My February

Following on from my January post, I thought I would continue the monthly update theme as a new series for 2021. February can sometimes be the coldest and darkest of months. This year’s February began cold and frosty with frigid days and bone chilling nights but the month ended with mild winds and the scent of spring on the air. ūüôā

David had a well earned few days off work in February. Whilst still in lock-down we stayed local and took a walk to Liverpool’s Sefton Park with an excitable Riley. David managed to feed a few squirrels and crows with the monkey nuts we had brought with us, while I had a captive audience of geese, coots and gulls enjoying the bird seed I offered them. I love feeding the birds on the lake, it makes me feel such a child again!

In January’s post I commented that I had seen the first, brief visit from the chiffchaff. Well he/she visited again, enjoying the insects on the laurel bush! David didn’t grab his camera quite quick enough, so I had to make do with a grainy photo I managed to get off my phone. Isn’t he so cute? The harbinger of spring?

Even though the mornings and evenings are getting lighter, these February nights seem cold and dark for some reason. This month I’ve been snuggling up in bed most nights and have managed to rekindle my reading. I’ve just finished Cilka’s Journey (a semi-fictional account of a survivor of Auschwitz who was imprisoned in a Russian gulag) and have begun The Glass House a mystery by Eve Chase.

I’m still only working one day a week, so using my free time to watch some series I’ve not seen before. I know I am very late to the party but I’ve been enjoying watching the 90’s American sitcom Friends. I’ve also caught up with the second series of The Bay and the Netflix sensation, Bridgerton.

I know Valentine’s Day is very commercial but I still like to celebrate it none the less. When I was single I would buy myself something nice as an act of self love, and now I’m in a long standing relationship, I celebrate the day by ordering a nice curry so we can both enjoy it. As a little token I bought David this cute little bumblebee (or did I buy her for myself?) She’s so sweet! ūüôā

I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine the end of February and I had a few side effects, like shaking and sweating and aches and pains. Thankfully these were short lived and I’m feeling much better now.

To end the month, we got a new patient, Elliott a feral pigeon, who we spotted sitting in someone’s front yard while on a walk with Riley. On our way back from the park, the pigeon was still vulnerable so David caught him and brought him home with us. He’s being treated for canker and coccidiosis, let’s hope he gets better soon!

How have you spent February? Do you like the long, dark nights or looking forward to spring?

Take care,

Christine x

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

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Now a permanent fixture in my calendar, the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this year fell between 25th -27th January 2020. I decided to do my hourly count on the Sunday, 11am to 12pm. Earlier I had topped up the yarden feeders in preparation. I boiled the kettle and made a pot of Bird and Wild espresso coffee which I got free with my order of the lovely RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch mug!

I sat by the window and waited for my feathered friends to visit. Though my tally was not as varied as previous years, there were no visits from the dunnock, robin or starlings. I did count 14 goldfinches, 9 pigeons and two noisy blue tits within the hour. The weather was grey and squally with a chilling breeze making the 8¬įC feel colder. I was hoping for a visit from the sparrowhawk, but she kept out of sight.

rspb big garden birdwatch

Graph of my count

If you were joining in with the count, how did you do?

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

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.

12 Hours of Day #7

Thanks to Louise from Ramblings of a Roachling, for giving me the heads up on this weekends #photoanhour¬†on¬†Instagram. It’s been a while since I participated so without further ado, here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour ‚Äď 24th March 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began like many other Saturdays, at 8am. I fed Artie before making breakfast and coffee to ease myself into the morning.

9am to 10am:

We took a weekly trip to the local Asda to do the big shop.

10am to 11am:

Once returned from the supermarket, David and I headed back out towards Speke Retail Park and Dobbies.

11am to 12pm:

It was mum’s birthday on Sunday and as a gift she requested an orchid. There were many to chose from in the shop!

12pm to 1pm:

Back home, we had lunch and I enjoyed a cup of Costa coffee before the hard work of spring cleaning the house beckoned.

