A Birthday Trip!

It was David’s birthday on Monday! To celebrate the day, he wanted to visit a nature reserve to test out his new telephoto lens. So we got up early on a bright August morning and headed up the motorway to … Continue reading

My June

This June has been a tough month for me. With lots going on at home and then blogging everyday for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, it’s left me feeling exhausted and burned out!

One positive from seeking out nature daily, is that David and I spent a few days out at a couple of nature reserves in the North West. These days were balm for a stressed out soul. As David recently got a new camera, his old Nikon dslr was just gathering dust, so I have been taking it out on our trips to Burton Mere, Brockholes and Lunt Meadows. Here’s a few of my favourite shots that I took.

This June we have been watching season 18 of Dragon’s Den and re-watching Dexter to get us up to speed when the new series airs this autumn.

Last weekend was Riley’s gotcha day! We have been the proud owners of Riley for the past 12 years! Happy gotcha day Riley!

For the past two weeks we have been caring for a regular visitor of ours, Hoppy. She was found weak and unable to fly, so David managed to catch her and we have been caring for her since then. We sent samples of Hoppy’s droppings to the Pigeon Testing Centre and her results came back for worms and coccidiosis. We have treated her for both and hope she recovers. Fingers crossed! Then a week ago David caught another sick pigeon who we named Harri. We have our hands full as you can see!

Update: We fought so much to make Hoppy better, but she gained her angel wings on 29th June. Rest in peace Hoppy, you were a beautiful, elegant pigeon and were much loved. I shall miss looking out for you among our pigeon visitors. 😥

That was my June, how was yours?

Take care,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Seven.

07Day 7: A new series for 30 Days Wild 2021, Mindful Mondays, were we take time out of our busy days and slow down, breathe and experience nature each sense at a time. 

Today’s theme for Mindful Monday is to visit a wild place. Over the weekend I decided to visit the RSPB’s Burton Mere on the Wirral. Since David has a new camera he let me take out his old Nikon. It was my first time using a SLR so some of my photos weren’t great but I did get some decent shots of a shelduck, reed warbler and black headed gull chicks. There was a strange gurgling sound from trees high up in the canopy and a host of spoonbills were sunning themselves there. They are curious birds and were getting a lot of attention from the visitors that day.

During our visit we had a fly by from a secretive bittern but both David and I were too slow to photograph this enigmatic bird. 

While walking the boardwalks there were many bees buzzing around and small white butterflies fed on green alkanet, which is a very popular plant for insects. The sound of warblers punctured the sun baked air with their shrill calls and squabbles between coots and moorhens were abundant. 

We only spent a couple of hours at the reserve, but we see something different each time we visit.

What’s your favourite nature reserve near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

My Bird Count for RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021!

This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.

I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.

Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2021

During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.

How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?

Thanks for popping by,

Christine xx

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.

steven

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.

robin

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

302483_10150791441890271_3722727_n

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.

great tit 1

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.

great tit 2

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