Touring the Trossachs – Day Five.

Friday dawned much like Thursday did, cloudy and drizzly. It didn’t matter as we were heading home. After breakfast we said goodbye to the birds on the bird feeders (even a tiny goldcrest whizzed passed). We packed our remaining belongings and cleaned up and left our cabin around 9am. Our final destination of the week was Loch Katrine.

The drive took around 25 minutes from our cabin at East Lodge, Loch Venachar to Loch Katrine pay and display car park. Since it was drizzly, there weren’t many tourists about. We paid £3 for two hours parking. Though the walk towards the swim point I wanted took more than an hour to get to. I panicked a little and we ended up swimming from a beach a little closer to the car park. I didn’t want David to get fined! It mattered very little as I had a lovely, atmospheric swim, even though it was the first time that week we had attracted midges! Loch Katrine was made famous by a Sir Walter Scott poem, The Lady of the Lake. During Victorian times, tourism boomed as people wanted to see the landscape the poem was set in. Today there are many ferry cruises that tour Loch Katrine.

During our time in the Trossachs, I calculated I swam eight new lochs/lochans during the week away, but in total, I swam 13 times over the five days. No wonder I was tired everyday! However I did feel that I was getting stronger. Who knows when I shall get back into the water again?

Perhaps I can do a birthday swim in October?

Where would you like to see me swim next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My August

I can’t quite believe that it’s almost the end of summer. August for me is a time for mourning. Mourning the warmth, the lighter days and all the wonderful wildlife that visit my yarden. I’m not sure if others notice it, but there’s a slight shift in the angle of sunshine, a scent of autumn is carried on the wind, and in my yarden there is the scratchy call of hundreds of starlings eating their way through all the fat cakes I make. August is summer’s swan song and the song of the starling, is for me, the sound of autumn.

The month began by celebrating David’s birthday. He wanted to go to Leighton Moss to get to grips with his new camera. So we headed up the motorway and spent a peaceful couple of hours spotting birds and enjoying nature.

The wildlife highlight for me this month has been watching the visiting bat, Batty and their friend hunt around the yarden. One night Batty was particularly energetic, hunting moths and midges, turning summersaults in the air.

The other evening we were witness to a spectacular sunset. I tend to miss many sunsets but this one made the whole sky look like it was on fire!

In June I sowed a packet of wildflower seeds for 30 Days Wild. This month they are finally flowering. I have field marigold and camomile growing with a host of field poppies, that are attracting bumblebees and hoverflies.

During the evenings David and I have been watching some older TV shows, both I hadn’t seen before. We started the month with Ricky Gervais’s The Office and now getting through the seasons of Stargate SG1.

At present I am reading The Mabinogion, a set of Celtic Welsh tales, suggested to me by fellow blogger Charlotte Hoather.

All of the Dyfi Ospreys have embarked on their migration south. Safe travels my gorgeous Ystwyth, (Bobby Bach). I wish them all well on their travels. I don’t know why, but the leaving of these beautiful birds makes me feel sad. Another sign that summer is ending. 😦

On a day off work, I was cleaning the bird feeders when I saw a bird strike the kitchen window with a thud! I rushed out into the yarden and discovered a baby goldfinch lying on its back, still breathing. I scooped him up and put him in the hospital cage with the heat lamp on and a hot water bottle. Within half an hour he had perked up and was fluttering about the cage. So, to lessen the stress, David and I let him free. I hope he recovers from his collision. Fly free little one.

My August 2021 ends in spectacular fashion! The Airbnb we had booked for my birthday last year, (and which we had to cancel due to Covid-19 restrictions), luckily we managed to re-booked in April. Thankfully Covid-19 restrictions have eased and we have finally managed to get to this beautiful loch side cabin in Scotland!

Well, that was my August, with a lot of wildlife sightings! How was your August? Did you get up to any adventures?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Birthday Trip!

It was David’s birthday on Monday! To celebrate the day, he wanted to visit a nature reserve to test out his new telephoto lens. So we got up early on a bright August morning and headed up the motorway to … Continue reading

My July

Where is the year 2021 going? We are now in August and I have very little to show for it! Time seems to be slipping through my fingers at an unimaginable speed! It’ll soon be Christmas at this rate! :p

This month has been all about positive covid-19 tests, thankfully not mine, though it feels like I am running the gauntlet and it’s only a matter of time before I catch it! All covid regulations in England were relaxed in July, it seems to be the case of just get on with it now!

My July began by taking another trip to Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral to see the Peace Doves with mum. I think she was a little underwhelmed but we visited on a weekday morning and got to see the art installation before anyone else managed to get in the photos!

July was all about the heatwave! Just over a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures in the NW reaching 32°C. Sadly, I didn’t go on any adventures due to a member of the family being ill, but I made the most of staying local by visiting Sefton Park with Riley and Pickerings Pasture, which was full of fluttering meadow brown butterflies.

