My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

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Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

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Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

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Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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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!’

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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.

12 Hours of Day #9

With being unable to participate in July’s #photoanhour on Instagram, I made certain I would for Augusts’. Though, I didn’t have anything exciting planned, the day didn’t turn out too bad. Thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for informing me of the dates. Much appreciated! So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 18h August 2018

8am to 9am:

Just after 8am my alarm sounded. Time to get up! I started the day as usual with black coffee and granola. This time I added some blueberries and raspberries to the mix. It was a tasty and filling breakfast.

9am to 10am:

While David went out to get his hair cut. I made a start on the housework. I vacuumed all the floors and cleaned the bathroom before David came back.

10am to 11am:

Turning my hand at cleaning the dining room, I heard a raucous noise from the yarden. The bird feeders were inundated by starlings, sparrows and goldfinches! What a racket they all made!

11am to 12pm:

I had the idea that a blueberry bush would be a welcome addition to the yarden. I could grow my own fruit come next year. Growing vegetables has been a bit hit and miss, so maybe trying my hand at soft fruits would be better? (I’ll let you know next year). So with this plan in mind. David and I headed to Rivendell. Unfortunately they didn’t have any blueberry plants, but I ended up buying a raspberry and bramble.

12pm to 1pm:

A bit disappointed at not getting a blueberry plant, we headed to Lady Green Garden Centre. Here, there was a choice of blueberry plants, some at £17 and others for £25. My eyes widened at seeing the full berries on a £25 plant. The other plants were all fruitless. It was evident which plant I would come home with, even if it was a bit pricey! I also purchased a penstemon and verbena for the hungry pollinators.

1pm to 2pm:

We came home laden with plants to a happy Artie. I don’t think he likes being left alone.

2pm to 3pm: 

After lunch I embarked on potting the newcomers to the yarden.

3pm to 4pm:

I was still in the yarden, admiring my new purchases and enjoying the warm sunshine. I plucked the ripe berries off the blueberry plant and ended up with a bowl full!

4pm to 5pm:

Housework and gardening can be hard work. So I took a break with a cup of tea and a read of the newly arrived copy of the September edition of Country Walking Magazine.

5pm to 6pm:

While dinner cooked I took time to admire the sunflowers in a vase of cut flowers.

6pm to 7pm:

With dinner I enjoyed this glass of bubbly cava.

7pm to 8pm:

For pudding I mixed strawberry ice cream with a sprinkling of more blueberries (Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to mind) and raspberries.

8pm to 9pm:

A bonus hour, as it seems I can’t count! I joined David in the study/guest bedroom and planned a forthcoming trip to Scotland. I am so excited!

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8pm to 9pm – planning a trip to Scotland

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #52

I’m back to writing a Sunday Sevens, the wonderful series devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Bees Needs Week 2018

It was George on his gardening blog, here, who alerted me to this annual initiative, coordinated by Defra. The aim of this week (9th-15th July 2018) is to raise awareness of pollinators and help in sustaining their numbers by planting more flowers, cutting grass less and letting your garden grow wild!

The Yarden:

At the weekend we visited Rivendell Garden Centre, Widnes. I bought a beautiful delphinium and also managed to replace my salvia mystic spires. I was so happy, it’s the small things! Among the many bee species that visit the yarden, I spied a male early bumblebee enjoying the cat mint.

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Common Frog

Later on in the week David and I had a surprise in the yarden. I had thought our tadpoles, who had seemed happy in our little urban pond, had sadly passed away. We had not seen any in or around the pond for weeks. However on pottering about the yarden David called me over excitedly and pointed to a frog clinging to the wall. I was amazed! One of our tiny tadpoles had grown and metamorphosed into a frog!

Hoodwinked:

This week David and I visited Nottingham to see their round of robins. (I tried to find the collective for robins, but there were numerous suggestions!) Once we had spotted 17 of the 33 we decided to have lunch at Sherwood Forest. I blogged about the day here.

