30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Thirty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: For my final post of 2020’s 30 Days Wild, I shall look to the future. There are several questions I want to address.

  • How does spending time in nature make me feel?
  • What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year?
  • How can I help wildlife more?

Firstly, who would have thought that I’d be able to blog everyday during a pandemic? When lockdown commenced I have to admit that I became a little worried on how I would be able to make 2020’s 30 Days Wild exciting and interesting for my readers. Hopefully I have managed to keep you all interested and entertained and a little more educated along the way. I know I’ve certainly learned a lot participating in this initiative. Like badgers are the UK’s largest predator. There’s around 40 species of ladybird in the UK. Dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from each other. Great Tits have territory wars with pied flycatchers. The UK’s tallest tree, the Douglas Fir has a non-flammable bark which protects forests from fires. Gulls can drink fresh and salt water due to a special gland above their eyes that filter out salt. 

Part of what makes blogging everyday for 30 Days Wild a challenge, is which new topics to cover. Though the UK is one of the world’s most nature depleted countries, we do have an array of wildlife that should be celebrated. I’ve not even scratched the surface in my blog, and I know there is a lot more to learn. I may focus a lot on birds but that is because they are easily surveyed. I would love to know more about trees, insects, arachnids and marine life. Which brings me to one of the questions I want to raise, What can I do to carry on being wild for the rest of the year? Keep being observant and open to wildlife is a positive thought. I think having a childlike look on the world isn’t a bad thing. Continuing to read blogs, follow nature sites and keeping an eye open for new wildlife sightings are easy ways to carry on being wild.

At the beginning of the year David and I became members of Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside Wildlife Trust. Because of Covid I’ve not been able to visit sites in this area but I hope to do so in the future. Joining a Wildlife Trust, the RSPB or the Woodland Trust is one small way to carry on being wild and also to help wildlife more. Feeding the birds all year round is another small thing one can do and an easy task too. Planting nectar rich plants for pollinators is another positive action and can be done on a small balcony or in a garden. Sign petitions and shout out for wildlife by writing to your MP! Go on litter picks. Join webinars (I’ve recently watched two from The Wildlife Trusts, on owls and wildflowers), and even tweet, blog or Instagram your findings. Sharing your knowledge will help others learn too.

Lastly, how does spending time in nature make me feel? 

I believe nature is a great healer and it has been scientifically proven. From shinrin yoku or forest bathing to the joys and health benefits of wild swimming. Just spending 20 minutes a day walking in your local park, at the beach or woodland helps improve mood and promotes positive mental health. When I am feeling blue or struggling for motivation just observing the wildlife around me helps greatly. For me feeding the garden birds helped me overcome a bereavement. Do you know of when nature helped you during a difficult time?

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Thank you for joining in my 2020 30 Days Wild. Hopefully we can do it all again next year?!

Until then and for the final time, Stay Wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-nine.

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

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

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

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

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

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Steven the herring gull

A little information on both species:

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

What is your take on ‘sea’ gulls?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-two.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: Today’s 30 Days Wild is Close up Monday and we are focusing on the UK’s largest predator, Badgers! In 2019 David and I had the wonderful opportunity of watching wild badgers by partaking in an event at RSPB Haweswater. For as little as £12 pp (if you are a member), you can spend up to 90 minutes with these elusive yet iconic animals.

I am sure you local wildlife trust or RSPB site has a similar event, check out their website for more details.

Badger (Meles meles) Facts:

    • Badgers are mammals and sometimes are called brocks
    • They are common throughout Britain
    • They live in family groups underground called setts, and some setts can be 100 years old, being passed down from generation to generation
    • Badgers are part of the Mustelid family (otters and ferrets)
    • They grow to one metre in length
    • They are crepuscular (active dawn/dusk)
    • Playing and scent marking strengthens social bonding
    • Badgers can live up to 14 years though five to eight years is more optimistic
    • Females can have up to five cubs a litter and most cubs are born mid February, and will emerge above ground after 12 weeks
    • Up to 50,000 badgers are killed each year on UK roads
    • Badgers are omnivores but 60% of their diet are earthworms
    • They are the only predator of the hedgehog

Have you seen a wild badger?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

Badger Trust: https://www.badgertrust.org.uk/badgers
RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/other-garden-wildlife/mammals/badger/
Wildlife Trusts: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals/european-badger
The Woodland Trust:https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/08/badgers-what-do-they-eat-and-other-facts/

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Sixteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_16Day 16: Today’s 30 Days Wild is all about birdsong and hopefully being able to ID them more easily.

On my daily walk with Riley there are a number of birdsongs that I hear. I can ID a robin and a blackbird’s song but get confused when a chaffinch and wren add to the mix.

Here are some of the birds that live in my local park, that I hope to be able to ID more efficiently next time I’m out walking the dog.

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Robin

The Robin: Hopefully the easiest song to recall? The robin is part of the flycatcher and chat family. Other chat’s known are the stonechat, redstart and even nightingale. The robin is the gardener’s friend. I mainly see them of a winter, hence red breasts on Christmas cards. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Blackbird: my favourite bird song of all. The blackbird, the song of long, warm summer nights and early summer mornings. You can familiarise yourself with its song here. The blackbird is part of the thrush family. They like to eat insects, berries and worms. The females are confusingly brown but the males are strikingly black with yellow beaks. If you like their song here’s a one hour long rendition of their song, found here.

