Goodbye 2018…and Hello 2019!

Happy New Year from Christine, David, Artie and Riley! Here’s hoping 2019 is a year full of love, laughter and friendship!

It’s taken a while but below find the annual video sharing the most memorable moments of 2018. Here’s hoping 2019 will just be as wonderful!

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with us!

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #56

It’s been ages since I’ve written a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins). So as 2018 draws to a close I’ve decided to compile one last Sunday Sevens to top off a wonderful Christmas week.

Christmas:

To get into the festive spirit, Mum and I attended a Carol Service at the local church. While on Christmas Day, David and I played host to our parents for a wonderful Christmas dinner.

Walking the dog:

Over the festive period we managed to get out and about with Riley. I enjoyed the walks as much as Riley and my miles totted up nicely. My final week’s mileage for #walk1000miles is 30.

Music:

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Zimmer Vs Williams

On Thursday David and I attended a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. The programme was Zimmer vs Williams and featured music from films such as Star Wars, E.T, The Dark Knight and Pirates of the Caribbean. I enjoyed the concert, David was less enamoured.

Wildlife:

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Tree Bumblebee

Today David saved a bee! I think this tree bumblebee had either been disturbed or was an old queen. After research I found that due to warmer winters bumblebees, the tree bumblebee included are choosing to start new nests rather than hibernate. A consequence of global warming? Whatever the reason this tree bumblebee looked in need of assistance. So we gave her sugar/water and left her to rest in the yarden.

Have you seen any bees flying this wintertime?

New Friend: 

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Luna

This weekend David and I acquired a new friend for the aviary, a Lady Gouldian Finch we named Luna. How beautiful is he?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

All the best for 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

Day Twenty-nine: Today’s photo prompt is, this year – a reflection.

On reflection 2018 has been pretty much a perfect year! There may have been the odd blip (e.g. like the burst water pipe) but otherwise there have been many more positives to glean from the year than negatives. Below find a small gallery of pictures from the year.

How has 2018 been for you?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2018

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. As December comes to a close and 2019 draws ever closer, it’s time to look back at 2018. And what a year 2018 has been! David and I have been on a wonderful adventure together. Below find 12 random pictures that highlight what a fantastic year 2018 has been!

 January:

The year began with a seven mile walk at Gisburn Forest, in the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It certainly blew the cobwebs away and set the tone for the rest of the year ahead.

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Forest Walk

February:

Desperate to get out and catch as much winter sun as we could, David and I embarked on a 10 mile circular walk of my much loved Derwentwater in the Lake District.

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Derwentwater

March:

The highly anticipated exhibition of China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors opened at Liverpool’s World Museum. I visited in March with David and then again in September with mum.

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Terracotta Warriors

April:

I was over the moon when I completed my first 500 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I only had another 500 to complete, which I accomplished in July!

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Reaching 500 miles

May:

With the weather hotting up David and I took yet another trip to The Lake District. This time we walked towards Bleaberry Tarn for a blissfully warm wild swim.

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Bleaberry Tarn

June:

June for me is undoubtedly all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This year was extra special as I managed to blog every day. We spent a wonderful month visiting many new nature reserves and even managed to squeeze in a short break to The Lake District, where we waked alpacas along Derwentwater.

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At Derwentwater

July:

The highlight of July was having my friend from California, USA come to stay with us for a few days. As requested, we visited the Lake District for what turned out to be a rather soggy hike around Rannerdale Knotts.

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Selfie Time!

August:

We took a trip down to see Dippy the Diplodocus at Birmingham Museums. This free  exhibition was a little bit different from our other days out this year.

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Dippy at Birmingham

September:

A wild swim dream came true this month when David and I took a short break to the Highlands of Scotland. I managed to bag three swims! It has whetted my appetite to visit again in future.

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Getting changed, Loch Etive

October:

As a birthday treat I, along with David and my mum took a visit to Liverpool’s newly opened Cat Cafe. We seemed to be a magnet for naughty, hungry kitties.

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Christine and Rose

November:

The Lake District has played a heavy part in 2018. Imagine my happiness when we discovered that Riley could manage the two hours travel up to Cumbria. (He suffers badly with car sickness). Our first visit with Riley tagging along was to the serene Rydal Water and Grasmere.

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David and Riley at Rydal Water

December:

December is all about the excitement of Christmas. My favourite picture from December is undoubtedly Riley with Santa Paws.

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Let’s hope 2019 will be another kind year!

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

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Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

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Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

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Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Day on the Isle of Skye

I don’t know why, but I’ve found it rather hard to write this post. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the day was marred by the weather? Or that I was generally disappointed in not taking in a swim? Either way this post has been a long time in coming.

Skye was some three hours drive from our base at Fort William. On our drive west we passed many lochs, some more picturesque than others. I found the view of Loch Cluanie rather rugged and industrial. I later read that it is a reservoir for the generation of hydro-electric power.

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Eilean Donan Castle

On towards Loch Duich, we passed signs for The Battle of Glenshiel, where British Governmental Forces faced and defeated Jacobites, who were supported by a Spanish regiment during a rebellion in 1719. During this insurgency Eilean Donan Castle, was partially destroyed, having been taken by the Spanish as their headquarters and subsequently bombarded by the British Navy. For 200 years the castle lay ruined until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle to its former glory.

We crossed the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and progressed north towards Portree. On our journey along the A87 we stopped to admire some Highland Cattle. They drew quite a crowd!

From Portree we headed towards the Old Man of Storr. We got to this iconic rock formation at midday, and even though rain filled clouds obscured most of the Trotternish Ridge and the car par was full, we luckily found parking in a lay-by further along the road.

The landscape of oddly shaped pinnacles and rocky buttresses that make up The Sorr was created by an ancient landslide. We followed the path from the car park up towards these towering outcrops. As we gained height, swathes of cloud swirled around the Old Man. It made for very atmospheric pictures. The area had a mythological feel to it, and I could imagine armies of Orcs from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings appearing from out of the mist.

During our two hour walk there were no views of the Sound of Raasay or of Loch Leathan as cloud obscured everything the higher we got. There came a point when even the Old Man was concealed. It was time to call it a day, so we headed back to the car. We found that on our ascent our backs got completely drenched by the rain, whilst on our descent our fronts got the same treatment. We returned to the car with three layers of clothing sodden.

I’d planned on a walk to Loch leathan to embark on another Highland swim. However the dark, dreary weather had taken it’s toll on me and I decided that a soaking at the Old Man of Storr was enough for me that day. We agreed to leave the area and head south, trying to escape the approach of tropical storm Helene.

Our final destination on Skye was Kylerhea, part of Scotland’s Forestry Commission. From the car park there is a short walk to a wildlife hide which overlooks the strait towards the Scottish mainland. The hide is billed as one of the best places in Britain to see otters, dolphins, sharks and the mighty white-tailed sea eagle. On this dismal day all we saw was a seal popping up for air, a grey heron and many sea birds that were too far away to identify.

On leaving a darkening Kylerhea, I felt that the visit was rather a waste of time. However on the three hour drive home we agreed that we had manage to see all we had planned with the exception of a swim. Though the weather may not have been kind to us on Skye we did enjoy the sights we saw, even if we were drenched to the skin!

Have you visited Skye? Any fond memories?

Thanks for reading,

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 #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.

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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:

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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.

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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