This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.
I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.
Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.
During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.
The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.
How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?
Now a permanent fixture in my calendar, the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this year fell between 25th -27th January 2020. I decided to do my hourly count on the Sunday, 11am to 12pm. Earlier I had topped up the yarden feeders in preparation. I boiled the kettle and made a pot of Bird and Wild espresso coffee which I got free with my order of the lovely RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch mug!
Big Garden Birdwatch mug
I sat by the window and waited for my feathered friends to visit. Though my tally was not as varied as previous years, there were no visits from the dunnock, robin or starlings. I did count 14 goldfinches, 9 pigeons and two noisy blue tits within the hour. The weather was grey and squally with a chilling breeze making the 8°C feel colder. I was hoping for a visit from the sparrowhawk, but she kept out of sight.
Graph of my count
If you were joining in with the count, how did you do?
I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂
An Impromptu Day Off Work:
On Wednesday my boss called in sick, meaning I was not needed. So faced with a day off work, I made a trip to the local Costa for a coffee with mum. 🙂
Dunnock in Magnolia
snake’s head fritillary
This week I have been watching a dunnock couple visit the yarden for grubs and bugs. I spied the male dunnock in the magnolia tree, so I snapped a poor picture of him before he flew away.
Also, I have one lowly snake’s head fritillary that has grown from bulb. I don’t know what happened to the other bulbs I planted!
30 Days Wild:
It’s that time of year again… time to sign up to some wonderful summertime initiatives. You can now sign up for The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Can you do something wild everyday this June?
30 Days Wild
The Great British Bee Count
Friend’s of the Earth’s popular survey The Great British Bee Count begins on the 17th May. I love spending time with our energetic pollinators. An app for recording sightings will be released in the near future.
Book I am Reading:
Having finally finished Ben Okri’s psychedelic The Famished Road. I have now picked up Ted Hughes’ collection of poems and short stories, Wodwo. The choice was inspired by reading Mark Haddon’s short story, Wodwo in his collection, The Pier Falls.
Have you read Ted Hughes? What’s your favourite book of his?
#Walk 1000 Miles:
Among the Daffodils
Among the Daffodils
We spent a good hour this Sunday walking around Sefton Park. The daffodils were out en-masse and were a lovely splash of colour on a rather drab day! My total for this week has been 38 miles walked, bringing my annual total to 540 miles.
If you are partaking in the challenge, how are you getting on?
Drawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’sNature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.
The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?
Red Laurel berries
Starling Picture by David Evans
Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!
I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.
Yellow blotches on Laurel leaf
I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.
Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.
Rain on poppy leaves
Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.
Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
White camellia bud
For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.
I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its blue instead.
Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?
For the past five years I’ve been participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Over the years I have seen fluctuations in bird numbers and species. This year before the count, it had been the poorest showing of birds in a long time. I don’t know whether this is due to the goldfinches being scared, yes you read that correctly, scared of the seed I bought for them from Haiths? Or whether it’s due to being a mild January, where there’s more abundant foods elsewhere? Either way when I came to sit down with a cup of coffee in hand I wasn’t expecting much of a show. However the birds had other ideas!
This year, the only day I could fit in the hour long bird watch was Sunday, between 12.10pm and 1.20pm. While a enjoyed a relaxing lunch, I gazed out of the window to where the bird feeders were all topped up!
I didn’t have to wait too long for the first visitors, the starlings, who in turn bring a cascade of flocks of goldfinches and pigeons. My tally for the hour was as follows.
9 pigeons (featuring a prima donna display from the rescue pigeon, Hoppy)
A swift visitation by 1 dunnock
An equally brief visit by 1 blue tit
The yarden this winter has generally attracted two blue tits, but the other was no where to be seen. I have spotted a visiting robin on most days, (which the dunnock could have chased away), and two great tits have visited occasionally. On Friday last, I saw what was either three long tailed tits, or wagtails, they stayed all too briefly for me to ID them!
So, there you have it, my tally for 2018’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I wonder what species I’ll see in 2019?
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.
Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest 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.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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!
Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.
Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.
We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.
Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!
We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!
Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.
We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.
Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.