Book I am reading:

the ice twins

The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

The current book I am reading is The Ice Twins, a suggestion by my mum. She said it was a page turner. It is billed as a psychological thriller, based around the death of a twin girl, the other claims mistaken identity. Set among the highlands of Scotland, the plot follows a family who have been broken by the death of a child and an affair. They relocate to an isolated island in the hope of a new beginning. I doubt very much that will happen!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

#walk1000miles:

I broke the 1000 mile mark on 13th July 2018. I celebrated in typical Christine-style by taking a swim at Llyn Dinas, Snowdonia. I will write further on that adventure soon.

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Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

So, that was my eventful week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-seven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_27Day 27: At the weekend a post on the Facebook 30 Days Wild page caught my eye. The post was all about species with a link to The Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Explorer. I noticed that ferns and horsetails were in their own species category, so I decided to look more closely at the ferns in the yarden.

We seem to have only one species of fern growing which I’ve ID’d as bracken! I think of bracken in woodland and heath-land, but apparently we have at least three bracken plants flourishing in the yarden.

They are ancient plants, far older than the dinosaurs, and can grow up to 1.5 meters.

Bracken spreads by underground rhizomes or horizontal stems but can germinate from spores (sporangia) carried on the wind. I noticed spores on the underside of the fronds and found them fascinating. I read that this bracken is fertile (due to the presence of spores) as not all have them.

Bracken is deciduous and dies back during winter and turns the landscape a tinge of brown. The plant is highly toxic to animals and should not be eaten. I read many scare stories associated with bracken online, that they harbour ticks and are carcinogenic.

What’s your thoughts on this ancient plant?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-three

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today was going to be all about lavender. I had planned a day out to Inglenook Farm to see their lavender fields. However since spring was late this year, it means that flowers are late in blooming, so we aborted the visit and I was left with nothing to fill today’s 30 Days Wild post.

Unfortunately it feels like a bit of a cop out, but I am reverting to a staple #randomactofwildness; that of capturing something blue. It may not have been the blue of lavender but I have many blues in the yarden.

From borage and vipers-bugloss, to a blue summers sky and rockery plant, Lithodora Heavenly Blue.

Have you photographed anything blue recently?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

P.S: I promise tomorrow’s post will be a bit more wild!

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-two

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: National Insect Week runs from the 18th to 24th June 2018. So for today’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go in search of insects in the yarden.

I peered under ivy and lifted rocks in the hope of finding some arthropods but all I found was a few frightened spiders.

I did have many flying insects visiting the yarden. Bees featured heavily. I saw my first honeybee of the season and a leaf-cutter bee foraged from flower to flower. A strange looking wasp also ventured into the yarden but didn’t stay for long.

I didn’t see any beetles, nor sight or sound of ants. They all must be hiding.

Have you done anything for National Insect Week?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

An Update on the Yarden

With winter being prolonged, spring has been slow on the arrival. However, the past few weeks in the NW of England (and for most of the UK) the weather has been fair, which has helped the residents in the yarden.

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Honey bee on Salvia

The long winter of Beasts from the East and Pests from the West meant I lost my beautiful salvia to the frosts. The rosemary, marjoram and aquilegia also succumbing.

Though there were some fatalities, with spring well and truly upon us, the resident plants have been thriving! Below is a selection of the flowers that are blooming at this moment in the yarden. Enjoy!

How is your garden growing?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #51

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Mere Sands Wood:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley tagging along, visited Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve. We spent a leisurely 4.5 mile walk around the reserve, enjoying the birds singing and the lovely warm weather.

Yarden:

In the yarden I’ve noticed this wildflower growing from the Nestlé seeds I planted last year. I wonder what type of wildflower it is?

