7 days of Wild Christmas: day 2 Boxing Day

So, the Christmas Day massacre is over. The turkey has been sacrificed in the name of the Winter rituals. We can now sit back a bit more and relax. We’ve had a lovely Christmas day. I got a number of nature and gardening presents and Alice had a super day. She enjoyed being around her cousins lots, but will probably blog separately about that.

During my lazy morning I’ve done a few online acts of wild.

The Big Garden Birdwatch

The registration for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is now open. The Big Garden Birdwatch is one of the largest wildlife surveys in the country. It has been going since 1979 and gives a wealth of information on the decline of bird life and shifts from countryside to towns. During the weekend of the 26th of January and 28th you are asked to put an hour aside and count the birds in your garden. Last year I hit double figures though it was actually quite a quiet day in my garden.

The RSPB also encourage schools to take part through the Big Schools Birdwatch. I’ve spent a bit of my school budget on binoculars and magnifying glasses and bug viewers to encourage the children to develop an interest in nature. A few of the parents took part in the birdwatch at home as well. So I’m hoping to get some engagement in school again this year.

Online articles

During my lazy morning I’ve sat and read a few nature articles. While registering for the Big Garden Birdwatch I found a few articles on the RSPB website. If your after a quick way to connect with nature the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts websites are good sources of information for those days you can’t get out.

Robins revealed

Forest Bathing

Fox hunting

The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable

Oscar Wilde

Boxing Day sees the sad pursuit of fox hunting. Despite being illegal it continues without many prosecution’s against those disregarding the law. But with rural crime units facing reduced funding they can’t tackle the lawbreakers effectively. Exactly why this upper class blood sport is allowed to continue brings anger to many. The National Trust allow fox hunting on their lands despite the membership voting against this. As such I won’t support the National Trust while this continues. I would like to visit their gardens but feel unable to support the organisation.

On a similar line grouse shooting there is another petition against grouse shooting. This is nother damaging practise against wildlife. As another act of wildness I’ve put my name to the petition opposing. Through Mark Avery this has been through government before, but it’s worth continuing showing opposition.

Petition

Listen to the birds

During the morning I popped outside to enjoy the bird song. We are staying at my parents and the garden is full of birds currently. The robins and blackbirds were singing away. The more raucous starlings were adding to the noise. The collared doves were cooing. Another little joy costing nothing.

Afternoon walk

After another feast of gluttony I got out with my mum and Alice. While not walking in the wildest areas it was good to get outside. Alice fell asleep for a nap which will do her good. She’s had a busy couple of days.

We did spot this growing around a lamp post. They seem a bit out of season.

Hope you’ve all had good Boxing Days. A bit more restful for us with a bit less travelling.

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Daunder

Today’s word for the day from Robert Macfarlane: “daunder” – to walk without fixed purpose, to wander aimlessly, to stroll, saunter & idle about, in city or in country (Scots). Cf another fine Scots verb for this, “to stravaig”.

This morning I had an appointment, but following that I decided to take a daunder back through the park. Of late, I haven’t had much chance to go through what it a lovely local space for me. The avenue of trees, the wide expanse of grass, the surrounding gardens all make for a pleasant stroll. Squirrels enjoy a number of confirs in the surrounding gardens. The park provides a rich variety of habitats with wet areas, woodland, ground cover, short and long grass.

During Winter one of the areas of trees becomes bogged down and for a few months becomes a temporary duck pond. Today the mallards were resting by the side, while the crows hopped back and forth around the edge.

Many of the surrounding stone walls are covered in ivy. This wonderful Autumn rich pollen source has now gone to seed. Once dropped the ivy can continue it’s creeping domination of the southern corner of the park only to have it’s efforts thwarted later in the year by the groundsmen.

Signs of Spring are poking through with snowdrops in flower and daffodils preparing for their colour burst.

One of my favourite areas of the park takes a path through trees into a short holloway to nowhere in particular. The chaffinches were out in number today hopping around the ivy encrusted trees.

Throughout the park I could hear the sound of great tits chattering back and forth.

The blackbirds were accomodating for photos.

Just a quick wander round the park shows life is starting to emerge again. The Spring flowers are showing their heads. The birds are finding their voices again. The sun is almost warming. Good to be out.

New Year at the Bay

For New Years Eve we had a quiet night in as Alice isn’t quite ready for parties. New Years Day we headed up the coast to Amy’s dad’s house at Robin Hood’s Bay where we had a lovely meal at the Hare and Hounds in Hawker. Amy had the trio of pork and I had the home made burger with goats cheese. I just expected a few pieces crumbled on the top, but it was a solid slice of grilled goats cheese. It was all delicious. Alice had a good wait, so had walked back and forth across the pub multiple times before food. But she did quite well for her age. She has decided to reject booster seats now. She wants either a chair to herself or my knees to sit on. She knows her own mind for a one and a half year old.

