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.

sparrowhawk

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.

common blue

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

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Colour Bingo – Autumn

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oThe first time I completed The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives – Colour Bingo, was in February this year, you can read that post here.

Since then, I forgot to participate in spring and summer. So I decided that I was overdue to do another one. I chose the glorious season of autumn in the hope of finding new variations of the colours.

The colours of the bingo are: red, black, white, grey, yellow, pink, cream, brown and green. Here’s what I came up with from my yarden for each colour.

The striking colour red features highly in the yarden this year. There are falling blueberry leaves, cotoneaster berries and ripening autumn growing raspberries.

Black is a hard colour to find. As it had been raining today I chose the black of wet soil. Not very imaginative I know, sorry!

White was a no-brainer. I picked the white of the late blooming dahlia. The hot summer of 2018 had severely stunted the growth of the dahlia, but I managed to get three flowers from it this year. Better than nothing!

For grey I chose the bark of the jasmine, while for the yellow I selected the lone honeysuckle flower still soldering on.

Pink was an easier colour. I could have chosen the pink of the penstemon or the delicate flowers of the verbena but I decided to go with the successful sedum.

The luscious petals of the fuchsia I chose for cream. This year has been the best showing of the fuschia. Perhaps the heat of the summer helped?

For brown I picked the brown leaves of the heuchera.

The colour Green, as you can imagine is abundant in the yarden. The ivy plant I deliberated was the best to depict this colour.

There were also the colour blue and purple in the yarden. For blue I chose the lithodora blue, while the purple I chose the beautiful salvia mystic spires. My yarden isn’t complete without this autumn flowering shrub.

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

The Oak Tree Experiment.

On my walk to work I pass a row of oak trees. At this time of year, I noticed they had dropped lots of acorns on the ground which crunched underfoot. This got me thinking. Perhaps I could rescue a couple and experiment to see if I could grow one of them? So, I gathered a few on my recent walk and took three decent looking acorns home.

After doing some research I noted that acorns should be brown when planting. Mine were green, so I don’t know whether they will grow or not. Either way, I found a spare pot in which to plant the acorns. I made three small holes and planted the acorns before covering over with soil. I sprinkled some water and have left the pot in a sunny area. I shall update you on the progress of these little acorns and see if any of them will grow.

Have you been successful in growing a tree from seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #54

Recently, I’ve been itching to write a blog post but I’ve not had any new material. So the next best thing is to compile a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins and update you on that I’ve been up to this past week!

#walk1000miles:

I’m still counting my miles. This week I managed to walk 42 miles, bringing my annual total (to date) to 1,265 miles. I also attached my 2018 medal to the framed certificate. You can get your medal from the #walk1000miles shop.

Party Time:

David and I attended a party to celebrate the elopement of my cousin and his wife. They married earlier in the year in Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator officiating. The party at Leaf had a Las Vegas theme. There was also a photo booth for the guests to play around with.

Collecting:

Recently I obtained another Beatrix Potter 50 pence. This time it was Benjamin Bunny who I found in my change!

Book I Am Reading:

I am currently reading, and enjoying Swim Wild, a book written by the Wild Swimming Brothers, Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson.

Terracotta Warriors:

I treated mum to a visit to Liverpool’s World Museum to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibition. I didn’t take that many pictures this time as I had already visited the display in March with David. You can read about that visit here. Mum seemed to enjoy the exhibit and I managed to see the Golden Horse of Maoling, which wasn’t featured in the display when I visited in March.

Another Sparrowhawk Visit:

sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk

This Friday, just after evening dinner, I looked out towards the yarden and spied a female sparrowhawk. It was the same female who visited and snacked on a starling not two weeks earlier! You can read more about sparrowhawks here. She was sitting on the roof opposite, watching as all the goldfinches flittered past, wanting their evening meal. In turn, David and I watched her for about an hour. She sat patently, awaiting an easy target. Unfortunately, (for her prey) she did get a kill. This time it was a baby goldfinch. It’s a sad spectacle but also fascinating to witness. This female now knows lots of birds visit the yarden. I wonder if she will visit again in future?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

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!’

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.

12 Hours of Day #9

With being unable to participate in July’s #photoanhour on Instagram, I made certain I would for Augusts’. Though, I didn’t have anything exciting planned, the day didn’t turn out too bad. Thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for informing me of the dates. Much appreciated! So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 18h August 2018

8am to 9am:

Just after 8am my alarm sounded. Time to get up! I started the day as usual with black coffee and granola. This time I added some blueberries and raspberries to the mix. It was a tasty and filling breakfast.

