:

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Tree Bumblebee

Today David saved a bee! I think this tree bumblebee had either been disturbed or was an old queen. After research I found that due to warmer winters bumblebees, the tree bumblebee included are choosing to start new nests rather than hibernate. A consequence of global warming? Whatever the reason this tree bumblebee looked in need of assistance. So we gave her sugar/water and left her to rest in the yarden.

Have you seen any bees flying this wintertime?

New Friend: 

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Luna

This weekend David and I acquired a new friend for the aviary, a Lady Gouldian Finch we named Luna. How beautiful is he?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

All the best for 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2018

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. As December comes to a close and 2019 draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2018. And what a year 2018 has been! David and I have been on a wonderful adventure together. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight what a fantastic year 2018 has been!

 January:

The year began with a seven mile walk at Gisburn Forest, in the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It certainly blew the cobwebs away and set the tone for the rest of the year ahead.

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Forest Walk

February:

Desperate to get out and catch as much winter sun as we could, David and I embarked on a 10 mile circular walk of my much loved Derwentwater in the Lake District.

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Derwentwater

March:

The highly anticipated exhibition of China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened at Liverpool’s World Museum. I visited in March with David and then again in September with mum.

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Terracotta Warriors

April:

I was over the moon when I completed my first 500 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I only had another 500 to complete, which I accomplished in July!

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Reaching 500 miles

May:

With the weather hotting up David and I took yet another trip to The Lake District. This time we walked towards Bleaberry Tarn for a blissfully warm wild swim.

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Bleaberry Tarn

June:

June for me is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This year was extra special as I managed to blog every day. We spent a wonderful month visiting many new nature reserves and even managed to squeeze in a short break to The Lake District, where we waked alpacas along Derwentwater.

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At Derwentwater

July:

The highlight of July was having my friend from California, USA come to stay with us for a few days. As requested, we visited the Lake District for what turned out to be a rather soggy hike around Rannerdale Knotts.

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Selfie Time!

August:

We took a trip down to see Dippy the Diplodocus at Birmingham Museums. This free  exhibition was a little bit different from our other days out this year.

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Dippy at Birmingham

September:

A wild swim dream came true this month when David and I took a short break to the Highlands of Scotland. I managed to bag three swims! It has whetted my appetite to visit again in future.

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Getting changed, Loch Etive

October:

As a birthday treat I, along with David and my mum took a visit to Liverpool’s newly opened Cat Cafe. We seemed to be a magnet for naughty, hungry kitties.

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Christine and Rose

November:

The Lake District has played a heavy part in 2018. Imagine my happiness when we discovered that Riley could manage the two hours travel up to Cumbria. (He suffers badly with car sickness). Our first visit with Riley tagging along was to the serene Rydal Water and Grasmere.

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David and Riley at Rydal Water

December:

December is all about the excitement of Christmas. My favourite picture from December is undoubtedly Riley with Santa Paws.

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Let’s hope 2019 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

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.

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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

The Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawks have featured a few times on my blog. The first was a fleeting visit where I didn’t even have time to pick up my camera. The second visit, last year, was of a male sparrowhawk surveying the area.

The most recent visitation by this enigmatic bird arrived on a dreary August bank holiday Monday. David was just about to do the dishes when he exclaimed, ‘there’s a sparrowhawk on the wall!’

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Female Sparrowhawk

For the next half hour or so we both watched on amazed as a female sparrowhawk sat on the wall and devoured her prey, a poor little starling. We had never seen a sparrowhawk with its prey before. It was a bit gruesome and sad for the starling but you have to think with your head and not with your heart on these matters. If there were no small birds for the sparrowhawk to prey upon, then there would be no sparrowhawks either.

Due to their prey being primarily songbirds (they do eat small mammals too), sparrowhawks often come into conflict with birdwatchers. However there is no correlation between a dip in songbirds and predation by sparrowhawks. In the past there have been two studies on the influence of predation and songbird numbers. Both studies noted that there was in fact more of an increase in songbird numbers than an actual negative correlation when predated by sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawks are noted to prey on the old and infirm, creating a survival of the fittest gene pool for songbirds. Sparrowhawks feed mainly on sparrows, tits, finches and starlings, however female sparrowhawks can hunt birds as large as a pigeon. Recent research led me to discover that the sparrowhawk sometimes does not quickly dispatch of it’s prey. Anything bigger than a sparrow will face a lingering death while being eaten, if a vital organ/artery is not punctured. It made for a sobering read.

The sparrowhawk has in the past been subjected to persecution by trophy hunters and in the 1950’s their numbers crashed due to usage of pesticides such as DDT in farming. It was only after DDT was banned and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was passed protecting sparrowhawks, that their numbers increased.

The sparrowhawk is one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey. It is the perfect ambush predator, easily maneuvering in enclosed spaces such as woodland and gardens. However only 1 in 10 hunts result in a meal for the sparrowhawk. Females can be up to 25% larger than males. Sparrowhawks are relatively short lived, their maximum age is around 3 years, but some can live to around seven. They are found all over the UK apart from the Highlands of Scotland. Their eyes change colour with age, starting green and growing more yellow with maturity.

Sparrowhawks are seen as a top predator and their presence indicates that the bird population in an area is healthy. Though it was unpleasant to witness the sparrowhawk with its prey, I was amazed at seeing her in the yarden. Nature after all isn’t sunshine and flowers. I must be doing something right with the feeding of the little birds in order to bring the larger birds to the area.

Have you come close to a sparrowhawk? Seen one with it’s kill? What are your thoughts on UK raptors?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.


Further reading:

Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:

Springwatch.

Discover Wildlife.

British Bird Lovers.

RSPB.

Living with Birds.