The Wren: This diminutive bird surely makes up for its size when singing its melodious repetitive song which lasts up to six seconds. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Chaffinch: I don’t know why but I always struggle with the song of the robin and the chaffinch. The robin though has a higher pitched song to the chaffinch, the chaffinch song can be found here.

Greenfinch: The biggest eye opener on the list has been the song of the greenfinch! I always thought that the song of the greenfinch was the alarm call of the robin. We learn something new everyday and today the scratchy sound of the greenfinch isn’t the alarm call of a robin at all!! You can familiarise yourself with the greenfinch song here

The Song Thrush: I see song thrushes on my walks, but can never get a good picture of them. Being part of the same family as the blackbird, you can hear the similar tones in this thrush’s song. You can familiarise yourself with the song thrush melody here. Their conservation status is red. If you’d like to listen to an hours recording of the song thrush song, you can find it here.

So there you have it, six bird songs from my local birds. The RSPB website, found here is invaluable to understanding UK bird songs. YouTube videos are also a great help. There are also phone apps which can help ID bird songs, Warblr is a good resource and Merlin.

Which bird song do you like the best? My favourite will always be the blackbird.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Eight.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: Today is World Oceans Day, so in honour of this campaign, today’s Close up Monday will be of bottle-nosed dolphins. I’ll admit that marine wildlife is one aspect of my knowledge that isn’t particularly strong. So I am going to use today as a platform to further my understanding around this subject.

What’s your favourite ocean inhabitant?

The bottle-nosed dolphin is probably the best known of all UK whale and dolphin species (cetaceans). While reading the summer edition of the RSPB’s Nature’s Home magazine, I was surprised to discover that up to 28 of these aquatic mammals have been seen around UK shores.

Some facts on bottle-nosed dolphins:

  • UK bottle-nosed dolphins are the biggest in the world, their larger bodies help with the cold of our waters
  • They can live up to 50 years of age
  • Are carnivore and eat other fish and crustaceans
  • They have good eyesight and their eyes can move independently of each other
  • They can’t detect colour
  • Highly sociable and live within pods of up to 15 members
  • Research has shown that dolphins have names or a unique whistle to identify them from other dolphins
  • Like bats they use echolocation for finding food and navigation
  • Their stomachs consist of three chambers, one to store, one to digest and one to excrete
  • They sleep by shutting one side of their brain and the opposing eye
  • ‘Breaching’ or jumping out of water is a way of cleaning parasites off their bodies
  • As a mammal they are warm blooded and need to breathe through a blow hole
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Moray Firth dolphins

Bottle-nosed dolphins enjoy the safety of sheltered bays and can be seen often at RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Moray Firth in Scotland, Cornwall and Dorset.

Have you seen any bottle-nosed dolphins around the coast of the UK? Have you seen any other cetaceans?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day One.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01 Day 1: Who would have thought that during a raging pandemic, the likes the world hasn’t seen in a hundred years, that nature would be taking centre stage. With many people restricted to their homes, and less traffic on the roads the air has smelt cleaner, the stars easier to see. The change in seasons from winter into spring has unfolded before our very eyes.

Step into June and The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, the annual celebration of all things wild-life! This year, as in previous years I shall endeavour to blog every day. Continuing the theme from the past two years, Monday’s shall be called: Close Up Monday’s, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper.

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Great Tit

To start off 2020’s 30 Days Wild the first Close Up Monday will be all about the largest member of the tit family, the great tit. My interest in focusing on this bird was piqued when I recently saw someone post a picture of a great tit with a dead mouse on social media. I always thought they were seed and insect eaters but apparently they have been known to murder other birds, pied flycatchers in particular! I don’t know why I found this information startling as I’ve had murderous finches in my own aviary, so it happening in nature shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. 

So without further ado let’s get to know the great tit a bit better.

The great tit (Parus major) came seventh in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020. This woodland bird, larger than a blue tit is increasingly becoming more common in urban settings, enjoying garden feeding stations and bullying smaller birds. Some studies have shown that UK great tits have evolved longer beaks than their European neighbours, a reason for this could be an adaption to accessing bird feeders.

Great tit’s can be seen all year round in the UK but I usually see them in my Liverpool yarden around May-June during the breeding period and during winter months too. They enjoy a range of seeds and insects. This spring I watched with amusement as a great tit fluttered about the ivy hunting out spiders. European great tits have been recorded to attack and eat hibernating bats. Recently some studies from the Netherlands have voiced concerns over climate change creating territorial conflict between great tits and migrating pied flycatchers, with great tit’s looking to have the upper hand.

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Great Tit coming into land!

Great tit’s are recognised by their ‘teacher teacher’ call and have a lifespan of three years. They build their nests in tree holes or nest boxes, and can have up to nine eggs a brood. Their conservation status is green with an estimated two million birds in the UK. In 2012 I had the enjoyment of great tit parents bringing their two chicks to our yarden.

