A Year in Books 2019 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books. My aim for 2019 was 40 books, however I managed to read 30 over the year. A combination of not so good books made this years challenge hard going. I am still plodding through the last novel of the year.

I’ll be joining in this year’s challenge and aim for 40 books again. Will you be joining in, if so how many books will you aim to read?

The Almanac (October/November/December) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩
As I’ve said in previous quarters I’ve not enjoyed this book and would not recommend it to others. Do you know of any better almanacs?

New York City – Lonely Planet ✩✩✩
A useful and helpful guide to the culture, food and sights of New York City. It helped me whilst planning our New York adventure last December.

The Tailor of Gloucester – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩
The Tailor of Gloucester has a terribly important commission to complete for the Mayor of Gloucester’s wedding on Christmas Day but is ill and tired! How will he possibly complete the beautiful coat and embroidered waistcoat? Luckily, there lives in the dresser, some very kind and very resourceful mice who set about helping the poor tailor with his work.

I really enjoyed this tale by Beatrix Potter. It was much better than Peter Rabbit in my opinion.

The Woman at the Window – A.J. Finn ✩✩✩✩
Agoraphobic Anna Fox’s only lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something horrifying. Now she must uncover the truth about what really happened. But if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

I enjoyed this book. I thought the main character was interesting and I felt engaged with the story until the end. It really made you question what was real and what was imagined. I’ve recently learned that there also has been a film made which is out later this year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse – Charlie Mackesy ✩✩✩✩
Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons. The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos.

This is a beautiful book, with touching words and sketches to ease a troubled mind.

365 Days Wild – Lucy McRobert ✩✩✩✩
365 inspirational suggestions for enjoying nature. These ‘Random Acts of Wildness’ will encourage you to fall in love with, learn about or even help wildlife and wild places near you.

If, like me you love The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild then this book is right up your alley. Filled with lots of ideas to keep wild all year round. I’d already completed many of the suggestions but there were a few I hadn’t even thought of.

The Girl at the Window – Rowan Coleman ✩✩✩✩
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from… Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

I quite enjoyed this book. It was an easy read and the characters both past and present were likeable. The ending was a bit contrived but the addition of Emily Brontë as a character was a nice touch. If you like supernatural stories then you’ll enjoy this book.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy ✩✩
This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana jam vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma.

This is the novel I’ve been slogging though. There are some beautifully written passages but none can detract from the boring story even if there is political unease and a family tragedy, getting to that point was long winded. I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters and can’t believe it was a Booker Prize winner! Perhaps I’ve missed the point of this novel, if you think differently let me know in the comments below.

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book that you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Thanks for following my year in books 2019. Here’s to some good reads in 2020 (hopefully)!

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2019

I really can’t believe that it’s almost time to say goodbye to 2019. This year was slow to start but when it began it simply snowballed! December is a month to reflect though I haven’t had much time for reflection.

Thanks to Sharon for her wildlife post, prompting me to write this blog.

Reminiscing on 2019 I had to admit there were many wildlife moments this year, none more so than the male and female sparrowhawks that seemed to have kept the pigeons away from our yarden this autumn.

In September David and I booked a relaxing badger watch at RSPB Haweswater. We saw two badgers that evening, Gremlin and Porridge. It was a welcome treat from seeing squished badgers at roadsides.

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Gremlin the badger

For 2019 I bought David and I joint membership to the RSPB, and have made full use of our membership by visiting local reserves, such as Leighton Moss and Burton Mere several times.

At Leighton Moss we fed hungry great and blue tits and spotted marsh harriers flying over the pools. In June we attended a Meet the Moths event. I got to meet a popular hawk moth and an elephant!

At Burton Mere we photographed little egrets, shoveler ducks and redshanks in the depths of winter and enjoyed a carpet of bluebells in April.

As part of our RSPB membership we also visited Conwy and South Stack reserves. At Conwy we managed to capture a rare sighting of a grey phalarope and at South Stack there were dozens of silver studded blue butterflies!

In May David and I took a day trip to Ingleton Falls. On our exploration of the falls and woodland we watched as a dipper fed her two fledglings, swimming underwater to get the freshest insects or fish. It was wonderful to watch.

For The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I purchased six painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, to witness the amazing spectacle of metamorphosis. I grew quite attached to my little hungry caterpillars and felt sad when they chrysalised. In two weeks I had six beautiful painted lady butterflies!

Also for 30 Days Wild I’d booked David and I on a bee experience at Samlesbury Hall. This taster session on honey bees and bee keeping made me wish I had space for a hive myself. Perhaps in the future?

