Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!
Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.
Buff Tip Moth – David Evans
Small Elephant Hawk Moth
I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.
Red Squirrel by David Evans
Golden Ringed Dragonfly
Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.
The Moon by David Evans
There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!
Day 9 – caterpillar
Painted Lady Butterfly
The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.
The Bee Centre
Christine and honey bees
David and honey bees
Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!
Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.
Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?
Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!
2019’s longest day, saw the UK welcome 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. However, after all this celebration of light, the shorter days and darker nights begin from here. Today the weather for the NW of England has been fair and warm. Perfect weather to release my painted lady butterflies.
I was sad to see my butterflies fly but knew I had given them the best start in life.
Painted Lady Butterfly
After coming home from work David and I headed out to a sun drenched yarden. The chirrup of sparrows and the cooing of pigeons sounded in the air. Once I had opened the habitat one butterfly, (I would like to think it was my little caterpillar who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup), flew straight up into the air! The other four butterflies needed a little more coaxing. I noticed one feeding on the watermelon I had given them before he/she took to the wing.
All five butterflies safely flew away. I hope they enjoy the sunshine on this solstice and manage to breed and begin the cycle again.
It has been a wonderful experience. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the caterpillars and then saddened when they became chrysalids, but soon celebrated the emergence of them as butterflies. Nature is truly miraculous!
Day 9 – caterpillar
Getting ready to Chrysalise
Painted Lady Butterflies
Would I do it all again? Probably, though I stressed about feeding the butterflies and when I couldn’t release them. But the positive experience more than out weighed the worries.
Have you been inspired to give the experience a go? If so, you can read more about butterfly gardens from Insect Lore.
Thanks for following my caterpillars to butterflies,
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!’
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,
Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:
Day 20: During our Lake District break we booked an alpaca walk with Alpacaly Ever After. Alpacas can live up to 20 years, mature around two, have only one cria (baby) and females chose when to go into labour. Their wool is oil free and fire retardant. They are grazers and roam the mountains of South America. They are predated upon by mountain lions and can run up to 30mph!
This and other information was given by our guide for the day, Ruby, however, I’ll go into more depth in a future post. At present, David is busy making a video of our experience which I can’t wait to share with you all!
The two alpacas we walked around the grounds of the Lingholm Estate were Beast and Milky Joe. I even guided Milky Joe for a dip in Derwentwater.
Christine and Milky Joe
David and Beast
Have you walked alpacas? If so what was your experience of them?
My last close up with – is of my encounter with a varied feathered few, during a half day falconry experience at Gauntlet Birds of Prey, Knutsford. 2011 seems such a long time ago, but I still remember their Lanner Falcon, Sally digging her claws into my scalp as she tried to bully me!
The half day experience comprised of firstly learning to tie the falconers knot and then handling a few birds, from owls to kestrels and falcons.
Alan the Kestrel
African Spotted Eagle Owl
After this meet and greet there was a chance to fly a vulture and the end of the experience was a walk with harris hawks. I loved it and have always wanted to do a similar experience in future.
Have you had a bird of prey experience? What were your impressions?
I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.
After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.
Wild Swim by Kate Rew
Wild Swimming by Daniel Start
My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.
Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)
Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.
Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.
YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.
Swimming at Buttermere
Swimming at Derwentwater
One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.
So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.
I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.
Goggles (which I have never worn)
Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)
David thought I was insane but humoured me.
First swim at Derwentwater
Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.
Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.
Terrence the thermometer
The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!
Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.
The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.
I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?
#walk1000miles: As part of the celebrations, David and I headed towards Snowdonia for a 4.5 mile walk. We took the path overlooking Dinorwig Power Station before visiting the shores of Llyn Padarn.
Dinorwig Power Station
With still counting my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, at the time of writing I am currently at, 1,102 miles!
Collecting: This week I came across the 2017 edition of the 50 pence Peter Rabbit. There’s still Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher to find! Have you found any?
Peter Rabbit 2017 50p
The Hiding Places, Katherine Webb
Book I am reading: I am currently ploughing through Katherine Webb’s post WW1 mystery, The Hiding Places. I must admit there is a lot of preamble. However it is keeping me company on the daily commute. Have you read any good books lately?
Ok. Now for that something amazing I was talking about at the beginning of this blog! This Saturday our yarden witnessed a beautiful visitor. He was not enjoying the seed on offer but waiting for a tasty morsel of a goldfinch, or perhaps a starling? He was a sparrowhawk.
Now you maybe thinking, nothing special about that sighting, but living in a city, you don’t often come across raptors. David and I stood in awe for over five minutes watching the sparrowhawk survey the territory. We’ve had many charms of goldfinches and rowdy starlings visiting our feeders this weekend, so this activity possibly drew the sparrowhawk to our yarden. Ultimately it was a thrilling experience. He stood still long enough for me to grab my camcorder and film him. Have you had a close encounter with a raptor? What is your favourite bird of prey?
Hans Zimmer Live
To finish off: While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to tracks from Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague CD. As you know I have seen Hans’ concerts twice now, more recently in Liverpool this year. When I heard he was releasing a compilation of the concert I just had to pre-order. I am biased as I love the medley’s featured of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the music is skin tingling and exhilarating! I would recommend if you like movie soundtracks!
