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.

great crested grebe

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.

bird

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

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30 Days Wild 2017 – Finale

o0OhgWNNSadly, it’s the end of June and the finale of The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! Though it has been a challenge this year, I have enjoyed stretching myself to experience nature through different activities.

Initiatives like this makes you more appreciative of nature. Whether listening to birdsong, smelling a fragrance or IDing a tree or plant. It gives colour to our lives.

Day Twenty-nine: Thursday. 

As I’m writing this my skin feels so itchy. It’s psychological. I decided today to have a look at the washing-up bucket pond we set up last year. In the space of a year, the rockery plants have grown, and we had to change the oxygenating plant as the mare’s tails died. I’ve never pond dipped before so I didn’t know what to expect. The pond is not very big so I just used a glass to scoop up some of the water. I beheld hundreds of strange floating, twisting insects. In hindsight I should have took a video but a blurry picture will have to suffice.

After some research I was shocked to find that the little critters are all mosquito larvae. Images of malaria breeding insects came to mind. I read that there are approx. 30 species of mosquito in the UK. Only females drink blood as they need the protein in blood to create their eggs. In warmer climes they are the biggest killer of humans. Makes you thankful the UK is often cool!

They are often the first to colonize a new pond and other pond life and birds eat these insects. So I’m wondering, is it a good thing for these insects to be a part of my wildlife yarden? What do you think? Perhaps I need to get another oxygenating plant to help clean the water some more? Some advice would be most appreciated.

Day Thirty: Friday.

For the final day of 30 Days Wild I decided to open a bottle of the elderflower champagne and toast to the wild!

As I have never tasted elderflowers I didn’t know what to expect. The bottle kindly didn’t pop, and what was decanted into champagne flutes was a fizzy, light coloured liquid that had a hint of zest and a floral bouquet. It reminded me of grapefruit. David said the drink was refreshing but my mum said it was an acquired taste. I enjoyed it, but don’t think I could drink a lot of it.

Have you made elderflower champagne? What was your experience?

Summary: 

My third year of participating in 30 Days Wild has been a memorable one. From blissfully hot summer days to endless days of rainfall. My favourite highlights included, making elderflower champagne, beach combing on Crosby Beach, strawberry picking on the Wirral and visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing over the course of the month?

Looking ahead: there are still many activities to keep wild well into the summer months and into autumn and winter too. Taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, which begins 14th July to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch come January. There is no excuse for us to not stay wild!

What future activities are you looking forward to participating in?

A Look Back:

2015: Moths and butterflies

2016: Dancing in the rain and IDing weeds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 2

o0OhgWNNI 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?

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!

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.

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.

Facts:

  • 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.

Summary: 

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.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 1

o0OhgWNNIt’s June, and that time of year again! Time for The Wildlife Trust’s wonderful initiative, 30 Days Wild. Inspiring us all to get that little bit more wild! This is the third year I’ll be participating and I have to admit, I was a little excited for June to arrive. I learned so much during 2016’s 30 Days and enjoyed immensely the camaraderie of the online community. If you’d like to follow fellow participants, then click on My Wild Life Bloggers, and join in the discussion!

Day One: Thursday.

What could I do for the opening to my 30 Days Wild? With it being a long day at work, I decided to participate in Friends of the Earth’s, Great British Bee Count. The count runs from 19th May to 30th June and helps gather data on how healthy (or not) the British Bee population is.

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So once home, and dinner cooked, out I went into our yarden and stood hovering around the plants I know are popular with the bees. I’ve found that bees tend to like blueish coloured flowers. Among these plants are bell flowers, cat mint and chives. In just one small corner I counted five tree bumblebees, in an inner city yarden I find that amazing! There were also sightings of buff tailed bumblebees and I happily saw my first mason bee of the season. The yarden is usually awash with these cute little bees, all knocking each other from the flowers but I’ve noticed numbers seem to be down this year.

Have you participated in the Great British Bee Count? If not, you can download their free and easy to use app here, and start counting. 🙂

Day Two: Friday.

The Wildlife Trust’s encourages Random Act of Wildness. These Random Acts, be it for a few minutes or hours, are designed to add a little bit of nature to our otherwise busy lives. You can find their free downloadable app with 101 inspiring suggestions here. One such Random Act is find a creepy crawly. So after work I looked among the plants and undergrowth of our yarden, actively seeking creepy crawlies. I found two to photograph. One was a seven spot ladybird and the other a scarlet lily beetle. One is deemed a goody by gardeners and the other a baddie! I’ve Googled some interesting facts about both.

Seven Spotted Ladybird:

  • The most common ladybird seen in Europe.
  • Has a lifespan of a year.
  • Can eat up to 5.000 aphids during their life.
  • Secretes a fluid from their legs that is distasteful to predators.

Scarlet Lily Beetle:

  • Is not a native species to Britain but has been colonising since 1939.
  • Often seen on lilies and fritillaries and causes damage to these plants.
  • Overwinters in soil cover.
  • Studies have shown females find plants by scent.

Do you have any more curious facts about either species?

Day Three: Saturday.

Garden-BioBlitz-2017

This weekend was the annual National Garden BioBlitz. I took part in this survey last year. You can read how that went on here. This year I didn’t have as much time available, so I snatched an hour here and there. The aim of the project is to count the plants and animals that have arrived in the yarden ‘of its own accord’. Whereas I counted 54+ species of trees, shrubs, alpines and perennials I had planted. I only counted 21+ of flora and fauna that had arrived in the yarden of their own steam. Among them were:

Flora: bell flowers, foxgloves, poppies, herb robert and the annoying sticky weed!

Fauna: goldfinches, starlings, magpie, bee-fly and a spittle bug.

Out of the 20 species to look out for, our lowly little yarden chalked up 5/20. We were able to tick off, house sparrow, mason bee, tree bumblebee, garden snail and seven spot ladybird.

Did you participate in this survey? What wonders did you find?

Day Four: Sunday.

Last year, I participated in Wild October, an initiative started by 30 Days Wild’s Facebook page. The aim was to enjoy the changing season of Autumn. During the month I gathered fallen leaves and other detritus from a local park and displayed them on a nature table. This year for 30 Days Wild, I decided to do similar but with flowers and grasses I found along a woodland walk in Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. Of Course Riley had to tag along too. 🙂

While researching for this post, I was saddened to read that Festival Gardens has been earmarked for redevelopment, with shops and a ferry terminal in the pipe works. I do hope they don’t build on the already established park. The park as it stands has lovely lakeside paths and woodland walks and was created back in 2011 so the wildlife has had time to establish themselves. Redevelopment would mean a loss of habitat for wildlife and the opportunity for the residents to get closer to nature.

Have you lost a valued place of nature to redevelopment? Let me know your thoughts on this?

Day Five: Monday. 

Everywhere I look there are elders and their flowers growing all over the city. Waving seductively at the sides of roads, gracing parks, and even surprisingly, growing down my road! So I decided I would try my hand at making some elderflower champagne. I don’t know whether it will work as I’ve never done it before, but I thought. ‘I would give it a try’!

There are just so many recipes and videos on YouTube that I didn’t know which one to follow. So I sort of made a conglomeration of a couple!

Ingredients:

  • David and I foraged 10 medium sized elderflower heads.
  • Used 6 litres of water. 1 litre boiled and 5 cold.
  • The zest and juice of two lemons as well as two halves thrown in for good measure.
  • 750g of sugar (I used granulated).
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

Method:

  • After sterilizing a bucket David measured the sugar and dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.
  • While David stirred the sugar solution I trimmed and cut the elderflowers from their stalks, shaking any bugs off.
  • We threw the flowers into the bucket and added the zest and juice of the lemons.
  • Then left in two lemon halves in the mixture.
  • Poured the litre of sugar solution onto the elderflower and lemon and then added 5 litres of cold water.
  • Finally added the white wine vinegar and gave it a good stir.
  • Covered bucket with a tea-towel and left solution to (hopefully) start fermenting.
  • Stir the mixture once everyday until you see bubbles or fungus. Then sieve and bottle up. Be careful to leave gaps in top of bottles and monitor as the natural yeast in the elderflower and the sugar can cause the bottles to explode!

I will keep you all updated on our progress.

Day Six: Tuesday. 

Since it’s been raining for the past two days, I decided to do a little research on the topic. The Met Office offered a helpful info-gram. This video here, is helpful too.

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Five Facts:

  • It rains due to warm moist air cooling and condensing to liquid.
  • The shape of a rain drop is actually like a jelly bean.
  • The average speed of a rain drop is 14 mph.
  • Petrichor is the smell of rain as it hits dry ground.
  • Rain falls from weather fronts (two differing air masses) whereas showers stem from clouds.

Day Seven: Wednesday.

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Saving a buff-tailed bumblebee

With this deluge of rain we are having, means the poor wildlife seem to be having a hard time. The rain makes it harder for birds to forage for seeds and insects for their nestlings and bees become sodden and lethargic. It always seems to be buff-tailed bumblebees we find clinging to flower petals in the hope of finding shelter. Here’s what you can do if you find one.

The RSPB state two tablespoons of granulated sugar to one tablespoon of water. I think that is a little excessive. We only use teaspoons. One teaspoon to half a teaspoon of sugar. Place the sugar water where the bee can sit safely and drink. You will be amazed at how quickly the bee perks up.

Our little bumblebee was also wet and cold so we warmed her by the radiator before releasing her back safely into the yarden.

Have you tried reviving tired bees? How did it work for you?

Summary:

Nature is supposed to be natural, not forced, however this being my third year of participating in 30 Days Wild, I have felt pressurised to do activities which I haven’t done in previous years. Have you felt the same?

I did enjoy foraging for elderflowers and counting the bees. It’s amazing that even a small urban yarden can attract a variety of wildlife.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week one in previous years.

2015: Mint moths and buying homes for nature.

2016: Bee facts and growing maris bard potatoes.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x