Signs of Spring in the Yarden

With the weather warming up this week (and the days finally getting longer), I took the opportunity to have a wander around the yarden to see how the plants had fared over the cold winter. Sadly my fuschia isn’t looking it’s best, but hopefully it will pull through, as it’s a great autumn flower.

Throughout winter the herb rosemary has flowered it’s delicate blue flowers and I noticed its colour was joined by flashes of purple and yellow from the crocus and the green leaves of perfumed hyacinths, which I thought had been overshadowed by an azalea. I even spotted the leafy promise of bluebells that will hopefully flower in April/May. I’ve two hellebores, one I thought was being swamped by a dwarf rhododendron and cotoneaster, but I noticed it’s purple and white flowers bending in the breeze. There are also an abundance of buds on the star magnolia and camellia.

The pond also seems to have braved the frosts and the oxygenating plant within, is still vibrant. Hopefully we will have lots of aquatic life enjoying our tiny pond this year.

Calls from the visiting birds has also changed in recent weeks. The goldfinches have moved on from the winter chatter to their now playful chirp and waggle of their tails in the hope of attracting a mate.

What signs of spring have you noticed recently?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Bird Count for RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021!

This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.

I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.

Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2021

During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.

How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?

Thanks for popping by,

Christine xx

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

The Oak Tree Experiment – Update

acorns

Acorns

Two years ago I wrote about collecting acorns on my walk to work and then returning home and planting them in the hope they would grow into oak trees. You can read that post here.

Since writing that first post, I had given up hope and forgotten about the little acorns I had planted. Notice my surprise whilst releasing the second batch of painted lady butterflies from Insect Lore, I glanced into a pot and noticed what looked to me like oak leaves. I asked David for confirmation and he agreed.

oak tree

Baby Oak Tree

I was stunned and overjoyed. We have our very own little oak tree! It may have taken two years but we have success!

Have you successfully grew a tree from its seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Seventeen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_17Day 17: For today’s RAW or Random Act of Wildness, The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app has chosen: inhale a wild scent – take a few seconds to inhale a wildflower, plant or leaves.  

So, I spent a leisurely couple of minutes pottering about the yarden.

inhale a wild scentI have a few herbs growing in the yarden so I made a bee line for them. Crushing some leaves between my finger and thumb I sampled the scents of fennel, lavender, rosemary and mint. The feathery leaves of the fennel released a very potent scent. Whereas the lavender was much easier on the nose and Artie loved the mint!

What’s your favourite wild scent? Mine has to be the headyness of hawthorne flowers.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Six.

download (2)Day 6: Today’s 30 Days Wild is to ID a plant. I have two plants that have appeared by themselves in my yarden. One I have ID’d the other not. I’ll post both and if you can help shed light on the other then please do let me know. I’ve been itching to know!

The first plant has been growing in my yarden for the past couple of years and only in 2020 have I ID’d it as a wood-sorrel (Oxalis).

Wood-sorrell is a woodland plant found all over the UK and is an indicator of ancient woodlands. However the RHS states that wood-sorrell can be a serious weed in the garden! The wood-sorrell has distinctive heart shaped, trefoil leaves. Of a night the leaves fold up, whilst during the day they open out. The flowers self-pollinate by the process of Cleistogamy (pollination and fertilisation occurs before the flower has opened). Wood-sorrell is an edible plant, though sour tasting and in the past has been used to treat scurvy due to being high in vitamin C.

The second picture is of my mystery plant. It has no flowers and is almost 5 foot (1.5m) in height (I’ve not pruned it). I found it growing among my camellia last year, which I had to dig out and separate. This year I’ve watched as it has grew and grew and grew. It’s only in a small pot too. Do you have any idea what it can be? PlantSnap or Pl@ntNet apps have come up blank.

Do let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #69

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?

A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?

convenienceBook I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.

Brocholes:
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.

Family meal:
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.

Moth:
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.

buff tailed bumblebee

Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #67

These Sunday’s come round awfully fast! Here’s another Sunday Sevens, seven or more pictures from my week. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising the series.

backyard natureBack Yard Nature Guardians:

Though aimed at children I decided to sign up to protect my precious back yard(en). Back Yard Nature are looking for guardians to protect a chosen patch of nature. Though the initiative is in its infancy there will be seasonal missions to accomplish. Save the bees will be the first. I have noticed that I have seen less bee action in my yarden this summer. It is a concern.

Art for the Yarden:

On Thursday David came home with another bargain from his work’s shop. An owl garden ornament which rocks and moves with the wind. I think it’s quite striking! Definitely a good addition to the yarden.

Walking the dog:

I took Riley on another solo walk this week. We took a 2.8 mile walk around our local park. I think Riley enjoyed the walk as much as I!

#walk1000miles:

Since I am now counting to 2000 miles, here’s my weekly total. I’ve walked 38 miles this week, meaning my overall tally is 1,111 miles.

New Life:

The saga of the herring gull chicks continues. The nest at the front have retained their two chicks. However the nest to the back of our house has had another loss. David noticed there was only one chick left, the other had either fallen or was tossed off the chimney. Come morning the chick was nowhere to be seen. Probably food for another gull? Nature can be hard to witness sometimes.

RSPB Membership:

This Friday, David and I visited RSPB reserve, South Stack on Holy Island off Anglesey. We saw thousands of guillemots on a cliff face and enjoyed a picnic overlooking the Irish Sea, with stonechats, pipits and linnets bobbing past. To end our visit we spotted silver studded blue butterflies fluttering over the heath-land.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.

There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!

The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.

Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!

Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.

Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today’s blog is all about bees, honeybees. David and I drove to The Bee Centre in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, for a two hour pre-booked bee experience. After donning our bee suits and taking the obligatory photos, we (of a group of nine) were escorted to the outdoor hives. Kath opened up a hive and explained what was happening in the frames.

Kath used smoke to make the bees (native black bees) more docile, while she inspected the hive. The bees gorge on honey, thinking there’s a fire so that they can take stores with them when they set up a new colony. We witnessed a drone (male) being born and lots of male/female brood cells and also the odd queen cell. It was fascinating to learn so much about life in a hive! Everyone has their own role and worker bees can fly up to three miles for food. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day and is solely dependent on being cared for by the other bees. A worker bee can live up to six weeks whereas a queen can live to five years.

After meeting the bees we returned to the centre for honey tasting. The centre has an ethical and sustainable view on beekeeping and only extract honey when there is a genuine surplus. Due to this year’s wet June the bees are having a hard time and need our help! You can do this by planting more bee friendly plants, a helpful list can be found here.

Our experience really whetted our appetite for beekeeping and whether a hive would be something our yarden could accommodate?

Have you ever kept bees? Like the idea?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x