My Wildlife Moments of 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hopefully welcoming in the new year and wishing it would be better than 2020. Though this year has been fraught with worries and more uncertainty, nature, as always has been a constant companion. A quietude among the madness of life. Here’s my wildlife moments of 2021!

I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool and the amount of wildlife that frequents my small walled, inner city terraced yarden is truly amazing. If you look closely, wildlife is everywhere and certain species herald the seasons! I know that spring is around the corner when I spy a passing chiffchaff hunting hungrily for insects in my yarden before it moves on to better pastures.

The yarden is a haven to an array of avian species; this year I managed to save a stunned baby goldfinch who recovered after 30 mintues of heat therapy. Then there is of course the male sparrowhawk who has been visiting over the autumn. The small birds may not like him, but I think he is spectacular!

One mammal that was seen frequently during the summer months in the yarden and gave me such a buzz whenever I saw him/her was Batty, the common pipistrelle (I think). Like clockwork, after sundown, Batty would appear swooping and looping as he/she hunted the midges and moths that the yarden flowers attract. Bats are fantastic!

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild this year, I made a hoverfly lagoon. Though I was not sure if it was successful, I did notice more hoverflies in the yarden than usual. So, perhaps it was.

Another insect that was a first for me this year was a four spotted chaser which I photographed at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Other highlights from a nature filled day out at Brockholes, was my first ever sighting of a common tern, a male reed bunting, Kevin the Kestrel hunting and having a dust bath, as well as an abundance of marsh orchids around the reserve.

Wildflowers have been the star of Liverpool this 2021. They sprouted in parks all over the city. Among the colourful displays was the gorgeous cosmos. Also during a walk around the city, I came across a strange flower to be growing along the sidewalk, a common flax. Not sure how that seeded itself there!

I’ve noticed recently that in my local park, a kestrel has moved in. Not sure if it’s just one or several but it’s nice so see him/her flying around when I’m standing waiting for the bus to work. I’ve also spotted a buzzard scouting the park too and one day I managed to get a photo, though sadly only on my phone.

During our wonderful week away to The Trossachs in Scotland, we spied hungry red squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker all enjoying the peanuts on the cabin feeders.

This year I’ve also been lucky enough to see some stunning sunrise and sunsets.

David and I kept our memberships with the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts’ this year and enjoyed many days out. At Burton Mere we were serenaded by a very gregarious reed warbler and photographed a bowl of spoonbills

During our visit to Leighton Moss, we saw a great white egret and there was a stand off between a dragonfly and a fly!

At Lunt Meadows, we spent half an hour with a family of swallows and I snapped a picture of a greylag goose and a black tailed godwit.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at all the wildlife I’ve been lucky enough to see? What wildlife moments of 2021 have you enjoyed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Thirty.

82952539_3891626650909438_7747516978942177272_oDay 30: Gaining inspiration from last year’s 30 Days Wild, Wednesdays will be RAW days, meaning Random Acts of Wildness. In this series I’ll be using The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app, and the 365 Days Wild book to help choose the day’s theme.

For today’s RAW, I’ve decided to check up on my wildflower seeds and hoverfly lagoon.

wildflower seedlings

wildflower seedlings

I’ve had more success with the wildflower seeds than the hoverfly lagoon. Quite a few of the seeds have sprouted and looking good for flowering come the following months. When inspecting the hoverfly lagoon, all I spotted was decomposing grass and leaves with quite an obnoxious smell. I had to cover my nose! I didn’t see any rat-tailed maggots unfortunately, but I’ll keep the lagoon for the rest of the summer and see how it goes. 

I have found this years 30 Days Wild rather hard to complete, especially the final 14 days. I’ve been so exhausted from travelling to work and back and then stresses at home. It’s been a real struggle, but I can say, I’ve achieved what I didn’t think I could, that of posting every day for 30 days! Some of the post may have been below par, but I’ve tried to write about a mix of wildlife and nature in the UK and on my doorstep. 

Here’s a recap of what I got up to!

June 2021 started off with a bang with the Big Wild Breakfast, the following days saw me looking for insects and finding crustaceans, visiting RSPB Burton Mere and Wildlife Trusts’ reserves, Brockholes and Lunt Meadows. I did a litter pick in my local park and took a walk to a nearby cemetery. I spotted a surprising flower growing along the streets of Liverpool, flax and photographed stunning wildflowers.  

