A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.

 

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Update on the Garden… part three!

The garden 2015

The garden 2015

The news from the garden this weekend is that we DO have Honey Bees visiting the flowers!  I saw up to seven at one time enjoying the Salvia, the Borage and the Dahlia. This year I seem to have a greater variety of plants for the visiting bees to enjoy. The Bumblebees also enjoy visiting the Dahlia and Borage as well as the Passion Flower.

Honey bee

Honey bee

The bird feeders have well and truly been ‘attacked’ this weekend! We have many species of garden bird visiting as listed below.

  • House Sparrows, have continued to visit in numbers of up to eight if not more!
  • Goldfinch charms have visited numbering over 12, most are fledglings.
  • Starlings have made a noisy return. This years fledglings are now getting their adult coats and love the fat blocks on offer.
  • Pigeons are too many to count and follow the smaller birds into the garden as they know there will be many seeds dropped.
  • The Dunnock has made a welcome return, though not the same one as visited previously. This one seems to be very bold and stands his/her ground in relation to competition from the Pigeons! A most welcome visitor to the garden!
  • I can’t say I have seen the Blue Tits this week as it’s mainly Sparrows and Goldfinches that I see, but I hope they manage to visit the feeders.

Have a pleasant week!

Update on the garden 1

It’s been a busy few weeks back at work so I have not had much chance to peruse the garden, well not as much as I would like! The weather has not been so great either… I am sure last year’s weather was much better than how 2015 is turning out! I am waiting for the sun to shine and the mercury in the thermometer to rise to 20° as I want to invite family around for a BBQ! As it is I am still waiting!

David today commented that he liked the ‘purple flowers in the shaded area of the garden.’ I informed him that it was the aubretia, it has spread substantially in the past few weeks, threatening to overcome the dwarf rhododendron, but I will cut it back once the flowering has ended.

Aubrieta

Aubrieta

Other news in the garden… the tulips have faded and all 15 bluebells have flowered, they look lovely! The scabiosa is flourishing for a second year and the wallflower has bushed out so much it is swamping the beautiful pink blooms of the azalea and shadowing the French lavender that has many more buds on than last year!

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The honeysuckle is once again covered in flower buds, (it has always been a good grower). I have more bulbs sprouting… could be the orchids I planted? They are amongst the gladioli and lilies so it is just a waiting game as to what flowers.

Last bank holiday Artie and I were outside in the garden. Artie was chasing flies and other insects and I was weeding the garden, when a familiar buzzing passed by. ‘It’s a bee!’ I cried, but Artie had also seen it and darted at it, pinning the poor creature to the garden wall. I threw Artie off and watched as the poor bee, a Hairy Footed Flower Bee, staggered about. We gave her (for it was a female solitary bee) some sugar solution and let her rest. We did not find a carcass so I hope she was only stunned and managed to fly on her merry way, otherwise a passing bird could have snatched her up. I prefer the former suggestion. I shall have to keep Artie out of the garden come the time the cat mint blooms or he will have a field day with the Honeybees…who I hasten to add, sting!

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Excited..much!

This Saturday has been all about Spring cleaning.

While David was off getting his hair cut, I was tackling the voiles and curtains and giving them their much needed freshener.

I had already done the bedroom window last weekend, changing the teal curtains to the sky blue and David had eradicated the growing mould and given it a fresh coat of paint.

As I write all windows have been cleaned inside. David now has to clean the outside with his new squeegee! Hope it works well for him!

Today the weather had been gloriously springlike. This afternoon, I went outside and checked the status of the garden.

1. There are buds on the Magnolia and Acer trees.

2. I discovered the Primula I bought last year, has grown again and has buds on it!

3. The tulips are beginning to grow their flower heads! It’s only a matter of time before they grow to maturity! (My Bluebells look the same, but have a month more to grow! Finger’s crossed they bloom!)