Recently a friend shared a picture of Red Pandas being fed grapes on my Facebook wall. It made me reminiscent of when I fed Red Pandas in 2010 at Paradise Wildlife Park. I paid £99 for 30 minutes with their then Red Pandas, Ros and TJ. So I decided to write a post about the experience.
Feeding a Red Panda
Looking back at the memory I believe I was very fortunate to have got so close to one of my favourite animals. As you can imagine the 30 minutes went past so quickly. Part of the experience was to collect the pandas’ dinner, a bowl of fruit, vegetables, pellets and panda cake, which is a mixture of essential nutrients added to their meals. We then visited the Red Panda enclosure. The Red Panda’s habitat had tall trees in which they could rest among the boughs or seek privacy from one of their nest boxes on a purposely built platform.
On our arrival both Red Pandas were looking eagerly for their lunch. It gave me such a buzz seeing both cute faces peering down at me. Ros seemed more used to human contact than TJ, who was much more reserved.
Feeding Red Pandas
While I fed each panda, the zoo keeper, Matt gave informative facts about Red Pandas, where they come from etc. I was surprised to learn that they have adverse effects to anesthetic, so any operation carries a higher risk for Red Pandas.
After feeding slices of pears and apples to the pandas, it was time for them to have their favourite food, young shoots of bamboo! I held the leafy branch up to TJ while Ros bravely came down to feast on the lower leaves. I even got to stroke Ros. I was ecstatic! I had read before the encounter that touching was not allowed, but I was offered the chance to feel how coarse and dense a Red Panda’s fur really is. They need the insulation for the cold climes of the Himalayas.
Feeding bamboo to Red Pandas
Stroking a Red Panda
More recently there are many other UK zoos and wildlife parks offering the chance to meet their Red Pandas. Paradise Park in Cornwall have a similar experience where the Red Pandas can even sit happily on your lap. Something to think about in the future. A possible present for me next year David? :p
I hope you have enjoyed my reminiscing? Has there been a time when you came face to face with your favourite animal? Do share your experiences with us below.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you are interested in more information on the Red Panda, a past post, My Love for the Red Panda, has many facts about the history of the Red Panda, anatomy and conservation.
Recently I met up with the lady I work with, Sue and her new guide dog, Kallie for lunch in Liverpool. With both of us not being ‘girls about town’ we were scratching our heads as to where to go for lunch. I know there are a myriad of places to visit but I was after somewhere were you weren’t turfed out after about an hour. Then I recalled an independent tea shop and restaurant in Bold Street, Leaf. I remembered visiting with a student of mine, now friend, years ago. I searched my blog and found that the visit was three years ago! How time flies!!
We visited Leaf at probably the most busiest time of day, 12 noon. The restaurant covers two floors with stages for live bands. The furniture is made up of an eclectic mix of wooden tables, picnic tables, leather sofas, arm chairs and plastic canteen chairs. Drapes cover the walls in a building that was once a tea shop, cinema, then clothes shop.
We were advised by one of the friendly staff that there were more tables upstairs which was less busy at that time. So we hit the button on the lift and made our way to the 1st floor.
At no point was the presence of Kallie an issue. A firm reminder to less welcoming establishments of Guide Dogs for the blind’s Access all Areas campaign.
We chose a table in the corner, where there was lots of natural light coming from the tall art deco styled windows. The first floor felt light and airy. There was a relaxed feel to the place, which I also got the first time I visited. Service was top notch. There were complaints in that area (nor any other for that matter). Our order for drinks and food was taken at the table, though you can opt to order at the bar.
There is a varied choice of lose leaf tea available. Sue chose the English Breakfast Tea and I the Ceylon. We both ordered for lunch the Pepper and Tomato Soup, which we did not have to wait too long for.
Where there’s tea, there’s hope.
Pepper and Tomato Soup
The soup was delicious, warming and of good proportion, it was served with a slice of focaccia bread. It also stayed warm for over half an hour as we took our time chatting and catching up. The Ceylon tea was aromatic and better served with no milk, much like the Darjeeling at Jam.
After about an hour we decided to prolong our stay and ordered a Leaf Cream Tea which consisted of another pot of tea (of your choice) and a scone, with clotted cream and jam. At £5.95 I thought was good value. The pots of tea filled three small cups. In total we had six small cups each! It was a very wet, caffeine filled afternoon!
Leaf Cream Tea
I liked the presentation of the cream tea and the scone was ‘huge’! I went home feeling very full!
In all we spent three and a half hours at leaf and not once did we feel the need to vacate our table. The service was friendly and approachable and the meals were value for money.
I would definitely visit Leaf for lunch again in the future.
Have you had a meal at Leaf? They have restaurants in Liverpool and Manchester. What was your experience like?
I first realised the music of Hans Zimmer in The Lion King (1994), the soundtrack earned him his Oscar! I didn’t care much for the songs of Elton John but the orchestrated pieces were breathtaking. He managed to convey all the emotions in the film; love, terror, heartbreak and joy. Listening to Stampede, if you close your eyes you can imagine the buffaloes bearing down on Simba.
