Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

A Year in Books 2020 – April to June

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Since the end of June I’ve been in a bit of a slump regarding this post. I’ve just had no inclination to write it. Do any of my fellow bloggers ever feel that way? Anyway, better late than never! My reading in April started well due to lockdown but slowed as the summer months progressed. I’m bogged down at present with Catherine Taylor’s Beyond the Moon, I just don’t care for the characters or narrative. Have you ever read a book that you struggled with?

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult  ✩✩✩

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

Quite a hard book to get into at the beginning but once the story warmed up I grew to enjoy it. There were some parts regarding racism that were not easy to read but the court case was entertaining enough.

Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes  ✩✩✩

Liza McCullen will never escape her past. But the unspoilt beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves – if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah.

Until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel, and the peace of Silver Bay is shattered. The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and disturbing eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbours her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love – never deserve to love – again.

This Jojo Moyes novel is definitely a book to read on a hot summers day. The characters were likable and I enjoyed the descriptions of dolphin and whale watching. With a heart warming ending, it made for a pleasant read.

The Five – Hallie Rubenhold  ✩✩✩

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved anything to do with the mystery that was Jack the Ripper. This book is trying to give voice to his victims. Some of the information gathered is vague but what a revelation regarding Annie Chapman, who was a well do woman who sadly became down and out and faced her end at the sharp edge of a knife. A very thought provoking book.

Swimming Wild in the Lake District – Suzanna Cruikshank  ✩✩✩✩

An informative and inspiring book for both new and experienced wild swimmers, exploring the larger lakes in the beautiful Lake District National Park. It contains sections on getting started in wild swimming, how to look after your own safety and impartial advice on all the essential kit you’ll need.

Illustrated with stunning photography, and featuring overview maps, the book has all the practical information you need to plan your wild swimming adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced wild swimmer or just dipping your toes in the water for the first time you’ll find plenty to inspire your next adventure.

This book came out at exactly the right time. During lockdown I’d been itching for a wild swim fix and this book helped relieve that itch somewhat. With detailed chapters on access to all of the big lakes in the Lake District, there were only two in the book that I hadn’t visited. The information from this book helped me plan my first swim of 2020 in Coniston Water.

Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner  ✩✩

After breaking up with the love of her life, Chloe’s friends tell her she needs to get back out there, and find another man before it’s too late. But after a particularly disastrous date and one too many gins, Chloe has a revelation – she doesn’t need a man to make her happy. It’s up to her to do it herself.

Never one to do things by halves, Chloe decides to make the ultimate commitment to self-love – she’ll marry herself! But planning a solo wedding isn’t easy, and soon Chloe finds herself on a bumpy journey of self-discovery. Will she finally get her happy ever after?

Oh dear, this isn’t my kind of book and I don’t know why I even downloaded it! Looking for something to read during lockdown, I saw an advertisement for the book and well, I’m glad I managed to get through it. There were just too many stereotypes for my liking.

Max, the miracle Dog – Kerry Irving ✩✩✩✩

In 2006, a traumatic car accident changed Kerry Irving’s life forever.
 
Suffering from severe neck and back injuries, Kerry was unemployed and housebound, struggling with depression and even thoughts of suicide. He went from cycling over 600 miles a month to becoming a prisoner in his own home.
 
With hope all but lost, Kerry’s wife encouraged him to go on a short walk to the local shop. In the face of unbearable pain and overwhelming panic, he persevered and along the way, met an adorable yard dog named Max. As the Spaniel peered up through the railings, Kerry found comfort and encouragement in his soulful brown eyes. This chance encounter marked a turning point in both their lives.
 
In Max, Kerry found comfort and motivation and in Kerry, Max found someone to care for him. This is their remarkable, inspiring story.

A lovely heart warming read about a dog rescuing a man. Max and Kerry, with Paddy and Harry in tow have a strong following on their Facebook page, Max out in the Lake District.

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn ✩✩✩✩

Present day: Anna is focused on renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing water colours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world in search of the truth.

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

I really enjoyed this book and will look out for more novels by Kayte Nunn. Both female protagonists were likable and the adventure to Chile was exciting. Nunn managed to weave an entertaining narrative with a sad and shocking end.

Holding – Graham Norton ✩✩

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel.

