Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve

Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.

Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.

‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.

‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.

On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.

Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.

The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.

We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.

Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Finale

o0OhgWNNSadly, it’s the end of June and the finale of The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! Though it has been a challenge this year, I have enjoyed stretching myself to experience nature through different activities.

Initiatives like this makes you more appreciative of nature. Whether listening to birdsong, smelling a fragrance or IDing a tree or plant. It gives colour to our lives.

Day Twenty-nine: Thursday. 

As I’m writing this my skin feels so itchy. It’s psychological. I decided today to have a look at the washing-up bucket pond we set up last year. In the space of a year, the rockery plants have grown, and we had to change the oxygenating plant as the mare’s tails died. I’ve never pond dipped before so I didn’t know what to expect. The pond is not very big so I just used a glass to scoop up some of the water. I beheld hundreds of strange floating, twisting insects. In hindsight I should have took a video but a blurry picture will have to suffice.

After some research I was shocked to find that the little critters are all mosquito larvae. Images of malaria breeding insects came to mind. I read that there are approx. 30 species of mosquito in the UK. Only females drink blood as they need the protein in blood to create their eggs. In warmer climes they are the biggest killer of humans. Makes you thankful the UK is often cool!

They are often the first to colonize a new pond and other pond life and birds eat these insects. So I’m wondering, is it a good thing for these insects to be a part of my wildlife yarden? What do you think? Perhaps I need to get another oxygenating plant to help clean the water some more? Some advice would be most appreciated.

Day Thirty: Friday.

For the final day of 30 Days Wild I decided to open a bottle of the elderflower champagne and toast to the wild!

As I have never tasted elderflowers I didn’t know what to expect. The bottle kindly didn’t pop, and what was decanted into champagne flutes was a fizzy, light coloured liquid that had a hint of zest and a floral bouquet. It reminded me of grapefruit. David said the drink was refreshing but my mum said it was an acquired taste. I enjoyed it, but don’t think I could drink a lot of it.

Have you made elderflower champagne? What was your experience?

Summary: 

My third year of participating in 30 Days Wild has been a memorable one. From blissfully hot summer days to endless days of rainfall. My favourite highlights included, making elderflower champagne, beach combing on Crosby Beach, strawberry picking on the Wirral and visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing over the course of the month?

Looking ahead: there are still many activities to keep wild well into the summer months and into autumn and winter too. Taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, which begins 14th July to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch come January. There is no excuse for us to not stay wild!

What future activities are you looking forward to participating in?

A Look Back:

2015: Moths and butterflies

2016: Dancing in the rain and IDing weeds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 4

o0OhgWNNIt’s the last full week of the Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild. How fast has June flown?! Though it’s been a challenge this year. However, I think I’ve managed to make my week four, wild with diverse activities.

If, like me you are looking for inspiration on where to visit, why not try the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Finder app? With over 2000 nature reserves it’s a helpful aid to search for the wild!

Day Twenty-two: Thursday.

Plantlife have launched The Great British Wildflower Hunt. Their aim is to help more people identify wildflowers. They have downloadable identification sheets with helpful pictures and information on 20 popular wildflowers. You can do two counts. One in the city and the other in the countryside. I opted for the city.  I was able to count a very respectable 13/20, though there is still a lot more I could learn about wildflowers.

Have you joined in this count? What were your highlights?

Day Twenty-three: Friday. 

A week ago I planted some of my accumulation of freebie wildflower seeds. One pack I received with my 30 Days Wild mailing, the other I requested via Nestle Cereals. In just seven days my seeds have sprouted into seedlings. Hopefully they will flower come August!

seeds

Seedlings

Day Twenty-four: Saturday.

Today as we were visiting local pet shops I decided to visit a nature reserve we drive past every-time we travel from Liverpool to St. Helens. Stanley Bank is a nature reserve with an easy 1 mile walk. It’s part of the larger Sankey Valley Country Park. On a rather grey day there wasn’t many insects on the wing. There were however lots of wildflowers gracing the path as we followed a stream, watching a pied wagtail flit from bank to bank. There were lots of bird song from the canopy of trees above our heads. I could identify a blackbird, blue and great tits and wood pigeons. Here’s a few pictures I took of our short woodland walk.

Day Twenty-five: Sunday.

The plan for today was to visit Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby. I had planned the weekend around the weather forecast which said that Saturday was to be drizzly and Sunday just a grey day. However Saturday’s visit to St. Helens remained rainless while waking up on Sunday the rain fell like rods. Feeling a little miffed to say the least, I dawdled breakfast and then left for Lunt at 10am, when thankfully the rain started to ease up.

Only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Lunt Meadows is 77ha of land along the River Alt. It is a relatively new reserve being only opened to the public since 2015. The habitats include wetland and fens. During our visit we only saw a handful of other walkers, mainly with their dogs. David and I took a leisurely three hours to walk around the reserve.

During excavations of Lunt Meadows archaeologists discovered a rare Mesolithic settlement by a group of nomadic stone-age hunter gatherers who lived in the area 8,000 years ago. It made me think of what their life must have been like and what they would think of the area today. If you are interested in what the archaeologists found, you can read more here.

While walking along the River Alt, we enjoyed watching swifts swoop past us. It made me feel dizzy watching them as they skimmed over the water. I later read that they live their life of the wing, even sleeping whilst flying! Butterflies we had disturbed fluttered before us. I was excited to see my first sighting of a large skipper! The air was filled with the chatter of warblers and the hum of bees. At one stage even small toads hopped across our path. We managed to pick one up and its padded feet felt cold and wet. Here’s just a small selection of pictures David and I took of our wonderful visit.

We will definitely visit Lunt Meadows again, hopefully in better weather!

Where is your favourite nature reserve?

Day Twenty-six: Monday. 

Inspired by a photo featured on Thomas Heaton’s photography YouTube by Cora Iwanowsky, David set out in search of a garden snail to photograph. He searched our yarden, under overhanging plants and behind pots. After selecting the right model, he gathered stones from our fireplace and placed them in our fountain. He then positioned the model at the pinnacle of the display. He quickly took some photographs before putting the snail back in the yarden, none the wiser of what had just occurred. Here’s David’s attempt.

snail

Snail on Stone by David Evans

David’s antics got me thinking about garden snails and that I knew nothing about them. So here’s a few facts about these abundant garden friend or foe.

  • Are classed as a terrestrial gastropod mollusk.
  • Are native to Europe.
  • Have a flat “muscular foot” that helps them move, aided by the release of mucus to reduce friction (hence snail trails).
  • Feasts on plant matter and debris.
  • Has nocturnal habits and rests during the day.
  • During hot periods they can retract into their shell and seal it shut, this induces a hibernation state and they can remain like this for several months.
  • Most hibernate during the winter.
  • Their fastest speed is only 1.3 centimeters per second.
  • They are hermaphrodite (both male and female) but need another snail for sperm transfer.
  • Can lay up to 100 eggs and up to six batches a year.
  • Are a food in France and Spain.

Who would have thought the common garden snail could be so fascinating! Their induced hibernation amazed me!

Day Twenty-seven: Tuesday. 

wild-challenge-blue-badge-experience

The RSPB’s Wild Challenge, is an initiative to get children and families that little bit more wild. I think it is a great resource once 30 Days Wild has ended. There are three levels of challenges, bronze, silver and gold, with a list of activities to achieve before each level is reached and a certificate awarded. Having a wild sleep-out, learning about moths and going on a bug safari are some of the activities you can participate in.

Have you signed up for this challenge? What are your thoughts on the initiative?

Day Twenty-eight: Wednesday. 

As we were visiting family this evening and didn’t have much time available for anything too wild! David and I decided to take Riley to Newsham Park. Riley having not been to this park before, was excited at all the new smells. He even chased and barked at the congregating seagulls. Indeed it was weather for seagulls as it had been raining all day. The field we let Riley run free was sodden with water and soon Riley and our feet were soaked too! The park boasts two lakes, a band stand and Newsham House which Queen Victoria visited during her reign. However, all we managed to visit on this dreary evening was the gardens.

Summary:

Even though the weather was unsettled this week, we did manage to see lots of wildlife. Highlights for me was visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and seeing that my wildflower seeds have sprouted.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015:  Passion Flowers and a trip to Norwich

2016: Moth sighting and no tech day

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 3

o0OhgWNNWell week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.

With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.

Day Fifteen: Thursday.

Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!

So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!

potatoes

I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.

  1. The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
  2. There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
  3. The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
  4. Probable potato scab which is a bacterium.

I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?

Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.

Day sixteen: Friday.

All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.

The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!

If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.

Day Seventeen: Saturday. 

Two of random acts of wildness are: 1. grow borage for bees and 2. take a picture of something blue.

borage

Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!

Day Eighteen: Sunday.

Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!

Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.

Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?

Day Nineteen: Monday.

Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.

Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.

Some pollinator friendly plants are:

  • Hellebore
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Honeysuckle
  • Sunflower
  • Michaelmas Daisies

Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?

Day Twenty: Tuesday.

I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.

Leaf-cutter bee:

  • One of the solitary bees.
  • Nests in cavities.
  • So named due to cutting out leaves to make their ‘cells’ for larvae.
  • On the wing April to August.
  • Feeds on nectar and pollen which they carry on their abdomen.

Honey bee:

  • Are hive bees and live in colonies.
  • A colony can be between 35,000 to 60,000 bees.
  • The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
  • Prefer simple, open flowers.
  • Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.

Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.

The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.

Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.

Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.

WikiHow suggests doing some sky observations.

I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.

rosemary tea

Rosemary Tea

Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.

Ingredients (makes one small mug):

  • I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
  • One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
  • Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Strain and drink.

My thoughts:

I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.

The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.

What is your favorite herbal drink?

Summary:

What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015: Bees and growing borage.

2016: Wild swimming and birds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 2

o0OhgWNNI have to admit, I am struggling with this years 30 Days Wild. Having already invited nature into my every day life, I am finding it difficult to share with you anything new. I don’t have much time at present for many wild adventures and I am fearful of repetition. So I apologise if I write about something I have already blogged about in previous years!

 

Day Eight: Thursday.

Today was World Oceans Day. A day to celebrate the wonder of our oceans. Though I didn’t participate in any events, I did sign up for the Plastic Challenge, an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The challenge runs from the 1st to the 30th of June. Perfect for 30 Days Wild! The pledge is to give up or cut down on single use plastics. I have already started the cut back as I purchased a reusable water bottle. I shall also be wrapping my lunch in tinfoil or grease-proof paper. Do you have any other ideas on how to cut back on plastics?

We already know that microbeads are bad for the environment and wildlife! These small beads of plastic are in face-washes to toothpastes and are easily washed down the drain, ultimately ending in the seas and food chain. I have recently changed some of my skin products to a UK brand sold in Asda called, nspa. They use natural ingredients such as passion fruit seeds and rice to exfoliate instead of using microbeads.

What natural skin care do you use?

Day Nine: Friday.

One of the many Random Acts of Wildness is to read a nature book or magazine, so I decided to purchase Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. I’m almost near the end and though I am enjoying it, I did find it hard to get into, as the first few chapters are heavy with long sentences of description that could have very well been written in only a handful of words.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Day Ten: Saturday.

Saturday’s are always busy but this evening was allotted for bottling the elderflower champagne. On Friday after work we went to give the mixture a stir and found a thin film of mold on the surface, (after 5 days). I read that it was time to strain and bottle. Straining took over an hour!

Firstly I lifted out the remains of the elderflower heads and then David poured the cloudy mixture into a pan through a thin gauze tea towel before funneling the sieved liquid into sterilized bottles. We loosely tightened the tops and left them in a cool place to carry on fermenting. I shall open a bottle on the last day of 30 Days Wild to see if the mixture has brewed. 

Day Eleven: Sunday.

Inspired by Sharon’s 30 Day’s Wild post, here. David and I headed to the beach in search of treasures. Of course Riley tagged along too! After our beach combing, we came back with a hoard of stones and shells!

Day Twelve: Monday.

Last Year I sent away for free wildflower seeds from Grow Wild, an initiative by Kew Gardens. I still had one packet of seeds left so I planted them in March. The annuals and perennials are now flowering, corn chamomile, common poppy and red campion among the selection.

Day Thirteen: Tuesday. 

I chose looking for newborns as my random act of wildness for today. However I only managed to film a baby goldfinch visiting the garden feeders. On my many walks to work, I have seen begging baby blue tits and a stunning fledged blackbird!

Day Fourteen: Wednesday.

While taking Riley on his many walks around Sefton Park, we have been mesmerised by a couple of swallows who seem to glide effortlessly over the field, hunting insects. I decided to take my camera on our latest walk to see if I could capture them. The park was busy with people enjoying the fine weather, so I only captured a short clip. Swallows are hard to follow as they fly so fast and turn direction in a split second.

Facts:

  • Swallows are summer migrants arriving from Africa from March onwards.
  • Spend most of their life on the wing.
  • Can cover 200 miles in a day and fly at speeds of up to 35 kilometers an hour.
  • Have a lifespan of three years in the wild.

Summary: 

This week I have been much more relaxed in my approach to 30 Days Wild. I have taken time to notice the flying bees and scurrying beetles while walking between bus stops to work. Listening to roosting goldfinches in the park while throwing the ball for Riley to chase has filled my heart. Just smelling cut grass has calmed my nerves.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week two in previous years.

2015:  Spending time in the yarden and National Bird results.

2016: Drawing a dunnock and baking turtle shaped bread.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 1

o0OhgWNNIt’s June, and that time of year again! Time for The Wildlife Trust’s wonderful initiative, 30 Days WildInspiring us all to get that little bit more wild! This is the third year I’ll be participating and I have to admit, I was a little excited for June to arrive. I learned so much during 2016’s 30 Days and enjoyed immensely the camaraderie of the online community. If you’d like to follow fellow participants, then click on My Wild Life Bloggers, and join in the discussion!

Day One: Thursday.

What could I do for the opening to my 30 Days Wild? With it being a long day at work, I decided to participate in Friends of the Earth’s, Great British Bee Count. The count runs from 19th May to 30th June and helps gather data on how healthy (or not) the British Bee population is.

gbbc-2016-teaser-2.jpg

So once home, and dinner cooked, out I went into our yarden and stood hovering around the plants I know are popular with the bees. I’ve found that bees tend to like blueish coloured flowers. Among these plants are bell flowers, cat mint and chives. In just one small corner I counted five tree bumblebees, in an inner city yarden I find that amazing! There were also sightings of buff tailed bumblebees and I happily saw my first mason bee of the season. The yarden is usually awash with these cute little bees, all knocking each other from the flowers but I’ve noticed numbers seem to be down this year.

Have you participated in the Great British Bee Count? If not, you can download their free and easy to use app here, and start counting. 🙂

Day Two: Friday.

The Wildlife Trust’s encourages Random Act of Wildness. These Random Acts, be it for a few minutes or hours, are designed to add a little bit of nature to our otherwise busy lives. You can find their free downloadable app with 101 inspiring suggestions here. One such Random Act is find a creepy crawly. So after work I looked among the plants and undergrowth of our yarden, actively seeking creepy crawlies. I found two to photograph. One was a seven spot ladybird and the other a scarlet lily beetle. One is deemed a goody by gardeners and the other a baddie! I’ve Googled some interesting facts about both.

Seven Spotted Ladybird:

  • The most common ladybird seen in Europe.
  • Has a lifespan of a year.
  • Can eat up to 5.000 aphids during their life.
  • Secretes a fluid from their legs that is distasteful to predators.

Scarlet Lily Beetle:

  • Is not a native species to Britain but has been colonising since 1939.
  • Often seen on lilies and fritillaries and causes damage to these plants.
  • Overwinters in soil cover.
  • Studies have shown females find plants by scent.

Do you have any more curious facts about either species?

Day Three: Saturday.

Garden-BioBlitz-2017

This weekend was the annual National Garden BioBlitz. I took part in this survey last year. You can read how that went on here. This year I didn’t have as much time available, so I snatched an hour here and there. The aim of the project is to count the plants and animals that have arrived in the yarden ‘of its own accord’. Whereas I counted 54+ species of trees, shrubs, alpines and perennials I had planted. I only counted 21+ of flora and fauna that had arrived in the yarden of their own steam. Among them were:

Flora: bell flowers, foxgloves, poppies, herb robert and the annoying sticky weed!

Fauna: goldfinches, starlings, magpie, bee-fly and a spittle bug.

Out of the 20 species to look out for, our lowly little yarden chalked up 5/20. We were able to tick off, house sparrow, mason bee, tree bumblebee, garden snail and seven spot ladybird.

Did you participate in this survey? What wonders did you find?

Day Four: Sunday.

Last year, I participated in Wild October, an initiative started by 30 Days Wild’s Facebook page. The aim was to enjoy the changing season of Autumn. During the month I gathered fallen leaves and other detritus from a local park and displayed them on a nature table. This year for 30 Days Wild, I decided to do similar but with flowers and grasses I found along a woodland walk in Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. Of Course Riley had to tag along too. 🙂

While researching for this post, I was saddened to read that Festival Gardens has been earmarked for redevelopment, with shops and a ferry terminal in the pipe works. I do hope they don’t build on the already established park. The park as it stands has lovely lakeside paths and woodland walks and was created back in 2011 so the wildlife has had time to establish themselves. Redevelopment would mean a loss of habitat for wildlife and the opportunity for the residents to get closer to nature.

Have you lost a valued place of nature to redevelopment? Let me know your thoughts on this?

Day Five: Monday. 

Everywhere I look there are elders and their flowers growing all over the city. Waving seductively at the sides of roads, gracing parks, and even surprisingly, growing down my road! So I decided I would try my hand at making some elderflower champagne. I don’t know whether it will work as I’ve never done it before, but I thought. ‘I would give it a try’!

There are just so many recipes and videos on YouTube that I didn’t know which one to follow. So I sort of made a conglomeration of a couple!

Ingredients:

  • David and I foraged 10 medium sized elderflower heads.
  • Used 6 litres of water. 1 litre boiled and 5 cold.
  • The zest and juice of two lemons as well as two halves thrown in for good measure.
  • 750g of sugar (I used granulated).
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

Method:

  • After sterilizing a bucket David measured the sugar and dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.
  • While David stirred the sugar solution I trimmed and cut the elderflowers from their stalks, shaking any bugs off.
  • We threw the flowers into the bucket and added the zest and juice of the lemons.
  • Then left in two lemon halves in the mixture.
  • Poured the litre of sugar solution onto the elderflower and lemon and then added 5 litres of cold water.
  • Finally added the white wine vinegar and gave it a good stir.
  • Covered bucket with a tea-towel and left solution to (hopefully) start fermenting.
  • Stir the mixture once everyday until you see bubbles or fungus. Then sieve and bottle up. Be careful to leave gaps in top of bottles and monitor as the natural yeast in the elderflower and the sugar can cause the bottles to explode!

I will keep you all updated on our progress.

Day Six: Tuesday. 

Since it’s been raining for the past two days, I decided to do a little research on the topic. The Met Office offered a helpful info-gram. This video here, is helpful too.

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Five Facts:

  • It rains due to warm moist air cooling and condensing to liquid.
  • The shape of a rain drop is actually like a jelly bean.
  • The average speed of a rain drop is 14 mph.
  • Petrichor is the smell of rain as it hits dry ground.
  • Rain falls from weather fronts (two differing air masses) whereas showers stem from clouds.

Day Seven: Wednesday.

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Saving a buff-tailed bumblebee

With this deluge of rain we are having, means the poor wildlife seem to be having a hard time. The rain makes it harder for birds to forage for seeds and insects for their nestlings and bees become sodden and lethargic. It always seems to be buff-tailed bumblebees we find clinging to flower petals in the hope of finding shelter. Here’s what you can do if you find one.

The RSPB state two tablespoons of granulated sugar to one tablespoon of water. I think that is a little excessive. We only use teaspoons. One teaspoon to half a teaspoon of sugar. Place the sugar water where the bee can sit safely and drink. You will be amazed at how quickly the bee perks up.

Our little bumblebee was also wet and cold so we warmed her by the radiator before releasing her back safely into the yarden.

Have you tried reviving tired bees? How did it work for you?

Summary:

Nature is supposed to be natural, not forced, however this being my third year of participating in 30 Days Wild, I have felt pressurised to do activities which I haven’t done in previous years. Have you felt the same?

I did enjoy foraging for elderflowers and counting the bees. It’s amazing that even a small urban yarden can attract a variety of wildlife.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week one in previous years.

2015: Mint moths and buying homes for nature.

2016: Bee facts and growing maris bard potatoes.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #30

I wasn’t going to participate in this weeks, Sunday Sevens, devised by NatalieHaving been a full week at work, I thought there wasn’t much time for anything else. However I have a few updates which may interest you. So here’s my week!