During this short heatwave, water was vital for all wildlife and after purchasing a £3 paddling pool from Asda for Steven, the herring gull, he wasn’t the only one to be seen having a pool party! The pigeons, starlings and even I, had to have a cool down in these hot temperatures!

After a month of rehabilitation, David and I released Harri. He had grown stronger during his stay with us and managed to eat by himself. Near the end of his stay he was getting a little stressed at being constrained. So the best decision we could make was to release him back to his flock and hope that he gets on ok. On his release it didn’t take him long to come out of the cage and fly up to the roof top. Good luck Harri. It’s up to you now!

Update on Harri: he has been seen visiting the yarden a couple of days after his release! Flying and eating well!

The Dyfi Project osprey chicks I have been following on YouTube, fledged in July. Ystwyth (Bobby Bach) was the last chick to fledge and I watched on a Saturday morning her first flight. It was very emotional and I have to admit I cried. They will remain in the area until they migrate to warmer climes end of August!

No sooner had we released Harri when David caught a lost racing pigeon, who he named Hercules as he was twice the size of the feral pigeons. David contacted The Royal Pigeon Racing Association and registered the number of the lost pigeon. The result came back as his owner was from Birmingham and David contacted him. David found out that Hercules was flying from Guernsey and overshot Birmingham by 100 miles! (I blame Storm Evert). However the lure of our yarden was too much not to visit for Hercules and he enjoyed a few days with the resident Scouse ladies. David and I released Hercules and hope that he makes his way back home! Safe journey Hercules.

David has also caught another sick pigeon. This time one with canker. Idris has been given medication and is being crop fed twice daily. We just hope that we have caught the infection in time. Fingers crossed.

On the final Saturday of July David and I had a short adventure to Snowdonia. We had intended on visiting Llynnau Mymbyr but there was a triathlon going on so we had to quickly change plans and headed to Llyn Ogwen instead for a very chilly and rainy swim!

That was my July, how was yours? Did you enjoy the hot weather or kept to the shade?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2020

What an unprecedented year 2020 has been! From a stormy beginning to the new year to a global pandemic the likes no one had seen in a hundred years. We were told to work from home or be furloughed. The roads were quieter and the air felt fresher for it. Then we were allowed out but it wasn’t for long as we were soon all told to stay at home, again! People lost their jobs, their homes and small businesses suffered. It has been a year of struggle and stresses untold. Every day blended into one and mental health issues took its toll. Now Christmas is upon us but there’s not much cheer to be had. This year in photos has been the hardest blog to write. How has your 2020 fared?

January

Our 2020 started off slowly with lots of walks with Riley. If I knew what lay ahead I would have gone on more adventures.

David and Riley

February

Our aviary welcomed a new friend in the form of Nova, a Star finch.

Nova, the Star Finch

March

If I’d have known that this was the last time I’d see a live concert at the Philharmonic Hall, I would have made an effort to enjoy it more. However I was less than satisfied with this performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony.

The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

April

With all the uncertainty around lock-down it was nice to escape for a while. A favourite RPG of mine which I last played in 1997, had been remade and was released in time to save lock-down.

Final Fantasy 7: Remake

May

Social distancing meant that we didn’t see family as much as we would have liked. So we had many family quiz nights to catch up and have a much needed laugh.

Family Quiz Nights

June

Sadly we had to say goodbye to Evie, the family cat who passed away aged 18.

Evie

July

Once Covid-19 lock-down restrictions had been relaxed, we took a day trip to The Lake District. Wild swimming at Beacon Tarn was a reset button to all the anxiety of the year.

Beacon Tarn swim

August

A visit to a local sunflower maze with family was enjoyable, even though the sunflowers themselves had passed their best!

Sunflower Selfie

September

One of the best days of 2020 was when we took a visit to Buttermere in The Lake District. The weather was perfect, just like a summers day!

The Lone Tree

October

Like many who had plans this year, I had to cancel my birthday holiday to Scotland. I settled for a walk at Formby Beach with David and Riley instead.

Riley at Formby Beach

November

During the summer, on a walk with Riley, I spotted the Google Maps car. Fast forward to the end of the year and during a search I spotted Riley, Mum and I on Google Maps!

On Google Maps

December

With the country in differing Covid-19 tiers, there seems to be less hope and cheer this Christmas. Whoever you celebrate the season with, I wish you all the best.

2020 Christmas Tree

I’m keeping everything crossed that 2021 will be a kinder year to us all!

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

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

A Birthday Visit to Formby Point

2020 has been a disappointing year for so many, David and myself included. For my birthday this year we should have been holidaying in a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossach’s National Park, but due to Covid-19 restrictions, we made the best of a difficult situation and spent the day at Formby Point. No trip to the beach is complete without an excitable Border Collie in tow. We may not have seen any red squirrels in the woods but we certainly made the most of our time at the beach, even seeing a few mermaid purses. Here’s a few pictures from our trip.

How have you been coping in 2020? Have any holiday plans changed/cancelled?

