30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Seventeen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17: Following on from last week’s Close Up Monday, today’s focus is on the red squirrel.

I am very lucky to live within an hours drive from Formby, which is a stronghold of the red squirrels. Disease and the introduction of the American grey squirrel in the 19th Century has impacted greatly on red squirrel numbers.

Red squirrels, a mammal, are native to the UK and classed regionally as endangered. Though red squirrels can be found in other European countries. Their population in the UK is estimated at approx. 140,000 which is quite shocking given that the figure of the grey squirrel as 2.5 million.

maps working version of comparison

The reason for this disparity is obvious when you see both species side by side. Whereas the red squirrel is small and dainty the grey is larger in body.

The two main competitions are:

  • food
  • disease

Food: The grey squirrel being larger has show to eat more and also to be more successful at foraging. Whereas the red has been left behind and is often pushed out of an area due to the competition for food.

Disease: grey squirrels seem to have a natural immunity to squirrel pox than reds. Pox to the red squirrels has a 100% mortality rate, which is catastrophic to any resident population. According to The Wildlife Trusts, there is currently an outbreak of squirrel pox at Formby, but hopefully it won’t be as devastating to the population as the 2008 pox outbreak when 80% of Merseyside and Lancashire’s red squirrels were wiped out!

Habitat loss is also a contributing factor to the decline of the red squirrel.

Red squirrels are found in the North of England and Scotland. They prefer to live in coniferous forests and nest in dreys. They can have up to two litters a year, with 2-3 kittens per litter. Their diet consists of hazelnuts and pine cones but occasionally they eat small birds and eggs. Like the grey squirrel they do not hibernate.

There are a number of projects currently running to help sustain red squirrel numbers: Red Squirrels United is a partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, academics and volunteers and funded by the EU and The National Lottery to create a scientifically robust conservation programme. In turn Red Squirrels United are working closely with Saving Scotland’s RED Squirrels, who work with local communities to preserve this iconic UK animal. Red Squirrel Survival Trust is an entirely donation run initiative created to spread awareness to the plight of the red squirrel.

What is your stance on the red vs grey squirrel argument? Do you ever see a time when both can coexist in the UK?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

The Wildlife Trusts:

The Wildlife Trusts saving species:

The Wildlife Trusts’ Projects:

The Woodland Trust:

Red Squirrel Survival Trust

Trees for Life

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30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Three.

downloadDay 3: Like last years 30 Days Wild, Mondays will be Close Up Mondays. Where I take one species and delve closer.

Today’s Close Up is the anatomy of a plant. I remember in secondary school (a long time ago) being taught parts of a plant such as the petal and the stamen. So, I thought I would revisit this topic.

The plant structure I am focusing on is a flowering plant or angiosperm. According to Britannica.com angiosperms make up 80% of all plants on the planet. A flowering plant is made up of roughly six sections (though plants such as mosses don’t follow the traditional structure):

anatomy of a plantRoots, Stems, Leaves, Flowers. Fruit. Seeds

Roots: are designed to pull water and nutrients from the soil.
Stems: like roots, deliver water and nutrients to other parts of the plant. There are more complex parts to the stem which I won’t delve into here.
Leaves: capture sunlight which then turn into sugars as energy for the plant, this is called photosynthesis. Leaves also absorb CO2 and undertake a process of transpiration by absorbing water from the underside of leaves.

Flowers: are the sex organ of a plant. Flowers usually have both male and female parts. The stamen (anther) is the male structure which produces pollen and the pistal is the female. The pistal has two parts, carpel (the ovary – where seeds originate from) and the stigma (where the pollen is received). Petals often attract pollinators, such a bees and birds to the plant for pollination. Pollination is the transference of pollen from the male stamen to the female stigma.

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Anatomy of a flower

Fruit: develop when a flower has been pollinated. Fruits are a way a plant can spread its seed. Examples of fruit are berries, apples and rosehips.

Seeds: are the embryo of the plant and come in all shapes and sizes. They are dispersed by various ways such as by the wind or by animals. Examples being acorns and cones.

I hope you enjoyed this concise review of the anatomy of a flowering plant? If you have any comments do post them below. I’ve also included links to helpful websites which I used to compile this post.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Informative websites for further reading:

Biology4kids: a helpful, wide overview on flowering plants
Ducksters.com: digestible information on the anatomy of flowering plants. Even has a quiz you can test yourself found here.
Enchanted Learning: a good start for plant anatomy
The Eden Project: a useful inforgram on pollination

Sunday Sevens #58

It’s Sunday! Time for a Sunday Sevens!