The next day saw a good sunrise over the bay with breathtaking skies. I think I said it last time I went, but photos don’t do it justice.

The next day we got out for a walk. I was taking photos as we went for the New Year Plant Hunt organised by the BSBI. The aim being to monitor what wildflowers are in bloom in Winter.

A few seen on the way.

Red Valerian

The winter heliotrope. A rather delightful low laying wildflower.

Plenty of gorse along cliff faces.

We had a nice walk along the beach. We didn’t quite make it to Boggle Hole, just down the coast. Boggle is a local name for a hobgoblin, a mischievous little person. Boggle Hole was one of the spots the smugglers on this stretch of coast used, thus the name.

Alice was keen to get in the howdah today trying to clamber in before we were ready.

Continue reading New Year at the Bay

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

It’s the time of the year to register for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The birdwatch is over one weekend. Just an hour is needed to sit and count birds in your garden. The data collected is invaluable for conservation efforts. 

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/packrequest/
Last year saw me record a respectable 11 species, but I’m hopeful for more this year after a year of feeding the birds and making the garden more wildlife friendly. 


Variety in the garden

As we move into frostier weather the garden is looking tattier leading to me questioning what I want planted and what I want to remove. I’ve been reading Christopher Lloyd’s-the well tempered garden giving me lots of food for thought. But today has seen a mass influx in bird life vindicating what I wanted the garden to do. I wanted to encourage wildlife into the garden and today has seen a massive variety on the feeder.

Having discussed previously keeping the feeders stocked for Winter I’ve been trying to keep my feeding station stocked with a variety of food. However as there are many hungry birds with the frozen ground the seed goes in  day, even with two large seed feeders. The fat balls and suet blocks last a bit longer. However it is worth it for the spectacles I’ve seen today.

I have feeders spread over a feeding station and hung on the trees and shrubs. Some are in cover, some are more open to encourage different birds to feed.

The birds are clearly struggling for food at the moment as my bird count has hit 14 species just during this morning.

I’ve seen:

  • wrens
  • Sparrows
  • dunnocks
  • blackbirds
  • starlings
  • robins
  • wood pigeons
  • blue tits
  • coal tits
  • great tit
  • herring gulls
  • common gulls
  • jackdaws
  • goldfinches

Notice, all plural, even the robins. The robins are normally territorial fighting other robins off, but clearly the need for food is trumping that instinct today. It’s a joy to see the goldfinches, which didn’t used to spend winter up North, but are gradually moving up. The birds were eating a mixture of the food provided and scavenging from the garden. It’s good to know what I’ve put in place has increased the variety on last year.

A couple of today’s visitors. With so many birds out this morning I haven’t wanted to go out and interrupt for photos and risk scaring them off. So not the finest photos I’ve taken.

Time will tell whether in another year I’ll have managed to entice any greater numbers into the garden. But either way 14 species is a clear indicator that putting food out makes a huge difference to what comes into the garden.

 

Winter feeding

The last month has been busy with Christmas preparations beginning. The disaster that is my Nativity play has begun. So blogging has been low of late. But now I’m getting past deadlines. Quite a bit has been happening in my garden and progress has been made on my school outdoor area, which I will try to update during the next few weeks.

After thick snow descended on Thursday the garden has been well coated with ice on snow. It had just thawed on Saturday. This has left the garden with lots of hungry birds struggling to find food.

Through Winter it’s important to help the birds. The water sources freeze, so I’ve been trying to get out to crack the ice in the bird bath. The food I put out disappears quickly. The seed goes in a few days. So as well as the seed I try to keep the peanut feeders filled with either peanuts or suet pellets. These seem to last a bit longer than the seed. So even when it’s been a busy week and I haven’t got out to replenish the seed I’m still leaving something for the birds.

Haith’s have been helping me out as they sent me a bag of their help to fly Autumn/Winter mix to review. This is a seed mix with high energy and oil content to  help give birds that fat and energy they need to survive the Winter. Haith’s bird food is put through a cleaner process. The grain dust created during harvest can be damaging if seed is not cleaned. Much of the bird food you buy won’t be cleaned in this way.

Haith’s sent me a bag of both the cleaned and the unclean mix. I wonder if from the photo you can spot the difference?

On the left is the cleaned and the right the unclean. I was surprised at how much of a difference I could see in the two batches. While I’m not able to do the test taste to appreciate  the difference I’m sure the birds will appreciate it at this time of year when food is scarcer.