Wild Swimming: Sunday saw David and I head for the Lake District to walk among the Rannerdale bluebells and to have my first swim of the new season in Crummock Water! I hope there will be many more swim/walks to come.

I.Ding a tree: This week, on my walk in-between bus stops to work, my olfactory receptors have been under assault by a rich, sweet scent. A Path I take is flanked with hedges that have white blossom. I didn’t know what species of plant it was, so I went in search of answers. I Used the Woodland Trust’s British Trees IDand discovered it was a Hawthorn Tree. Most commonly found in hedgerows and also known as the May tree as it blossoms predominantly in May. If you would like to know more about the Hawthorn follow this link for videos and useful information.

#walk1000miles: With leaving for work a little earlier so I can walk longer between bus stops and getting back into a routine on the treadmill means my mileage for the week has been 28.8 miles, which is my best yet! Bringing my overall total to 453 miles!

Collecting: While counting the petty cash at work, my boss, Sue and I have been scouring the 50p’s in the hope of finding more Beatrix Potter coins. During the week, we struck lucky and found a second coin!

Book I am reading: I managed to get through The Lonely, it seemed a story about nothing as everything was alluded to. I have now picked up The Kite Runner. I bought the Kindle version last year and forgot all about it, until this week when I was thinking about what book to read next. I am enjoying it so far, the narrative is well written.

Nestle bee seeds

Nestle Plan Bee: Recently I thought I would try Nestle’s Shredded Wheat – Honey and Nut cereal. I was excited to read on their packaging that they have an initiative of offering free wildflower seeds with any purchase.

  • Did you know, that 97% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930’s.
  • 70% of UK crops depend on bees to survive.
  • Since 1990 the UK alone has lost 20 species of bees and 35 are considered under threat.

With the help of initiatives like Nestle’s, we can all do our little bit for bees and other pollinators. All you need to do is go to www.nestle-cereals.com/uk/en/plan-bee, buy one of the three cereals with the offer, and enter your details along with the cereal box’s bar-code. My seeds took a week to arrive and I was over the moon! I just have to find some space in my yarden to plant them now! 🙂

30 days wild

30 Days Wild: If free seeds from cereal companies wasn’t enough, I received my Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild pack on Friday. Among the goodies was a huge wall poster, stickers and a small packet of free wildflower seeds! I also ordered a pack for businesses as I liked the face masks featuring a fox and bunting which will grace the yarden. I am excited for this years’ 30 Days Wild. I cannot wait to see what wonders I will discover! June is only a few weeks away! Have you signed up?

Cooking: I had a culinary melt down this Saturday. I just didn’t know what to cook! There are so many recipes online, but I didn’t want to cook any of them! I was just in a funny mood! So while I was crying, David stepped in and rustled up a reasonably quick vegetable masala. The microwaved potatoes coated in turmeric and garlic were a revelation!

The Yarden: To finish off this post, (I’ve seemed to have waffled on longer than expected). I will share some photos of the yarden. The aquilegia has bloomed yet again and has many heads for the visiting pollinators. On Friday David and I were cleaning up from feeding Hoppy (the pigeon) and her friends, when the friendly cat that has been visiting the yarden walked along the wall and jumped down to say hello. She is a very friendly cat, a bit too friendly! We watched, as she trampled my cat mint, rolling around in ecstasy. We think she has a human family as we only see her around 7pm of a week day. I’d hate for her to be a stray and homeless.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Until the next Sunday Sevens!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week One

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The Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild 2016 dawned on a cloudy Wednesday, a hump day! I must admit it was difficult to find my ‘get up and go!’ However the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. It shone down hotly, as I slowly eased into this June by doing the usual pottering about the yarden (yard/garden)!

I participated in 30 Days Wild last year and thoroughly felt enlivened just by noticing the nature and wildlife around me.

I do try to help the wildlife in my area. It started off by putting out feeders for the birds. Then it progressed to planting for bees, butterflies and other insects. And this year David and I have built a small pond in the hope of bringing even more wildlife to the urban back yarden.

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Day One: Wednesday.

Like last year I will blog about my 30 Days Wild in weekly installments. Thanks to Annie Irene from Trails&Tails who wrote about the many bloggers featured on The Wildlife Trusts, My Wild Life website. It is always good to read what other’s are getting up to this June, so if you are interested like I was, then follow the link and get reading!

