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

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Thirteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13Day 13: Today is Throw Back Thursday! 2015 was all about pets, while in 2016 I counted bees and celebrated Meat Free Day. During 2017 I looked out for newborns and in 2018 I planned a wild adventure. For this year’s 30 Days Wild, I’ll revisit the #randomactofwildness of looking for newborns.

Already this season fledged blue tits, goldfinches, sparrows and starlings have visited the yarden.

Have you seen any fledged birds this season?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Two.

TWT-30-Days-Wild_countdown_02Day 2: We decided to stay local today and headed to my favourite local nature reserve, Lunt Meadows.

On our three mile walk, we listened to the chirruping of warblers, watched acrobatic swifts and cooed over cute avocet chicks. Though the weather was not sunny there were many bees foraging and small moths were in abundance. It made for a peaceful few hours outside.

Did you manage to get outside today? Where is your favourite local nature reserve?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

The Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawks have featured a few times on my blog. The first was a fleeting visit where I didn’t even have time to pick up my camera. The second visit, last year, was of a male sparrowhawk surveying the area.

The most recent visitation by this enigmatic bird arrived on a dreary August bank holiday Monday. David was just about to do the dishes when he exclaimed, ‘there’s a sparrowhawk on the wall!’

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Female Sparrowhawk

For the next half hour or so we both watched on amazed as a female sparrowhawk sat on the wall and devoured her prey, a poor little starling. We had never seen a sparrowhawk with its prey before. It was a bit gruesome and sad for the starling but you have to think with your head and not with your heart on these matters. If there were no small birds for the sparrowhawk to prey upon, then there would be no sparrowhawks either.

Due to their prey being primarily songbirds (they do eat small mammals too), sparrowhawks often come into conflict with birdwatchers. However there is no correlation between a dip in songbirds and predation by sparrowhawks. In the past there have been two studies on the influence of predation and songbird numbers. Both studies noted that there was in fact more of an increase in songbird numbers than an actual negative correlation when predated by sparrowhawks. Sparrowhawks are noted to prey on the old and infirm, creating a survival of the fittest gene pool for songbirds. Sparrowhawks feed mainly on sparrows, tits, finches and starlings, however female sparrowhawks can hunt birds as large as a pigeon. Recent research led me to discover that the sparrowhawk sometimes does not quickly dispatch of it’s prey. Anything bigger than a sparrow will face a lingering death while being eaten, if a vital organ/artery is not punctured. It made for a sobering read.

The sparrowhawk has in the past been subjected to persecution by trophy hunters and in the 1950’s their numbers crashed due to usage of pesticides such as DDT in farming. It was only after DDT was banned and the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 was passed protecting sparrowhawks, that their numbers increased.

The sparrowhawk is one of the UK’s smallest birds of prey. It is the perfect ambush predator, easily maneuvering in enclosed spaces such as woodland and gardens. However only 1 in 10 hunts result in a meal for the sparrowhawk. Females can be up to 25% larger than males. Sparrowhawks are relatively short lived, their maximum age is around 3 years, but some can live to around seven. They are found all over the UK apart from the Highlands of Scotland. Their eyes change colour with age, starting green and growing more yellow with maturity.

Sparrowhawks are seen as a top predator and their presence indicates that the bird population in an area is healthy. Though it was unpleasant to witness the sparrowhawk with its prey, I was amazed at seeing her in the yarden. Nature after all isn’t sunshine and flowers. I must be doing something right with the feeding of the little birds in order to bring the larger birds to the area.

Have you come close to a sparrowhawk? Seen one with it’s kill? What are your thoughts on UK raptors?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.


Further reading:

Some of the web resources I visited while compiling this blog were:

Springwatch.

Discover Wildlife.

British Bird Lovers.

RSPB.

Living with Birds.

Sunday Sevens #42

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Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series, Sunday Sevens. Here’s a quick update on my week.

Walking the Dog:

I thought I’d begin this week’s post with our run with Riley. It seems like every weekend when we arrive at Sefton Park, it hails on us. Today it was also blowing a gale! Riley didn’t seem to mind though as we followed his path around the park. We had a good 2 mile walk and even spotted parakeets flying from the tree tops.

#walk1000miles:

Tying in neatly with dog walking, is the #walk1000miles challenge. This week I’ve been feeling pretty lazy. Though recently recovering from a chill, I’ve had no excuse to not crank up the miles. However I’ve just felt to tired. I think the coldness of February is filtering into my bones, making me want to hibernate. I keep dreaming of warmer days. They will be here soon. I just need to get through the winter months. My weekly total has been 27 miles, bringing my annual mileage to 196 miles.

A Year in Books:

This week I’ve picked up Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. I can’t remember who suggested it to me but at present I am enjoying the story and characters. I think this book will be bitter sweet. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Aviary:

This week sadly our little aviary has become one less as we found Paris, one of our male owl finches, had passed away. He had been fluffed up for quite some time. I had hoped it was just with the cold, but it must have been with some illness. He was adorable and my love affair with owl finches will continue. I think they are so beautiful.