Do you have great tit’s visiting your garden? What is your favourite member of the tit family? Mine are the long-tailed tits, or titmice, they are just balls of fluff!

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-tit/

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/tits-crests-and-warblers/great-tit

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/great-tit/

A brain-eating species called the great tit is threatening other birds — thanks to climate change

https://www.sciencealert.com/climate-breakdown-has-turned-this-adorable-birb-into-a-violent-killer

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°C 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

#walk1000miles 2019

Walk+1000+miles+logo+2019Welcome to my third #walk1000miles post!

2019 has been the third year I’ve participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine. For the past 12 months, I’ve been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog, Riley and of course holidays and days out with David!

My overall mileage for 2019 has been a wonderful 1,979 miles. Beating my 2018 total, by 108 miles and my 2017 mileage by a whopping 663 miles!

As in 2018‘s post, I’ve split the year into seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year and how it differs per season and against previous years totals.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

The theme of this years #walk1000miles has been walks with friends and family. David and I also joined the RSPB which saw us taking trips to Leighton Moss and Burton Mere. All these new adventures meant I completed my 500 miles by March!

Summer: (June, July and August)

Although we didn’t have as fair a summer in 2019 as in the previous year, my miles did increase due to better walking conditions and I reached 1000 miles on June 25th. My friend Jennifer came to visit the UK for a second time and we went hiking in Snowdonia and swam in llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

Total miles for summer= 461.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

It seemed as the year progressed my mileage actually declined! Even though I had trips away to the Lake District and Snowdonia this quarter, my miles walked were pretty poor by my standards. I think I swapped the miles for wild swims as I took quite a few in September and October! 

Total miles for autumn= 457 miles.

Winter: (December, January and February)

I kick started my 2019 #walk1000miles on New Years Day, with a 10 mile walk around Derwentwater and Kewsick with Riley in tow. In December David and I took an expensive city break to New York City! Walking 73 miles in five days which greatly aided my annual mileage.

Total miles for winter = 566 miles.

Annual Total = 1,979 miles!

certificate and medalAchieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal have pride of place on my gym’s wall. However, I had hoped to make the 2000 mile mark and gain wonder woman status, but alas I’ve not reached that milestone. Short by only 21 miles. 

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook group. Through participation in this group my name was among the many others on the We Did 1000 Miles page of the January 2020 edition of Country walking Magazine and I also featured in the Do it for Happiness section of the pull out magazine from the February 2020 edition.

I was also proud to have my picture of the Llyn Idwal walk printed in the September 2019 edition.

80466301_2818314341565595_354988405748137984_oI’ve signed up again for the 2020 challenge, however I won’t be aiming for 2000 miles. I’ve decided to just see how far I can walk in a year and not push it. Walking is such an easy, free activity, much underrated if you ask me. I will continue walking the miles I do and see how I go. How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading, Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2019

As December comes to a close and the end of the decade draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2019. The year was slow to get going but when it did it snowballed! The second half of 2019 has been a roller-coaster! Together, David and I have been on many exciting adventures. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight the year that was 2019!

January:

The year began with a ten mile walk around Kewsick, where I introduced Riley to the joys of paddling in Derwentwater.

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Riley in Entrust NT Hands

February:

During this cold month I embarked on many Riley walks with friends and family.

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Family walk to Formby Beach

March:

David and I became members of the RSPB and visited many reserves in the North West. A favourite of mine is Leighton Moss, Morecambe where we got to feed hungry robins and tits.

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Feeding a Robin

April:

We purchased our first female Lady Gouldian Finch. She is a nice addition to the aviary.

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Rize the Lady Gouldian Finch

May:

I managed to go on my first wild swim of the season in May. I took a gentle walk to High Dam near Windermere for a peaceful swim amidst nature.

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High Dam swim

June:

June had so many highlights it was difficult to chose just one, from raising painted lady butterflies to being bee-keepers for the day. However playing host to our American friend Jennifer who came to visit for a second time was even more fun than her first visit. We hiked in the Ogwen Valley and wild swam in Llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

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Selfie time at Ogwen Valley

July:

Work wise 2019 hasn’t been a great year for neither David nor myself. To outweigh all the negativity in his workplace David joined in a fun day with dalmatian puppies.

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David and Dalmatian Puppy

August:

Saving a poor gull who had fallen from its nest (high up on a roof) from uncertain death was ultimately fulfilling especially when a week later it flew off independently.

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Harald

September:

We finally managed to go on a short break to the Lake District after postponing earlier in the year.

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Grasmere from Grey Crag

October:

I finally ticked off Glaslyn after booking a short break away to Snowdonia for my birthday.

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Glaslyn

November:

David bought a new car! A Honda Civic but I still miss his old car the Renault Clio.

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Honda Civic

December:

Though December is all about the excitement (or stress) of Christmas, this year’s trip to New York overshadowed Christmas preparations. My most lasting memory of the holiday was standing on the shoreline before a magnificent Brooklyn Bridge.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

Let’s hope 2020 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

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