Winter is a coming

As I went to bed last night I looked at my weather station which said the temperature was  -1 and as I peered out from the curtains I saw thick freezing fog coming in. Of course this is what happens at this time of year when there has been a clear sunny sky all day.

I snuggled down in my new hedgehog brushed cotton blanket which I had got for my birthday and wished I could hibernate just like the hedgehogs.

When I woke this morning I opened the curtains and there before me was a marvelous sight. The fog was starting to retreat and everywhere looked like it had been sprinkled in icing sugar.

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I  wrapped up warm and rushed out with my phone to take photos.

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I think its a magical experience to walk around and see the white covered cobwebs hanging from every tree, shrub and fence. it looks like the garden is covered with white tinsel.

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The garden looked like a winter wonderland with frost covering everything. The grass and moss sparkled and the shrubs looked like they were covered in tiny crystals.

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After taking photos, I made sure I walked around the garden checking all the water butts, ponds and bird baths for ice. Luckily most were ice free as I had placed a floating object in each to help prevent them freezing over as much. The bird baths, however were frozen solid with a 1cm thick ice cap, so I smashed the ice and put clean water in them. It’s so important to check these at this time of year as water is so precious to all the wildlife that visit and live in the garden. I know the diving beetle was happy it could get to the surface of the water butt it lives in.

After lunch I had another peek outside and things were just starting to thaw in places and the low lying sun scattered golden dashes of light across the bare tree branches. As the frosted leaves began to thaw, they delicately cascaded down through the branches like snowflakes. finally falling onto the crisp frosted ground below.

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Most of the leaves have fallen now but there are a few still hanging on. Once all the leaves are down, I can start clearing the ponds so they don’t become choked with muck and decaying leaf litter. Infact, there is still much to be done at this time of year in the garden. As well as pond maintenance and making sure there is clean water for wildlife; there are nest boxes to be put up, bird feed to put out and wildlife habitats to be made.

As long as you wrap up warm and stay dry, this time of year has lots of magic to offer.

 

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Parkgate Marshes

Parkgate marsh is a fantastic wetland habitat situated on the Dee Estuary in the North West of England. If you wish to see plenty of wildlife then high tide is the best time to visit as I don’t think you truly appreciate how much wildlife thrive on these vast salt marshes when you visit at low tide.

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High tide offers a unique opportunity to view a number of small mammals that are seldom seen otherwise, as its home to field voles, shrews, moles, rats, and harvest mice. You may see flocks of ducks, geese, lapwings, egrets and wigeon. And if you are lucky you’ll get to see beautiful kestrels, hen harriers, owls and merlins.

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As an early birthday treat I visited Parkgate yesterday. It was quite blustery and cold but ideal conditions for a good tide. Sitting on the promenade eating yummy chips I sat and waited for the tide to come in. It was amazing to watch a vast amount of salt marshes become submerged and even better was the wildlife I was able to see because of it. Small mammals were flushed out of the homes and forced to flee towards the old sea wall to seek dry land. I saw a gorgeous field vole on the grass in front of me and watched a brown rat swimming to a clump of long grass to get dry. The small mammals are very vulnerable at this time as they can be taken by herons and a variety of raptors.

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Not far away from the old sea wall I saw a raven combing the ground, and egrets wading on the water’s edge. Further out on the estuary I saw numerous ducks, geese, herons and lapwings.
As I walked along the promenade towards the old bath house car park I saw a small flock of lovely twites singing merrily high up in the shrub branches. I stood for a bit and looked out over the estuary when I suddenly realised I wasn’t alone. There next to me hidden under a bush was a lovely little robin and a beautiful song thrush just looking up at me. They seemed to be hiding from something but what was it. I looked towards the trees behind me and saw nothing but as I turned back round I spotted it. There perched high up looking out towards the estuary was a stunning merlin with the sun’s rays glistening off its beautiful feathers. It was absolutely beautiful to stand and watch it as the sun started to set over the Welsh hills on the opposite side of the estuary.


As I walked back the light was starting to fade and with it came a vast number of geese silhouetted across the skyline. Numerous lapwings danced about the low horizon before landing in the marshes. The haunting sound of geese and lapwings indicating the end of a wonderful day and a great birthday.
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Volunteering in nature

Today was full of blustery winds, heavy rain showers and even hailstones, but first thing this morning I was greeted with a warm smile and a friendly welcome as I entered Hooton Hall, Wirral.
Hooton village memorial hall is believed to be a WW1 hut which is held in trust for the people of Hooton.  I didn’t know it existed until today but I’m glad I decided to visit the place and help out with some work that a nature company was doing there.
This Cheshire based company helps to connect people with nature and improve wellbeing.  Today they were asking for volunteers to help them at Hooton hall to install a new footpath within the grounds to improve access around the 4.5 acres of woodland.

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After a lovely cup of tea we went off into the woodland to work on this new footpath.
We started by placing a membrane on ground then placed edging planks along the sides.  Stakes were driven in the ground with a lump hammer along set intervals and nailed to the board. It was great being outdoors chatting to new people and I found the morning went by very quickly.

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After a yummy lunch, cup of tea and a warm by the fire we set off once again to the footpath.  We got busy with shovels, loading hardcore into wheelbarrows and trundling down to the prepared area to tip the material along the path.  The hardcore was raked as we went along, then I had a go of using the wacking plate over the surface to spread it and flatten it down.  Its amazing how much can be done in such a short time and what an impact it makes on the area.

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Volunteering benefits nature, the community and your wellbeing.  It’s a great way to make friends, learn new skills and improve your physical health.
I love to be out in all weather and after being out in the cold and rain today I feel alive and more a part of nature than I would have done if I’d have stayed inside warm.  It’s nice to have a sense of achievement, knowing I’ve helped make a difference to the local community and nature.