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.
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.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
Starling Picture by David Evans
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!
Red Mason Bee
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Large White Butterfly
Swallow Tailed Moth
Red Tailed Bumblebee
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?
Day 2: Easing myself into 2020’s 30 Days Wild. Today is all about my favourite insect, bees; solitary, bumble and honey. I used to love participating in Friends of the Earth Great British Bee Count, but it hasn’t taken place for the past two years. With the weather continuing to be warm and sunny, I spent an hour sitting in the yarden enjoying the company of buff and red tailed bumblebees, blue and red mason bees, common carder bees and tree bumblebees.
Some facts on my visitors:
1. Tree bumblebees are new arrivals to the UK, arriving in the 2000’s.
2. Buff-tailed bumblebees are nectar robbers, if their proboscis is too short they bite a hole at the base of the flower to get the nectar.
3. Common Carder bees can have a colony of up to 200 bees.
4. Mason bees are solitary bees and a more efficient pollinator than bumble and honey bees.
5. Red-tailed bumblebees prefer to nest underground, sometimes in vole burrows.
Common carder bee
Blue Mason Bee
Red Tailed Bumblebee
The only bee I haven’t see this year is a honey bee, but there is time for that.
Have you spotted any bees? Do you have a favourite?
Just a quick round up of my week in a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.
Plant ID: In my last Sunday Sevens, I asked if anyone could ID a plant for me. Thankfully I have managed to ID it myself and found that the plant in question is a red campion.
Book I’m reading: I have recently finished reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr’s book was epic in size but the chapters were manageable. I like short chapters. I read before bed and on the commute to work. I was amazed at how quickly I got through the book as my mum said she couldn’t get into it. The narrative is during the 2nd World War. Two character’s stories intertwine, that of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and an intelligent German youth, Werner. They only briefly meet in the story but the plot follows them growing up before and during the war. It is a tale of people striving to live when the wold around them is disintegrating. I found it sadly, echoed today’s political environment. The writing is easy to read, however the matter of fact description of death (an everyday occurrence in wartime) is in places shocking. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in historic fiction, though the end feels a little bit rushed.
All the Light We Cannot See
I have just begun Follyby Alan Titchmarsh, I have no assumptions about the novel, but hope the writing is better than his other book, The Haunting.
The Easter weekend: for me is all about the Classic FM Hall of Fame. Four days of none stop music, counting down from 300 to 1!In January I voted for my top three. It’s hard to pin down just three favourites. This year I chose:
Sadly the only one of my three choices that ascended the chart was Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, which climbed nine places to number 29! His 2nd Piano Concerto stayed firmly at number two, the Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams held it at bay! Unfortunately Mahler fell out of the top 50, only coming in at a lowly 66! You can view where your favourites came here.
Out and about: On the Easter Monday we listened to Mahler’s Adagietto on the car radio while we travelled to Formby Point. We spent a few hours walking the beach and giving Riley a good run.
Christine and Riley
David and Riley
We were out walking again at the end of the week, as David and I took Riley for a walk around Liverpool’s Sefton Park on Saturday.
#walk1000miles: Though I have been working longer hours at work this week, I have managed to maintain my average mileage of 25 for the week. On my daily route to work I passed many clumps of bluebells turning the grassy verges blue. Amongst all the swaying heads were a mass of pink and white bluebells. I don’t know whether they are native plants or not.
The Big Bluebell Watch: The Woodland Trust have a new initiative, to survey all the bluebells across the nation. Click here to add your sightings to the map. I’ve added my lowly two bluebells. I think they could be native as they have white pollen but they could very well be crossed. Have you seen many bluebells where you live?
Bees: This weekend the NW of England has been blessed with some wonderful weather, if a bit cold. A familiar buzz sounded in the yarden. I spotted a male and female hairy-footed flower bee as well as a red mason bee. Have you seen many bees this spring?
Normal Service now resumes… after my foray into The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild.
Though 30 Days Wild may have ended, nature still plays a big role in my daily life. From noticing the birds visiting the feeders, to the plants we have growing in the yarden, there is always something to record. This week my ‘bonus’ plant, the borage has flowered. I call it my ‘bonus’ plant as I did not sow the seeds this year, however their appearance has been most welcome.
I took another walk up the ‘jungle’ that is the alleyway between our houses. I noticed lots of thistles growing, and snapped one happy mason bee enjoying his lunch.
I’d just like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Louise who very kindly sent me a ‘I love wild’ badge from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, along with some stickers from the 30 Days Wild campaign that I never received due to not ordering a mail pack, (I will next year!) As an aside, there has been so much friendly camaraderie during this years 30 Days Wild, I have come across so many lovely people with insightful blogs. It’s been nice participating.
Let me tell you a story. A few weeks back I was having lunch when I heard a racket at the front door. Someone was trying to push something through the letterbox. I went to open the door and found a red jacketed Royal Mail postman trying to push a thin letter through the door. ‘Having trouble?’ I asked. He then informed me by brandishing his injured thumb, that Artie had sliced him as he delivered the post on a previous occasion. I had hoped it was just a one off event, but then last week, the same happened to another postman! Seeing a pattern develop I hurriedly found a cage protector for the letterbox. I could imagine being put on the Royal Mail’s list of houses to avoid! I do have such a naughty cat!
This week I finished the Mark Edward’s psychological thriller, Follow you Home. I had not read his work before. I only acquired the download due to an email from Amazon saying as I was been on their mailing list, I was entitled to a free download out of a possible three. Two looked like romance, chick-lit novels so I opted for the gritty thriller! Do you know, for a freebie it wasn’t half bad. The antagonist had superhuman strength for a 70 year old and the protagonist seemed a bit of a wimp, not to mention the stereotypical Hungarians, and feeble women, but I enjoyed it none the less.
