Day 13: Today is Throw Back Thursday! 2015 was all about pets, while in 2016 I counted bees and celebrated Meat Free Day. During 2017 I looked out for newborns and in 2018 I planned a wild adventure. For this year’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll revisit the #randomactofwildness of looking for newborns.
Already this season fledged blue tits, goldfinches, sparrows and starlings have visited the yarden.
Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.
The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.
Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.
Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.
Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.
I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.
My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.
Common Blue Butterfly
Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.
Six-spot Burnet Moth
During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!
On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.
Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!
Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers
Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.
Broad Bodied Chaser
Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.
Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom
As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.
What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!
Sparrowhawks have featured a few times on my blog. The first was a fleeting visit where I didn’t even have time to pick up my camera. The second visit, last year, was of a male sparrowhawk surveying the area.
The most recent visitation by this enigmatic bird arrived on a dreary August bank holiday Monday. David was just about to do the dishes when he exclaimed, ‘there’s a sparrowhawk on the wall!’
For the next half hour or so we both watched on amazed as a female sparrowhawk sat on the wall and devoured her prey, a poor little starling. We had never seen a sparrowhawk with its prey before. It was a bit gruesome and sad for the starling but you have to think with your head and not with your heart on these matters. If there were no small birds for the sparrowhawk to prey upon, then there would be no sparrowhawks either.
Due to their prey being primarily songbirds (they do eat small mammals too), sparrowhawks often come into conflict with birdwatchers. However there is no correlation between a dip in songbirds and predation by sparrowhawks. In the past there have been two studies on the influence of predation and songbird numbers. Both studies noted that there was in fact more of an increase in songbird numbers than an actual negative correlation when predated by sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawks are noted to prey on the old and infirm, creating a survival of the fittest gene pool for songbirds. Sparrowhawks feed mainly on sparrows, tits, finches and starlings, however female sparrowhawks can hunt birds as large as a pigeon. Recent research led me to discover that the sparrowhawk sometimes does not quickly dispatch of it’s prey. Anything bigger than a sparrow will face a lingering death while being eaten, if a vital organ/artery is not punctured. It made for a sobering read.
The sparrowhawk has in the past been subjected to persecution by trophy hunters and in the 1950’s their numbers crashed due to usage of pesticides such as DDT in farming. It was only after DDT was banned and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was passed protecting sparrowhawks, that their numbers increased.
The sparrowhawk is one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey. It is the perfect ambush predator, easily maneuvering in enclosed spaces such as woodland and gardens. However only 1 in 10 hunts result in a meal for the sparrowhawk. Females can be up to 25% larger than males. Sparrowhawks are relatively short lived, their maximum age is around 3 years, but some can live to around seven. They are found all over the UK apart from the Highlands of Scotland. Their eyes change colour with age, starting green and growing more yellow with maturity.
Sparrowhawks are seen as a top predator and their presence indicates that the bird population in an area is healthy. Though it was unpleasant to witness the sparrowhawk with its prey, I was amazed at seeing her in the yarden. Nature after all isn’t sunshine and flowers. I must be doing something right with the feeding of the little birds in order to bring the larger birds to the area.
Have you come close to a sparrowhawk? Seen one with it’s kill? What are your thoughts on UK raptors?
Thanks for reading,
Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:
Drawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’sNature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.
The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?
Red Laurel berries
Starling Picture by David Evans
Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!
I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.
Yellow blotches on Laurel leaf
I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.
Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.
Rain on poppy leaves
Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.
Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
White camellia bud
For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.
I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its blue instead.
Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?
#walk1000miles: As part of the celebrations, David and I headed towards Snowdonia for a 4.5 mile walk. We took the path overlooking Dinorwig Power Station before visiting the shores of Llyn Padarn.
Dinorwig Power Station
With still counting my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge, at the time of writing I am currently at, 1,102 miles!
Collecting: This week I came across the 2017 edition of the 50 pence Peter Rabbit. There’s still Tom Kitten, Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher to find! Have you found any?
Peter Rabbit 2017 50p
The Hiding Places, Katherine Webb
Book I am reading: I am currently ploughing through Katherine Webb’s post WW1 mystery, The Hiding Places. I must admit there is a lot of preamble. However it is keeping me company on the daily commute. Have you read any good books lately?
Ok. Now for that something amazing I was talking about at the beginning of this blog! This Saturday our yarden witnessed a beautiful visitor. He was not enjoying the seed on offer but waiting for a tasty morsel of a goldfinch, or perhaps a starling? He was a sparrowhawk.
Now you maybe thinking, nothing special about that sighting, but living in a city, you don’t often come across raptors. David and I stood in awe for over five minutes watching the sparrowhawk survey the territory. We’ve had many charms of goldfinches and rowdy starlings visiting our feeders this weekend, so this activity possibly drew the sparrowhawk to our yarden. Ultimately it was a thrilling experience. He stood still long enough for me to grab my camcorder and film him. Have you had a close encounter with a raptor? What is your favourite bird of prey?
