My Wildlife Moments of 2019

I really can’t believe that it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019. This year was slow to start but when it began it simply snowballed! December is a month to reflect though I haven’t had much time for reflection.

Thanks to Sharon for her wildlife post, prompting me to write this blog.

Reminiscing on 2019 I had to admit there were many wildlife moments this year, none more so than the male and female sparrowhawks that seemed to have kept the pigeons away from our yarden this autumn.

In September David and I booked a relaxing badger watch at RSPB Haweswater. We saw two badgers that evening, Gremlin and Porridge. It was a welcome treat from seeing squished badgers at roadsides.

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Gremlin the badger

For 2019 I bought David and I joint membership to the RSPB, and have made full use of our membership by visiting local reserves, such as Leighton Moss and Burton Mere several times.

At Leighton Moss we fed hungry great and blue tits and spotted marsh harriers flying over the pools. In June we attended a Meet the Moths event. I got to meet a popular hawk moth and an elephant!

At Burton Mere we photographed little egrets, shoveler ducks and redshanks in the depths of winter and enjoyed a carpet of bluebells in April.

As part of our RSPB membership we also visited Conwy and South Stack reserves. At Conwy we managed to capture a rare sighting of a grey phalarope and at South Stack there were dozens of silver studded blue butterflies!

In May David and I took a day trip to Ingleton Falls. On our exploration of the falls and woodland we watched as a dipper fed her two fledglings, swimming underwater to get the freshest insects or fish. It was wonderful to watch.

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I purchased six painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, to witness the amazing spectacle of metamorphosis. I grew quite attached to my little hungry caterpillars and felt sad when they chrysalised. In two weeks I had six beautiful painted lady butterflies!

Also for 30 Days Wild I’d booked David and I on a bee experience at Samlesbury Hall. This taster session on honey bees and bee keeping made me wish I had space for a hive myself. Perhaps in the future?

Other insect highlights were common hawkers and damselflies at Brockholes and a surprise encounter with a swallowtail moth in the yarden!

To round up a mixed 30 Days Wild I chanced upon jellyfish washed up on Formby Beach.

Formby Woods was also a fabulous place to spot native red squirrels.

The summer months are always a busy time for wildlife spotting. Right outside our window we watched two gull nests and how their chicks fared. One lesser black-backed gull chick fell from its nest (high up on a chimney stack) and was heard exploring the street as he cried for his parent. Frightened the chick would be hit by a car David and I contacted a local bird rescue and found a rehabilitation home for the chick. David scooped the gull up, who we named Harald and we took him to his new home in Anfield.

In just over a week Harald was strong enough to fly and left his rehabilitation for new adventures. Good luck Harald!

For Wild October an Instagram initiative I spotted the odd fungi and also a sadly demised hedgehog.

The floral highlights this year has to be searching for the bee orchid, which I found at Port Sunlight River Park.

To complete this years round up of wildlife moments I have to include an american bird sighting, a female mockingbird which I spotted among the sparrows at The High Line, New York.

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Female Mockingbird

What have been your wildlife moments of 2019?

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!

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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??

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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

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-one.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_21Day 21: Happy Litha or Summer Solstice!

2019’s longest day, saw the UK welcome 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. However, after all this celebration of light, the shorter days and darker nights begin from here. Today the weather for the NW of England has been fair and warm. Perfect weather to release my painted lady butterflies.

I was sad to see my butterflies fly but knew I had given them the best start in life.

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Painted Lady Butterfly

After coming home from work David and I headed out to a sun drenched yarden. The chirrup of sparrows and the cooing of pigeons sounded in the air. Once I had opened the habitat one butterfly, (I would like to think it was my little caterpillar who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup), flew straight up into the air! The other four butterflies needed a little more coaxing. I noticed one feeding on the watermelon I had given them before he/she took to the wing.

All five butterflies safely flew away. I hope they enjoy the sunshine on this solstice and manage to breed and begin the cycle again.

It has been a wonderful experience. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the caterpillars and then saddened when they became chrysalids, but soon celebrated the emergence of them as butterflies. Nature is truly miraculous!