Tulip budding

Tulip budding

4. The Aquilegia has grown in bounds. I am so excited for the third coming of this plant!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

Aquilegia growing! The third year running!

5. The flame of the forest and dwarf rhododendron have buds on them!

Rhododendron budding

Rhododendron budding

6. My Sedum has grown for the third year running!

The Sedum!

The Sedum!

It was the Spring Equinox yesterday and this means I am excited for the longer days and brighter nights to come. I look forward with expectation to what flowers in my garden. Will my Tulips and Bluebells grow to fruition? Will the Lily and Orchid bulbs flourish in the Summer. Who knows? Here’s to a warmer future! 😀

Christine x

Thank you Public Sector Workers.

While some people were picketing and marching to Downing Street. I was enjoying one of the best days I have had in such a long time! 😀

David went to work as usual, meaning I had the whole day to myself! I did the obligatory laundry before 10 am and then entertained my mum for two hours with coffee and shortbread biscuits as she shortened two dresses for me! One I hope to wear at the weekend! 😀

The sun came out mid morning. According to the BBC weather forecast the North West of England was a sun sandwich! I’d rather be in the centre than be in the cloud and rain! The sun boosted my spirits even more!

After lunch, I with secateurs in hand took to attacking the Cat Mint that had overrun the garden! I chopped and hacked at the Apple Mint and tidied up the Coriander and Wallflower. The poor bees were confused as they came flying into the yard to find no Cat Mint flowers! They had to settle for the blooming Salvia! 🙂 While pruning I managed to capture a strange looking spider. A Comb Footed Spider from the same family as the Widows!

Comb Footed Spider!

Comb Footed Spider!

After 2 pm, warm with the sun glowing overhead I poured myself a small measure of wine and settled down to listen to my favourite actor, Jonathan Firth in a radio play, Farran at Bay set in Jerusalem before the British lost their control of the region. I really enjoyed the production, though it was about a rather sombre event and Jonathan had the most air time, which is always nice to hear! 🙂

Afterwards I continued with the wine while listening to Classic FM, and in bikini sunned myself in the yard before David came home.

The garden

The garden

It’s back to work tomorrow, but it’s only for one day! I raise a glass to the coming weekend and hope it’s an enjoyable one! 😀

Flowers and Butterflies.

The past weekend proved to be busy, more so than previous weekends.

On Saturday we drove to North Wales to escape the rain. We (David, his cousin Keith and myself) did not have any ideas on a destination. We just thought we would drive for a bit, find the rain was all over the North West and come back home again. How wrong we were!

We drove on towards Anglesey and the clouds lifted and blazing sunshine and blue vistas surrounded the island! We stopped off at Holyhead and watched as the Irish ferries came into port. There was a brown tourist road sign saying ‘RSPB South Stack.‘ I checked Google and the website said it was one of the best places for wildlife!! So we decided on going there.

We spent the next three hours walking the coastal pathway, wandering down uneven steps (me, in a a dress and heels!) towards South Stack Lighthouse and spotting some butterflies flitting about the wild flowers.

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Amongst the days highlights included: A Puffin, an Osprey, Stonechats, Silver Studded Blue and a Meadow Brown Butterfly.

The Sunday was my nephew Nathan’s 5th birthday party! 5 years have gone by so quickly! David, Mum and I went to his garden party. The children all had a visit from Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen!

Olaf

Olaf

As you all know I have been gripped with anticipation on the budding of my Passion Flower. Today, Wednesday, coming home from work. I looked out of the kitchen window and there blooming before my astonished eyes was a flower! Two flowers in fact! I can’t wait for more to flower, the plant is covered in buds! 😀

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It’s all About the Pheromones!

Recently, I have noticed that the insects have been enjoying the plants in the little ‘garden of Eden’ we have created for them.