Baking:

To keep himself occupied, David has been baking. He first made an espresso devil’s food cake and then chocolate chip cookies. They were both very yummy if not fattening!

Walks with Riley:

Last Sunday David and I, with Riley in tow visited a cold Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve. We walked three miles around the reserve and observed hundreds of teals flying around the frozen pools. We were also blessed to see two roe deer bounding towards woodland.

#walk1000miles:

My miles for this week has been 45, bringing my annual total to date to 260 miles.

A Year in Books:

My Year in Books is not going so well. I am still plodding my way through Minette Walter’s medieval novel, The Turn of Midnight. I am enjoying this book far better than the first but I am only snatching moments to read whilst on the bus to work. In preparation for future reads I’ve bought more books! I’ve a library full of classics to read but just can’t face them! So I keep buying more modern titles.

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Books

What book/s are you enjoying at present?

RSPB Membership:

This week David and I have become members of the RSPB. I still had money from my birthday and Christmas, so I decided to purchase a RSPB membership as there are a few reserves nearby that I want to revisit, Leighton Moss being one of them.

My Wild City:

Also this week I signed up to participate in the Wildlife Trusts’, My Wild City. The aim is to ‘reconnect people with their gardens, and local green spaces to create wildlife corridors for both people and wildlife.’ The initiative is aimed at Manchester but I decided to sign up anyway and see what my small yarden can do. Perhaps you can sign up too?

Beach (bonus picture):

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Selfie at Formby Point

Today we took Riley to Formby Point, my brother and his girlfriend, Ashlea came along for the ride. Much fun was had by all.

So that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for devising the series.

A Year in Photos – 2018

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. As December comes to a close and 2019 draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2018. And what a year 2018 has been! David and I have been on a wonderful adventure together. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight what a fantastic year 2018 has been!

 January:

The year began with a seven mile walk at Gisburn Forest, in the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It certainly blew the cobwebs away and set the tone for the rest of the year ahead.

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Forest Walk

February:

Desperate to get out and catch as much winter sun as we could, David and I embarked on a 10 mile circular walk of my much loved Derwentwater in the Lake District.

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Derwentwater

March:

The highly anticipated exhibition of China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened at Liverpool’s World Museum. I visited in March with David and then again in September with mum.

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Terracotta Warriors

April:

I was over the moon when I completed my first 500 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I only had another 500 to complete, which I accomplished in July!

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Reaching 500 miles

May:

With the weather hotting up David and I took yet another trip to The Lake District. This time we walked towards Bleaberry Tarn for a blissfully warm wild swim.

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Bleaberry Tarn

June:

June for me is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This year was extra special as I managed to blog every day. We spent a wonderful month visiting many new nature reserves and even managed to squeeze in a short break to The Lake District, where we waked alpacas along Derwentwater.

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At Derwentwater

July:

The highlight of July was having my friend from California, USA come to stay with us for a few days. As requested, we visited the Lake District for what turned out to be a rather soggy hike around Rannerdale Knotts.

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Selfie Time!

August:

We took a trip down to see Dippy the Diplodocus at Birmingham Museums. This free  exhibition was a little bit different from our other days out this year.

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Dippy at Birmingham

September:

A wild swim dream came true this month when David and I took a short break to the Highlands of Scotland. I managed to bag three swims! It has whetted my appetite to visit again in future.

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Getting changed, Loch Etive

October:

As a birthday treat I, along with David and my mum took a visit to Liverpool’s newly opened Cat Cafe. We seemed to be a magnet for naughty, hungry kitties.

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Christine and Rose

November:

The Lake District has played a heavy part in 2018. Imagine my happiness when we discovered that Riley could manage the two hours travel up to Cumbria. (He suffers badly with car sickness). Our first visit with Riley tagging along was to the serene Rydal Water and Grasmere.

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David and Riley at Rydal Water

December:

December is all about the excitement of Christmas. My favourite picture from December is undoubtedly Riley with Santa Paws.

riley and santa paws

Let’s hope 2019 will be another kind year!

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

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

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.

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Common Frog

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.

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Female Sparrowhawk

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.

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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.

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!

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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.

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.