David has been preoccupied with the house. We have an issue with damp. So Saturday, he took up one of the floorboards to see what was under the house. Lots of rubble was what we found! I shook my head thinking ‘bloody builders!’ David has hatched a plan on creating ventilation under the front door. I hope it solves the problem!
This time last week I was racked with aching limbs and a fever. I haven’t a clue what brought it on! Thankfully, I have recovered. I am more like my self again. I am writing this post with Classic FM playing. I have been enjoying David Mellor’s Light Music Masters show. I am feeling warm and cosy, have a full tummy and a nice glass of Soave to hand (I thought I would try something different)!
Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.
Monday and Tuesday:
As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂
One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p
Many Borage seedlings
I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!
We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!
Wool Carder Bee
I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!
Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!
I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!
On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!
As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand
I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!
On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!
I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!
Fat cake I made for the birds
In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!
The setting sun
David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.
Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!
I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.
The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!
The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀
I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!
Tired Mason Bee
For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.
Tbsp Olive Oil
Cloves Garlic, Minced
Large Onion, Chopped
Medium Carrot, Chopped
Pepper de-seeded and chopped
Celery Stalks, Chopped
Chilli de-seeded and chopped
1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
50g-100g Pearl Barley
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with bread…
The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!
Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!
Wholemeal Turkish Bread
500g of wholemeal flour
1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
350ml of warm water
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 egg yolk
1 tbs olive oil
Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 230°C.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:
Starlings and their babies
House Sparrows and their young!
Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!
David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.
Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!
As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀
It was another WordPress blog: Sunshine and Celandines that alerted me to The Wildlife Trust‘s, 30 Days Wild, an initiative where you do something wild each day for the month of June. I quickly signed up, printed out the wall calender and got ready to immerse myself in ‘wildness’!
Actually, there wasn’t much immersing going on, what with it being a long week at work, but I did attempt to enjoy the nature around me – as I usually try and do! I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool so it is amazing that there is so much wildlife about!
Going to work, I could hear the ‘merry’songs of Blue Tits, Dunnocks, and Black Birds that populate my area, and while in the office I could hear the rich sounds of a Robin and the alarm calls of Great Tits. David said he saw, all too fleetingly a colourful Jay on his way home from work.
We watched the resident Blue Tit parents coming to and from our garden sourcing food for their brood. Last year I put up a bird feeder, (the second as mum kept the first in her garden next door!) I have feeders with sunflower seeds, fat balls and normal bird seed and in a Laurel bush I have a fat block. The Blue Tits like visiting the sunflower seeds and fat block, but they are so swift that I was unable to get video of them. The parents have become so dishevelled looking as they care for their young who constantly call out for food!
With the weather slowly warming up for a very short lived ‘heatwave.’ I managed to pop out into the garden to see how the plants were coming along. The Scabiosa is starting to flower and has many heads on it and the Honeysuckle, which is a great grower is covered in flowers.
Today was the ‘hottest day of the year,’ for the NW of England! It was warm but not too warm and the sun lasted up until 5pm when a bank of cloud ruined any plans of a BBQ. It was my ‘short’ day at work, ‘thankfully,’ and I managed to rush home to spend at least an hour in the garden.
Something Blue – sky blue
En route home I popped into Wilkinsons for David who only wanted grit for the indoor aviary but I ended up spending £18! I bought flower seeds in the hope they will grow into Teasels for the visiting Goldfinches and also dried mealworms for the Blue Tit parents, (though they have not seen them as yet!)
I enjoyed the hour outside. I felt the sun’s heat prickling my sunscreen covered arms and sipped cava while Artie basked in the shade and hunted flies. As silhouette’s of the visiting Swallows could be seen flitting overhead, I took pictures of the insects visiting my Wallflower. A Tree Bumblebee, Mason Bees and a beautiful Golden Mint Moth!
I discovered today that my Cotoneaster has little white flowers on it! (I planted it last year and it’s taken a year to become established.) I am hopeful that the flowers will become pollinated and that it will develop berries! Fingers crossed.
The warmer weather seems to have been but a dream as it was cold and windy today. David and I, after doing the ‘weekly shop’ went to Bents garden Centre. I was in search of Borage and Alliums and David wanted a bird box. I came home disappointed, I’ll have to make do with seed Borage and try and grow it myself, but David managed to get his bird box and at £2.99 it was a bargain! However, I did not leave empty handed, I got myself a bee log which I hope will be shelter for solitary bees like the Mason Bee! I hope it will be more of a success than the still vacant Insect House!
The journey home took us along the East Lancs Road, which cuts through arable fields. Alongside the road we saw not one, but three birds of prey hunting. I identified them as being Red Kites! Here’s a picture from David’s Flickr page of Red Kites from Gauntlet Birds of Prey in 2011!
Today we put up the bird box and bee log in anticipation of future visitors!
All day we have been aware of a Blue Tit fledgling sitting nervously in the Laurel bush. It’s parents keeps visiting periodically so it has not been abandoned. He is concealed by the leaves and seems content.
I also noted that I had up to at least five bees in my garden all enjoying the Wallflower, Cat Mint and Honeysuckle and saw my first baby Goldfinch of the season but could not get footage of him!
It’s been a busy week for the nature in my area. I don’t know how I am going to better the sightings I have already seen, but here’s to week two of being ‘wild’! 😀