Would I do it all again? Probably, though I stressed about feeding the butterflies and when I couldn’t release them. But the positive experience more than out weighed the worries.

Have you been inspired to give the experience a go? If so, you can read more about butterfly gardens from Insect Lore.

Thanks for following my caterpillars to butterflies,

Stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #57

49900099_10161556783635271_6636356257714274304_oHurrah! It’s the first Sunday Sevens of the year! I had fun collecting seven pictures from my week, which began with a walk with Riley to the local park. He was sporting his new jacket. I thought he looked very fetching! 🙂

I am determined to make 2019 the year I hit 2000 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. So far this month I have walked 171 miles. If you are competing in the challenge, how are you doing?

Music:

Voting for this years Classic FM Hall of Fame has opened. I chose three pieces of music which make me stop and reflect.

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My Choices in Hall of Fame

My choices were:

  1. Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony
  2. Elgar’s Nimrod
  3. Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight

Which pieces of classical music would you vote for?

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Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Sunday, David and I attended a concert of Mahler’s triumphant 5th Symphony at the Liverpool Philharmonic. It was one of the best performances of the symphony I had heard!

Collecting:

This week I managed to complete my 2018 collection of Beatrix Potter 50ps. My latest find was Peter Rabbit munching on carrots! All I need now to complete three years worth of 50ps is the most rare one, Jemima Puddle-Duck.

Have you found any collectible 50ps in your change?

Exercise:

David bought an exercise machine to add to our well equipped gym. In his work’s shop he spied a Maxi Climber. It was a good purchase at only £20! It retails for over £100! I’ve only had a 10 minute session on the machine but my limbs ache!

Book I’m Reading:

I am reading the second of Minette Walter’s medieval novels, The Turn of Midnight. Even though I didn’t rate the first book much, I decided to give the second installment a go.

What books are you reading at present?

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch:

This weekend is the much anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I did my count on a blustery Sunday during lunch-time. Thankfully the birds put on a good show. I had five species frequent the feeders, mostly the usual visitors! My count was as follows:

  • Seven starlings
  • One blue tit
  • 15 goldfinches
  • 23 pigeons
  • One robin

What species of bird have you seen in your garden?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for devising the series.

BIG Garden Birdwatch 2018

For the past five years I’ve been participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Over the years I have seen fluctuations in bird numbers and species. This year before the count, it had been the poorest showing of birds in a long time. I don’t know whether this is due to the goldfinches being scared, yes you read that correctly, scared of the seed I bought for them from Haiths? Or whether it’s due to being a mild January, where there’s more abundant foods elsewhere? Either way when I came to sit down with a cup of coffee in hand I wasn’t expecting much of a show. However the birds had other ideas!

This year, the only day I could fit in the hour long bird watch was Sunday, between 12.10pm and 1.20pm. While a enjoyed a relaxing lunch, I gazed out of the window to where the bird feeders were all topped up!

I didn’t have to wait too long for the first visitors, the starlings, who in turn bring a cascade of flocks of goldfinches and pigeons. My tally for the hour was as follows.

  • 8 starlings
  • 10 goldfinches
  • 9 pigeons (featuring a prima donna display from the rescue pigeon, Hoppy)
  • A swift visitation by 1 dunnock
  • An equally brief visit by 1 blue tit

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The yarden this winter has generally attracted two blue tits, but the other was no where to be seen. I have spotted a visiting robin on most days, (which the dunnock could have chased away), and two great tits have visited occasionally. On Friday last, I saw what was either three long tailed tits, or wagtails, they stayed all too briefly for me to ID them!

So, there you have it, my tally for 2018’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I wonder what species I’ll see in 2019?

What species did you record if you participated?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Product Placement – Haith’s

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.

goodiesThe products to be reviewed  were: 

  • MultiFeeder Plus: a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
  • Fat balls (small): I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
  • (Original) wild bird food: Compiled from a recipe dating back to the 1960’s.

I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.

The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.

The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.