I hope you have enjoyed following my 2021 30 Days Wild. It’s been tough!

For the final time, thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Twenty-two.

104131707_3891626307576139_3708370680052442488_oDay 22: This week is National Insect Week, an initiative by the Royal Entomological Society, to highlight the conservation of insects. To celebrate this event, I decided to do a pitfall trap in the yarden. Here’s what I found!

On lifting out the cup from the pitfall I discovered many springtails, no longer considered insects but hexapods, and one scared woodlouse which is a crustacean.  

Have you tried a pitfall trap yourself? If so what species did you discover?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Thirteen.

104360876_3891626050909498_6041332631517181594_oDay 13: Today’s 30 Days Wild from The Wildlife Trusts’ is all about wildflowers.

David, Riley and I today visited a wonderful budding wildflower meadow in our local park, The Mystery. Part of the Scouse Flowerhouse, a Liverpool City Council lead initiative to create wildflower gateways. Our local park is one of a few new sites in 2021. So we headed out early to try and capture some beautiful wildflowers.

The predominant flowers were ox-eye daisy, field poppy and cornflower. The bees loved them!

wildflowers

wildflowers

Have you spotted any wildflower meadows where you live?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Seven.

07Day 7: A new series for 30 Days Wild 2021, Mindful Mondays, were we take time out of our busy days and slow down, breathe and experience nature each sense at a time. 

Today’s theme for Mindful Monday is to visit a wild place. Over the weekend I decided to visit the RSPB’s Burton Mere on the Wirral. Since David has a new camera he let me take out his old Nikon. It was my first time using a SLR so some of my photos weren’t great but I did get some decent shots of a shelduck, reed warbler and black headed gull chicks. There was a strange gurgling sound from trees high up in the canopy and a host of spoonbills were sunning themselves there. They are curious birds and were getting a lot of attention from the visitors that day.

During our visit we had a fly by from a secretive bittern but both David and I were too slow to photograph this enigmatic bird. 

While walking the boardwalks there were many bees buzzing around and small white butterflies fed on green alkanet, which is a very popular plant for insects. The sound of warblers punctured the sun baked air with their shrill calls and squabbles between coots and moorhens were abundant. 

We only spent a couple of hours at the reserve, but we see something different each time we visit.

What’s your favourite nature reserve near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Four.

04Day 4: Continuing a theme from the past two years, Close Up, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper. These Close up days will be on Fridays for 2021!

Today’s Close Up will be all about one of my favourite insects: hoverflies!

Hoverflies or Syrphidae are known as true flies in the order of Diptera (having only one pair of wings). There are around 280 hoverfly species in the UK, which are active between the months of March to November. They are an excellent example of mimics (Batesian). The adults mimic the yellow and black stripes of bees and wasps (but are harmless), while their larvae mimic slugs, therefore looking undesirable food for a predator.

The life cycle of a hoverfly is that of a fly: adult, egg, larvae and pupa. While some adults feed on dead insects, the majority feed on nectar and pollen. Hoverflies are an underrated champion of pollination. Recent studies have shown that hoverflies pollinate flowers, trees and grasses. Whereas hoverfly larvae are helpful in the garden by eating unwanted aphids and other pests, while some larvae feed on fungi and parasitise bumblebee nests. For the conclusion of this post I shall focus on the larvae that are aquatic.

rat tailed maggot microsopy.uk.org

rat tailed maggot microsopy.uk.org

Buzz Club have an initiative to create Hoverfly Lagoons. These lagoons are to aid hoverflies with aquatic larvae to find appropriate breeding environments. Some larvae of hoverfly species prefer to eat the detritus of decaying matter, hence the creation of stagnant pools. Unfortunately named rat-tailed maggots, these larvae of the Myathropa and Helophilus and the drone fly (Eristalis) have tail like snorkels  which help them breathe, while they enjoy the aquatic environment and eat rotten plant matter. Ellen Rothery and Dave Goulson have created some great hoverflies lagoons. Here’s more information on creating a hoverfly lagoon for yourself.

For this years 30 Days Wild, I have tried to recreate a hoverfly lagoon myself. In the past our small pond has been a welcome habitat for hoverfly larvae but I wanted to try my hand at creating a hoverfly lagoon from scratch. I used an old ceramic container, some grass cuttings, (I got from the local park), twigs (for the adults to land on), a handful of leaf litter and some water. I’ll survey near the end of 30 Days Wild and let you know if I get any success in finding any hoverfly larvae!

