A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.

Robin:

Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!

They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.

Dunnock:

I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.

I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

20160627_142425

I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild…Week Three!

Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.

Monday and Tuesday:

As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂

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One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p

Many Borage seedlings

I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!

Teasel seedlings

Teasel seedlings

We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!

Wool Carder Bee

Wool Carder Bee

I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!

Wednesday:

R.I.P Pearl

R.I.P Pearl

Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!

I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!

On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!

As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.

Tree Bumblebee on David's hand

Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand

I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!

Thursday:

On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!

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I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!

Fat column I made for the birds

Fat cake I made for the birds

In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!

The setting sun

The setting sun

Friday:

David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Saturday:

Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!

I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.

The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!

The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀

I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!

Tired Mason Bee

Tired Mason Bee

For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  1.  Tbsp Olive Oil
  2. Cloves Garlic, Minced
  3.  Large Onion, Chopped
  4.  Medium Carrot, Chopped
  5. Pepper de-seeded and chopped
  6. Celery Stalks, Chopped
  7. Leek, Chopped
  8. Chilli de-seeded and chopped
  9. 1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
  10. 1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
  11. 50g-100g Pearl Barley
  12. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  13. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
  2. Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  4. Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
  6. Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately with bread…

The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Bread

  1. 500g of wholemeal flour
  2. 1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 350ml of warm water
  6. 2 tsp sesame seeds
  7. 1 egg yolk
  8. 1 tbs olive oil

Method:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add  the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 230°C.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
  5. With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
  6. With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday:

Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:

  1. Pigeons
  2. Blue Tits
  3. Goldfinches
  4. Starlings and their babies
  5. House Sparrows and their young!

Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!

David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.

Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!

As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