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!’

sparrowhawk female

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.

Advertisements

Sunday Sevens #52

I’m back to writing a Sunday Sevens, the wonderful series devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Bees Needs Week 2018

It was George on his gardening blog, here, who alerted me to this annual initiative, coordinated by Defra. The aim of this week (9th-15th July 2018) is to raise awareness of pollinators and help in sustaining their numbers by planting more flowers, cutting grass less and letting your garden grow wild!

The Yarden:

At the weekend we visited Rivendell Garden Centre, Widnes. I bought a beautiful delphinium and also managed to replace my salvia mystic spires. I was so happy, it’s the small things! Among the many bee species that visit the yarden, I spied a male early bumblebee enjoying the cat mint.

toad

Common Frog

Later on in the week David and I had a surprise in the yarden. I had thought our tadpoles, who had seemed happy in our little urban pond, had sadly passed away. We had not seen any in or around the pond for weeks. However on pottering about the yarden David called me over excitedly and pointed to a frog clinging to the wall. I was amazed! One of our tiny tadpoles had grown and metamorphosed into a frog!

Hoodwinked:

This week David and I visited Nottingham to see their round of robins. (I tried to find the collective for robins, but there were numerous suggestions!) Once we had spotted 17 of the 33 we decided to have lunch at Sherwood Forest. I blogged about the day here.

Book I am reading:

the ice twins

The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

The current book I am reading is The Ice Twins, a suggestion by my mum. She said it was a page turner. It is billed as a psychological thriller, based around the death of a twin girl, the other claims mistaken identity. Set among the highlands of Scotland, the plot follows a family who have been broken by the death of a child and an affair. They relocate to an isolated island in the hope of a new beginning. I doubt very much that will happen!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

#walk1000miles:

I broke the 1000 mile mark on 13th July 2018. I celebrated in typical Christine-style by taking a swim at Llyn Dinas, Snowdonia. I will write further on that adventure soon.

swim1

Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

So, that was my eventful week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Beautiful Wildflower Meadow

Sunday, 1st of July, the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild had come to an end, but I was in no mood to end the wildness. So David and I decided to head out for a walk at a local nature reserve, Pickerings Pasture. Only 25 minutes drive from Liverpool, Pickerings Pasture in Halebank is a Green Flag Award winning Local Nature Reserve. Boasting acres of wildflower meadows and stunning views of the upper Mersey estuary. There is a free car park and wheelchair accessible paths. David and I spent a leisurely hour there.

What caught our eye instantly was a flash of vibrant colour as we drove into the car park. A beautiful wildflower meadow was blooming, with poppies, cornflowers and daisies. The meadow was abundant with insects. Bees buzzed in between butterfly wings and there were so many meadow browns I was giddy with excitement!

Even though there were many people walking their dogs or biking, the area seemed a peaceful oasis. We will definitely return.

Have you seen a beautiful wildflower meadow where you are?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Thirty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_30Day 30: I can’t quite believe that June is almost over! How quick the month has flown. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild has been wonderful in focusing the mind to the nature that is all around. Also blogging everyday has been challenging but ultimately enjoyable. Would I do it all again? Probably. There is so much out there to see and learn.

Today’s post, from Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve is a little bit different. I decided to make you all a message via a vlog. I hope you enjoy my celebration of 2018’s 30 Days Wild? Thanks to David for piecing the video together.

During our walk through Lunt Meadows there were so many butterflies, I lost count! Meadow browns, tortoiseshells and red admirals were among the numbers. The highlight for me was seeing avocets hovering and chattering overhead. It looked like they were having a heated argument with some geese!

June 2018 has well and truly been a month to remember and thank you for following me in my wild adventures!

If you have participated in 30 Days Wild this year, what have been your highlights?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_29Day 29: For the penultimate day of 2018’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go looking for moths. In the past I have never been successful in my moth hunts. This year wasn’t any different, however I spent a peaceful evening in the yarden. I enjoyed the quietude of sitting outside as the night darkened. The air was warm and scented heavily with jasmine. I saw many micro-moths but none stopped for a photograph. My light trap was ineffectual once again.

With nothing to show for my time outdoors, I decided to rummage through my archive of photos and show you the moths I have been lucky in seeing.

