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

Fun in the Sun – flowers

Recently I’ve been in a bit of a slump with regards to my writing. However, last weekend we visited a local sunflower maze and I thought it would be a nice post to write about. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to writing it.

The knowledge of this sunflower maze came to me rather late. I saw pictures my cousin had taken and I quickly Googled where it was. It was at a farm in Tarbock, Prescot, some 25 minutes drive from us. The only problem was, that I was so late to the party that it was difficult in getting a time and date for a booking, but I persevered and managed to get an early morning slot on the very last day of opening.

In April some 35,000 sunflower seeds in the initials of the NHS were planted by a farmer, who also planted a sunflower maze. Sunflowers are a symbol of happiness and since Covid-19, happiness has been in short supply.

The day we visited was a gloomy overcast morning, luckily we had missed the rain. David and I, along with my mum and David’s parents all spent a joyful 45 minutes walking along the maze of mostly gone to seed sunflowers, but with the occasional late bloomer standing proud and golden. Along the path were bee related questions. If you answered wrongly you took a dead-end turn. All eyes were on me! I know a bit about bee ID but not that they have two pairs of wings and have five eyes. Well in reality two eyes the other three are ‘simple’ eyes that detect light. However we managed to navigate the maze as a team and much laughter was had. It was a nice way to pass an hour.

Have you been to a sunflower maze? Or any kind of maze?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-nine.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_29Day 29: For the last Close up Monday of 2020’s 30 Days Wild I’ll be focusing on gulls. I don’t know if many of you remember Harald the lesser black-backed gull chick who we helped last year, after falling from his roof top nest? Well, this past week we’ve had to save his sibling (from this years brood) from a similar fate. He was found unharmed, calling to his parent from the pavement. David scooped him up and we found a place for him at a local rehabber.

It got me wondering why are these gulls nesting in urban settings? I turned to the RSPB for more information. Apparently since the 1940’s herring and lesser black-backed gulls have nested on rooftops. The reason for this is unknown but the consensus is the ever abundance of food and predator free breeding sites. In my area of Liverpool it has only been the last few years that we have seen gull nests on chimney stacks. They do seem to be becoming more prevalent and it seems that gulls prefer to return yearly to the same nesting ground.

Last year we watched two gull nests, one a herring and another a lesser black-backed gull. The herring gull had three chicks but only one survived to fledging, whereas the black-backed gull had two chicks and both, though aided by humans, after falling from the roof were taken to be rehabilitated.

This year we only have the lesser black-backed gull nest in the road, however already one chick has been found dead in a neighbours yard after, again falling out of the nest and the latest rescue, Benjamin the tiny chick we found crying in the road.

All gulls are protected under the The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The most synonymous gull to the UK psyche is the herring gull. Though there seems to be an abundance of them in cities and by the sea-side they are in fact endangered due to population declines and listed red on the UK’s birds of conservation concern. This year we have a regular herring gull who visits multiple times daily. I fear he will get used to human contact but he enjoys the abundance of cat food we have and its better than the food waste going to landfill.

steven

Steven the herring gull

A little information on both species:

Both are omnivores, mate for life and can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that flush out excess salt. Both herring and lesser black-backed gulls have similar life spans of up to 15 years. Lesser black-backed gulls’ UK conservation status is amber.

What is your take on ‘sea’ gulls?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twelve.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_12Day 12: Today’s 30 Days Wild is going to be a ladybird hunt. Right or wrong I prefer to call them ladybugs!! On my daily walk with Riley we follow a path close to a railway line. At present the embankment is full of nettles and I’ve seen shinning red against the greenery, lots of ladybugs. Native or not (harlequin) I’ve decided to take a count of how many ladybugs I see on my walk.

On today’s walk I spotted a grand total of 24 ladybugs, a mixture of native and harlequin. In one section of the walk there were an abundance of ladybird larvae. They do seem to like nettles and knapweed.

It looks like the photos I have captured are all harlequin ladybugs, however I have seen some two, seven spot and 16 spot ladybirds during my count. I find it quite hard to tell native ladybirds from harlequins. Maybe the white eyes are a give away?