A New Friend:

Keeping with the avian theme. This week I’ve been trying to gain the trust of a visiting robin. He’s pretty brave and sings softly to me as I hold out the bird food to him. Sadly I’ve not been able to have him eating from my hand but he has been hopping close by. He watches me as I lay the food out and when I turn my back he jumps down and helps himself to the fare. I’ve been enjoying his daily visits. Long may they continue.

Shopping:

Saturday was all about shopping. David and I headed into Liverpool city centre before driving through the tunnel to Cheshire Oaks, where I managed to get a white fleece from Mountain Warehouse. David was looking for waterproof jackets, this was one of his favourites.

Yarden:

I thought I’d finish this post with an update on the yarden. I have one lowly snowdrop blooming. It looks rather chewed upon but at least it has made a show. I have a few more iris flowering and thought their petals looked nice with raindrops on them.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Colour Bingo!

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oDrawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.

The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?

 

Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!

I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.

I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.

Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.

Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.

Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.

For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.

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Borage

I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its blue instead.

Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

SUPERCLEAN™ – But What Does it Mean?

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

So, you’ve decided to start feeding the birds visiting your outdoor space, (be it a garden, yard or balcony), and that’s a good thing. But there’s so many different types of bird food that you don’t know where to begin!

There’s seed for finches, soft food for robins, peanuts for tits and suet for starlings! The choice can make your head spin!

But did you also know there’s different qualities of food too? There’s the cheap supermarket bought versions which are full of dust and germinate once fallen on soil.

Then there’s SUPERCLEAN™!

Haith’s kindly offered me some of their Premium Wild Bird Food to sample. Or more importantly my visiting garden birds to sample! They sent me a bag of SUPERCLEANseed and another bag of uncleaned seed. You can tell the difference straight away from the pictures taken by David below. The uncleaned seed had pieces of wood, dust and seed husks whereas the SUPERCLEAN™ looked polished and wholesome. Which seed would you prefer too feed your birds?

 

Why do Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their foods? 

The reason Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their seed is due to studies by Professor John E Cooper DTVM FRCPath FSB CIBiol FRCVS, who found that birds who ate abrasive materials easily damaged their respiratory tracts. This damage in turn leads to increased vulnerability to illness and disease.

Haith’s kindly asked me to help spread their message about SUPERCLEANand the importance of feeding good quality seed to wild birds. The below info-gram is helpful in explaining their process.

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And if all that isn’t enough they have birder and conservationist extraordinaire Bill Oddie explaining the process.

And how did the SUPERCLEANseed fare? On a freezing winter’s day, with snow forecast, the wild birds needed all the high energy seed they could get. I filmed many goldfinches on the feeders and a very cheeky pigeon helping himself to the seed on offer from the Multifeeder!!

If you would like to see the variety of bird foods from Haith’s follow this link: https://www.haiths.com

What are your opinions on bird seed?

Thanks for reading?

Christine x

Product Placement – Haith’s

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.

goodiesThe products to be reviewed  were: 

  • MultiFeeder Plus: a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
  • Fat balls (small): I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
  • (Original) wild bird food: Compiled from a recipe dating back to the 1960’s.

I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.

The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.

The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.

seed

Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.

Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.

What the birds thought of the multifeeder:

It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.

Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!

At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.

The wild bird food and fat balls were a hit with all classes of bird.

What I thought of the multifeeder:

I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!

Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!

The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.

Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.

I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.


Links:

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.

Haith’s website offers more bird foods, such as peanuts, niger and livefood. If you would like to see their entire range follow: https://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: https://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

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

Robin:

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

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

Dunnock:

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

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

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #21

Since I’ve managed to snap a few photos this week, I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Last Sunday was a hectic one! Not only did we visit Warrington looking for Christmas presents, we also managed to acquire four new friends for the aviary! Welcome to the Connor-Evans family, Forrest and Tarn, the Blue- faced Parrot Finches and Bill and Silvie, the Chocolate Silverbills.

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White Poinsettia

On our travels we also popped into Bents to purchase a Poinsettia. I have been after a white Poinsettia since David gifted me one last Christmas. All the shops we visited had red ones, but at Bents they had a selection of red and white! Poinsettia’s can be poisonous to pets, so I’ve kept Artie away from mine.

Taking about Artie, he has been enjoying his Advent Calendar this month, as can be seen in the video below. 🙂

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, Friday 16th December was Christmas Jumper Day. As I don’t have a Christmas jumper, I wore my winter themed t-shirt to work! I also managed to (finally) purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. It’s festooned with pine cones and even has festive lights! I think it looks quite fetching on the door!

Earlier in the week the yarden was visited by a pair of Great Tits. I managed to film one on the feeder.

Mid-week, while out walking the family dog, Riley I counted:

  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Dunnock
  • Numerous Goldfinches and Pigeons
  • 1 Sparrow
  • 1 Grey Wagtail!

To fill the dark, cosy nights I have returned to a book I started reading last year! The Night Falling by Katherine Webb. It’s a pretty grim read but I will persevere.

On Saturday, David invited his family around for a curry night. He served his signature dish with naan and sides.

To finish off this post, I will share with you a snap I have taken of some home made mince pies. They have just come out of the oven! I will sample one later with some cream. 🙂

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Mince Pies

Have you been doing any cooking for Christmas? What are your favourite traditions at this time of year?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx