January 4, 2018

New Life

Needing exercise after a very sedentary two  days over Christmas divesting the stress of the previous two  months (why do we have to build up the event in such a ghastly way?) I went and visited my Woodland project in HW.

It was like entering a new world.........despite the chill wind the wood  was aglow with a low hovering winter sun.  The trees in the canopies rustled quietly in the breeze and the birds............ erupted from the tree tops in joyous ebullient song.

New life is noticebly  bursting  through last seasons decaying leaf litter and the trees are  budding through old  papery brown leaves.

I cannot believe we have had yet another named storm 'Eleanor'.  Storms appears to be a monthly event.  Although very wild and cold Wirral came off lightly again compared to the rest of the UK.  The combination of full moon, gales and high tides  meant the estuary experienced some early high spring tides which was evident by the sign of flooding on the Dee Marshes at Parkgate on 3rd December.  This brought large dramatic swirling flocks of lapwings close to shore.  We were also very fortunate to see 3 rare Marsh Harriers.

Dramatic weather makes super opportunities for photography with the light and shade of low clouds in combination with low sun.

December 19, 2017

Storm Caroline

Every time I sit down to write this post it seems to be pre or post yet another storm.  Is this because we give personality and names to them or because there are more storms.

Anyway it was clear  something was on its way as large numbers  of seagulls had commenced gathering in large flocks inland  on their favourite fields, this they always seem to do when wild weather is on its way.  Sure enough the wild weather forecast followed 2 days later.   Large flocks  of geese also gathered in large numbers and flocked  higher up the estuaries away from the coast.

More and more birds will be migrating here over the next couple of months as the weather fluctuates over Europe.  Heres hoping to get to see the Waxwings this year, as they are due to arrive in January.

Fortunately as is usual on the Wirra,  forecasts were much overstated as the snow was minimal although the freezing temperatures lasted over 48 hours. Many seabirds where still standing on floating ice several days later as this has turned out to be a very cold December if not very white for Cheshire and Wales.

The shortest day 21st will soon be over and the daylight hours will start to lengthen.  The buds on the lilac tree are already  green swelling  and behind the grey gloom spring is in preparation.

If the sun does appear the low angled golden light  reveals the nakedness of the earth and gives amazing fleeting sights like  the above reed beds at Burton Point.   In the wind the birds huncker down but you can still hear them soulfully   calling across the water to one another.

All the garden creatures have been promised cheese scones for Christmas Day (all time favourite above all other food ) so that is what I will be doing on Christmas Eve trying to get them fresh......it is important to be faithful in small things.

Wishing everyone a very peaceful Christmas

November 10, 2017

Storm Brian


Woodland birds are few at this time, but the estuaries are vibrant with sightings and sounds.  The sight and sound of large numbers of geese passing overhead every morning is what makes the  long grey wet days of October and November bearable.   There has been  a large influx of Pink Footed Geese sighted around the estuaries,  substantially more than last year.  Their calls are noticebly different from Canada Geese, more chatty than honking and higher pitched.  In the grey skies it is impossible to tell the difference by sight alone as they all look the same.

Well storm Brian has passed and for the Wirral it was much more vigorious than Storm Doris. (I would love to have one named after me  ) one violent night and at least half the trees lost their leaves.  The Beeches outside the coffee shop still have some golden embers left. which on a warm sunny day tinkle with the sound of a jubilent flock of mixed finches, goldfinch, chaffinch and maybe this year a rare hawfinch,  non of which I can see and if it were not for the traffic I would record.  Strangely birds love singing where it is noisy.  The middle of a wood can be completely silent, but the  end nearest human habitat alive with sound.

Now is a good time for finding lichen and fungi at its best in the low light.

This weekend I attended an all day free adult education class on 'raptors' at the World Museum in Liverpool.  They run many such courses on different nature interests but their website is so weird that it is difficult to find them.  Usually it is by word of mouth, but the link is provided below incase like me  many of you give up looking for it.  Most of the course was based around studying an old  collection of stuffed birds which to me was distressing, but it did allow close study.  Interestingly most of the specimens seemed much smaller than you see in  the wild now.

On a recent visit to Dibbinsdale ancient woodland I was given a gift of the  perfect autumn spectacle of angled  dabbled light through golden leaves.  This day was the fourth attempt to visit and turned out to be the blessed one for photograhy.

My home birds are  back in the garden  checking out new perches made from pruned virginia creeper trunks and revamped feeder stations.  Hicaw my chatty Jackdaw is back and the Blue Tits are checking out the old nestbox for the winter.

October 16, 2017

Spiders and Storm Ophelia

All of a sudden there are spiders everywhere you look and don' t look and more to the point huge cobwebs in the most inappropriate places, between the back door and the bin, across the garage doorway.  I am sure if I sat long enough in the garden I would become a major anchor point  from the washing line 4ft away for some tiny spider mega mansion. The webs  seem totally out of proportion to the creature making it. Early morning the dew rests on millions of tiny little webs created overnight  in the grass.  There must be an awful lot of spiders around !!


The trees have started  to turn, the autumnal setting sun casting a final golden glow on the underside of the fading lilac leaves.   Sycamores seemed to go first closely followed by  Silver birch which has already shed all their yellow leaves  like the yomping willow in Harry Potter, so maybe we will have a shorter autumn than last year.  Whilst some trees are naked others have hardly turned golden.   After the storm there will be definitely nothing left and the best of the Autumn will be over for another year.