1pm to 2pm:

There was no getting away from the spring clean this week. I like to clean the windows in March before the clocks go forwards, which happened to be the Sunday. So I tied my hair up and gritted my teeth. Three hours+ work was ahead!

2pm to 3pm:

As expected, David and I were still working hard at cleaning. I took to cleaning the windows, while David tackled the mold on the walls. The washing machine worked splendidly and cleaned the voiles, curtains and even the settee covers!

3pm to 4pm:

By 3.30pm the bedroom window had freshly washed voiles and the spring/summer curtains were up.

4pm to 5pm:

David, took a breather from cleaning and fed the pigeons. Hoppy, who has visited for the past two years and comes to David when called, enjoyed the food offered.

5pm to 6pm:

While David was cleaning the settees, I turned my hand at making a salad to go with the evenings meal.

6pm to 7pm:

It was nice to finally sit down and enjoy a warm meal. We had pizza. I am sure I had the same dinner last #photoanhour. However this time, dinner was in daylight. The longer days of summer are on their way! Yippie! ūüôā

7pm to 8pm:

There wasn’t much time to digest dinner as I remembered that it was the day to clean the finches. *sigh* So I cleaned the Blue-faced Parrot-finches’ cage while David cleaned the aviary.

earth hourThe rest of the evening:

From 8.30 to 9.30 (local time) David and I observed #earthhour.¬†I turned off all the lights, lit a candle and we snuggled together to watch All the Money in the World. We left the candle burning ’til 11pm

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Colour Bingo!

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oDrawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’s¬†Nature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.

The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?

 

Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!

I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.

I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.

Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.

Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for¬†brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.

Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.

For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.

borage

Borage

I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its¬†blue instead.

Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

Sunday Sevens #37

It’s been such a long time since I have written a Sunday Sevens,¬†devised by Natalie at¬†Threads and bobbins.¬†So, I think a catch up is much needed.

New Friends: 

Last Saturday David and I visited our favourite pet shop, Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in Haydock. I had decided that if there were any owl finches then I would buy one. On the day there were two. I couldn’t leave one on its own, so both came home with me and I was ¬£80 the poorer. They settled into their new home so quickly! They look so cute snuggled up with our other owls. Here they all are, Hector, Paris, Tux and Cox.

owls together

Owl Finches

Storm Ophelia and a Saharan sun:

Monday brought ex-hurricane Ophelia to the UK. The morning was swathed in ochre coloured clouds. The air had an unearthliness to it. While standing for a bus I noticed the shrouded sun burned a blood red. In times past it would have been seen as an omen. I later read that it was to due to sand particles blown from the Sahara.

#walk1000miles:

I am happy to report that I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on Sunday the 8th of October. It felt a bit of an anticlimax at first, as I had hoped to complete on my next break to the Lake District. In reality it was while I wandered around a Liverpool shopping park. However the achievement soon dawned on me. I was chuffed with myself, I’d walked 1000 miles in 10 months! I can’t wait to receive my completer’s medal! I am continuing to count my miles to see what tally I reach come 31st December 2017!

Have you participated in the challenge? If so, what has been your memorable moments of the year?

Book I am reading:

I’ve just completed Barry Hines’s painfully poignant¬†A Kestrel for a Knave.¬†I am of the age when this book/film was on the GCSE curriculum. I recall the film being grey and bleak. The book of a similar vein, has some wonderful descriptions of nature. There was one scene in the book that I felt I had read before, in Chris Packham’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.¬† The scene where Billy uses the lure with Kes while his teacher watches on awestruck, I felt echoed Packham’s own experience. Hine’s depicts a hand to mouth existence for Billy in a brutal northern industrial town and the narrative depicting Kes tucking into her meals is a reflection of that wildness. Even though I appreciated the reality of the novel, at the end I was left feeling despondent that life for Billy, like many who lived then, as of today, will always be cruel.