One of the positives about reading other people’s experiences of the ‘wild’ is that you learn something new almost daily. Today, I learnt that a ‘weed’ I have ashamedly been pulling up out of the yarden (oops), is called Herb Robert or geranium robertianum. This wild flower is apparently edible and has many therapeutic properties.

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Day Two: Thursday.

Today, David had a day off work. I suggested we go to a park in search of wildlife. We decided on visiting Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. We seem to make an annual pilgrimage here, but really should visit more often. It has lakes and woodland walks. It also features the restored Moon Wall and Pagodas that featured in the Garden Festival of the 1980’s!

On our leisurely walk, there were coots with chicks on the lake. Alongside the paths David and I spotted orchids and oxeye daises, and in the woodland we saw several butterflies, one was a Speckled Wood.

We had a picnic alongside a stream, where under a strong beaming sun we sat listening to birdsong. I’ve identified (using British Garden Birds) the song of a chaffinch and maybe a wren, but is there a third song? Can you tell?

Day Three: Friday.

If you are struggling to find something ‘wild’ to do in June, then why not download the 30 Days Wild app for 101 random acts of wildness? I did and the first act suggested was something blue. So here is a picture of one of David’s rockery plants, lithodora ‘heavenly blue.’

Day Four: Saturday.

This March we planted some seed maris bard potatoes in the hope of growing our first vegetables. Today I noticed that the first flower has opened. I read that it will be soon be time to harvest these earlies! Isn’t the flower very strange looking? Well I thought so!

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Day Five: Sunday.

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Naughty Artie!

Today was World Environment Day. Nicky on her blog Too Lazy to Weed, highlighted that it was also The National Garden Bioblitz weekend! So we spent the whole day in the yarden. I busied myself with counting the flora and fauna that we have in our small space. My fellow ‘spotter’ Artie was watching the bees and butterflies for a very different reason!!!

I counted  about 60 plants. Of that number we have two trees and many shrubs, alpines and perennials. I used the Pl@ntNet app to ID some annuals and I was surprised at the results! One of the wildflower seedlings has roundish leaves so I used the app and found out it is a nasturtium!

Of the many insects that visited the yarden, a number of them were bees. Those identified were: common carder bees, a dark variant of the tree bumblebee, mason bees and white-tailed bumblebees. Thanks to UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook page for help with ID-ing the bees. My skills are still not great! Below are five useful facts on each bee.

Common Carder Bee:

  1. Found widely in the UK.
  2. On the wing from March to November.
  3. Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
  4. They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
  5. A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.

Tree Bumblebee:

  1. Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
  2. Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
  3. Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
  4. Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
  5. The males are sting-less.

Mason Bee:

  1. One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
  2. Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
  3. Uses mud to close their brood cells.
  4. Are non aggressive.
  5. Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee:

  1. Is another group of social bees.
  2. Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
  3. Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
  4. Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
  5. On the wing from March to November.

David, Artie and I were also given a spectacular mating dance from two, small white butterflies. It was truly uplifting to see the two flutter delicately about on a hot summers day!

Day Six: Monday.

20160606_133351I don’t know if it is due to tiredness or the heat but I have been feeling kind of tired and low today. So it was going to be a lazy kind of day. After the midday heat had passed, Artie and I headed out into the yarden to sit quietly. I took out my library copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged, (a tale of ‘wild’ swimming around the UK), and relaxed while the yarden hummed with bees. I am finding the book hard reading. I simply can’t get into it!  I usually like history but the historical passages in the narrative just bore me. I will persevere though!

Day Seven: Tuesday.

I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry.) You may have guessed that I can go on a bit while writing the blog, so you’d think a three lined poem would be easy for me! Wrong! I have been racking my brain trying to get syllables to come together. Below is my best attempt. What are your thoughts? Have you tried writing a Haiku?

Bees, buzz, drunk on nectar (5)
Flowers’ scent, enticingly (7)
Pollen baskets, full (5)

Summary: The problem with this years 30 Days Wild is that I have wanted to do everything all at once! And that is not plausible. I have felt like a daemon possessed! Panicking if I don’t do something to the extent I want. For the second week, I think I need to ‘chill’ a bit more and enjoy nature instead of forcing it!

I hope you will come with me on this next week of discovery?!

Christine x

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.