I’m sorry but I didn’t like this sedate bumbling novel by Graham Norton. I found the narrative rather boring and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-four.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: For today’s RAW or Random Act of Wildness, The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app has chosen: unleash an inner artist: sketch the wild up close. Since it’s National Insect week, and joining in the spirit of the occasion for 30 Days Wild, (even though I’m no artist) I’ve picked up coloured pencils and made a sketch of my favourite moth, (one I’ve still yet to see in the wild) the elephant hawk moth.

elephant hawk moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

Some facts on the elephant hawk moth:

    • Adults can be seen between May and August
    • Wingspan can be up to 6cm
    • They feed on nectar
    • Adults are nocturnal
    • Their caterpillars look like they have a face and can grow up to 85mm in length
    • So named due to the fact that their caterpillars look like an elephant’s trunk

What is your favourite moth?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

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 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

Sunday Sevens #71

Wow! It’s been such a long time since I updated you all with a Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

#walk1000miles

With the start of a new year, I was excited to begin counting the miles to 1000 again! This week however my miles have been hobbled by my clumsy self, breaking (yet again) my little toe. I have had to restrict the amount of walking I’ve been doing until it heals. So as feared my miles gained this week have been a pitiful. 25 miles, bringing my new total to 190 miles.

Book I am Reading: 

At present I am reading JoJo Moyes’s – The Girl You Left Behind.  It begins in an occupied town in France during the First World War and follows the fortune of Sophie whose husband has joined the French army. Edouard was a gifted painter and leaves Sophie behind with her portrait which herr Kommandant has fallen in love with. The second half of the novel sees Liv, who has Sophie’s portrait in her home and learns of the troubled history of the painting. I have just read Sophie’s chapters and now begin Liv’s. It’s an easy read but quite harrowing in parts. A much better novel than The Horse Dancer!

Have you read any good books lately?

Theatre:

an inspector calls

An Inspector Calls

Do you ever get excited about seeing something and then when you do, it is a total disappointment? Well that is what happened when we visited The Playhouse, Liverpool to see J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector CallsI enjoyed reviewing the play during my 2017 A Year in Books, so was excited to see the stage performance. However this ‘visionary, radical, challenging version of JB Priestley’s classic thriller‘, directed by Stephen Daldry for National Theatre really missed the mark for me. Daldry’s production began with World War Two bomb sirens. The stage design was of a house that would ultimately be destroyed by German V2’s. The whole stage design sat uneasy with me and did not help the drama between the cast. The play is set during a dinner party in the Edwardian period, before World War One, however in this production most of the action was on a street outside a house. It never really jelled for me. The only saving grace was the atmospherics and soundtrack.

Have you seen this play, if so what did you think?

New Tech:

2020 has begun rather disappointingly in more ways than one! In January I discovered, to my sadness that I had somehow broken the lens on my Samsung S6 which I use predominantly as a camera. However I am blessed that we had the means to be able to purchase a replacement. I am now the proud owner of a Samsung S10 with wide lens and ultra slow motion. I’ve found the phone is more intelligent than I am!

djiDavid has just purchased a DJI Mavic Mini. For over a year we have been humming and ahhing about getting a drone to add more depth to my wild swim videos. This year David plucked up the courage and spent his pennies on this light weight drone. We’ve not tried it yet, what with Storm Ciara causing havoc, but I will report when we do.

Do you own a drone? Any tips?

Hans Zimmer Live (again):

hans

Hans Zimmer Live 2021

In 2017 I went to see Hans Zimmer Live in Liverpool, a year before that in Birmingham. Notice my surprise when he recently announced a European tour for 2021. With David and my brother Daniel we decided to purchase tickets to see the new show in March 2021 at Manchester Arena. I hope it’s as good as the original!

New Appliance: 

washing machineTo round off a rather disappointing week, we had the delivery of our new washing machine today. Only to find that the electrical plug isn’t long enough to reach our power socket. So we are having to move the socket some place else. In a house as old as ours, nothing is straight forward. I may not be able to use my new washing machine but I can admire it!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Hello to a New Decade!

I’m still quite traumatised that 2019 has finally come to an end. How did that happen? It was a year very much focused on family and wild swimming and oh yes, that trip to New York.

I enjoy making videos of the most memorable moments of the year. So here’s 2019’s! Enjoy!

Thank you for coming on the journey with us!

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

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