Book I am reading:

Suggested by a Facebook pal, I bought the debut novel from Rachel Walkley. Her book The Women of Heachley Hall, based around an old country house is ambling along. The premise; an artist is bequeathed a dilapidated house from a relative. The stipulation is to sell at auction or live in the house for a year and a day. The first person narrative is interrupted by ‘spooky’ incidents but nothing exciting as yet.

5 Day Veggie Challenge:

I’ve registered for Jamie Oliver’s 5 Day Veggie Challenge, which begins this Monday. For a small fee you are sent recipes via email along with tips during the week. I look forward to seeing what recipes are available.

Othello:

On Saturday David and I went to see the Everyman Company’s production of Othello. It was three hours well spent. In this modern day production, with mobile phones used as props, Othello was cast as a woman. Golda Rosheuvel played the character with authority and sensitivity. I found some of the diction a bit hard to follow and was glad that the performance was captioned. The lighting and soundtrack added to the growing tension on stage, where we saw Iago spin a web of lies, turning Othello into a mad beast of jealousy. The final scene where Othello murders Desdemona was a feast for the eyes. The bed was surrounded by mesh curtains which created an intimate scenario, however the murder was awful to witness. The finale, emotionally charged.

In act 4, scene 3, Desdamona sings a song called Willow, which my memory brings up every-time I see a willow tree.

DESDEMONA [Singing]

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,

Sing all a green willow:

Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,

Sing willow, willow, willow:

The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur’d her moans;

Sing willow, willow, willow;

Her salt tears fell from her, and soften’d the stones; Lay by these:–

Singing Sing willow, willow, willow;

 

Sing all a green willow must be my garland.

Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve,-

I call’d my love false love; but what said he then?

Sing willow, willow, willow:

If I court moe women, you’ll couch with moe men!

You can read about the origin of the song from the Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust.

Do you like Shakespeare? Been to any plays recently?

#walk1000miles:

Total miles this week have been 37. Bringing my annual total to 680 miles. 3.6 miles was taken walking Riley around a sunny Sefton Park this morning. 🙂

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #50

I wasn’t going to do a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins). I haven’t taken that many pictures this week, but I thought I would give it a try and see what I could come up with.

Beauty:

Among a bunch of flowers I bought this week, were some yellow roses. I thought how pretty the folds of petals looked.

Book I am reading:

I’m currently enjoying Dan Brown’s latest Robert Langdon offering, Origin. Though it’s punctuated with endless lectures on the many geographical and historical places in the novel. I am looking forward to finding out the true reason for Winston!

#walk1000miles:

A quick update on my weeks mileage, which has been 33. Bringing my annual total to 643 miles.

Yarden:

This Saturday, David and I took a visit to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green. We went in the hope of getting (shade loving) rockery plants for around the pond, but ended up getting the wrong type (sun loving). However the mistake was a blessing as the phlox I bought ended up in the main yarden around David’s recently moved acer. In total we bought five plants, and all have now got new homes. 🙂

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Bee Sculpture

I also fell in love with some funky art for the yarden. These funny bee sculptures really do brighten the yarden up and at £3.99, weren’t too expensive either. 🙂

Riley Walks:

This Bank Holiday weekend has been unprecedented. The NW of England has been blessed with wall to wall sunshine and temperatures hitting 24°C. It truly has been a lovely Bank Holiday. On Sunday David and I took a hot Riley to a local nature reserve, Lunt Meadows. We visited Lunt last year as part of my 30 days Wild, so decided to go for another 4.5 mile walk around the reserve.

The sun was hot even at 10am! Peregrines soared before a cloudless blue sky, while greylag geese eyed us wearily. Bees buzzed among orchids and there were innumerous bird songs, most I could not identify. Speckled woods fluttered in nearby woodland. Orange tips, small tortoiseshells and peacocks, were all too fast for us to take a picture! Our leisurely morning walk flew by. Riley, though hot seemed to enjoy the different smells and sounds of the lovely nature reserve.

What have you been up to this Bank Holiday?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x