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.

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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.

Biggarden birdwatch chart 3years

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

Helping newts -Day 29 of 30 Days Wild

Today was spent looking at underwater video footage from the garden pond. Its fascinating watching little pond creatures especially newts.

We have 2 types of newts in the garden pond and they have been busy laying eggs.

The problem this year was the newts arrived early to the pond given the very mild winter. They started their courtship before any vegetation started to really grow around the pond. The newts here lay their eggs on plants the cascade over the waters edge, so this year I gave them a little helping hand.

I make artificial egg laying strips for them until everywhere greened up around the pond, and this is how I made them.

Materials:

Black bin bag, stones, scissors and string.

Make egg laying strips:

Measure suitable length from the bottom (sealed end) of the bin bag upwards. (this will depend on how deep your pond is) I made mine about 10 inches. Now cut straight across the bag.

Measure across the bottom half way and cut the bag in two.

Next get one half and start to cut strips down towards the sealed end of the bag but stop about 3/4 of the way down.

Do the same with the other half of the bin bag.

Now open up each half. You will have a section in the middle of each which has not been cut in to. Place a stone inside this area and gather the strips up around it.

Now tie string around the  strips to keep the stone in. Do the same with the other and there you have newt egg laying strips.

When you put them in the water the stone helps to weigh them down, all you need to do is maybe help separate the strips a bit when submerged.

What the newts thought of them:

As soon as I put the strips into the pond, the newts were curious and came over to have a look at them. Check my little video out here

The newts like them as they mimic the leaves of submerged plants and they are flexible enough for the newt to place an egg on a strip and fold it over like a little parcel to protect it.

The pond is now full of vegetation cascading over the sides so the newts have many options of places to lay eggs.

Here is a photo of a smooth newt egg folded up on a blade of grass. It is greyish in colour with a clear jelly around it which differs from great crested newt eggs which are white in colour.

Mini beast bioblitz for Day 27 of 30 Days Wild

When I got home from work today it had finally stopped raining so I ran into the garden in search of mini beasts.

I walked around looking closely at each shrub and flower, waiting to catch a glimpse of a bug. I was amazed how many mini beasts I spotted and the closer I looked, the more interesting critters I saw.

There were ladybirds and larvae hiding amongst the leaves and petals of fuschias.

There were caterpillars and moths hiding amongst wood piles and under leaves.

A little ball of garden spiderlings huddled together amongst the lavender stems. Black lace weaver spiders (Amaurobius ferox) scurried across the wall then into their homes, whilst red velvet spider mites (Trombidiidae) moved quickly on the lid of the water butt.

I saw a variety of flies enjoying the wildflowers, fuschias and honeysuckle. A variety of hoverflies hovered above the lavender flowers. Pretty small solider flies called black horned gems (Microchrysa polita) sat on camellia leaves. Whilst other flies sat on daisy flowers, ferns and jasmine leaves.

A stunning metallic coloured rosemary beetle sat on my lavender plant. Cuckoo spit dangled under fuschia leaves and a darkling beetle (Lagria hirta) hid on an old bluebell stem. Flower Bugs – Anthocoris nemorum and Liocoris tripustulatus as well as a variety of other insects (some of which I haven’t found the name for yet) gathered amongst other shrub leaves.  

I thought the prettiest bug of the afternoon was Calocoris stysi. I love it’s yellow and black chequered pattern and I think the yellow marking in the middle looks like a butterfly pattern. It looked very pretty sat on the lavender flower.

My favourite encounter of the afternoon was with a Epistrophe grossulariae hoverfly. It was attracted to my blue water bottle and kept sitting on the lid trying to lick up the ribena juice around the edge. I noticed the hoverfly had licked a lot of it up so I spoke to it and asked if it would like some more. It stayed sat on the top of my bottle unafraid of me, while I opened the lid for it. The hoverfly then carried on drinking from the top of the bottle until it had had enough. It was a magical experience to be just a couple of centimeters away from a hoverfly and it was happy for me to be that close to it.

I’m glad I made the effort to go out in the garden and search for mini beasts. I hope this little blog will inspire you to go out and see what insects are lurking in your garden and appreciate its great biodiversity.

 

Burton Mere -Day 25 of 30 Days Wild

Today for Day 25 of 30 Days Wild I went for a stroll around one of my favourite nature reserve in Wirral, Cheshire. Here is a short blog about what I saw at this beautiful place.

It was so peaceful at the nature reserve. All could be heard was a chorus of bird song from the trees, reeds and on the water. From the twitter of a reed warbler, the melodic song of a robin, the honking of geese to the babbling sound of the egrets. I managed to capture 2 little videos on my phone. (here and here)

As I walk around, I see a naughty grey squirrel trying to steal nuts from the feeder and ducks sitting underneath it catching food the squirrel dropped on the floor.

I saw insects gather around the wildflowers and warm themselves up on wooden benches.

 

 

Common lizards bask on the fence.

Spiders scurry below the decking carrying their eggs sacks and caterpillars emerge from the undergrowth onto the path.

As I sit overlooking the estuary and I could hear the wing beat of 2 mallards as they flew over my head before they landed in the water. I saw beautiful dragonflies dart over the water and water boatman lying on the waters surface. As I walked around the ponds 2 geese honked loudly and flew off past me, and I just managed to capture them on my phone here.

 

RSPB nature reserves are not just about birds. They are a safe haven for all wildlife and I’m so glad I have such a beautiful place near where I live.

New creature encounters -Day 20 of 30 Days Wild

I had 2 exciting encounters today at work. I saw 2 creatures that I have never seen before.

My first encounter was with a ruby tailed wasp, which landed on my hosepipe as I was watering the plants. Annoyingly the moment I moved to take a photo, it flew off. All I can say is, it had absolutely stunning colours. It was only small but it was iridescent turquoise and vibrant pink. It was beautiful to see, I just wish I had been able to take a photo.

My other encounter was with a ghost slug. This was a thin small white slug which suits its name with its ghostly appearance.

I also had a few lovely admiral butterflies fluttering about me today which was magical and I saw a number of bumblebees buzzing about the flowers. I had a number of hoverflies interested in my bright blue water flask (which was lovely to see) and a number of horseflies interested in me.(which wasn’t a nice experience)

To end the day, a young buzzard landed in the tree next to me and a green woodpecker flew overhead rushing to feed its young.

 

 

Tracking creatures Day 19 of 30 Days Wild

Welcome to the 19th day of my 30 Days Wild challenge. I can’t believe I have managed to blog every day. Its certainly been hard work in this heatwave we have been having.

One of the places where I work is a plant nursery which is set upon a sandy hillside.  The great thing about it being sandy is that I quite often come across little prints in the sand especially first thing in the morning before anyone else arrives on site.

I stumble upon fox and badger paw prints. Lots of rabbit foot prints, and some bird ones too. I have also seen smaller mammals and amphibians on site but not found any tracks yet.

Today I saw a little vole, cute bunnies, a smooth newt, a frog, and I even heard a cuckoo.

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I have great fun spotting tracks in the sand and watching the wildlife as I walk around; and try and capture a photo if possible.

Here are some tracks that I spotted today.