Have you created a hoverfly lagoon?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx


Further Reading:

RSPB

BNA

Microscopy UK

Wildlife Gardening Forum

Pollinator Project 

Buzz Club  

Nature Spot 

Bumblebee.org

EcoRecord

My Wildlife Moments of 2020

However restrictive life in 2020 has been, wildlife and nature has been very restorative, definitely a pick me up in times of stress. During the first lock-down, the air was less crowded with the sounds of road and air traffic which made it all that more fresher than it had in years. Though my wildlife moments have been less in numbers this year, it has been nice to just notice and celebrate the small things, like an ashy mining bee resting on a lilac in the yarden and spotting mermaid’s purses washed up on Formby Beach.

Summer is a busy time for wildlife rehabilitation. Our only success this year has been Ava the pigeon who we crop fed while tackling her canker infection. We also rescued a very young lesser black-backed gull chick who had fallen from its steep roof nest and could not be put back. Luckily, thanks to the kind rehabbers of a local volunteer group, we found a home for Benjamin.

During June a male herring gull befriended us and came by daily for cat food or kitchen scraps. Then in August to our surprise he brought along with him his three crying fledglings! For about a month the three youngsters came for food along with Steven the adult. It was cute watching the three fledglings fight over food and then become independent. However, once autumn arrived Steven chased them away to find their own territories. It was a nice glimpse into the lives of herring gulls and I learned the different vocalisations they communicate with.

Spotting wildlife that you haven’t seen before can give you such a rush! I felt this excitement when I spied the looping flight of a bat around our walled yarden. Planting for wildlife really does work!

There have been other wildlife highlights too, that I’ve not been able to photograph; like a kestrel hunting in the local park and a brief glimpse of a holy blue butterfly.

What wildlife moments of 2020 have you seen?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: This week (22nd to 28th June) is National Insect Week, a biannual initiative organised by the Royal Entomological Society, encouraging people of all ages to learn more about insects. Insects are a diverse and ecologically important group of animals. There are over 24,000 species of insect in the UK.

So for today’s 30 Days Wild, below is a gallery showing the variety of the insect world.

What is your favourite insect?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Sixteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_16Day 16: Today’s 30 Days Wild is all about birdsong and hopefully being able to ID them more easily.

On my daily walk with Riley there are a number of birdsongs that I hear. I can ID a robin and a blackbird’s song but get confused when a chaffinch and wren add to the mix.

Here are some of the birds that live in my local park, that I hope to be able to ID more efficiently next time I’m out walking the dog.

robin

Robin

The Robin: Hopefully the easiest song to recall? The robin is part of the flycatcher and chat family. Other chat’s known are the stonechat, redstart and even nightingale. The robin is the gardener’s friend. I mainly see them of a winter, hence red breasts on Christmas cards. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Blackbird: my favourite bird song of all. The blackbird, the song of long, warm summer nights and early summer mornings. You can familiarise yourself with its song here. The blackbird is part of the thrush family. They like to eat insects, berries and worms. The females are confusingly brown but the males are strikingly black with yellow beaks. If you like their song here’s a one hour long rendition of their song, found here.

The Wren: This diminutive bird surely makes up for its size when singing its melodious repetitive song which lasts up to six seconds. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Chaffinch: I don’t know why but I always struggle with the song of the robin and the chaffinch. The robin though has a higher pitched song to the chaffinch, the chaffinch song can be found here.

Greenfinch: The biggest eye opener on the list has been the song of the greenfinch! I always thought that the song of the greenfinch was the alarm call of the robin. We learn something new everyday and today the scratchy sound of the greenfinch isn’t the alarm call of a robin at all!! You can familiarise yourself with the greenfinch song here

The Song Thrush: I see song thrushes on my walks, but can never get a good picture of them. Being part of the same family as the blackbird, you can hear the similar tones in this thrush’s song. You can familiarise yourself with the song thrush melody here. Their conservation status is red. If you’d like to listen to an hours recording of the song thrush song, you can find it here.

So there you have it, six bird songs from my local birds. The RSPB website, found here is invaluable to understanding UK bird songs. YouTube videos are also a great help. There are also phone apps which can help ID bird songs, Warblr is a good resource and Merlin.

Which bird song do you like the best? My favourite will always be the blackbird.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x