9am to 10am:

While David went out to get his hair cut. I made a start on the housework. I vacuumed all the floors and cleaned the bathroom before David came back.

10am to 11am:

Turning my hand at cleaning the dining room, I heard a raucous noise from the yarden. The bird feeders were inundated by starlings, sparrows and goldfinches! What a racket they all made!

11am to 12pm:

I had the idea that a blueberry bush would be a welcome addition to the yarden. I could grow my own fruit come next year. Growing vegetables has been a bit hit and miss, so maybe trying my hand at soft fruits would be better? (I’ll let you know next year). So with this plan in mind. David and I headed to Rivendell. Unfortunately they didn’t have any blueberry plants, but I ended up buying a raspberry and bramble.

12pm to 1pm:

A bit disappointed at not getting a blueberry plant, we headed to Lady Green Garden Centre. Here, there was a choice of blueberry plants, some at £17 and others for £25. My eyes widened at seeing the full berries on a £25 plant. The other plants were all fruitless. It was evident which plant I would come home with, even if it was a bit pricey! I also purchased a penstemon and verbena for the hungry pollinators.

1pm to 2pm:

We came home laden with plants to a happy Artie. I don’t think he likes being left alone.

2pm to 3pm: 

After lunch I embarked on potting the newcomers to the yarden.

3pm to 4pm:

I was still in the yarden, admiring my new purchases and enjoying the warm sunshine. I plucked the ripe berries off the blueberry plant and ended up with a bowl full!

4pm to 5pm:

Housework and gardening can be hard work. So I took a break with a cup of tea and a read of the newly arrived copy of the September edition of Country Walking Magazine.

5pm to 6pm:

While dinner cooked I took time to admire the sunflowers in a vase of cut flowers.

6pm to 7pm:

With dinner I enjoyed this glass of bubbly cava.

7pm to 8pm:

For pudding I mixed strawberry ice cream with a sprinkling of more blueberries (Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to mind) and raspberries.

8pm to 9pm:

A bonus hour, as it seems I can’t count! I joined David in the study/guest bedroom and planned a forthcoming trip to Scotland. I am so excited!

planning

8pm to 9pm – planning a trip to Scotland

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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.

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Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-seven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_27Day 27: At the weekend a post on the Facebook 30 Days Wild page caught my eye. The post was all about species with a link to The Wildlife Trusts Wildlife Explorer. I noticed that ferns and horsetails were in their own species category, so I decided to look more closely at the ferns in the yarden.

We seem to have only one species of fern growing which I’ve ID’d as bracken! I think of bracken in woodland and heath-land, but apparently we have at least three bracken plants flourishing in the yarden.

They are ancient plants, far older than the dinosaurs, and can grow up to 1.5 meters.

Bracken spreads by underground rhizomes or horizontal stems but can germinate from spores (sporangia) carried on the wind. I noticed spores on the underside of the fronds and found them fascinating. I read that this bracken is fertile (due to the presence of spores) as not all have them.

Bracken is deciduous and dies back during winter and turns the landscape a tinge of brown. The plant is highly toxic to animals and should not be eaten. I read many scare stories associated with bracken online, that they harbour ticks and are carcinogenic.

What’s your thoughts on this ancient plant?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-five

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_25Day 25: Today’s Close Up Monday is all about goldfinches.

This colourful finch has been on the increase in the UK, mainly due to changes in feeding habits, enjoying seeds from garden feeders. They ranked #6 in the 2018 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

A very sociable bird, in autumn they flock in charms of 100+.

They predominantly eat seeds (sunflower and niger among others) but also eat aphids. Males are the only ones who can access the seeds from teasel heads. In Victorian times they were captured in their thousands for caged displays. They can have up to three broods a year and nest in trees and bushes.

In the past my yarden has attracted charms of some 20+ birds. Do you have any goldfinches visiting your feeders? They are such pretty birds.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-three

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today was going to be all about lavender. I had planned a day out to Inglenook Farm to see their lavender fields. However since spring was late this year, it means that flowers are late in blooming, so we aborted the visit and I was left with nothing to fill today’s 30 Days Wild post.

Unfortunately it feels like a bit of a cop out, but I am reverting to a staple #randomactofwildness; that of capturing something blue. It may not have been the blue of lavender but I have many blues in the yarden.

From borage and vipers-bugloss, to a blue summers sky and rockery plant, Lithodora Heavenly Blue.

Have you photographed anything blue recently?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

P.S: I promise tomorrow’s post will be a bit more wild!