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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.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Beautiful Wildflower Meadow

Sunday, 1st of July, the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild had come to an end, but I was in no mood to end the wildness. So David and I decided to head out for a walk at a local nature reserve, Pickerings Pasture. Only 25 minutes drive from Liverpool, Pickerings Pasture in Halebank is a Green Flag Award winning Local Nature Reserve. Boasting acres of wildflower meadows and stunning views of the upper Mersey estuary. There is a free car park and wheelchair accessible paths. David and I spent a leisurely hour there.

What caught our eye instantly was a flash of vibrant colour as we drove into the car park. A beautiful wildflower meadow was blooming, with poppies, cornflowers and daisies. The meadow was abundant with insects. Bees buzzed in between butterfly wings and there were so many meadow browns I was giddy with excitement!

Even though there were many people walking their dogs or biking, the area seemed a peaceful oasis. We will definitely return.

Have you seen a beautiful wildflower meadow where you are?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

A Year in Books 2018 – April to June

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

I was surprised I managed to finish the same amount of books this quarter, as I did last year, all of 13 books. It will be the period between July to September that will be the real challenge. Where I prefer to be outside enjoying nature to being stuck within the pages of a book.

As April began I rushed to finish The Famished Road – Ben Okri.

This book began promising, but soon lost my interest. There is only so many times a spirit child can go wondering off and then witness psychedelic strangeness before one gets bored. There is a second novel which follows Azaro on his adventures but I won’t be picking this one up. Have you read The Famished Road? Did you read its sequel?

Wodwo by Ted Hughes

I was inspired to turn to this collection after reading Mark Haddon’s anthology The Pier Falls. One of Haddon’s more memorable short stories was entitled Wodwo about the beginnings of a wild man but with a twist! I enjoyed Hughes’ short stories in this collection more than his poetry. I particularly liked the play, The Wound, set in the trenches of WW1, the narrative I found was very visual.

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury

I reviewed this inspiring book in my Sunday Sevens #49.

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

This one was suggested by my mum. Playing with Fire is a psychological thriller. Julia is a musician who desires to find out why her daughter attacks her whilst a particular piece of music is playing. The trail leads her to Venice and the sad tale of Lorenzo, an Italian Jew living during the turbulent 1930’s. The novel is a quick read, with a twist and one I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Origin – Dan Brown

It seems that Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels all seem to have the same plot. They are just set in a different country! If you cut out the tourism jargon, I think this book has to be the weakest of the series. Langdon, who is the main character, didn’t seem to have much influence moving the story forward. I liked the premise of Winston but think the whole plot was far fetched. If you’ve read this book, what were your impressions?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I would love to see a re-imagining of this poem. I felt that the narrative was very modern, of zombie sailors, reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. At a wedding party, a mariner tells his tale of a disastrous journey where he kills an albatross and of his subsequent guilt. The narrator describes the doldrums, seen as a punishment, where the crew of the ship die, but the narrator doesn’t. The crew then frighteningly become zombies. The narrator is eventually rescued but has to retell his tale to educate others of not to kill an albatross! I particularly enjoyed Orson Wells recital on YouTube.

Have you read this poem? What were your thoughts?

The Women of Heachley Hall – Rachel Walkley

This book is written in the vein of A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. It could have been so much better if there was less description of every nook and cranny. I like description but too much of it clogs the narrative. I felt this was the case with The Women of Heachley Hall. The narrative was trying too hard to be Gothic and the ghost story was fantastical! It was more a love story than a ghost story. The book did keep me interested, I just wasn’t too enamored on the style of writing.

Stressed, Unstressed – Edited by Bate, Byrne, Ratcliffe and Schuman

After taking the enjoyable Future Learn course, Literature and Mental Health a few years ago. I made a note to purchase this book, which is an accompaniment to the course. An anthology comprising of poems to aid in healing, grief and mindfulness. The book is very accessible and could be picked up if and when required. I don’t know whether it was because I read the book mostly at night, when I was tired, but I did find a lot of the poetry quite depressing. Possibly a book to keep going back to.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere – Jacqui Hargrave

I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I discovered whilst reading, that the chapters were really just blog posts stitched together for publication. Being from a blog, the chapters were succinct but lacked detail. There was so many grammatical errors, I wish the author had had the manuscript proof read before publication. I’d keep a wide berth from this book if I was you.

Crow – Ted Hughes

I don’t know if it’s me, or that my education is lacking but I find Ted Hughes’ poetry hard to fathom. I can pick out an undercurrent of threat and violence, a lot of hubris and humour but his poems on crow have been rather lost on me.

Do you like poetry? If so who is your favourite poet?

Birds – Edited by Mavis Pilbeam

It was Sharon from the delightful blog Sunshine and Celandines that suggested this book. I thought I would read it for The Wildlife Trusts30 Days Wild. I enjoyed many of the poems inspired by paintings in the British Museum. Poems by John Clare and Edward Thomas were among the highlights for me.

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

I re-read this book due to being inspired by soprano Charlotte Hoather’s post on her participation in the opera of the same name, at the Royal College of Music. Charlotte sang the role of Governess who is employed by an enigmatic uncle of two young orphans. Everything goes well until Miles, the eldest is expelled from school and returns home with a question mark over his character. Henry James is not a favourite author of mine. I find his style of writing rather long winded. In The Turn of the Screw, James’ writing is even more ambiguous as the Governess narrates her tale of a haunting by two debauched ghosts, trying to steal away her two charges, or is she narrating a tale of her own spiral into madness? It is never certain as to which scenario it is. Have you read this book? Did you think it was a ghost story?

A Cold Death in Amsterdam – Anja de Jager

This is the first book in the Lotte Meerman series. Lotte is quite a complex detective with a lot of background story which comes out slowly within the novel. The stories themselves are also quite complex with many different threads running parallel. I did find it a bit hard going to start off with, knowing which plot-line was which but it all comes together quite well.

Have you read any of these novels?

I ended the quarter by starting Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman, which I am really enjoying at the moment.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: I can’t quite believe that June is almost over! How quick the month has flown. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild has been wonderful in focusing the mind to the nature that is all around. Also blogging everyday has been challenging but ultimately enjoyable. Would I do it all again? Probably. There is so much out there to see and learn.

Today’s post, from Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve is a little bit different. I decided to make you all a message via a vlog. I hope you enjoy my celebration of 2018’s 30 Days Wild? Thanks to David for piecing the video together.

During our walk through Lunt Meadows there were so many butterflies, I lost count! Meadow browns, tortoiseshells and red admirals were among the numbers. The highlight for me was seeing avocets hovering and chattering overhead. It looked like they were having a heated argument with some geese!

June 2018 has well and truly been a month to remember and thank you for following me in my wild adventures!

If you have participated in 30 Days Wild this year, what have been your highlights?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_29Day 29: For the penultimate day of 2018’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go looking for moths. In the past I have never been successful in my moth hunts. This year wasn’t any different, however I spent a peaceful evening in the yarden. I enjoyed the quietude of sitting outside as the night darkened. The air was warm and scented heavily with jasmine. I saw many micro-moths but none stopped for a photograph. My light trap was ineffectual once again.

With nothing to show for my time outdoors, I decided to rummage through my archive of photos and show you the moths I have been lucky in seeing.

A few years ago we did see a plume moth but it looks like I never saved the photograph. 😦

Some facts:

There are 2,500 species of moth in the UK. Not all moths are active at night. Some moths have proboscis but others as adults have none, these moths rely on fat stores and only live up to a week. Moths have sense receptors on their legs and other parts of their bodies to smell, and they hear through their wings. Some species are expert at camouflage while others (especially their caterpillars) mimic other species in defense to being preyed upon. They are food for many birds and mammals.

If you’ve been luckier than I have in your moth sightings, do let me know which species has caught you eye.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-seven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_27Day 27: At the weekend a post on the Facebook 30 Days Wild page caught my eye. The post was all about species with a link to The Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Explorer. I noticed that ferns and horsetails were in their own species category, so I decided to look more closely at the ferns in the yarden.

We seem to have only one species of fern growing which I’ve ID’d as bracken! I think of bracken in woodland and heath-land, but apparently we have at least three bracken plants flourishing in the yarden.

They are ancient plants, far older than the dinosaurs, and can grow up to 1.5 meters.

Bracken spreads by underground rhizomes or horizontal stems but can germinate from spores (sporangia) carried on the wind. I noticed spores on the underside of the fronds and found them fascinating. I read that this bracken is fertile (due to the presence of spores) as not all have them.

Bracken is deciduous and dies back during winter and turns the landscape a tinge of brown. The plant is highly toxic to animals and should not be eaten. I read many scare stories associated with bracken online, that they harbour ticks and are carcinogenic.

What’s your thoughts on this ancient plant?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x