Other insect highlights were common hawkers and damselflies at Brockholes and a surprise encounter with a swallowtail moth in the yarden!

To round up a mixed 30 Days Wild I chanced upon jellyfish washed up on Formby Beach.

Formby Woods was also a fabulous place to spot native red squirrels.

The summer months are always a busy time for wildlife spotting. Right outside our window we watched two gull nests and how their chicks fared. One lesser black-backed gull chick fell from its nest (high up on a chimney stack) and was heard exploring the street as he cried for his parent. Frightened the chick would be hit by a car David and I contacted a local bird rescue and found a rehabilitation home for the chick. David scooped the gull up, who we named Harald and we took him to his new home in Anfield.

In just over a week Harald was strong enough to fly and left his rehabilitation for new adventures. Good luck Harald!

For Wild October an Instagram initiative I spotted the odd fungi and also a sadly demised hedgehog.

The floral highlights this year has to be searching for the bee orchid, which I found at Port Sunlight River Park.

To complete this years round up of wildlife moments I have to include an american bird sighting, a female mockingbird which I spotted among the sparrows at The High Line, New York.

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Female Mockingbird

What have been your wildlife moments of 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #69

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?

A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?

convenienceBook I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.

Brocholes:
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.

Family meal:
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.

Moth:
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.

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Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2019 – 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.

This quarter I have read a total of ten books, bringing my total to 17.

The Almanac is a book I’ll dip into throughout the year and I end this quarter and begin next’s with Kate Morton’s, The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

Almanac (April/May/June) – Lia Leendertz ✩✩

I really wish this almanac had more information on the natural world. It seems to focus too much on cheese and folk songs. The only information I’m learning is what is going on in the night sky i.e. meteor showers and life inside a bee hive.

Winter – Ali Smith ✩✩

It seems such a long time since I read this book! I enjoyed Autumn but I have to say Winter was a disappointment. Displaced heads and pretentious characters made the reading of this book a chore. Perhaps, if you’ve read this boo, you think differently?

The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame ✩✩

After watching The Wildlife Trusts’ add featuring Ratty, Mole, Badger and the mad Toad, who face a world encroached by mankind, I decided to read the book. It was a hard narrative to get into. It is definitely a book from its time! I am glad I have read it but would not read it again. Perhaps a film version would be more accessible? What do you think?

Whistle in the Dark – Emma Healey ✩✩

I loved Elizabeth is Missing, so when I heard Emma Healey was writing a second novel I was eager to purchase a copy. Unfortunately, I was not blown away by the plot of a girl who goes missing in the Peak District only to resurface days later reluctant to say where she went. The story is narrated by the mother who is neurotic and annoying. I did not enjoy the story at all. Have you read this book? What did you think?

The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker ✩✩✩✩

I devoured this book in a week. Pat Barker’s narrative was easy to read and I enjoyed following the fate of Briseis and her fellow captives during the Trojan War. There seems to be a resurgence of fiction from the Greek Myths and this book was just one of them. Have you read any of the others?

The Vanishing of Audrey Wilde – Eve Chase ✩✩

This book was featured on a few online book clubs so I downloaded a Kindle version. However, I was not that impressed. Though the premise was interesting enough (an unsolved missing girl mystery), the style of writing did not engage me in the narrative. I felt there was something lacking. It would make me think twice to pick up another book by this author.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter ✩✩✩

For Christmas, David bought me the complete collection of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books. I thought I would read book 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Mainly for children I enjoyed the tale and illustrations. (Poor Peter’s dad became a pie!!) I can’t believe it’s taken me over 30+ years to read it!

The Lost Words – Robert McFarlane/Jackie Morris ✩✩✩✩

I read this book during the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild. It is a beautiful book, full of lush art work (goldfinches are prevalent) and the poems can be read again and again. One to put on display on the coffee table I think.

The Lido – Libby Page ✩✩✩✩

Thanks to Sharon who sent me this book. I really enjoyed Libby Page’s first novel and look forward to reading more of her work. The story revolves around the proposed closure of a lido and the campaign to keep it open. During this time a friendship kindles between a young journalist, Kate and a regular of the lido, Rosemary. This friendship not only brings Kate out of her shell but highlights the sense of community. As a pay it forward – if anyone would like this copy of The Lido, let me know and I will send it to you!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter – Kate Morton ✩✩✩✩

I’m an avid reader of Kate Morton and have read all her publications. Though I’ve found this novel a little slow to get into, I am enjoying the narrative and it is an easy read. The plot has a colourful collection of characters and the going back and forth through time periods could be confusing to some readers, but I’m finding it ok at the moment. Have you read Kate Morton? If so what is your favourite book of hers?

