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.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
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.
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.
In 2015 I made fat balls for the visiting wild birds. I tried to ID a feather in 2016. We visited Claremont Farm, Wirral and picked our own strawberries in 2017. I got up close with a herdwick sheep in 2018 and in 2019 I focused on facts about the moon.
The Moon by David Evans
For 2020’s 30 Days Wild I’ll return to making fat balls for the birds. This year I didn’t melt the fat I used it at room temperature and mixed it with my hands with a selection of seeds and grains. It was a messy job but I managed to shape the balls much easier than if I was pouring a hot mixture into molds. For the cups I pierced two holes in the bottom and fed a length of string through, looping at the top to create a handle in which to hang. I then filled with the messy fat and seed mixture and popped them in the yarden. I just need to see a sparrow or starling on them now to see how successful they have been this year!
Patting into plastic cups
Fat balls for the birds
Have you made fat balls for the birds? How did you make yours?
* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*
Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.
The products to be reviewed were:
MultiFeeder Plus:a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
Fat balls (small):I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.
The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.
The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.
Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.
Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.
Hanging the new bird feeder
Fledged starling on new feeder
What the birds thought of the multifeeder:
It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.
Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!
At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.
I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!
Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!
The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.
Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.
I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.
To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: https://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/
… for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2016. The numbers spotted this year were not as diverse as in previous years.
The total count for 2016 was:
I suppose those numbers are decent for an urban city garden/yard, but I would have loved a few more species visiting. There were four Crows and the odd Seagull flying overhead but they didn’t make the count!
Sadly no Chiffchaff or Blackbird made an appearance and the Robin and Blue Tits were nowhere to be seen! David did take some nice, colourful pictures of the Starlings and of the squabbling Goldfinches.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
Starling Picture by David Evans
Did you take part in the count? How many species of bird did you see?
Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! 😀
I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.
In the garden:
There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.
There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! 😀
I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading to Lady Green Garden Centre in the near future!
The rest of the week:
David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright. We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly £10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ and enjoying their gardens.
While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!
One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! 🙂 David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and jumped on the wooden stepping stones.
Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens
The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!
The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.
Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking (one even tried to bite me!), I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!
The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!
On the walk we spotted:
A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! 🙂
Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
A few moths
A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! 😦
My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!
Saturday turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!
Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!
Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.
Monday and Tuesday:
As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂
One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p
Many Borage seedlings
I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!
We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!
Wool Carder Bee
I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!
Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!
I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!
On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!
As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand
I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!
On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!
I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!
Fat cake I made for the birds
In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!
The setting sun
David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.
Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!
I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.
The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!
The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀
I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!
Tired Mason Bee
For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.
Tbsp Olive Oil
Cloves Garlic, Minced
Large Onion, Chopped
Medium Carrot, Chopped
Pepper de-seeded and chopped
Celery Stalks, Chopped
Chilli de-seeded and chopped
1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
50g-100g Pearl Barley
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with bread…
The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!
Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!
Wholemeal Turkish Bread
500g of wholemeal flour
1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
350ml of warm water
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 egg yolk
1 tbs olive oil
Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 230°C.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:
Starlings and their babies
House Sparrows and their young!
Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!
David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.
Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!
As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀
It was another WordPress blog: Sunshine and Celandines that alerted me to The Wildlife Trust‘s, 30 Days Wild, an initiative where you do something wild each day for the month of June. I quickly signed up, printed out the wall calender and got ready to immerse myself in ‘wildness’!
Actually, there wasn’t much immersing going on, what with it being a long week at work, but I did attempt to enjoy the nature around me – as I usually try and do! I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool so it is amazing that there is so much wildlife about!
Going to work, I could hear the ‘merry’songs of Blue Tits, Dunnocks, and Black Birds that populate my area, and while in the office I could hear the rich sounds of a Robin and the alarm calls of Great Tits. David said he saw, all too fleetingly a colourful Jay on his way home from work.
We watched the resident Blue Tit parents coming to and from our garden sourcing food for their brood. Last year I put up a bird feeder, (the second as mum kept the first in her garden next door!) I have feeders with sunflower seeds, fat balls and normal bird seed and in a Laurel bush I have a fat block. The Blue Tits like visiting the sunflower seeds and fat block, but they are so swift that I was unable to get video of them. The parents have become so dishevelled looking as they care for their young who constantly call out for food!
With the weather slowly warming up for a very short lived ‘heatwave.’ I managed to pop out into the garden to see how the plants were coming along. The Scabiosa is starting to flower and has many heads on it and the Honeysuckle, which is a great grower is covered in flowers.
Today was the ‘hottest day of the year,’ for the NW of England! It was warm but not too warm and the sun lasted up until 5pm when a bank of cloud ruined any plans of a BBQ. It was my ‘short’ day at work, ‘thankfully,’ and I managed to rush home to spend at least an hour in the garden.
Something Blue – sky blue
En route home I popped into Wilkinsons for David who only wanted grit for the indoor aviary but I ended up spending £18! I bought flower seeds in the hope they will grow into Teasels for the visiting Goldfinches and also dried mealworms for the Blue Tit parents, (though they have not seen them as yet!)
I enjoyed the hour outside. I felt the sun’s heat prickling my sunscreen covered arms and sipped cava while Artie basked in the shade and hunted flies. As silhouette’s of the visiting Swallows could be seen flitting overhead, I took pictures of the insects visiting my Wallflower. A Tree Bumblebee, Mason Bees and a beautiful Golden Mint Moth!
I discovered today that my Cotoneaster has little white flowers on it! (I planted it last year and it’s taken a year to become established.) I am hopeful that the flowers will become pollinated and that it will develop berries! Fingers crossed.
The warmer weather seems to have been but a dream as it was cold and windy today. David and I, after doing the ‘weekly shop’ went to Bents garden Centre. I was in search of Borage and Alliums and David wanted a bird box. I came home disappointed, I’ll have to make do with seed Borage and try and grow it myself, but David managed to get his bird box and at £2.99 it was a bargain! However, I did not leave empty handed, I got myself a bee log which I hope will be shelter for solitary bees like the Mason Bee! I hope it will be more of a success than the still vacant Insect House!
The journey home took us along the East Lancs Road, which cuts through arable fields. Alongside the road we saw not one, but three birds of prey hunting. I identified them as being Red Kites! Here’s a picture from David’s Flickr page of Red Kites from Gauntlet Birds of Prey in 2011!
Today we put up the bird box and bee log in anticipation of future visitors!
All day we have been aware of a Blue Tit fledgling sitting nervously in the Laurel bush. It’s parents keeps visiting periodically so it has not been abandoned. He is concealed by the leaves and seems content.
I also noted that I had up to at least five bees in my garden all enjoying the Wallflower, Cat Mint and Honeysuckle and saw my first baby Goldfinch of the season but could not get footage of him!
It’s been a busy week for the nature in my area. I don’t know how I am going to better the sightings I have already seen, but here’s to week two of being ‘wild’! 😀
Saturday after a long morning of endless shopping. David went into the new house to fiddle with the bathroom floorboards while I cooked up a mess in the kitchen!
I melted down a block of lard in the microwave and then added chopped peanuts, dried fruit, mixed bird seed, oats and flour. I then popped the mixture into three small plastic cups with string drawn through the bottom (for hanging on branches) and waited for the fat to solidify again.
This morning I was watching with glee as 10 House Sparrows, yes 10! Were in the garden eating the fat balls. No wonder I am having to buy a box load each week!! The Sparrows really did have a bumper brood this year!!
For this evening the family have planned to order a nice Saffron curry. I can’t wait!! 😀