The cold garden

I ventured out into the garden yesterday. It was a cold February morning but according to the news, worse weather was to come. As I walked through the garden, the frost was starting to thaw beneath my feet as the low sun touched the grass, leaving behind a cold, wet, muddy ground.
Some shady patches of the garden still lingered where the sun’s rays hadn’t yet reached. In these dark areas the grass stood stiff, like little icy soldiers on parade.
Even though it was cold, there were still signs that the garden was slowly starting to awaken from its deep winter slumber.

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Vibrant crocuses shone brightly in the sunshine, primroses and snowdrops showed off their dainty flowers, and beautiful dwarf irises stood proud by the edge of the pond.

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20180217_123930.jpg Hellebores bowed their pretty pastel flower heads to the sun whilst the green stems of daffodils and crocosmia poked out from last year’s leaf debris.

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Plants aren’t the only sign that Spring isn’t far away…..
The sun is still low in the sky but does its best to shine, and daylight is getting a little long with each passing day. Birds are very active at the moment, they are fighting for mates, singing for territories and looking for places to nest.
As I stood under a tree, the robin was singing high up on a branch claiming his territory whilst I watched blackbirds and bluetits fighting for a mate. The garden was full of bird song and I had some more nest boxes to put up to help my feathered friends out.
Today however……. is completely different, and reminds me that we are a still in winter.

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There is snow everywhere. All those pretty flowers and young shoots are covered in a white fluffy blanket and where there was water there is now ice. I can still see glimpses under the snow of buds and small shoots on the cotoneaster and honeysuckle and, there is even a tiny hint of yellow as a daffodil wearily pokes its head the white powdery fluff.

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As I walked round the garden, I made sure all the bird feeders were topped up as they will go down very quickly in this cold weather. I also broke the thin layer of ice in the pond and put fresh water in all the birdbaths. The birds didn’t even wait for me to leave as within minutes there were blue tits, starlings, a long tailed tit and a robin straight on the feeders not wanting to waste anytime fuelling their tiny fluffed up bodies.
It’s important in this cold weather, while you are tucked up inside your warm cosy homes, to think of the wildlife that live or visit your garden. They don’t have the luxury  of central heating and a supermarket, so please help them out.

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Parkgate High Tide

The sun shone brightly, low in beautiful pale blue sky but it was bitterly cold as I walked along the old sea wall at Parkgate, Wirral.

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The first thing I saw when I looked out onto the marshes was a stunning hen harrier.  It was flying up, hovering over the ground and then swooping down again.  It was such a delight to see and I would have been happy if that was all I had seen all day…..but it wasn’t.  Parkgate is a wonderful place to watch birds and even better when there is a high tide.

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As I walked further down the promenade, lapwings suddenly lifted into the sky, startled by a peregrine.  They squeaked loudly and flew in swirling plumes above the marshes.
I saw little egrets plodding through the wet marshy ground looking for food and a crow squawking loudly perched on a piece of driftwood.
Getting nearer to the old baths car park, I stopped to watch a heron sitting very still by the edge of the water waiting to catch a bite to eat; and saw black back gulls soaring high up in the air.
As I reached the car park, it was heaving with bird watchers eagerly awaiting the high tide and the wildlife drama it can bring.
Unfortunately the wind seemed to stop and it suddenly went very still and where I stood by the wall, felt like a little sun trap with the low sun trying its best to warm me.

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Standing by the car park wall, I saw marsh harriers then hen harriers and a great egret too.
The high tide was meant to peak at 12.20pm but unfortunately the tide didn’t really make it in due to the drop in wind and high pressure.

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I bet the little mammals were happy the tide never came in too far and flooded their homes.  The birds of prey still managed to find some food further out in the marshes though.
I missed out on seeing the owl and saw no sign of the bittern either but it’s always worth going just to see the beautiful harriers, and just being out in nature is a joy.
After seeing the spectacular events of a decent high tide, it’s hard not to feel slightly let down, but I had a great day.  The sun shone brightly and I saw lots of birds and met some great people too….. What more could I ask for??
I’m so grateful that this beautiful place full of wildlife is practically on my doorstep and if you are ever visiting Wirral and love bird watching then it’s definitely a place to visit.

