A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-two.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: Today’s 30 Days Wild is Close up Monday and we are focusing on the UK’s largest predator, Badgers! In 2019 David and I had the wonderful opportunity of watching wild badgers by partaking in an event at RSPB Haweswater. For as little as £12 pp (if you are a member), you can spend up to 90 minutes with these elusive yet iconic animals.

I am sure you local wildlife trust or RSPB site has a similar event, check out their website for more details.

Badger (Meles meles) Facts:

    • Badgers are mammals and sometimes are called brocks
    • They are common throughout Britain
    • They live in family groups underground called setts, and some setts can be 100 years old, being passed down from generation to generation
    • Badgers are part of the Mustelid family (otters and ferrets)
    • They grow to one metre in length
    • They are crepuscular (active dawn/dusk)
    • Playing and scent marking strengthens social bonding
    • Badgers can live up to 14 years though five to eight years is more optimistic
    • Females can have up to five cubs a litter and most cubs are born mid February, and will emerge above ground after 12 weeks
    • Up to 50,000 badgers are killed each year on UK roads
    • Badgers are omnivores but 60% of their diet are earthworms
    • They are the only predator of the hedgehog

Have you seen a wild badger?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

Badger Trust: https://www.badgertrust.org.uk/badgers
RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/other-garden-wildlife/mammals/badger/
Wildlife Trusts: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals/european-badger
The Woodland Trust:https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/08/badgers-what-do-they-eat-and-other-facts/

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Sixteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_16Day 16: Today’s 30 Days Wild is all about birdsong and hopefully being able to ID them more easily.

On my daily walk with Riley there are a number of birdsongs that I hear. I can ID a robin and a blackbird’s song but get confused when a chaffinch and wren add to the mix.

Here are some of the birds that live in my local park, that I hope to be able to ID more efficiently next time I’m out walking the dog.

robin

Robin

The Robin: Hopefully the easiest song to recall? The robin is part of the flycatcher and chat family. Other chat’s known are the stonechat, redstart and even nightingale. The robin is the gardener’s friend. I mainly see them of a winter, hence red breasts on Christmas cards. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Blackbird: my favourite bird song of all. The blackbird, the song of long, warm summer nights and early summer mornings. You can familiarise yourself with its song here. The blackbird is part of the thrush family. They like to eat insects, berries and worms. The females are confusingly brown but the males are strikingly black with yellow beaks. If you like their song here’s a one hour long rendition of their song, found here.

The Wren: This diminutive bird surely makes up for its size when singing its melodious repetitive song which lasts up to six seconds. You can familiarise yourself with its song here.

The Chaffinch: I don’t know why but I always struggle with the song of the robin and the chaffinch. The robin though has a higher pitched song to the chaffinch, the chaffinch song can be found here.

Greenfinch: The biggest eye opener on the list has been the song of the greenfinch! I always thought that the song of the greenfinch was the alarm call of the robin. We learn something new everyday and today the scratchy sound of the greenfinch isn’t the alarm call of a robin at all!! You can familiarise yourself with the greenfinch song here

The Song Thrush: I see song thrushes on my walks, but can never get a good picture of them. Being part of the same family as the blackbird, you can hear the similar tones in this thrush’s song. You can familiarise yourself with the song thrush melody here. Their conservation status is red. If you’d like to listen to an hours recording of the song thrush song, you can find it here.

So there you have it, six bird songs from my local birds. The RSPB website, found here is invaluable to understanding UK bird songs. YouTube videos are also a great help. There are also phone apps which can help ID bird songs, Warblr is a good resource and Merlin.

Which bird song do you like the best? My favourite will always be the blackbird.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Thirteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_13 Day 13: I’ve been feeling down these past few days so a bit of a lazy post for today’s 30 Days Wild I’m afraid. Today’s blog is a poem from Philip Larkin, taken from the illustrated anthology, Birds, from The British Museum, edited by Mavis Pilbeam.

We have another patient in the form of a pigeon called Pete who has a sore wing. Fingers crossed he makes a full recovery.

Pigeons

On shallow slates the pigeons shift together,
Backing against a thin rain from the west
Blown across each sunk head and settled feather,
Huddling round the warm stack suits them best,
Till winter daylight weakens and they grow
Hardly defined against the brickwork. Soon,
Light from a small intense lopsided moon
Shows them, black as their shadows, sleeping so.