There are around 40 native ladybirds in the UK. Their redness is a sign to predators that they bitter tasting, they also exude a liquid that detracts birds and ants. Adults hibernate in winter. Their larvae are voracious aphid eaters.

Harlequin ladybirds are from Asia and arrived in the UK in 2004. They are more prevalent in towns, hence seeing more in a local park. They are larger than the native ladybird and out compete natives in prey and will eat other ladybird’s eggs and larvae.

Have you seen any ladybirds where you live?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #71

Wow! It’s been such a long time since I updated you all with a Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

#walk1000miles

With the start of a new year, I was excited to begin counting the miles to 1000 again! This week however my miles have been hobbled by my clumsy self, breaking (yet again) my little toe. I have had to restrict the amount of walking I’ve been doing until it heals. So as feared my miles gained this week have been a pitiful. 25 miles, bringing my new total to 190 miles.

Book I am Reading: 

At present I am reading JoJo Moyes’s – The Girl You Left Behind.  It begins in an occupied town in France during the First World War and follows the fortune of Sophie whose husband has joined the French army. Edouard was a gifted painter and leaves Sophie behind with her portrait which herr Kommandant has fallen in love with. The second half of the novel sees Liv, who has Sophie’s portrait in her home and learns of the troubled history of the painting. I have just read Sophie’s chapters and now begin Liv’s. It’s an easy read but quite harrowing in parts. A much better novel than The Horse Dancer!

Have you read any good books lately?

Theatre:

an inspector calls

An Inspector Calls

Do you ever get excited about seeing something and then when you do, it is a total disappointment? Well that is what happened when we visited The Playhouse, Liverpool to see J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector CallsI enjoyed reviewing the play during my 2017 A Year in Books, so was excited to see the stage performance. However this ‘visionary, radical, challenging version of JB Priestley’s classic thriller‘, directed by Stephen Daldry for National Theatre really missed the mark for me. Daldry’s production began with World War Two bomb sirens. The stage design was of a house that would ultimately be destroyed by German V2’s. The whole stage design sat uneasy with me and did not help the drama between the cast. The play is set during a dinner party in the Edwardian period, before World War One, however in this production most of the action was on a street outside a house. It never really jelled for me. The only saving grace was the atmospherics and soundtrack.

Have you seen this play, if so what did you think?

New Tech:

2020 has begun rather disappointingly in more ways than one! In January I discovered, to my sadness that I had somehow broken the lens on my Samsung S6 which I use predominantly as a camera. However I am blessed that we had the means to be able to purchase a replacement. I am now the proud owner of a Samsung S10 with wide lens and ultra slow motion. I’ve found the phone is more intelligent than I am!

djiDavid has just purchased a DJI Mavic Mini. For over a year we have been humming and ahhing about getting a drone to add more depth to my wild swim videos. This year David plucked up the courage and spent his pennies on this light weight drone. We’ve not tried it yet, what with Storm Ciara causing havoc, but I will report when we do.

Do you own a drone? Any tips?

Hans Zimmer Live (again):

hans

Hans Zimmer Live 2021

In 2017 I went to see Hans Zimmer Live in Liverpool, a year before that in Birmingham. Notice my surprise when he recently announced a European tour for 2021. With David and my brother Daniel we decided to purchase tickets to see the new show in March 2021 at Manchester Arena. I hope it’s as good as the original!

New Appliance: 

washing machineTo round off a rather disappointing week, we had the delivery of our new washing machine today. Only to find that the electrical plug isn’t long enough to reach our power socket. So we are having to move the socket some place else. In a house as old as ours, nothing is straight forward. I may not be able to use my new washing machine but I can admire it!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Gull Saga Continues

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that for the past two months we have been watching the progress of two gull nests. One nest was of a lesser black backed gull and the other a herring gull. Of the two nests only one chick from each thrived.