Have you read this book? Seen the film? What were your impressions?

Rehabilitation: 

For the past 3-4 weeks we have had a guest staying, in the form of a pigeon. We affectionately named her Shaky due to a constant tremor. At first we thought Shaky had canker but after medication she grew confused. With some vitamins and garlic water Shaky grew in strength and this weekend we decided to try and release her. However, we could have chosen a better weekend, what with Storm Brian on the horizon, but the winds helped raise Shaky on the wing and she flew from our garden. Hopefully we have given her a helping hand and she can join her friends and live her remaining years as a pigeon.

Wild About Gardens Week: 

This Monday is the beginning of an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts and RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), Wild About Gardens. The week long initiative is focusing on bees and what we can do to attract them to our gardens. There is a downloadable pack that gives useful information. You can help by building homes to growing nectar rich flowers.

The wildflower seeds I sowed for 30 Days Wild in June have been flowering all summer and well into autumn! I’ll end this post with a collage of some wildflowers. If you can recognise any of them, then I would be most appreciative if you could let me know which ones in the comments below, some I could not identify.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

 

Sunday Sevens #30

I wasn’t going to participate in this weeks,¬†Sunday Sevens,¬†devised by Natalie.¬†Having¬†been a full week at work, I thought there wasn’t¬†much time for anything else. However I have a few updates which may interest you. So here’s my week!

Wild Swimming: Sunday saw David and I head for the Lake District to walk among the Rannerdale bluebells and to have my first swim of the new season in Crummock Water! I hope there will be many more swim/walks to come.

I.Ding a tree: This week, on my walk in-between bus stops to work, my olfactory receptors have been under assault by a rich, sweet scent. A Path I take is flanked with hedges that have white blossom. I didn’t know what species of plant it was, so I went in search of answers. I Used the Woodland Trust’s British Trees ID,¬†and discovered it was a Hawthorn Tree. Most commonly found in hedgerows and¬†also known as the May tree as it blossoms predominantly in May. If you would like to know more about the Hawthorn follow this link¬†for videos and useful information.

#walk1000miles: With leaving for work a little earlier so I can walk longer between bus stops and getting back into a routine on the treadmill means my mileage for the week has been 28.8 miles, which is my best yet! Bringing my overall total to 453 miles!

Collecting: While counting the petty cash at work, my boss, Sue and I have been scouring the 50p’s in the hope of finding more Beatrix Potter coins. During the week, we struck lucky and found a second coin!

Book I am reading: I managed to get through The Lonely, it seemed a story about nothing as everything was alluded to. I have now picked up The Kite Runner. I bought the Kindle version last year and forgot all about it, until this week when I was thinking about what book to read next. I am enjoying it so far, the narrative is well written.

Nestle bee seeds

Nestle Plan Bee: Recently I thought I would try¬†Nestle’s Shredded Wheat – Honey and Nut cereal. I was excited to read on their packaging that they have an initiative of offering free wildflower seeds with any purchase.

  • Did you know, that 97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930’s.
  • 70% of UK crops depend on bees to survive.
  • Since 1990 the UK alone has lost 20 species of bees and 35 are considered under threat.

With the help of initiatives like Nestle’s, we can all do our little bit for bees and other pollinators. All you need to do is go to¬†www.nestle-cereals.com/uk/en/plan-bee, buy one of the three cereals with the offer,¬†and enter your details along with the cereal box’s bar-code. My seeds took a week to arrive and I was over the moon! I just have to find some space in my yarden to plant them now! ūüôā

30 days wild

30 Days Wild: If free seeds from cereal companies wasn’t enough, I received my Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild pack on Friday. Among the goodies was a huge wall poster, stickers and a small packet of free wildflower seeds! I also ordered a pack for businesses as I liked the face masks featuring a fox and bunting which will grace the yarden. I am excited for this years’ 30 Days Wild. I cannot wait to see what wonders I will discover! June is only a few weeks away! Have you signed up?