Thanks for reading, and keep well,

Christine x

Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

blencathra

Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

walk

Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

dock tarn

Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

dock tarn 2

Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

map

Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

blea Water

Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

blea water swim

Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

Sunday Sevens #66

Since it’s back to normality after blogging everyday in June for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I thought I would write a Sunday Sevens.

Friends:

Last weekend my friend from America visited us again. She is a big fan of Riley so David and I decided to take them both on a morning walk to Formby Beach.

Then in the afternoon we visited Liverpool’s Cat Cafe.

The Aviary (part 1):

Dsc_0540 (2)

Set and Leaf

In a previous Sunday Sevens from 2017 (found here), you may recall that I wrote about having to separate an aggressive blue-faced parrot finch from the aviary as he attacked another finch.

In April this year, we decided that two years in the prison cage was enough time for the two blue-faced parrot finches, and so we paroled them to be reintegrated into the aviary.

However, this Tuesday David and I came home from work to murder in the aviary! The victim, poor Lady Gouldian, Set.

We found him with all his feathers plucked from his head and close to death. We put him in the hospital cage in the hope that he would pull through but he succumbed from his ordeal not long after. There was no need for an Agatha Christie detective, we already knew who the culprit was: blue-face parrot finch, Leaf who was seen the previous day chasing Set! It looked like he was back to his aggressive ways! Saddened and angry in equal measure we separated both blue-faced parrots from the aviary and now they reside in the prison cage for life! We buried Set under the Californian lilac, he was only two years old.

Book I am reading:

For the past few weeks I have been reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I am enjoying the narrative and the colourful cast of characters. Have you read this book? If so what did you think?

#walk1000miles:

I hit my #walk1000miles target on 25th June 2019. Since then I have been continuing to clock up my miles in the hope of getting to 2000 miles come the end of the year! My weekly total has been 39, bringing my annual total to 1,073 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

New Life:

For the first time since I can recall we have not one, but two herring gull nests around our house. They have made nests on nearby chimney stacks. One nest had three chicks, whereas the other only two. On Friday we noticed that the nest with three chicks only had two. On further inspection David found a grim discovery. One of the chicks had fallen (or been thrown) from the nest. He was stranded on a roof and come Saturday morning his body was no longer there. Sad times.

Baking:

This weekend, David made some more cupcakes. He made peanut butter ones and some Victoria sponges for me. Yummy!

cakes

Victoria Cupcakes

The Aviary (part 2:)

nero

Nero

On a happier note to end with, on Saturday David and I visited a pet shop in Warrington. We were looking for a mate for Star our star finch but they only sold pairs. So we opted for a male black head/purple chest Lady Gouldian. I named him Nero. He is a beauty! He has been trying to catch the eye of our resident female. I hope he is successful.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens is devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day One.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01Day 1: Though summer may have begun for some parts of the UK, in the NW of England the day dawned overcast with metallic grey skies and later on drizzle.

I’d been busy planning my 30 Days Wild, an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts’ when an event to Meet the Moths at RSPB Leighton Moss was advertised, it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

David and I spent an hour with the moths of Leighton Moss. The volunteers gave detailed information on these wonderful and diverse pollinators, and opened three moth traps.  Some of the moths displayed was the buff-tip, a camouflage expert, and the striking peppered moth. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I finally got to meet a hawk moth! Afterwards we leisurely walked the trails while listening to willow warblers in the reed beds and watching swifts flit overhead. From the Tim Jackson hide we got a fantastic view of the marsh harrier!

What a wonderful start to my 30 Days Wild!

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #65

I’ve wanted to write a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins), since Easter. However I’ve just not had enough material to warrant a post.

In the past three weeks David and I have been to a wedding, visited bluebells at RSPB Burton Mere and had a disappointing trip to The Royal Liver Building.

Beach:

We’ve visited Formby Point on several occasions recently. I think you can gather from the pictures that Riley loves the freedom the beach offers.

On our second visit David managed to capture splendidly the very friendly and brave red squirrels!

Book I am reading:

I recently saw an advert for Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls. My education heavily featured Greek History so I was intrigued by the premise (the Trojan War told by Briseis), so I decided to purchase a Kindle copy. I found the writing easy to read and though I enjoyed it, I feel I expected more from the story somewhat. Since then I’ve picked up The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde by Eve Chase. Have you read any of these books?

#walk1000miles:

I fear my mileage has taken a hit recently. Late buses (meaning I don’t do a two mile walk before work) and days of feeling poorly, have meant my miles total for this week has been 38, bringing my annual total to 785 miles. If you are doing the challenge, how are you doing?

Baking:

David has been baking again, this time it’s cup cakes!

#30DaysWild:

This week my 30 Days Wild poster and wildflower seeds arrived through the post. I was so eager to start planning that I pinned the huge calendar up on the fridge. We’ve a few days already planned, but I won’t tell you about them just yet. Will you be participating in The Wildlife Trusts‘ initiative?

And finally:

During a Sunday visit to Liverpool’s Sefton Park we finally got to see the mandarin duck that’s recently taken up residence and caused a stir in the birding community!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x