On Friday David and I returned home from work to find that the lesser black backed chick had fallen from its nest high up on a chimney stack. It wasn’t strong enough to fly, and was wandering around the road calling for its parents. We kept an eye on the chick all evening, hoping the parents would come and feed it but none did. Several times the poor chick almost got run over by a car!

I contacted a Facebook group run by volunteers which I remembered helped birds in need. They advised to contain the chick so we could take it to someone who rehabilitates gulls. So at 9 o’clock with the night setting in, David and I ran around the road trying to catch the gull who we named Harald. It didn’t take too long to catch him (or her), we didn’t want to put too much stress on the gull. David managed to corner Harald and quickly picked him up. The gull cried, and struggled to escape. We quickly took the gull inside and placed him in a cat carrier. Luckily we had one big enough! We gave Harald water and cat food and left him to settle in.

The following morning we let Harald wander about the guest room, to stretch his wings and take in his new surroundings, whilst David cleaned his carrier. We spent as much time with Harald as we could before it was time to take him to his new home in Anfield.

A kind lady volunteered her outdoor aviary for Harald. On arrival, David coaxed Harald out of the carrier and he pecked about inspecting his new home. He made a gurgling noise which made me think it was a kind of appreciation.

harald4

Harald seemed happy. The lady said that gulls like scrambled eggs and that she had tinned mackerel and cat food for him. We said our farewells with promises of being kept updated on Harald’s development. It was sad to say goodbye to him, he seemed a character!

Harald’s first night update: Harald is doing fine in his new home, eating well and trying to fly. He is very adventurous and vocal. It’s only a matter of time before he gets strong enough to fly and make his own way in the world. Good luck Harald!

Sunday Sevens #69

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

Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?

A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?

convenienceBook I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.

Brocholes:
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.

Family meal:
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.

Moth:
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.

buff tailed bumblebee

Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #68

You all know how much I love updating you all in a Sunday Sevens! I’ve managed to collate enough info this week for a post. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising the successful series.

Burton Mere:
Sunday 21st July 2019 was RSPB Burton Mere‘s 40th anniversary pin badge launch. David and I made our way to the reserve on this special occasion to purchase the much anticipated badge. The badge ID was unknown until we arrived. It was a cattle egret! A species that has nested and reared young in previous years. I paid the £2 donation and we enjoyed a few hours walking about the reserve.

Doris:
David has been curing pigeons again! This time a female pigeon with a sore eye, who was unable to close her beak. After a few attempts at capture, David managed to catch her and quickly discovered that she had canker, a bacterium that if left untreated can kill pigeons. David has bought tablets to treat this disease so after an overnight stay at Rescue No.49, Doris was released and has been seen frequenting the yarden every day this week. Thanks David for saving another life!

Doggy Day:
After all the uncertainty recently about David’s job, re: redundancies and reshuffling, an event at David’s work called Puppy Day helped him release the stresses and strains of daily life by spending time with dalmatian puppies.

Gulls:
During recent research I’ve discovered that there is no such thing as a seagull. They are just gulls seen at the seaside! However since their food and habitat is being encroached by humans these gulls are becoming more prevalent inland. The nesting gulls around our home I have learned are two different types. The gull nest to the back of our house is a herring gull and the nest to the front, I have identified as a lesser black-backed gull. On Friday the chick to the back had fallen from the nest (chimney stack) and now cries for food whilst on the roof. The adult tends to this chick so I am not too concerned. 

Watching birds while it rained:
This weekend was a rather damp squib, in more ways than one!! It rained constantly all day Saturday, so I decided to spend a good hour watching the birds visiting the yarden feeders. I saw four species of bird, 7 goldfinches, 5 sparrows, (who are so adventurous and like to explore every corner of the yarden). 13 Starlings and 4 pigeons. I even spotted a poor bedraggled honeybee trying to dodge the raindrops!

window

View from the window

#walk1000miles:
I’ve forgotten to calculate my miles recently. So when I did add up this week’s mileage, I found that I had walked 35 miles, bringing my annual total to 1,177!