From Lilian’s Hide
Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.
The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!
Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.
Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.
Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?
Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?
Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.
Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.
‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.
‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.
On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.
Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.
Great Crested Grebe
The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.
We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.
Small White Butterfly
As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.
Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?
I have to admit, I am struggling with this years 30 Days Wild. Having already invited nature into my every day life, I am finding it difficult to share with you anything new. I don’t have much time at present for many wild adventures and I am fearful of repetition. So I apologise if I write about something I have already blogged about in previous years!
Day Eight: Thursday.
Today was World Oceans Day. A day to celebrate the wonder of our oceans. Though I didn’t participate in any events, I did sign up for the Plastic Challenge, an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The challenge runs from the 1st to the 30th of June. Perfect for 30 Days Wild! The pledge is to give up or cut down on single use plastics. I have already started the cut back as I purchased a reusable water bottle. I shall also be wrapping my lunch in tinfoil or grease-proof paper. Do you have any other ideas on how to cut back on plastics?
We already know that microbeads are bad for the environment and wildlife! These small beads of plastic are in face-washes to toothpastes and are easily washed down the drain, ultimately ending in the seas and food chain. I have recently changed some of my skin products to a UK brand sold in Asda called, nspa. They use natural ingredients such as passion fruit seeds and rice to exfoliate instead of using microbeads.
What natural skin care do you use?
Fingers in the Sparkle Jar
Day Nine: Friday.
One of the many Random Acts of Wildness is to read a nature book or magazine, so I decided to purchase Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. I’m almost near the end and though I am enjoying it, I did find it hard to get into, as the first few chapters are heavy with long sentences of description that could have very well been written in only a handful of words.
Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?
Day Ten: Saturday.
Saturday’s are always busy but this evening was allotted for bottling the elderflower champagne. On Friday after work we went to give the mixture a stir and found a thin film of mold on the surface, (after 5 days). I read that it was time to strain and bottle. Straining took over an hour!
Mold on elderflower mixture
Elderflower champagne bottled
Firstly I lifted out the remains of the elderflower heads and then David poured the cloudy mixture into a pan through a thin gauze tea towel before funneling the sieved liquid into sterilized bottles. We loosely tightened the tops and left them in a cool place to carry on fermenting. I shall open a bottle on the last day of 30 Days Wild to see if the mixture has brewed.
Day Eleven: Sunday.
At Crosby Beach
Inspired by Sharon’s 30 Day’s Wild post, here. David and I headed to the beach in search of treasures. Of course Riley tagged along too! After our beach combing, we came back with a hoard of stones and shells!
Day Twelve: Monday.
Last Year I sent away for free wildflower seeds from Grow Wild, an initiative by Kew Gardens. I still had one packet of seeds left so I planted them in March. The annuals and perennials are now flowering, corn chamomile, common poppy and red campion among the selection.
Day Thirteen: Tuesday.
I chose looking for newborns as my random act of wildness for today. However I only managed to film a baby goldfinch visiting the garden feeders. On my many walks to work, I have seen begging baby blue tits and a stunning fledged blackbird!
Day Fourteen: Wednesday.
While taking Riley on his many walks around Sefton Park, we have been mesmerised by a couple of swallows who seem to glide effortlessly over the field, hunting insects. I decided to take my camera on our latest walk to see if I could capture them. The park was busy with people enjoying the fine weather, so I only captured a short clip. Swallows are hard to follow as they fly so fast and turn direction in a split second.
Swallows are summer migrants arriving from Africa from March onwards.
Spend most of their life on the wing.
Can cover 200 miles in a day and fly at speeds of up to 35 kilometers an hour.
Have a lifespan of three years in the wild.
This week I have been much more relaxed in my approach to 30 Days Wild. I have taken time to notice the flying bees and scurrying beetles while walking between bus stops to work. Listening to roosting goldfinches in the park while throwing the ball for Riley to chase has filled my heart. Just smelling cut grass has calmed my nerves.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?
A Look Back: at week two in previous years.
2015: Spending time in the yarden and National Bird results.
2016: Drawing a dunnock and baking turtle shaped bread.
This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.
Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!
They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.
I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.
I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!