Garden of Eden.... on a small scale

Garden of Eden…. on a small scale

When the sun burns down brightly, the visiting bees have a riot! Today I counted at least five bees in amongst the flowers, feeding at one time.

bee on honeysuckle

bee on honeysuckle

We visited Lady Green Garden Centre this May Bank Holiday Monday and I came away with a Phlox and Polemonium! Amongst the display of flowers for purchase there was a bee keeper attending to his hives! 🙂

Back at home, sunbathing in the sunshine before the clouds came. I spotted many bees on the Cat Mint. Amongst the visiting bees there was one I thought had become trapped in the mints foliage and then she popped out with a male on her back!! I was shocked! I did not know bees ‘mated’. I always thought they laid eggs and then the males fertilized them afterwards! What do I know!! You learn something new everyday! 😀 Anyway, the male clung to her for over half an hour. I was fascinated! I took some photos, (as you do!) and then left them to it. She was still foraging amongst the Cat Mint flowers while he was ‘doing his thing!’ lol 😀

Mating Bees!

Mating Bees!

I had my eyes closed enjoying the sunshine, while David was painting the yard floor! Then I opened my eyes and saw coming towards me, the female and her mate! She was buzzing at me and tried to land on my arm! I freaked out! I don’t mind buying plants to feed them, don’t mind them buzzing around the garden and merrily mating, but I do mind when they try to include me in their antics! lol. I am rather ashamed now, but I stood up, screaming as they tried to land on my back! Why come to me? I am no flower!! David came to the rescue and herded them away! I was left shaken and embarrassed for screaming like a girl! I did not want to become The Bee Dancer!

I later found out that the bees may have been Bumblebees. The female a Queen, (or a new Queen). I was sad to read from The British Bee-keepers Association, that the male, a drone, usually died after mating! Poor little chappy! He was far smaller than her!

Poor male and Queen Bumblebee

Poor male and Queen Bumblebee

The whole incident made me think of a poem by Sylvia Plath, about bee keeping. She and her husband Ted Hughes when they lived in Devon had attempted to keep bees. It doesn’t sound like she was that ‘fussed’ with the whole idea!

The Arrival of the Bee Box, by Sylvia Plath. 4th October 1962.

I ordered this, clean wood box

Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.

I would say it was the coffin of a midget

Or a square baby

Were there not such a din in it.

 

The box is locked, it is dangerous.

I have to live with it overnight

And I can’t keep away from it.

There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.

There is only a little grid, no exit.

 

I put my eye to the grid.

It is dark, dark,

With the swarmy feeling of African hands

Minute and shrunk for export,

Black on black, angrily clambering.

 

How can I let them out?

It is the noise that appalls me most of all,

The unintelligible syllables.

It is like a Roman mob,

Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

 

I lay my ear to furious Latin.

I am not a Caesar.

I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.

They can be sent back.

They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

 

I wonder how hungry they are.

I wonder if they would forget me

If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.

There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,

And the petticoats of the cherry.

 

They might ignore me immediately

In my moon suit and funeral veil.

I am no source of honey

So why should they turn on me?

Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

 

The box is only temporary.

 

It’s Working!

The planting for wildlife is finally coming to fruition.

Sunday was a lazy day and amongst the flowers of my Wallflower and Cat Mint I spied a Small White butterfly and Bee!

There was also the sound of Goldfinches in the nearby trees and a hungry baby Great Tit being fed by its parents!

Here’s footage I took in 2012 when the Great Tit’s brought their babies to my feeders.

‘To Bee or Not too Bee…’

It has been a long Sunday.

David has been bored and I have busied myself with exercising and relaxing in the bath for over an hour, listening to Classic FM and drinking wine! 😀

I pottered about the garden before and noticed two bees on my flowers! Yes, two bees! I have chosen the plants for wildlife and recently been mourning the fact that most bees seem to have been visiting my mums yard, but not today! I saw one bee on my Azalea and another on my Scabiosa! Finally!! I am so happy!

bee

 

My Aquilegia also looks lovely, with blossoming purple buds!

aquilegia