Before filling the feeders I also gave them a good clean out. I’ve talked about it before, but it is important to clean feeders to limit disease spread.

Before I’d left the garden the birds were already sneaking in, clearly ready, for a feed.

Over the day I’ve seen a good mix of visitors: sparrows, great tits and blue tits got in to test it first. Then pigeons, starlings and jackdaws followed. Then had wrens, dunnocks and robins in and out.

Then a few herring gulls came in, although not for the seed.

Alice has enjoyed getting out to explore the garden again after several days of frost. She checked in on the bug hotel and gave the flowers a sniff.

Thanks again to Haith’s for sending the bird food to review. The birds seem to be enjoying it. It’s been nice to get out briefly into the garden and then sit in doing data input while looking up to see the birds enjoying the new seed.

Half term begins

The half term holiday has begun for me. Me and Alice got out for a wander yesterday.

We headed down to the Mere. Alice enjoyed the rather noisy geese and mallards.

It was a bit windy, but Alice enjoys the feel of wind.

Alice has started to imitate animal noises, so we got a good baa at the sheep.

Back home the garden is seeing more bird life. Next door decided they didn’t have the time for their cats. So the cats have been given to family. Suddenly we have much more bird action again. What a difference a cat makes.

The goldfinches have returned after several months of absence.

The birds are enjoying the feeders for longer, so the seed is disappearing quicker.

With the cats gone the birds are becoming more confident coming close to the house.

With the lack of cats and the leaves falling I’m getting lovely views of the birds now. I can sit in the kitchen and look out on a wealth of life.

A walk in the park

Yesterday I made it out for a walk in the park after several days in school working in a windowless room on my Early Years School Evaluation Form. This form is the schools judgement of how well we believe we’re doing. This is then presented to ofsted when we get the inspection phone call. So I was quite happy to be outside despite a bit of drizzle.

The hedges along the park were a ladybird hot spot last year, but so far I had not seen many. Yesterday they had returned in force with lots of signs along the whole of the hedge.

Amongst the trees we found a decorated rock. Decorating rocks, then leaving them hidden places has been a craze this Summer. When you find them you photograph them a tag on facebook/twitter. I have mixed feelings about this activity. I like that it gets children out. But living by the seaside I’ve seen people taking buckets of rocks away. There is a legal side to this that many of them shouldn’t be taking the quantity they are as well as dismantling a habitat. But this probably deserves a whole blog on itself. People have always taken rocks and seashells as souvenirs from beaches, but the quantity people are taking is a concern.

Amongst the long grass area a robin perched on branch serenading.

Conkers are now falling. It looked like they’ve already been scavenged through, but I did find a few to take into school for my discovery area.

Now it’s time to get back to writing my school action plan and evaluation form. A bit nicer though working from home with a view of the garden. Red admirals and sparrows are back and forth across the garden currently.

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Long tailed tit bumbarrels

I didn’t contribute any folklore Thursday posts on twitter, but did find this little literary reference I liked.

Up flies the bouncing woodcock from the brig
Where a black quagmire quakes beneath the tread
The fieldfare chatter in the whistling thorn
And for the awe round fields and closen rove
And coy bumbarrels twenty in a drove
Flit down the hedgerows in the frozen plain
And hang on little twigs and start again

John Clare
The “bumbarrels” is a colloquial for long tailed tits. As a name it rather suits them. The last few weeks I’ve had these coming in the garden a lot and are becoming more comfortably in my presence. 

I’m gradually getting closer for photos of these bumbarrels.

Bay walk

The second day at the bay we got out for a walk along the sea front with Alice’s aunt, uncle, cousin and granddad.

Max had an explore down the tunnel.

Alice had a brief walk on the sand. She didn’t like the water very much so ended up back in the howdah pretty quick.

Alice’s Uncle Rich and cousin Max explored rock pools finding a decent sized crab.

Pecking through the distant rock pools for molluscs we saw the oyster catchers.

And a few butterflies on the way back up the cliff.

Back at the house we had a sit down in the rather beautiful garden for a cuppa. Alice had a good explore.

Photo challenge

The photo challenge I’ve been taking part in had been focussing on flowers and petals this week. So I’ve been playing with aperture.

So here is the same flower at different apertures. This affects the background focus. Generally for flowers people aim to have the flower in focus, then the background in soft focus isolating the main subject of the flower.

1/6 sec. f/36 50 mm

This gives some focus to the background leaves, which here isn’t quite as nice as the soft focus.

1/200 sec. f/5.6 50 mm

1/200 sec. f/6.3 42 mm

The higher f-number giving a nicer shot in my opinion. The subject flower is shot showing the colours nicely with the background as a soft blur.

And a few other shots from the garden.

Alice has enjoyed having her cousin around.

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