What are your thoughts on pigeons?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twelve.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_12Day 12: Today’s 30 Days Wild is going to be a ladybird hunt. Right or wrong I prefer to call them ladybugs!! On my daily walk with Riley we follow a path close to a railway line. At present the embankment is full of nettles and I’ve seen shinning red against the greenery, lots of ladybugs. Native or not (harlequin) I’ve decided to take a count of how many ladybugs I see on my walk.

On today’s walk I spotted a grand total of 24 ladybugs, a mixture of native and harlequin. In one section of the walk there were an abundance of ladybird larvae. They do seem to like nettles and knapweed.

It looks like the photos I have captured are all harlequin ladybugs, however I have seen some two, seven spot and 16 spot ladybirds during my count. I find it quite hard to tell native ladybirds from harlequins. Maybe the white eyes are a give away?

There are around 40 native ladybirds in the UK. Their redness is a sign to predators that they bitter tasting, they also exude a liquid that detracts birds and ants. Adults hibernate in winter. Their larvae are voracious aphid eaters.

Harlequin ladybirds are from Asia and arrived in the UK in 2004. They are more prevalent in towns, hence seeing more in a local park. They are larger than the native ladybird and out compete natives in prey and will eat other ladybird’s eggs and larvae.

Have you seen any ladybirds where you live?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Five.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_05Day 5: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’ve decided to watch a webcam. There are so many wildlife webcams that it’s hard to chose. Just a quick search on Google brings up hundreds of links. Here’s a few I’ve watched over the past couple of weeks.

What are your go to favourite webcams?

The Wildlife Trusts’ web-page (here) is a good start to find wildlife webcams to watch. There’s webcams on mammals as well as birds.

If you like ospreys then you’ll find there are numerous webcams and websites dedicated to this beautiful bird. One of my favourite and the most clear camera is the Dyfi Osprey Project, found here, they have two chicks at present.

If peregrines are more your thing then Salisbury, Winchester and Leamington Spa all have peregrine webcams, but be quick their chicks are pretty big!

The Nest Box on Facebook, here, have a selection of webcams streaming live 24/7. This week I watched as six blue tit chicks from Cumbria fledged. The Nest Box still has streams of kestrel and starling nests.

These web-sites are all from the UK, but there can be found webcams from around the world. I hope you enjoy looking at some of these webcams and searching for your own.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day One.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01 Day 1: Who would have thought that during a raging pandemic, the likes the world hasn’t seen in a hundred years, that nature would be taking centre stage. With many people restricted to their homes, and less traffic on the roads the air has smelt cleaner, the stars easier to see. The change in seasons from winter into spring has unfolded before our very eyes.

Step into June and The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild, the annual celebration of all things wild-life! This year, as in previous years I shall endeavour to blog every day. Continuing the theme from the past two years, Monday’s shall be called: Close Up Monday’s, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper.

great tit 1

Great Tit

To start off 2020’s 30 Days Wild the first Close Up Monday will be all about the largest member of the tit family, the great tit. My interest in focusing on this bird was piqued when I recently saw someone post a picture of a great tit with a dead mouse on social media. I always thought they were seed and insect eaters but apparently they have been known to murder other birds, pied flycatchers in particular! I don’t know why I found this information startling as I’ve had murderous finches in my own aviary, so it happening in nature shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. 

So without further ado let’s get to know the great tit a bit better.

The great tit (Parus major) came seventh in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2020. This woodland bird, larger than a blue tit is increasingly becoming more common in urban settings, enjoying garden feeding stations and bullying smaller birds. Some studies have shown that UK great tits have evolved longer beaks than their European neighbours, a reason for this could be an adaption to accessing bird feeders.

Great tit’s can be seen all year round in the UK but I usually see them in my Liverpool yarden around May-June during the breeding period and during winter months too. They enjoy a range of seeds and insects. This spring I watched with amusement as a great tit fluttered about the ivy hunting out spiders. European great tits have been recorded to attack and eat hibernating bats. Recently some studies from the Netherlands have voiced concerns over climate change creating territorial conflict between great tits and migrating pied flycatchers, with great tit’s looking to have the upper hand.

great tit 2

Great Tit coming into land!