The Big Garden Bird Watch 2018

Run by the RSPB, The Big Garden Birdwatch takes places over 3 days between 27th-29th January.  It is a chance for everyone to go outside and watch the birds for 1 hour, counting the largest number of bird species seen at one time.

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Chaffinch

I got up early on Monday the last day of The Big Garden Birdwatch count.  I got my wildlife camera, binoculars and spotting scope and was ready to step out of the door;  when…..it absolutely poured it down with rain.  Why on earth did I not do the count on Sunday I grumbled to myself as I checked the weather app on my phone? It gave rain all morning but it was meant to stop at lunchtime….phew!
At 12pm the rain stopped and I ran outside to take part in the bird count.  I was hoping that maybe this year I would see starlings as they returned to the garden last year for the first time in many years.  I hoped the woodpecker would turn up as I know it is always in the garden pecking away at an elderly plum tree.  I also wondered if there may be any surprise visits too, as you never know what will turn up in the garden when you are least expecting it.

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Blackbird

There are so many feeders in the garden all dotted about in various places which makes it a challenge to try and count the birds.  I managed to set up my spotting scope behind a shed where I could get a view of at least most of the feeders; but I still felt like I needed eyes in the back of my head as I turned this way and that watching the birds.  I put my wildlife camera on a tree next to a feeder at the bottom of the garden, then I sat behind the shed and waited.

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Sparrow

During the hour that I was outside, the weather was cloudy with some sunny spells but an icy wind.  Counting started immediately as most of the birds here are used to my presence.  Many robins sang loudly on the top of the hedges trying to mark their boundary.  They must be quite tolerant robins here as I have seen 3 pairs but today for the count I just saw 2 pairs.  Whilst I was trying to count the sparrow in the hedge, I saw 2 male blackbirds fighting on the lawn whilst a female blackbird watched close by.  The poor loser sat hiding in the hedge afterwards looking sorry for himself.
I saw a blackcap for the first time in the garden, it was feeding on the coconut fat feeder at the bottom of the garden and a few yards away from me a tiny little goldcrest flew down and had a little bath in the pond before flying up the hobnut tree above, shaking itself off and flying off.

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Great Tit

It’s a shame the woodpecker didn’t make an appearance in that hour, but glad in a way that I didn’t see the sparrowhawk as all the other birds would have hidden like last year.

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Blue Tit

All in all, it was a good year for spotting birds and a lot better than last year.  It’s great to see the difference each year I do the count and it always nice to say hello to new species too.

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My Bird Count 2018:
7 blackbirds        2 long tailed tits      5 dunnocks      12 sparrows        2 greenfinches
7 chaffinches      1 moorhen               2 rooks               3 jackdaws         1 blackcap
2 seagulls            4 wood pigeons       7 bluetits            2 great tits          2 collared doves
1 wren                 4 robins                     1 goldcrests

A stroll around the village

I woke up the other day to a very cold icy morning.  The temperature was -6C and there was ice on the inside of my bedroom window.  It was bitter and I thought of just staying in all day trying to keep warm.

Thankfully by mid morning the sun was trying it’s best to shine as bright as it could, as it peeped out from behind the clouds.  Now the ice had gone, I decided it would be a great day for a stroll; so I headed off for a short walk around Upton village by Chester and learnt a bit about the history of the village as I walked by.

Wrapped up warm I started my short walk at the old village pump. 

Before Chester waterworks brought water to the village of Upton in the late 1800’s, the residents used to get their water from this pump.  It is believed to be over 200 years old but it is no longer in use and surrounded by railings.  Only ivy cascades over the stone basin at the bottom of the pump now instead of water.

From here I carried on walking down the road looking up at the bare winter trees, taking note of their different textured bark, and listening to the birds twittering amongst the hedges as I passed.  I then came to a bowl shaped area of grass which was covered by a layer of brown and yellow leaves.

This depression in the ground is locally known as The Cock Pit.  It was originally part of the Victoria Hotel garden, and rumour has it that cock fighting used to take place here. There is however little evidence to say that such things happened here and the depression is more likely to be whats left of an old sand pit. 

I followed the little winding path through the Cock Pit and up to Upton church.  As I entered the churchyard, I saw a male blackbird scratting amongst the fallen leaves for grubs and a robin was perched upon a branch singing such a sweet song. 
Walking up to the wall of the church, I saw a Plague Stone, which is also known as a Wealstone.  This stone used to be in a wall at Upton Cross before being moved to the church in the mid 1900’s. 
The original position for the stone however, was on what is known as Butter Hill near Chester zoo.  It was here that it was used as a Plague Stone.  People from infected areas came to the Plague Stone and placed money in the bowl which contained disinfectants. In exchange for this money, food was then placed on the stone for them to collect.

Not far from the church is one of the oldest buildings in Upton and is built on the site of the Man in the Moon pub which can be seen on a 1735 map.
The front of the building says a date of 1745, but the house is thought to be older than this.  Obviously as with most buildings there have been alteration through time such as the gothic windows (which I love) and a raised roof.

Upton is well known for being the home of Chester zoo but there are lots more little interesting features around Upton as I’m sure there is where you live.  I could have spent ages out but the sky was getting dim and thick with cloud, and I could feel that biting cold in the breeze.  As I didn’t think I’d see Mr Sun again that day I decided to make my way back home making one final stop along the way.

The last stop on my stroll around the village was this lovely little lodge house.
I just love the little dragon on top of the roof and there are similar dragons on a lodge house in Hoole village not far from here too.  Apparently it is said that roof dragons ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

I really enjoyed my little winters day stroll.  It’s actually the first walk I’ve been on since injuring my foot and of course the first walk of a new year.

I’m looking forward to many more walks this year and can’t wait to see what i’ll find when I’m out and about.

Goodbye to the old year

Well it wont be long now till a new year begins, bringing with it new To-Do lists, resolutions and different adventures.

Before I say goodbye to the old year, I find myself reflecting back on whats happened this year.  What has it taught me?  Did it go to plan?  How will it shape the year to come?

The year started off brilliantly with the offer of a new job and prospect of money to finally spend.  I renewed my RSPB membership as usual and spent many happy hours at the nearby nature reserves.  I watched a number of hightide wildlife events at Parkgate, Wirral, and took part in the various wildlife counts.  I even managed to do something nature based each day for 30 days wild; (Wildlife Trust) and I got to write an article each season for the local wildlife records newsletter.

It was going great so far.

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Unfortunately mid way through the year, life became topsy turvy.  It brought with it new lessons, uncertainty and frustration.  I injured my knee, ankle and foot, which then led to me loosing my job.  At first I was fed up, worried about not having any money and wondering if I would ever get better.  I decided to change my outlook and decided to use all this free time to getting back to my normal self….maybe even a better, more stronger, confident self, perhaps.

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I began to have lots of physiotherapy, and the physio team at Ellesmere Port hospital were amazing.  They did so much to help me gain some normality back in my life and gave me lots of encouragement and support.

Jane from MiiTime also helped me a great deal, teaching me to do Pilates.  I must admit that after the first lesson I amazingly ached all over but it made me realise for the first time how weak my muscles had become and how out of balance they were.  Each lesson I began to see improvements.  Pilates is definitely something I would recommend, and I now rave about it to everyone willing to listen.  I was now spurred on to undertake my next new adventure….The gym

Joining my local leisure centre has been a life changer for me this year.  I had never been to one before and at first I was nervous, but the staff there were so helpful and friendly and I soon started to feel at home in the gym.  Cheshire Change Hub and the Brio Leisure team at EPSV have been like a life line to me.  They have showed me exercises that would help me gain my flexibility, balance and strength back.  Of course, I have learnt so much more than that at the local leisure centre.  I have learnt alot about myself, and my body.  I have gained a great deal in confidence and courage too.

I have learnt so much more this year than I normally would have done.  I’ve gained much needed confidence, I have become healthier and I have made new friends.

So what is install for the new year then?

I have just 5 resolutions for this new year.  They are nothing fancy and hopefully I’ll keep up with every single one:

1: Find a job (I’m sure there is one out there that’s just waiting for me).

2: Learn to swim.

3: Knuckle down to learning Welsh and be better at speaking it.

4: Be happy and healthy.

5: Surround myself with nature.

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Hopefully the new year will bring you all lots of joy, health and happiness…..and hope you manage to keep up with your new years resolutions too 🙂

 

Looking forward to the new year

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog. What with learning to use crutches, lots of physiotherapy and not being able to drive I feel like late summer and Autumn have passed me by this year and it’s been amazing to see how time has quickly passed me by.

Unfortunately after injuring my foot, ankle and knee, I ended up on crutches which I just couldn’t quite get the hang of and was always amazingly tired trying to use them. After coming off crutches, it was endless weeks of physiotherapy and I became very friendly with something called a wobble board which helped me work on my balance.

The last month I was able to drive short distances so I joined a gym, which was an alien environment to me. It was scary at first looking at all these weird machines but I really started to enjoy it as I could see the huge impact it was having on building up my strength and stamina.

I’d say I’m 90 percent healed now which is brilliant news since I was told it could take up to 12 months to get better. I am now looking for work, finally getting out in nature and looking forward to writing blogs again.

I can’t believe it’s now nearly the end of the year and we have had the shortest day already. (Winter solstice) I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with family and excited as to what the new year will bring.

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I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and have a fantastic new year.

Best wishes

L-jay

Thank you note -Last day of 30 Days Wild

As it is the last day of 30 Days Wild and I haven’t been able to get out, I have decided to write you all a thank you note.

I’d firstly like to thank everyone for reading my blog and I hope you have enjoyed them and thank you for your support on all my social media sites.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who support, volunteer and run hedgehog rescues. These places are vital for the survival of our hedgehogs. These places exist with the help of volunteers, donations and the love and care from the people who look after these delightful creatures. If you have a hedgehog rescue near to where you live, then see if they have a wish list of supplies or maybe if they need people to help out there.

Next I would like to thank all those who actively protect our wildlife.  For those who protect foxes, birds of prey and badgers from hunters and those who protest in order to stop cruelty to animals. No matter how you help your wildlife, you all do great work and are inspiring individuals.

I would also like to say a big thank you to all the young naturalists out there. Spreading the word that our environment is important and needs protecting. You are all inspiring individuals and it gives me hope for the future that you are out there now fighting for nature even at such a young age.

I would like to say a big thank you to the Springwatch team for their inspiring, delightful and educational programmes, that bring nature into our living rooms. A special thanks has to go to Chris Packham though. He has inspired me since I used to watch him on The Really Wild Show all those years ago. If anything my admiration for him grows each year. He gives nature a voice and speaks with both his heart and mind. He backs what he says with facts and I think it’s important that he continues to have a voice so he can speak up for nature. That is what I loved about this years Springwatch. Chris was able to tell us all a lot more important facts about what is declining in nature and what we can do to help.  Of course, Chris has not only inspired myself but many generations to get outdoors, explore nature and care and protect it.

My final thank you goes to The Wildlife Trust for inspiring work places, schools and individuals to love and appreciate nature with their 30 Days Wild challenge. I have really enjoyed reading all your 30 Days Wild blogs and looking at your fantastic nature photos and videos.

Thank you to everyone who loves and cares for nature. I hope you have all had a wonderful nature filled June.