Cooking: I had a culinary melt down this Saturday. I just didn’t know what to cook! There are so many recipes online, but I didn’t want to cook any of them! I was just in a funny mood! So while I was crying, David stepped in and rustled up a reasonably quick vegetable masala. The microwaved potatoes coated in turmeric and garlic were a revelation!

The Yarden: To finish off this post, (I’ve seemed to have waffled on longer than expected). I will share some photos of the yarden. The aquilegia has bloomed yet again and has many heads for the visiting pollinators. On Friday David and I were cleaning up from feeding Hoppy (the pigeon) and her friends, when the friendly cat that has been visiting the yarden walked along the wall and jumped down to say hello. She is a very friendly cat, a bit too friendly! We watched, as she trampled my cat mint, rolling around in ecstasy. We think she has a human family as we only see her around 7pm of a week day. I’d hate for her to be a stray and homeless.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Until the next Sunday Sevens!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #27

It’s that time again! Time to¬†join in with another¬†Sunday Sevens,¬†devised by Natalie.

Overall its not been a bad week!

A gift: At the beginning of the week David said there was a cosmetics sale on at his work’s shop. He then surprised me by handing me a large box with some gorgeous brushes, eye shadows and lipsticks. It shows he does think of me sometimes ūüôā

Culture: The hump day saw David and I attend the Liverpool Playhouse for a production of Gabriel starring Liverpool born Paul McGann and Belinda Lang. Set in occupied Guernsey during WW2, the action takes place in a farmhouse where a family of women live. Their survival during the occupation is due to the mother’s fraternization with the Germans. While there are moments of humour, there is also some toe curling observations. The womens’ lives are thrown into jeopardy with the arrival of ‘Gabriel’ who is found washed ashore. He has no recollection of who he is but he can speak fluent German! Is he a messenger sent from God to smite the Germans, or an SS officer come to oversee the concentration camp at Alderney? His identity is left ambiguous, but the ending leaves you shocked and saddened.

No visit to the Liverpool Playhouse could be complete without Cheshire Farm Ice-cream at the interval. Mmmm gorgeous!!

Literature: The book I have started reading this week is the seminal piece by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been reading it while on the bus going to work, stuck in traffic due to building works. While on the daily commute I have been clocking up the miles for¬†#Walk1000 miles:¬†My tally for the week has been 27 miles, which has taken me over the 300 miles mark! Also as I walked between bus stops I kept looking for signs of spring. One day I witnessed a buzzard soaring over the city being hounded by a brave pigeon who must have been protecting its young. Then as I passed a grassy verge I saw a flash of blue. A huddle of forget-me-nots¬†crowded all around!

dressShopping:¬†On Saturday I dragged poor David around Speke Retail Park looking for clothes for work. As I have been toning up with doing 30-40 minutes of treadmill, five times a week, I have dropped a dress size and as a result all my size 8’s are too big for me! Sick of wearing only a handful of clothes I went in search of spring dresses and trousers.

I managed to get two short dresses which will look ok over leggings or tights and a pair of linen trousers which will be a welcome change from Lycra!

Yarden: With the wonderful¬†sunny and warm weather we had over the weekend, David, Artie and I managed to grab a few hours in the yarden. Its amazing just how much the plants have all flourished. I snapped a fine specimen of a snake’s head fritillary and also one plant I can’t ID. Can you?

Visitors: On arrival from work everyday this week, David and I have seen cheeky pigeons sitting on the window ledge, looking into the kitchen. They have been waiting for us to throw seed out for them! Do you have any feathered friends?

pigeon

Finally: David and I had a lovely Sunday walk with Riley. We visited my favourite Liverpool park, Festival Gardens. The air was filled with the trill of great tits, bees hummed about in the undergrowth and orange tips and speckled woods fluttered along the woodland pathways. What a perfect way to start a day.

festival gardens

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x