Great tit’s are recognised by their ‘teacher teacher’ call and have a lifespan of three years. They build their nests in tree holes or nest boxes, and can have up to nine eggs a brood. Their conservation status is green with an estimated two million birds in the UK. In 2012 I had the enjoyment of great tit parents bringing their two chicks to our yarden.

Do you have great tit’s visiting your garden? What is your favourite member of the tit family? Mine are the long-tailed tits, or titmice, they are just balls of fluff!

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further reading:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-tit/

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/tits-crests-and-warblers/great-tit

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/great-tit/

A brain-eating species called the great tit is threatening other birds — thanks to climate change

https://www.sciencealert.com/climate-breakdown-has-turned-this-adorable-birb-into-a-violent-killer

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2020

Now a permanent fixture in my calendar, the annual RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch this year fell between 25th -27th January 2020. I decided to do my hourly count on the Sunday, 11am to 12pm. Earlier I had topped up the yarden feeders in preparation. I boiled the kettle and made a pot of Bird and Wild espresso coffee which I got free with my order of the lovely RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch mug!

I sat by the window and waited for my feathered friends to visit. Though my tally was not as varied as previous years, there were no visits from the dunnock, robin or starlings. I did count 14 goldfinches, 9 pigeons and two noisy blue tits within the hour. The weather was grey and squally with a chilling breeze making the 8°C feel colder. I was hoping for a visit from the sparrowhawk, but she kept out of sight.

rspb big garden birdwatch

Graph of my count

If you were joining in with the count, how did you do?

Thanks for reading,

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.

badger2

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.

20191209_203129 (2)

Female Mockingbird

What have been your wildlife moments of 2019?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #68

You all know how much I love updating you all in a Sunday Sevens! I’ve managed to collate enough info this week for a post. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising the successful series.

Burton Mere:
Sunday 21st July 2019 was RSPB Burton Mere‘s 40th anniversary pin badge launch. David and I made our way to the reserve on this special occasion to purchase the much anticipated badge. The badge ID was unknown until we arrived. It was a cattle egret! A species that has nested and reared young in previous years. I paid the £2 donation and we enjoyed a few hours walking about the reserve.

Doris:
David has been curing pigeons again! This time a female pigeon with a sore eye, who was unable to close her beak. After a few attempts at capture, David managed to catch her and quickly discovered that she had canker, a bacterium that if left untreated can kill pigeons. David has bought tablets to treat this disease so after an overnight stay at Rescue No.49, Doris was released and has been seen frequenting the yarden every day this week. Thanks David for saving another life!

Doggy Day:
After all the uncertainty recently about David’s job, re: redundancies and reshuffling, an event at David’s work called Puppy Day helped him release the stresses and strains of daily life by spending time with dalmatian puppies.

Gulls:
During recent research I’ve discovered that there is no such thing as a seagull. They are just gulls seen at the seaside! However since their food and habitat is being encroached by humans these gulls are becoming more prevalent inland. The nesting gulls around our home I have learned are two different types. The gull nest to the back of our house is a herring gull and the nest to the front, I have identified as a lesser black-backed gull. On Friday the chick to the back had fallen from the nest (chimney stack) and now cries for food whilst on the roof. The adult tends to this chick so I am not too concerned. 

Watching birds while it rained:
This weekend was a rather damp squib, in more ways than one!! It rained constantly all day Saturday, so I decided to spend a good hour watching the birds visiting the yarden feeders. I saw four species of bird, 7 goldfinches, 5 sparrows, (who are so adventurous and like to explore every corner of the yarden). 13 Starlings and 4 pigeons. I even spotted a poor bedraggled honeybee trying to dodge the raindrops!

window

View from the window

#walk1000miles:
I’ve forgotten to calculate my miles recently. So when I did add up this week’s mileage, I found that I had walked 35 miles, bringing my annual total to 1,177!

Book I am reading?
Having finished The Heights by Juliet Bell I am left wondering what to read next. Any ideas??

riley

Riley:
I’ve noticed that since Riley has hit the prime age of 10, he has slowed down a lot. He no longer plays for as long as he used too and he stop and starts when going for a long walk. I worry for him. Do you have any tips on looking after an older dog?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x