A few years ago we did see a plume moth but it looks like I never saved the photograph. 😦

Some facts:

There are 2,500 species of moth in the UK. Not all moths are active at night. Some moths have proboscis but others as adults have none, these moths rely on fat stores and only live up to a week. Moths have sense receptors on their legs and other parts of their bodies to smell, and they hear through their wings. Some species are expert at camouflage while others (especially their caterpillars) mimic other species in defense to being preyed upon. They are food for many birds and mammals.

If you’ve been luckier than I have in your moth sightings, do let me know which species has caught you eye.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-six

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_26Day 26: It’s back to work this week after a lovely break. One positive to working in Stockbridge Village is that there are a few social enterprises, such as Mab Lane Community Woodland and Woolfall Heath Meadowto enjoy.

I visited Woolfall Heath Meadow before work and spent a leisurely half an hour walking around the circular path through grassland.

It was a hot day, the thermometer reaching 24°C. The area was very quiet and I only saw two people walking their dogs. As I walked along the path, soaking up the rays of the sun, the chirp of grasshoppers sounded at my feet while willow warblers sung from the shelter of nearby trees.

The River Alt runs through the site and I sat overlooking a reedbed while watching as red admirals fluttered past. There were many meadow browns flying over the meadow but non stopped still enough for me to take a picture.

Of the flowers I spotted were, bindweed, thistles and field scabious. Bees enjoyed the ever popular brambles.

Do you have a community development like this one near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-four

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: Today we visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve, Congleton. This small nature reserve has a lake and a one mile circular walk through woodland, heath and grassland, which is popular with dog walkers. There is also a visitor centre. The car park charge was £2 for up to three hours, or £3 for all day. I was slightly saddened that nature sightings weren’t very high but there were butterflies and damsels fluttering over the many spotted orchids in a wildflower meadow.

We did spot a striking broad bodied chaser, a species neither of us had seen before.

Have you visited Brereton Heath Local Nature Reserve? Have something like it near you?

Thanks for reading and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-two

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: National Insect Week runs from the 18th to 24th June 2018. So for today’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go in search of insects in the yarden.

I peered under ivy and lifted rocks in the hope of finding some arthropods but all I found was a few frightened spiders.

I did have many flying insects visiting the yarden. Bees featured heavily. I saw my first honeybee of the season and a leaf-cutter bee foraged from flower to flower. A strange looking wasp also ventured into the yarden but didn’t stay for long.

I didn’t see any beetles, nor sight or sound of ants. They all must be hiding.

Have you done anything for National Insect Week?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eighteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: For today’s Close Up Monday, the animal (I believe) most synonymous with the Lake District, is the Herdwick. Their name stems from the Old Norse, Herdwyck, meaning sheep pasture. Herdwick sheep are the most hardy of Britain’s hill sheep. They can roam some 3,000ft around the central and western fells, and territoriality keep to their heaf, which is a learnéd bit of fell they graze.

Info taken from Herdy® states that, Lake District Herdwick farms are granted commoner grazing rights, which set the number of sheep on any given common by the grazing capacity of the fell.

Herdwick (2)

Herdwick Sheep

Each farm has its own way of identifying straying herdwicks. Lug marks are small notches on the sheep’s ear, whereas smit marks are coloured marks on the sheep’s fleece.

The herdwick’s body has evolved to withstand the extreme winters of the Lake District. They also have resistance to diseases and ticks. They are primarily bread for meat.

The lambs are born black, but within a year they turn brown (at this stage they are called hogglets/hoggs). After their first sheering their fleece lightens to grey.

Their grazing of heather and grass, keeps bracken and scrub under control, which in turn helps keep the Lake District look.

Their wool is best suited to carpet wool and is a good insulator.

What animal do you think is synonymous with the Lake District?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Fifteen

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_15Day 15: I decided to turn to The Wildlife Trusts for inspiration. Their app suggesting 101 Random Acts of Wildness is free to download and easy to use. Today’s choice was to explore somewhere wild.

I walk past a community woodland daily, so decided to make a quick visit before work.

Mab Lane Community Woodland is part of the Mersey Forest and was opened in 2010. Before that the land was disused and a spot for fly-tipping. However the land was developed, 20,000 trees were planted and now there are pathways for both walkers and cyclists and is a haven for wildlife.

On my short walk, I noticed bees enjoying the brambles, wildflowers among the grasses, swallows flying overhead and the noisy chatter of baby birds in the trees.

Do you have a community development like this one near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x