Over the years, I have accumulated many of his soundtracks. Fan based videos on YouTube are a great source to go to, as well as Wikipedia and Amazon. I could list all of his soundtracks, but I won’t. You can read more here.
Biography search results suggest that during his early career, as well as writing themes for BBC TV shows, (Going for Gold being one of them), he produced and featured briefly in the video of The Buggles’s number one hit single, Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) which was a theme from my early childhood. So even though I was not aware of Hans Zimmer as a composer, his music contributed to the soundtrack of my 80’s.
In 2001 he received great acclaim for his soundtrack to Gladiator. I was a little slow on the uptake but since then most of my free time has been filled with the music of Hans Zimmer. For me, he seems to be the go to composer whether you want to be energised as in the rollicking tracks of Inception or to have a good cry, the music from The Dark Knight Rises seems to hit a particular cord with me.
No other living composers music has had such a profound effect on me as does Hans Zimmer’s. So imagine my excitement when his Live on Tourwas advertised last year! For many years, it has been a dream of mine to see the music of Hans Zimmer being performed by a live orchestra, but for the man himself to be performing on stage also is something I never comprehended.
In London two years ago Hans Zimmer did ‘trial’ arena shows because he didn’t believe ‘anybody would actually show up’. I was tempted to go but the cost, not just of the tickets but of travelling and accommodation put me off. So last year on the day tickets were released I eagerly snapped up a couple for the Birmingham date. It may have cost a small fortune but to have a dream come true, it was worth it! A month later I was reeling as they released a new date in Manchester, but that is by the by. Birmingham it would be!
April 12th 2016: Being my nosy, inquisitive self I already knew what to expect come the day of the concert. I was looking forward to One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight medley.
The Barclaycard Arena was relatively easy to get to by car but due to certain roads being closed in major roadworks we left with plenty of time. Inside we were subjected to bags being searched and the boys being frisked! Once finally past security, I bought my programme which was £10, in London it had been £15! Then went in search for our uncomfy seats.
We sat in eager suspense for 40 minutes, then the lights in the arena dimmed and an excited hush murmured from the crowd. Hans Zimmer, his guests and a 70 piece orchestra took to the stage just after 8pm, even though there were still a lot of empty spaces in the audience. People were still being shown to their seats while the choir sang 160BPM from Angels and Demons, which irked me somewhat. I took some pictures but they weren’t very good. I wish I had taken my camcorder but didn’t know whether photography was allowed.
What I like about Hans Zimmer is that he collaborates with (and mentors) people from diverse musical backgrounds and this concert was no different. It felt more like an ensemble production rather than a one man show.
The first set went too fast! I almost blinked and missed it! It was wonderful to hear so many favourite themes. We were entertained by Gladiator, Czarina Russell sung it so beautifully. The Lion King performed by Lebo M made everyone teary and Tina Guo flicked her hair as much as she did the bow across her cello for the Pirates of the Caribbean medley. The sound was impeccable, not ear tingling as in some concerts, and the lighting was inventful, in the second half of the show it became more akin to a rock concert!
There was a 20 minute interval. We went to stretch our legs before the darker second set began, which was filled with superheroes, inhuman guitar riffs and drums that reverberated through your body.
Even though at times there was a lot of bombast, the quieter moments where Hans Zimmer talked anecdotally about his career were more intimate, even in a big arena space.
The Dark Knight medley did not disappoint. I sat through it tapping my feet and grinning, much like the Joker. I felt bereft when Interstellar pipped up. I knew that the show was drawing to a close. As the final triumphant bars of Stay vibrated around the arena, Hans Zimmer stood conducting from the front. The note faded and he took a bow as everyone in the audience stood to their feet. Some of us stayed standing knowing that he would come back onto the stage for an encore. I was surprised that quite a few people left before he came back to perform the medley from Inception. ‘Fools,’ I thought as Mombasa lit up the stage like a rave. The night ended with Time. If there was a piece of music that was written to describe the human condition, then Time would be it! Heart-achingly painful and yet so brief. The night ended on the wave of Hans Zimmer’s hand and the audience standing to its feet once again.
There are moments in life when I wish I could push the rewind button and relive the experience again and again. This concert was exactly like that, if I had a fairy godmother I would suggest Manchester! :p However I will just have to make do with watching the videos I took and others like them on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the concert compilation I have mixed below and any feedback is appreciated.
In the future, I look forward to Hans Zimmer’s next installment for the Ron Howard film, Dan Brown’s Inferno. I wonder if it will be just as good as his Da Vinci Code soundtrack?
I will end the post with Hans Zimmer’s own words taken from the concert programme. I found them very profound.
‘Concerts are in real time…I get to be…part of you; and you be a part of me. Only in this very moment does this exist. We’re lucky, in these tumultuous and violent times, to have art and music to lean upon and unite us. At this very moment it is at its most essential. It breaks through the boundaries…and just allows us to be people united in common enjoyment and pleasure for a few precious hours. My hope is that tonight my music speaks to you personally, wherever you are in your unique story.’