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #66

Since it’s back to normality after blogging everyday in June for The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, I thought I would write a Sunday Sevens.

Friends:

Last weekend my friend from America visited us again. She is a big fan of Riley so David and I decided to take them both on a morning walk to Formby Beach.

Then in the afternoon we visited Liverpool’s Cat Cafe.

The Aviary (part 1):

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Set and Leaf

In a previous Sunday Sevens from 2017 (found here), you may recall that I wrote about having to separate an aggressive blue-faced parrot finch from the aviary as he attacked another finch.

In April this year, we decided that two years in the prison cage was enough time for the two blue-faced parrot finches, and so we paroled them to be reintegrated into the aviary.

However, this Tuesday David and I came home from work to murder in the aviary! The victim, poor Lady Gouldian, Set.

We found him with all his feathers plucked from his head and close to death. We put him in the hospital cage in the hope that he would pull through but he succumbed from his ordeal not long after. There was no need for an Agatha Christie detective, we already knew who the culprit was: blue-face parrot finch, Leaf who was seen the previous day chasing Set! It looked like he was back to his aggressive ways! Saddened and angry in equal measure we separated both blue-faced parrots from the aviary and now they reside in the prison cage for life! We buried Set under the Californian lilac, he was only two years old.

Book I am reading:

For the past few weeks I have been reading Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter. I am enjoying the narrative and the colourful cast of characters. Have you read this book? If so what did you think?

#walk1000miles:

I hit my #walk1000miles target on 25th June 2019. Since then I have been continuing to clock up my miles in the hope of getting to 2000 miles come the end of the year! My weekly total has been 39, bringing my annual total to 1,073 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

New Life:

For the first time since I can recall we have not one, but two herring gull nests around our house. They have made nests on nearby chimney stacks. One nest had three chicks, whereas the other only two. On Friday we noticed that the nest with three chicks only had two. On further inspection David found a grim discovery. One of the chicks had fallen (or been thrown) from the nest. He was stranded on a roof and come Saturday morning his body was no longer there. Sad times.

Baking:

This weekend, David made some more cupcakes. He made peanut butter ones and some Victoria sponges for me. Yummy!

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Victoria Cupcakes

The Aviary (part 2:)

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Nero

On a happier note to end with, on Saturday David and I visited a pet shop in Warrington. We were looking for a mate for Star our star finch but they only sold pairs. So we opted for a male black head/purple chest Lady Gouldian. I named him Nero. He is a beauty! He has been trying to catch the eye of our resident female. I hope he is successful.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens is devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.

There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!

The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.

Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!

Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.

Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-six.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_26Day 26: The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Day’s Wild is almost at a close. In some ways 2019’s challenge has been difficult. I had planned on so many great days out but unfortunately illness put a stop to that. However what I have managed to achieve I am proud off. I hope you have enjoyed the journey too?

Today’s post is about Tuning in by switching off.

I won’t be able to completely turn off electronic devises until after work as I use a travel app on my phone for bus journeys. However I am switching off once I get home at 5pm.

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No technology!

Instead of switching on the radio, I will listen to the bird song in the yarden. Most evenings David and I will watch a film on the laptop. Tonight I shall sit and read a book.

Have you ever had a day off technology? How successful was it? Did you feel more relaxed away from the madness of social media, felt more connected to nature?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

 

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

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Seven.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_07Day 7: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I am going to tune in to the symphony of birdsong. If you listen closely birdsong is on the air all the time. Even in the late hour of night or early morning the song of a blackbird, confused with urban street lighting can be heard. While on my 40 minute walk to work this morning here’s what birds I managed to hear and identify.

Blackbird, blue tit, chaffinch, crow, great tit, goldfinch, house sparrow, pied wagtail, robin, starling, swallow, wood pigeon

According to the RSPB since 1966 we have lost more than 40 million birds in the UK. This April the RSPB released a single – Let Nature Sing. The aim of the campaign was to highlight the plight of birds nationally. The single got to no.18 in the UK charts. Below is a video of the single with subtitles of each birdsong featured.

What’s your favourite birdsong?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Six.

download (2)Day 6: Continuing from my 2018 30 Days Wild, Thursday’s will be know as Throw Back Thursday’s!

In 2018 I went in search of worms. The smell of rain or petrichor scented the air in 2017. I read a wild book in 2016 and in 2015 I bought homes for wildlife. For this year I’ll revisit the #randomactofwildness of reading a Wild book!

There can be nothing more wild than 365 Days Wild by Lucy McRobert. This beautiful book is packed full with nature inspired ideas for every day and every season.

What is your favourite wild book?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x