30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-five.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_25Day 25: Today is Throw Back Thursday!

In 2015 I went painted gorilla spotting on the streets of Norwich. I made fat balls for the garden birds in 2016 and took a wildlife filled trip to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve in 2017. I got up close and personal with goldfinches in 2018, and in 2019 I attempted to ID some trees via their leaves.

For 2020’s Throw Back Thursday I shall return to the topic of trees. Forestry England has some fab downloadable content, of which Tree Trumps is one of them.

tree trumps

Tree Trumps

Here’s some facts from the game:

  • The UK’s tallest tree the Douglas Fir has a non-flammable bark which protects forests from fires
  • Black poplar is the most endangered native tree, due to habitat loss and cross breeding
  • Horse chestnut leaf stalks leave a scar on the twigs in the shape of a horseshoe
  • There are 10 yew trees in the UK thought to predate the 10th century
  • The Romans ground chestnuts from the sweet chestnut to make flour
  • Downy birch aided the industrial revolution, its wood was used for the cotton industry and leather tanning

I would definitely recommend a download of the game to print and challenge your family and friends. It was a lot of fun!

What is your favourite tree? Mine is the hawthorn or May tree as it has beautiful flowers in spring and berries for hungry birds in autumn.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-four.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: For today’s RAW or Random Act of Wildness, The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app has chosen: unleash an inner artist: sketch the wild up close. Since it’s National Insect week, and joining in the spirit of the occasion for 30 Days Wild, (even though I’m no artist) I’ve picked up coloured pencils and made a sketch of my favourite moth, (one I’ve still yet to see in the wild) the elephant hawk moth.

elephant hawk moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

Some facts on the elephant hawk moth:

    • Adults can be seen between May and August
    • Wingspan can be up to 6cm
    • They feed on nectar
    • Adults are nocturnal
    • Their caterpillars look like they have a face and can grow up to 85mm in length
    • So named due to the fact that their caterpillars look like an elephant’s trunk

What is your favourite moth?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-two.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: Today’s 30 Days Wild is Close up Monday and we are focusing on the UK’s largest predator, Badgers! In 2019 David and I had the wonderful opportunity of watching wild badgers by partaking in an event at RSPB Haweswater. For as little as £12 pp (if you are a member), you can spend up to 90 minutes with these elusive yet iconic animals.

I am sure you local wildlife trust or RSPB site has a similar event, check out their website for more details.

Badger (Meles meles) Facts:

    • Badgers are mammals and sometimes are called brocks
    • They are common throughout Britain
    • They live in family groups underground called setts, and some setts can be 100 years old, being passed down from generation to generation
    • Badgers are part of the Mustelid family (otters and ferrets)
    • They grow to one metre in length
    • They are crepuscular (active dawn/dusk)
    • Playing and scent marking strengthens social bonding
    • Badgers can live up to 14 years though five to eight years is more optimistic
    • Females can have up to five cubs a litter and most cubs are born mid February, and will emerge above ground after 12 weeks
    • Up to 50,000 badgers are killed each year on UK roads
    • Badgers are omnivores but 60% of their diet are earthworms
    • They are the only predator of the hedgehog

Have you seen a wild badger?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

Badger Trust: https://www.badgertrust.org.uk/badgers
RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/other-garden-wildlife/mammals/badger/
Wildlife Trusts: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals/european-badger
The Woodland Trust:https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/08/badgers-what-do-they-eat-and-other-facts/

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Nineteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_19Day 19: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll try and ID a feather. While walking Riley to and from our local park I have been looking for fallen feathers. Many have been pigeon feathers but the other day I spied a black and white feather. At first I thought it was a magpie feather but I wasn’t certain. After doing a quick search on Google, my first instinct was right. It is a magpie feather!

On looking at the Feather Atlas website, part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there is a detailed entry on magpie feathers. On this site it states that the feather I found was a primary wing feather of the magpie. Primary meaning closest to the wing tip and most birds have about 10 of these on each wing. Without primary feathers a bird can’t fly.

The magpie (pica pica) is a member of the corvid (crow) family, and is an omnivore and a scavenger. They will only predate on songbird nests in the breeding season and during winter months they largely eat berries and grains. Magpies live up to five years and are seen throughout the year. They are sociable birds and during winter create roosts of up to 200 individuals. Being none migratory they don’t stray far from where they fledged. Folklore surrounds the magpie from being bearers of good luck to being in league with the devil the popular rhyme ‘one for sorrow’ is associated with this bird.

One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret, Never to be told, Eight for a wish, Nine for a kiss, Ten for a bird, You must not miss.

Have you found any interesting bird feathers?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: Today is World Oceans Day, so in honour of this campaign, today’s Close up Monday will be of bottle-nosed dolphins. I’ll admit that marine wildlife is one aspect of my knowledge that isn’t particularly strong. So I am going to use today as a platform to further my understanding around this subject.

What’s your favourite ocean inhabitant?

The bottle-nosed dolphin is probably the best known of all UK whale and dolphin species (cetaceans). While reading the summer edition of the RSPB’s Nature’s Home magazine, I was surprised to discover that up to 28 of these aquatic mammals have been seen around UK shores.