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Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.

Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.

What the birds thought of the multifeeder:

It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.

Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!

At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.

The wild bird food and fat balls were a hit with all classes of bird.

What I thought of the multifeeder:

I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!

Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!

The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.

Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.

I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.


Links:

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.

Haith’s website offers more bird foods, such as peanuts, niger and livefood. If you would like to see their entire range follow: https://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: https://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

Sunday Sevens #33

Today’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Theads and Bobbins), will be a mishmash of pictures and info. I hope you don’t mind?

cartoonWork: This week has been heavy on the workload. With only working 18 hours a week, a full days work is squashed into just 3-4 hours daily. Feeling slightly under the weather and tired has made for a hard week to get through. However spirits were high at the centre I work at, as they celebrated 40 years since their opening. As part of their celebrations a local artist George Brooks was commissioned to draw caricatures of staff and people who access the day centre. Here’s my mug shot!

#walk1000miles: While in previous weeks I have been breaking my own record mileage. This week I have found less time, nor the inclination to do much than the bare minimum. My mileage for this week has been 26 miles bringing my annual total to 683 miles. Not bad but I hope to do better this following week.

New Life: For the past three weeks our blue-faced parrot finches have been laying and sitting on eggs. At first there were eight eggs laid. Then as the weeks progressed they threw a few eggs out of the nest. On Thursday David was replenishing their food and water when he stooped to have a look into the nest. ‘There’s a baby!’ he whispered.

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Baby Blue-faced Parrot Finch

‘What?’ I asked disbelieving. David nodded for me to have a look and I gazed at a tiny, naked creature writhing about the eggs. Even though the baby was blind its bulbous black eyes seemed to protrude from its head. I still can’t quite believe that our finches have had a baby. I wonder what the future will hold for the little nestling and whether there will be any siblings?

An update: Sadly our little nestling only survived two days before we found it dead. RIP little one. 😥

Metamorphosis: What with hatching eggs, fledged goldfinches, pigeons and starlings visiting the feeders, it has all been about the young ones this week! Summer is amazing for seeing new life! I recently noticed a chrysalis attached to a jasmine leaf. We could see the colour of the butterfly through the transparent casing. About two weeks ago on the very same plant I had taken a picture of a green caterpillar. The chrysalis would be the next stage of the metamorphosis!

On Friday during our daily perusal of the yarden David noticed that the chrysalis was empty and the poor, newly emerged butterfly, a large white was sitting on the floor. We picked it up and placed it on a buddleia.

We noticed it had a crumpled wing and I later read that if a newly emerged butterfly ended up on the floor, it could reduce its chance of having pristine wings. It takes a day for the wings to harden and take shape. I hope that our new friend hasn’t damaged its chances of survival. I also noticed that it had just one antenna. I read that it could have been due to a deformity in the chrysalis. The antenna helps determine smell and balance. We left the new butterfly clinging to the biddleia. Hopefully it will be able to warm its wings, the crumple unfold and be able to feed and go on its merry way. Only time will tell.

Another update: This one a little happier, (though only a little). The large white butterfly is still with us. It moved from the buddleia to the floor again, though I did see a white butterfly flutter about the rockery plants earlier in the day. Whether that was our little friend I don’t know. David took the butterfly indoors and fed it sugar/water solution. David noticed that one antennae is under developed and that the butterfly does not have control of one of its front legs. The prognosis for survival is poor, but we shall keep an eye on the butterfly and keep feeding sugar/water. That is all we can do sadly.

I was reading up on metamorphosis and what happens inside a chrysalis. Enzymes are released dissolving tissue but keeping essential organs before remodeling begins. National Geographic have an interesting report on 3D scanning of the process. You can read it here.

Book I am reading: I’ve finally picked up Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Goldfinch. I’m only a few pages into the narrative but so far I am enjoying Tartt’s writing style. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

The Yarden:  To cheer myself up I decided to visit a local garden centre and purchase some perennials for the yarden. There wasn’t much of a selection but I came away with an achillea (yarrow) and chrysanthemum, both had the RHS Perfect for Pollinators sign.