Book I am reading?
Having finished The Heights by Juliet Bell I am left wondering what to read next. Any ideas??

riley

Riley:
I’ve noticed that since Riley has hit the prime age of 10, he has slowed down a lot. He no longer plays for as long as he used too and he stop and starts when going for a long walk. I worry for him. Do you have any tips on looking after an older dog?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #66

Since it’s back to normality after blogging everyday in June for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I thought I would write a Sunday Sevens.

Friends:

Last weekend my friend from America visited us again. She is a big fan of Riley so David and I decided to take them both on a morning walk to Formby Beach.

Then in the afternoon we visited Liverpool’s Cat Cafe.

The Aviary (part 1):

Dsc_0540 (2)

Set and Leaf

In a previous Sunday Sevens from 2017 (found here), you may recall that I wrote about having to separate an aggressive blue-faced parrot finch from the aviary as he attacked another finch.

In April this year, we decided that two years in the prison cage was enough time for the two blue-faced parrot finches, and so we paroled them to be reintegrated into the aviary.

However, this Tuesday David and I came home from work to murder in the aviary! The victim, poor Lady Gouldian, Set.

We found him with all his feathers plucked from his head and close to death. We put him in the hospital cage in the hope that he would pull through but he succumbed from his ordeal not long after. There was no need for an Agatha Christie detective, we already knew who the culprit was: blue-face parrot finch, Leaf who was seen the previous day chasing Set! It looked like he was back to his aggressive ways! Saddened and angry in equal measure we separated both blue-faced parrots from the aviary and now they reside in the prison cage for life! We buried Set under the Californian lilac, he was only two years old.

Book I am reading:

For the past few weeks I have been reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I am enjoying the narrative and the colourful cast of characters. Have you read this book? If so what did you think?

#walk1000miles:

I hit my #walk1000miles target on 25th June 2019. Since then I have been continuing to clock up my miles in the hope of getting to 2000 miles come the end of the year! My weekly total has been 39, bringing my annual total to 1,073 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

New Life:

For the first time since I can recall we have not one, but two herring gull nests around our house. They have made nests on nearby chimney stacks. One nest had three chicks, whereas the other only two. On Friday we noticed that the nest with three chicks only had two. On further inspection David found a grim discovery. One of the chicks had fallen (or been thrown) from the nest. He was stranded on a roof and come Saturday morning his body was no longer there. Sad times.

Baking:

This weekend, David made some more cupcakes. He made peanut butter ones and some Victoria sponges for me. Yummy!

cakes

Victoria Cupcakes

The Aviary (part 2:)

nero

Nero

On a happier note to end with, on Saturday David and I visited a pet shop in Warrington. We were looking for a mate for Star our star finch but they only sold pairs. So we opted for a male black head/purple chest Lady Gouldian. I named him Nero. He is a beauty! He has been trying to catch the eye of our resident female. I hope he is successful.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens is devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-five.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_25Day 25: Today’s 30 Days Wild is all about trees.

I find it difficult to ID trees, so I decided to make an attempt at some identification. I pass lots of trees on my route to work, so collected some leaves as I walked.

If you think I may have got these wrong please correct me. Thanks.

leaves

Leaves

    1. Oak: I was ok identifying this native leaf but then I read that there are two types of oak in the UK, English oak and sessile. Possibly this is a sessile oak which prefers the north? Oak trees can grow up to 40m in height and won’t produce acorns until 40 years of age!
    2. Ash: I think this is a compound ash leaf but not 100%. They can live up to 400 years, longer if coppiced.
    3. Sycamore: Again not 100% on this. It could be a maple or guelder rose. Another long lived tree. Fruits are known as samaras, or helicopters in Liverpool. Do you know them by a different name?
    4. Hawthorn: I thought I would finish on an easy one, as I’ve just ordered one from The Woodland Trust. Hawthorns are native and in spring their leaves are edible. They can grow to 15m but are usually used as hedgerows.

These were just a few of the leaves I collected. I think a couple more were from a hazel and silver birch but not certain. I really need to buy a book on tree identification. If you have any suggestions let me know.

What’s your favourite tree?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x