A Day on the Isle of Skye

I don’t know why, but I’ve found it rather hard to write this post. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the day was marred by the weather? Or that I was generally disappointed in not taking in a swim? Either way this post has been a long time in coming.

Skye was some three hours drive from our base at Fort William. On our drive west we passed many lochs, some more picturesque than others. I found the view of Loch Cluanie rather rugged and industrial. I later read that it is a reservoir for the generation of hydro-electric power.

eilean donan

Eilean Donan Castle

On towards Loch Duich, we passed signs for The Battle of Glenshiel, where British Governmental Forces faced and defeated Jacobites, who were supported by a Spanish regiment during a rebellion in 1719. During this insurgency Eilean Donan Castle, was partially destroyed, having been taken by the Spanish as their headquarters and subsequently bombarded by the British Navy. For 200 years the castle lay ruined until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle to its former glory.

We crossed the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and progressed north towards Portree. On our journey along the A87 we stopped to admire some Highland Cattle. They drew quite a crowd!

From Portree we headed towards the Old Man of Storr. We got to this iconic rock formation at midday, and even though rain filled clouds obscured most of the Trotternish Ridge and the car par was full, we luckily found parking in a lay-by further along the road.

The landscape of oddly shaped pinnacles and rocky buttresses that make up The Sorr was created by an ancient landslide. We followed the path from the car park up towards these towering outcrops. As we gained height, swathes of cloud swirled around the Old Man. It made for very atmospheric pictures. The area had a mythological feel to it, and I could imagine armies of Orcs from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings appearing from out of the mist.

During our two hour walk there were no views of the Sound of Raasay or of Loch Leathan as cloud obscured everything the higher we got. There came a point when even the Old Man was concealed. It was time to call it a day, so we headed back to the car. We found that on our ascent our backs got completely drenched by the rain, whilst on our descent our fronts got the same treatment. We returned to the car with three layers of clothing sodden.

I’d planned on a walk to Loch leathan to embark on another Highland swim. However the dark, dreary weather had taken it’s toll on me and I decided that a soaking at the Old Man of Storr was enough for me that day. We agreed to leave the area and head south, trying to escape the approach of tropical storm Helene.

Our final destination on Skye was Kylerhea, part of Scotland’s Forestry Commission. From the car park there is a short walk to a wildlife hide which overlooks the strait towards the Scottish mainland. The hide is billed as one of the best places in Britain to see otters, dolphins, sharks and the mighty white-tailed sea eagle. On this dismal day all we saw was a seal popping up for air, a grey heron and many sea birds that were too far away to identify.

On leaving a darkening Kylerhea, I felt that the visit was rather a waste of time. However on the three hour drive home we agreed that we had manage to see all we had planned with the exception of a swim. Though the weather may not have been kind to us on Skye we did enjoy the sights we saw, even if we were drenched to the skin!

Have you visited Skye? Any fond memories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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The Oak Tree Experiment.

On my walk to work I pass a row of oak trees. At this time of year, I noticed they had dropped lots of acorns on the ground which crunched underfoot. This got me thinking. Perhaps I could rescue a couple and experiment to see if I could grow one of them? So, I gathered a few on my recent walk and took three decent looking acorns home.

After doing some research I noted that acorns should be brown when planting. Mine were green, so I don’t know whether they will grow or not. Either way, I found a spare pot in which to plant the acorns. I made three small holes and planted the acorns before covering over with soil. I sprinkled some water and have left the pot in a sunny area. I shall update you on the progress of these little acorns and see if any of them will grow.

Have you been successful in growing a tree from seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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!’

sparrowhawk female

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.

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.

toad

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.

swim1

Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Beautiful Wildflower Meadow

Sunday, 1st of July, the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild had come to an end, but I was in no mood to end the wildness. So David and I decided to head out for a walk at a local nature reserve, Pickerings Pasture. Only 25 minutes drive from Liverpool, Pickerings Pasture in Halebank is a Green Flag Award winning Local Nature Reserve. Boasting acres of wildflower meadows and stunning views of the upper Mersey estuary. There is a free car park and wheelchair accessible paths. David and I spent a leisurely hour there.

