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 Twenty-four.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: For the last Close Up Monday of 2019’s 30 Days Wild, I am focusing on dragonflies.

My interest was piqued after reading that these large, colourful insects spend most of their larval stage in water. When they emerge as adults they shed their exoskeleton and are found clinging to nearby foliage for two hours whilst they pump blood into their wings for flight.

There are three stages to the life cycle of a dragonfly: egg, nymph and adult.

life-cycle-of-a-dragonfly-coloring-pageegg: mating occurs whilst flying and afterwards the female will lay her eggs on or near water.

nymph: or larvae is the longest stage of the dragonfly life cycle and can take up to four years. During this time the nymph is aquatic and eats other nymphs.

adult: once the time and conditions are right the nymph will crawl out of the water and shed it’s exoskeleton or exuvia, whilst resting on a plant. On the wing they look for food (they are voracious hunters) and to mate (to begin the cycle again). The lifespan of an adult is two months.

There are 23 species of dragonfly in the UK. Along with damselflies, dragonflies are of the Odonata order, meaning ‘toothed jaws. Both species have four sets of wings. Dragonflies can beat each pair of wings together or separately, and can fly at almost 30mph. They breathe through spiracles in the side of the abdomen. Dragonflies predate on flies, mosquitoes, bees and butterflies. Dragonflies have the largest eyes of the insect world and 80% of their brain is devoted to vision.

It was during the hot summer of 2018 when I saw the most dragonflies.

Have you seen any dragonflies this year? What’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

The Wildlife Trusts

The Woodland Trust

British Dragonflies

Animal Corner

YPTE Factsheet

Dragonfly Site

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-two.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: Today, David and I, (with Riley in tow), drove to Warrington’s Moore Nature Reserve, situated between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. This 200 acre site boasts miles of woodland paths, meadows and wetlands. We walked 3.5 miles around the reserve but could have stayed longer. We saw speckled wood butterflies, a great crested grebe and damselflies.

Have you visited this nature reserve? Which is your favourite reserve?

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

2017 – A Year in Insects

This post was inspired by reading Grantham Ecology’s post 2017 in Bees. I haven’t seen as many bees this year, so I thought I would post about the other insects I have seen in 2017 too. I hope you enjoy!

I am forever learning about the inhabitants of my yarden. This year I discovered a new insect, it was enjoying the lavender I had planted. It was a spittlebug, or frog hopper, (also known as cuckoo spit). They are identified as garden pests but this little fella didn’t seem to be doing much harm.

I was also excited to see my first seven spotted ladybird this summer. After I saw one I saw a few enjoying the aphids in the yarden.

On our travels David and I saw lots of blue damselflies but none were more striking (not to mention huge), than the golden ringed dragonfly.

I do love spotting butterflies but have not been as successful in photographing them. However the beautiful comma butterfly stayed still enough for me to snap a picture.

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Comma butterfly

We did manage to capture the cycle of caterpillar to chrysalis and then to an adult. Unfortunately our large white butterfly didn’t have a long life as it came out of it’s chrysalis with a deformity.

Though bees weren’t in number in my yarden in 2017 there was quite a lot of diversity in species. I photographed eight different species, from early sightings of tree bumblebees to the spectacular hairy-footed flower bee. Honey bee sightings were down this year but the number of common carder bees were up. They were active right up until the end of October! I’ll end this post with a collage of some of the bees that have visited my yarden in 2017.

Here’s hoping there’ll be more visitors in 2018!

Have a very happy new year!

Christine x

Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve

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.

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.

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?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x