Hans Zimmer Live
To finish off: While writing this blog, I’ve been listening to tracks from Hans Zimmer’s Live in Prague CD. As you know I have seen Hans’ concerts twice now, more recently in Liverpool this year. When I heard he was releasing a compilation of the concert I just had to pre-order. I am biased as I love the medley’s featured of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight Trilogy, the music is skin tingling and exhilarating! I would recommend if you like movie soundtracks!
* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*
Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.
The products to be reviewed were:
MultiFeeder Plus:a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
Fat balls (small):I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.
The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.
The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.
Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.
Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.
Hanging the new bird feeder
Fledged starling on new feeder
What the birds thought of the multifeeder:
It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.
Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!
At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.
I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!
Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!
The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.
Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.
I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.
To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: https://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/
I thought I would gather together all the pictures I’ve taken of my week and join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.
Signs of spring: Spring has definitely sprung here in the NW of England. At the beginning of the week we had beautiful blue skies and warm sunshine. On my daily walk to the bus stop for work, I enjoyed the blossom on the trees and snapped at a gorgeous magnolia tree in all its flowery glory.
Walk 1000 miles: I feel I haven’t achieved many miles this week. On Wednesday I had to attend a course on autism which lasted all day! I certainly didn’t get much mileage done that day! My tally for the week has been 21.4 miles. A culmination of 298.6 miles for the three months January to March.
Wildlife: The results of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch were released this week. Follow the link to the results video. #1 was the house sparrow, with the starling a close 2nd.
I heard this week about the initiative Wild About Gardens, in partnership with the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS. Their focus this year will be bees and they have put together a wild bee action kit to download. Sophie from Sussex Field Notes has some very informative facts about bees on her blog. I’d recommend a read.
In the garden: I had an impromptu day off on Thursday. So I visited my mum for a coffee. It was nice to catch up and to see my oldest cat Evie looking so well. I took a tour of my mum’s yarden and admired her camellia. Notice my surprise when I perused my yarden at the weekend and notice my camellia had beautiful flowers too. 🙂
Culture: David and I haven’t long got back from a live performance of Mahler’s 5th Symphony, at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Sadly I came away from the concert a little underwhelmed. It was not the RLPO’s best execution of Mahler’s 5th. I found the tempo slightly laboured and they seemed to be playing with broken french horns!!
That was my week, how was yours?
Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead!
It was thanks to Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines, (who informed me of this month’s photo an hour challenge), that I managed to participate. Unfortunately the challenge fell on a Sunday when I had nothing planned. My photos all come from a stay at home day. I hope it’s not too boring for you?!
Photo and Hour – 29th January 2017
My Sunday started at 9am. I feigned sleep while I heard the bed springs creak as David got out of bed, to make the most of the last day of the weekend. I didn’t really want to get up as the day before had been tiring, we had spent five hours repainting the bathroom. It looks fresh and clean now though!
10am – 11am: A 40 minute session on the treadmill beckoned, then a quick cool down.
Big Garden Birdwatch
11am to 12 noon: I tootled about the yarden before lunch, filling up the bird feeders in preparation for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I also celebrated the appearance of a lone snow drop standing proudly!
Blue Faced Parrot Finches
Chocolate Silverbill Finches
12 noon to 1pm: Lunch was spent in the living room with the finches flying from their aviary. David photographed the Blue Faced Parrot Finches playing in a vase of flowers while I took a selfie with the Chocolate Silverbills who tried to pull at my hair.
1pm to 2pm: I sat down with a cafetiere filled with coffee supplied by the RSPB. In anticipation I counted the visiting birds to my yarden. It was an overcast afternoon with drizzle. The usual suspects appeared but sadly no Blue Tits, (they arrived after the count – typical!) My count for this one hour period was as follows:
5 Pigeons – though there were 10 after the count!
1 House Sparrow
A Crow and Herring Gull flew overhead, but couldn’t be included as not in the boundaries of the yarden.
The Robin sat in the laurel bush looking at me as I counted him. He sat in the bush for the whole hour! It was nice to have a little company. I will be doing the count again on Monday morning just in case there is a better turn out. We usually see a charm of 20+ Goldfinches. It’s just being at the right place at the right time!
H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald
Hans Zimmer, The Classics
2pm to 5pm: It was a lazy afternoon. As I sat reading H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald, I listened to Hans Zimmer’s new album, The Classics. Tracks from The Dark Knight, Superman, and Inception were among my favourites!
5pm to 6pm: This evenings dinner was a salad, here’s a picture of David’s mountain!
Yellow painted nails
6pm to 7pm: I sat listening to Classic FM while painting my nails. Perhaps it’s the dark days of winter that have inspired me to paint them bright colours!
7pm to 8pm: After a hot relaxing shower I pampered my skin with a gift I got for Christmas. This Body Shop body butter really does make your skin look radiant and nourished.
