10 Years of RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch!

This weekend was the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I’ve participated since 2012, when feeding the garden birds helped me through a bereavement. Since then, I’ve seen some wonderful visitors to our urban yarden.

In 2012, two blue tits sparked my feeding frenzy and every day since then I’ve left seed out for the garden birds.

Steven the herring gull is a recent superstar of the yarden. He started visiting after the 1st lockdown in March 2020 and since then he has brought his spouse and six of his babies, along with him. He gets fed left over eggs, chicken, cat and dog food and fish. He is a very spoilt gull but my aim is to just supplement his food not be a replacement.

In 2012 I was amazed when droves of goldfinch charms began visiting the feeders. During the past years I have spent hundreds of £££s on sunflower hearts for these gorgeous and gregarious finches.

My favourite garden bird is the dunnock. Sporadically, over the years the yarden has been host to one or two dunnocks who are a joy to watch hop about the undergrowth.

Over the years swathes of starlings have alighted upon the yarden, devouring the fat balls on offer. Numbers of up to 20-30+ are not uncommon. Their delightful squabbling is a feast for the eyes.

David is a friend of the pigeon, once war hero, now lowly street scavenger. Hoppy was a prima donna among the pigeon superstars who frequented our yarden. Sadly she passed away in 2021 but her memory lives on to this day. She is buried under the honeysuckle and this spring will become a beautiful crocus.

This January 2022, the yarden has been eerily silent. Where there were large charms of goldfinches feasting on sunflower hearts, only a lone bachelor visits. I’m not sure what has happened to my visitors? Is it the impact of the avian flu epidemic or have they just found better feeding grounds? Sadly, I am not so excited about this years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, though being my 10th anniversary, I should be celebrating. Here’s the data from my 2022 Birdwatch.

I did the count 11am to 12noon on Sunday 30 January 2022. The weather was cloudy but mild and then gradually became calm and sunny. It was a very quiet garden birdwatch. Over the hour all that visited were the regular pigeons, Steven the gull and a curious magpie who was on the look out for monkey nuts. I knew this years birdwatch would be my worst to date, there just isn’t the variety that usually visits, which makes me feel sad. A lone goldfinch, robin and two blue tits all visited afterwards, which didn’t sweeten the mood.

If you participated in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, how did your count go?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2021

Where has the year 2021 gone? It only seems like yesterday that we were hopefully welcoming in the new year and wishing it would be better than 2020. Though this year has been fraught with worries and more uncertainty, nature, as always has been a constant companion. A quietude among the madness of life. Here’s my wildlife moments of 2021!

I live in quite a built up area of Liverpool and the amount of wildlife that frequents my small walled, inner city terraced yarden is truly amazing. If you look closely, wildlife is everywhere and certain species herald the seasons! I know that spring is around the corner when I spy a passing chiffchaff hunting hungrily for insects in my yarden before it moves on to better pastures.

The yarden is a haven to an array of avian species; this year I managed to save a stunned baby goldfinch who recovered after 30 mintues of heat therapy. Then there is of course the male sparrowhawk who has been visiting over the autumn. The small birds may not like him, but I think he is spectacular!

One mammal that was seen frequently during the summer months in the yarden and gave me such a buzz whenever I saw him/her was Batty, the common pipistrelle (I think). Like clockwork, after sundown, Batty would appear swooping and looping as he/she hunted the midges and moths that the yarden flowers attract. Bats are fantastic!

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild this year, I made a hoverfly lagoon. Though I was not sure if it was successful, I did notice more hoverflies in the yarden than usual. So, perhaps it was.

Another insect that was a first for me this year was a four spotted chaser which I photographed at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Other highlights from a nature filled day out at Brockholes, was my first ever sighting of a common tern, a male reed bunting, Kevin the Kestrel hunting and having a dust bath, as well as an abundance of marsh orchids around the reserve.

Wildflowers have been the star of Liverpool this 2021. They sprouted in parks all over the city. Among the colourful displays was the gorgeous cosmos. Also during a walk around the city, I came across a strange flower to be growing along the sidewalk, a common flax. Not sure how that seeded itself there!

I’ve noticed recently that in my local park, a kestrel has moved in. Not sure if it’s just one or several but it’s nice so see him/her flying around when I’m standing waiting for the bus to work. I’ve also spotted a buzzard scouting the park too and one day I managed to get a photo, though sadly only on my phone.

During our wonderful week away to The Trossachs in Scotland, we spied hungry red squirrels and a great spotted woodpecker all enjoying the peanuts on the cabin feeders.

This year I’ve also been lucky enough to see some stunning sunrise and sunsets.

David and I kept our memberships with the RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts’ this year and enjoyed many days out. At Burton Mere we were serenaded by a very gregarious reed warbler and photographed a bowl of spoonbills

During our visit to Leighton Moss, we saw a great white egret and there was a stand off between a dragonfly and a fly!

At Lunt Meadows, we spent half an hour with a family of swallows and I snapped a picture of a greylag goose and a black tailed godwit.

I’ve enjoyed looking back at all the wildlife I’ve been lucky enough to see? What wildlife moments of 2021 have you enjoyed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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