Looking forward: I have a few days away booked to Keswick this coming week. I am so ready for a little break away. Need to recharge my batteries or I feel I will crumble. Look out for blog posts on how the planned swim/walks pan out!

That was my (rather upsetting) week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Sunday Sevens #21

Since I’ve managed to snap a few photos this week, I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Last Sunday was a hectic one! Not only did we visit Warrington looking for Christmas presents, we also managed to acquire four new friends for the aviary! Welcome to the Connor-Evans family, Forrest and Tarn, the Blue- faced Parrot Finches and Bill and Silvie, the Chocolate Silverbills.

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White Poinsettia

On our travels we also popped into Bents to purchase a Poinsettia. I have been after a white Poinsettia since David gifted me one last Christmas. All the shops we visited had red ones, but at Bents they had a selection of red and white! Poinsettia’s can be poisonous to pets, so I’ve kept Artie away from mine.

Taking about Artie, he has been enjoying his Advent Calendar this month, as can be seen in the video below. 🙂

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, Friday 16th December was Christmas Jumper Day. As I don’t have a Christmas jumper, I wore my winter themed t-shirt to work! I also managed to (finally) purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. It’s festooned with pine cones and even has festive lights! I think it looks quite fetching on the door!

Earlier in the week the yarden was visited by a pair of Great Tits. I managed to film one on the feeder.

Mid-week, while out walking the family dog, Riley I counted:

  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Dunnock
  • Numerous Goldfinches and Pigeons
  • 1 Sparrow
  • 1 Grey Wagtail!

To fill the dark, cosy nights I have returned to a book I started reading last year! The Night Falling by Katherine Webb. It’s a pretty grim read but I will persevere.

On Saturday, David invited his family around for a curry night. He served his signature dish with naan and sides.

To finish off this post, I will share with you a snap I have taken of some home made mince pies. They have just come out of the oven! I will sample one later with some cream. 🙂

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Mince Pies

Have you been doing any cooking for Christmas? What are your favourite traditions at this time of year?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

 

Wild October – Week One.

Huge thanks to Sharon from the wonderful, Sunshine and Celandines, for bringing this little initiative to my attention. The premise, to do something wild every day for the month of October. It’s a bit like 30 Days Wild, though this is a celebration of all things autumnal! I thought I would give it a go!

The lovely Louise on her blog is also embarking on Wild October, as are a host of others on the Facebook 30 Days Wild page! Go check them out for inspiration!

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Autumn seems to be slowly creeping into my yarden. The Japanese anemone has flowered, a shore sign of autumn and the salvia ‘mystic spires’ are as tall as me!

Sadly summer for the NW of England wasn’t quite as nice as it was in other areas of the country. This has had an effect on the vegetables I have attempted to grow in the yarden. There are three tomatoes still green on the vine and I noticed the other day that I have two peppers also growing!! Think I’ll need to bring them both inside to grow and ripen more.

Since I have become a sort of recluse these past few weeks, there isn’t really much wild going on! Mid week while washing the dishes I stood watching in awe as a garden spider reconstructed his/her web.

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I am happy to still report that the flock of 6+ sparrows are continuing to visit the feeders, as are a pair of blue tits, charms of goldfinches, hoards of starlings and pigeons! The dawn chorus has been replaced by the cackle of corvids!

This week, with the weather being settled, I have seen some lovely sunrises. So today I managed to snap a picture along with the condensation clinging to the windows! Brrrr… it’s getting colder!

Today, while doing the laundry I noticed the garden spider had a fresh kill, all wrapped up in thread. It was fascinating watching the spider tuck into its meal!

Since this is a rather impromptu post I’ll sign off now and finish with a short poem.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves are falling,
Falling all around,
Floating softly to the ground,
Like tear drops falling,
Without a sound.

Autumn leaves are scattered,
Scattered all around,
Tossed upon the ground,
Like dreams torn and tattered,
Lying all around.

Are you joining in Wild October? What do you enjoy most about autumn?

Christine x