Some facts on bottle-nosed dolphins:

  • UK bottle-nosed dolphins are the biggest in the world, their larger bodies help with the cold of our waters
  • They can live up to 50 years of age
  • Are carnivore and eat other fish and crustaceans
  • They have good eyesight and their eyes can move independently of each other
  • They can’t detect colour
  • Highly sociable and live within pods of up to 15 members
  • Research has shown that dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from other dolphins
  • Like bats they use echolocation for finding food and navigation
  • Their stomachs consist of three chambers, one to store, one to digest and one to excrete
  • They sleep by shutting one side of their brain and the opposing eye
  • ‘Breaching’ or jumping out of water is a way of cleaning parasites off their bodies
  • As a mammal they are warm blooded and need to breathe through a blow hole
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Moray Firth dolphins

Bottle-nosed dolphins enjoy the safety of sheltered bays and can be seen often at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Moray Firth in Scotland, Cornwall and Dorset.

Have you seen any bottle-nosed dolphins around the coast of the UK? Have you seen any other cetaceans?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Going Sober in October

thumb_2x_GS16_Favicon_260x260With my alcohol consumption slightly increasing over the year, I decided that this October I would challenge myself and sort of join in with Sober October. I mean sort of because I set the month of abstinence from 29th September to 29th October and aimed to raise money for a local animal charity. You can see my Facebook page here.

This was not the first time I went sober for a month, in 2015 I participated in Dry January. In many respects this years Sober in October has been such a breeze! I have actually enjoyed having a clearer head most mornings. I am generally a bad sleeper but during the monthly long challenge I have had some fantastic nights sleep. Mostly when I’ve not had Artie acting like a brain slug and taking most of my pillow!

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I’m not sure if I’ve lost any weight but I do feel much less bloated. I also think my mental health has benefited from this break from alcohol and my mood has been much more stable for it.

All in all Sober in October has been a positive experience. I will definitely instill more alcohol free days into my diet.

To end with here’s some interesting facts about the Liver:

1. The liver carries out over 500 bodily functions
2. Is both an organ and a gland, and produces hormones
3. Breaks down carbohydrates and turns them into glycogen which is released when the body needs sugar and energy
4. Filters everything that the body comes into contact with and clears toxins
5. Has a vital part in the immune system
6. Produces bile which aids digestion
7. Is the only organ that can regenerate itself
8. Makes cholesterol (good and bad)
9. Helps clot blood
10. Stores vitamins A, E and K

Have you ever done a similar challenge?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

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?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

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.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

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.

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!

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.

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!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Ten.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_10Day 10: Today’s Close Up Monday is inspired by my short break to The Lake District. Last year, on another trip to the Lakes, I focused on herdwick sheep. Sharon and Louise suggested red squirrels being synonymous with The Lake District, with ospreys a close second. I’ve decided to focus on ospreys for today’s post but don’t worry I will blog about red squirrels next Monday.

The osprey is a large bird of prey, with a wingspan of 1.6m (that’s bigger than me!) They migrate to the UK to breed during the summer and overwinter in West Africa. Their lifespan in the wild is nine – twenty years and are a UK amber species. They can be seen from March to October in Scotland, Wales and the Northern England. Their diet is primarily fish. 

osprey nest1Ospreys become sexually mature from two to five years. Are largely monogamous and prefer tall structures like conifers to construct their nests called an eyrie. When visiting Dodd Wood, Cumbria in 2017 we saw a reconstruction of an eyrie and it was huge! The female lays two to three eggs during April and incubation takes up to a month. The female incubates the eggs while the male provides fish. Once the young have fledged, both parents feed the young for the next two months. Many juveniles die before reaching maturity. Hunting and poisoned food and water are the main threats to numbers of osprey.

There is a lot of webcam footage of nesting ospreys in the UK. While I wrote this blog I came across the webcam for the ospreys at Loch of Lowes, Scotland. Webcams are an insight into nesting behaviours and the rearing of young.

However they can be quite traumatic for the viewer sitting warm and safe at home. While watching I noticed two of the nestlings were being fed and looked strong while the runt lay apart from its siblings and looked to be wasting away. Apparently it had gotten stuck in the twining of the nest and was stood upon by both parents. The chick died not long after, such is the nature of life for a young osprey.

What nature webcams do you like to watch?

Have you been lucky to see ospreys?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine x


Websites for further information:

The Wildlife Trusts: Osprey

RSPB: Osprey

Dyfi Project: fantastic resource for information and webcams from Wales.

 

Webcams:

Loch of Lowes

Foulshaw Moss:

Foulshaw Moss Reserve

Rutland Osprey Project

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: Today’s focus is our lovely planet, Earth. Currently being exhibited in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral is Gaia (the personification of Earth), a seven metre replica by Luke Jerram. Featuring detailed NASA imagery and soundtrack by BAFTA winning Dan Jones. The installation aims to create awe and a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

10 facts on the Earth:

  1. The Earth is the third planet from the sun
  2. Is 4.5 billion years old
  3. 70% of the surface is water
  4. An Earth day is actually 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds
  5. A year is 365.2564 days, creating the need for leap years
  6. The atmosphere is roughly 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen
  7. Seasons are created by the Earth’s tilt at 23.4°
  8. The magnetic field created by the Earth’s core protects us from harmful solar rays
  9. 20% of the Earth’s O2 is produced by the Amazon Rainforest
  10. Lightening strikes the Earth up to 100 times per second

What amazing facts of our beautiful planet do you know?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

The Sparrowhawk

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!’

sparrowhawk female

Female Sparrowhawk

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,

Christine.


Further reading:

Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:

Springwatch.

Discover Wildlife.

British Bird Lovers.

RSPB.

Living with Birds.