What caught our eye instantly was a flash of vibrant colour as we drove into the car park. A beautiful wildflower meadow was blooming, with poppies, cornflowers and daisies. The meadow was abundant with insects. Bees buzzed in between butterfly wings and there were so many meadow browns I was giddy with excitement!

Even though there were many people walking their dogs or biking, the area seemed a peaceful oasis. We will definitely return.

Have you seen a beautiful wildflower meadow where you are?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: I can’t quite believe that June is almost over! How quick the month has flown. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild has been wonderful in focusing the mind to the nature that is all around. Also blogging everyday has been challenging but ultimately enjoyable. Would I do it all again? Probably. There is so much out there to see and learn.

Today’s post, from Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve is a little bit different. I decided to make you all a message via a vlog. I hope you enjoy my celebration of 2018’s 30 Days Wild? Thanks to David for piecing the video together.

During our walk through Lunt Meadows there were so many butterflies, I lost count! Meadow browns, tortoiseshells and red admirals were among the numbers. The highlight for me was seeing avocets hovering and chattering overhead. It looked like they were having a heated argument with some geese!

June 2018 has well and truly been a month to remember and thank you for following me in my wild adventures!

If you have participated in 30 Days Wild this year, what have been your highlights?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_29Day 29: For the penultimate day of 2018’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go looking for moths. In the past I have never been successful in my moth hunts. This year wasn’t any different, however I spent a peaceful evening in the yarden. I enjoyed the quietude of sitting outside as the night darkened. The air was warm and scented heavily with jasmine. I saw many micro-moths but none stopped for a photograph. My light trap was ineffectual once again.

With nothing to show for my time outdoors, I decided to rummage through my archive of photos and show you the moths I have been lucky in seeing.

A few years ago we did see a plume moth but it looks like I never saved the photograph. 😦

Some facts:

There are 2,500 species of moth in the UK. Not all moths are active at night. Some moths have proboscis but others as adults have none, these moths rely on fat stores and only live up to a week. Moths have sense receptors on their legs and other parts of their bodies to smell, and they hear through their wings. Some species are expert at camouflage while others (especially their caterpillars) mimic other species in defense to being preyed upon. They are food for many birds and mammals.

If you’ve been luckier than I have in your moth sightings, do let me know which species has caught you eye.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-six

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_26Day 26: It’s back to work this week after a lovely break. One positive to working in Stockbridge Village is that there are a few social enterprises, such as Mab Lane Community Woodland and Woolfall Heath Meadowto enjoy.

I visited Woolfall Heath Meadow before work and spent a leisurely half an hour walking around the circular path through grassland.

It was a hot day, the thermometer reaching 24°C. The area was very quiet and I only saw two people walking their dogs. As I walked along the path, soaking up the rays of the sun, the chirp of grasshoppers sounded at my feet while willow warblers sung from the shelter of nearby trees.

The River Alt runs through the site and I sat overlooking a reedbed while watching as red admirals fluttered past. There were many meadow browns flying over the meadow but non stopped still enough for me to take a picture.

Of the flowers I spotted were, bindweed, thistles and field scabious. Bees enjoyed the ever popular brambles.

Do you have a community development like this one near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-four

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: Today we visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve, Congleton. This small nature reserve has a lake and a one mile circular walk through woodland, heath and grassland, which is popular with dog walkers. There is also a visitor centre. The car park charge was £2 for up to three hours, or £3 for all day. I was slightly saddened that nature sightings weren’t very high but there were butterflies and damsels fluttering over the many spotted orchids in a wildflower meadow.

We did spot a striking broad bodied chaser, a species neither of us had seen before.

Have you visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve? Have something like it near you?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine x

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