Body Shop Body Butter
8pm to 9pm: I finished the day by writing this blog. I hope you have enjoyed a brief foray into my time at home? Not every day can be exciting and given I had a hectic Saturday, this photo an hour Sunday has been very relaxing. I always enjoy the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, even though we only get a smidgen of visitors. Those visitors are good enough for a small yarden! I look forward to next years count as I do every year!
Once again, thank you for stopping by and reading about my day, uneventful as it was. How did you spend your Sunday?
For the past few weeks now I have noticed a change in the light.
Afternoon autumn sun flooding the dining room
The shadows have become longer. The sunlight during the day has become more stark, almost piercing. The seasons are changing without us hardly knowing! Autumn is arriving, creeping silently into summer. The days are becoming shorter. Soon it will be night by 4pm! For now, I am valuing every minute of light. Savouring the last bloom of flowers and the remaining buzz of bees before nature slows down for winter.
Part of me wants to mourn the loss of the light, but autumn brings its own pleasures. Like the frenzied activity at the bird feeders and the Sedum finally flowering after budding for so long!
Sedum and Honey Bee
Today I have been making ready the house for autumn and the coming winter. The windows got a good clean and the voiles have all been washed. I have also changed the bedroom curtains from the sky blue to the teal in preparation for the darker evenings to come.
Handful of green beans, chopped. You can use any variety of vegetables
200ml of vegetable stock (I used reduced salt)
400g of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of chilli powder (I used medium)
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper (put more in if you like heat)
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
Fresh, chopped coriander for garnish, if preferred. (I left out)
I rinsed the quinoa. Placed it in a small pan with the 200ml – 250ml of water and cooked, over a medium heat, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Then I set aside with a lid on the pot to absorb the remaining water.
While the quinoa cooked, I had a second pan on the hob. I chopped and sautéed the onions, then added the garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes over a low to medium heat. It may have taken a little longer for me as I was busy chopping the other vegetables while the onion cooked.
Then I peeled and sliced the carrot. Washed and chopped the celery. I added both to the cooking onion and garlic and cooked for a further 5 minutes, stirring often so nothing stuck or burnt to the pan. It took longer as I had the hob on a lower heat.
After chopping the bell pepper and green beans, I added them to the pan with the other vegetables and then added the tin of tomatoes, along with the spices (cumin, chilli powder, coriander, cayenne and oregano). I let them blend together for just a few minutes and then poured in the stock. I covered the pan and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, maybe longer, until the vegetables were tender
After everything had cooked I stirred in the cooked quinoa, warmed it up again, and adjusted the salt to taste.
Add chopped coriander if needed. (I left out)
While the quinoa had cooked and the vegetables were simmering in their covered pan. I stood by the sink and washed the knives and measuring jugs used in the preparation. I gazed out of the window and cherished the bird antics going on before my eyes.
I counted up to 17 Goldfinches at the sunflower and nyger seed feeders. Amongst them were still some babies flapping their wings, begging! Pigeons pecked at the off-casts the Goldfinches threw out and the visiting Dunnock hopped among the vines of the climbing Passion Flower snatching at insects!
I am happy to report that the Sparrows are still visiting in numbers. There were at least five on the feeders and I watched on as three Sparrows had discovered my ground cage feeder and were happily guzzling the dried meal-worms I had left out for the Dunnock. A Sparrow and Starling fought for the right to feast on the fat block sitting in the Laurel bush. The Sparrow won!
The meal finally came together. I must say the spices were rather muted, maybe some more or an added chilli could have helped? It was however a filling and healthy meal, though my mum disliked the quinoa ‘tails’!
Peruvian Quinoa Stew
I have done some more research on quinoa and its ‘tails.’ The seed is from South America and was the staple diet of the Incas. The tails are not tails at all, actually they are the endosperm of the seed. The nutrition or power house for the growing seed, much like the albumin of an egg. According to BBC Good Food, quinoa, is a complete protein, meaning it has all nine amino acids. It is a fantastic wheat free choice and is highly digestible. It has twice the protein content of rice and barley and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin E and dietary fibre.
The health benefits speak for itself. I think I’ll be cooking with this little seed a lot more in the future! 🙂
Have you eaten any good meals with quinoa? I would love to know your thoughts on this super seed!
I did the count over the weekend. I spent the first hour on Saturday in Mum’s house, next door, counting the birds that visit her yard and then did another hour on Sunday from my home.
The tally from Mum’s yard was:
1 Blue Tit
From my yard:
2 Blue Tits
Which isn’t too bad since my garden seems to be an overflow to the visiting birds next door! Alas the Dunnock nor Robin was seen during those hours!
Since this Sunday has been the warmest for a while, I ventured outside. I have many bulbs poking through the soil and I wonder whether they will be Snow Drops or Bluebells come spring. Even my Tulips are sprouting making me excited for warmer weather! Amongst my perusal, I gasped in surprise as I noticed my Hyacinth sitting proudly in the garden. This is the second year it has grown!