This has been a great year for the Red Admiral Butterfly and they can still be seen floating about well into October if not November. Even saw one in the high wind this morning.

Red Admiral

From the top of the bus today I saw an amazing scene of hundreds if not a thousand seagulls of various shapes and sizes wheeling about in an enormous cloud over the Dee Estuary.  Is this a warning of the weather to come, mind   the amelioration of the sea may save us from the worst.  Seagulls always give good warning of any unpleasant weather heading our way  and  can indicate whether the tide is high or low.

After a very eerie yellow glow in the  dawn of the day of the storm, the peach ball of the sun came through to remind us it will be  still there when it was all over.

St. Johns Wort

There are still a few stoic wildflowers about, the multi seasonal  Herb Robert named after a french botanical illustrator.  Random outcrops of Hog Weed and late flowering St. Johns Wort. Carpets of green leafed  wild geranium are already preparing for spring.

It is very upsetting to know that more  hedgehogs die as a result of eating poisoned slugs, than are killed on the roads.

Thanks are sent to 2 new nature watchers who are sending their photos from other parts of the Wirral.

September 5, 2017

Let Wilderness Be Itself

Our juvenile robin is now sporting a full red breast. Nearly all but the odd straggler Swallow and House Martin have  just this week left for warmer climates. We now wait for the staggered influx of winter visitors over the next 3 months. Autumn migration is less intense than the spring as the urgency is not the same.

The Goldfinches have also left for Spain and Northern Africa except 2+juvenile  have decided to stay.  Are these the same 2 who remained last year as juveniles ? (I fantasize that they are) and will they join with others to produce their own little flock again.

Some birds such as the Blackcap now opt not to migrate, due to our warmer climate and milder winters. This gives them an edge next spring to choose the best nest site before the others arrive back.

Last Swallow to leave?
What is exciting is the knowledge that many birds usually only seen in the southern counties of the UK are slowly moving further north, so some new sightings are becoming more possible, maybe even one day a Dartford Warbler or Nightjar.

Autumn colours are appearing nearly a month earlier this year. The Virginia Creeper over the garage is turning brilliant red already. The air feels so different in the mornings and evenings and oh joy to get out of summer clothes into cosy fleece again and hopefully very soon winter duvet.

Something else I did not realize I had missed until a couple of weeks ago were the stars. As the nights are visibly drawing in and the lights go on at bedtime, leaning out of the window to say goodnight to the garden, (which I do every night) I can now see the stars clearly again. My window faces seaward so there is little or no urban glow and on a most clear nights I have a large vista of sky stretching across the horizon. One of my big wishes is to actually see the Milky Way but I do not think this is likely so close to Liverpool.


Large White Butterflies are flopping about like paper handkerchiefs in the wind, Some of them are much larger this year and seem to have little purpose than enjoying floating about.

Thus week a large harvest moon is waxing early evening to coincide with the gathering in the produce of a good harvest year.   It is a great time to watch large flocks of mixed birds taking advantage of the fallen seed.

On the way to check out the woodland project I heard the honking of geese and when looking over the hedge saw 70+  migrant Canada Geese enjoying the stubble of the harvest above. Autumn rushes in.

Footnote : I recently started experimenting with coffee and tea as a dye medium for paper.
Like all artistic enterprises nothing goes to plan and depending on the paper you use, it is not as easy as it sounds. Using vinegar as a mordent and used coffee gounds as the dye eventually there was moderate succes on 'expensive' handmade paper. To get rid of the smell of vinegar ( which I hate) the sample was left out over night on the garden table to air. This morning I found it under the table well nibbled and chewed by both slug and snail, wrecking the original intention but creating a very interesting evolving natural image.

More on this to follow in the next blog.

August 7, 2017

So silent is the silence

Visiting the woodland  project  this morning on what what I initially thought was going to be a dark and dank day turned out to be one of gentle breezes and dappled sunlight.  The light is alwYs a challenge in dense woodland in the summer as the foliage is so busy with variation and the light minimal.  All this even using a good  digital camera is challengjng.  instead of striding through looking for obvious changes since my last visit I spent a very pleasant half hour studying the light  and silence.  At one point there was an eerie silence but as I became attuned to the woodland I heard a gentle ' soughing' in the canopy of leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.  The air and ground were damp and the stream was flowing slowly over the pebbles.  In the background there erupted a short song from a wren this the followed by a woodpigeon.  You are carefully watched when entering into the wood, but if you progress very slowly and stop at intervals the wood appears to accept you and normal life continues. On leaving the wood, for the first time here I heard the unmistakeble boom of a stock dove.

The Swifts have gone  with the flying ants and greenfinches  and soon the House Martins Goldfinches and Swallows will follow.   The ether will be totally silent until the moult is over and winter visitors start to arrive. What birds sounds are around tend to be juvenile calls and these are extremely difficult to identify without seeing the bird that is making it.

But sitting in the garden it becomes apparent that there are still plenty of birds around from raggy looking adult jackdaws, blackbirds, robins and pigeons in amongst spotty brown juveniles that have not yet acquired their full colours.  Juveniles are very inquisitive and can venture quite close to check you out.   Teenage Jackdaws are racketing around the neighbourhood shouting down chimneys and tossing moss off the roof,  like you do when a teenager trying to get noticed.

                                       Signs of Autumn are already  starting to appear.

July 18, 2017

The Ants have flown

It is a strange phenomenon that different birds take the lead in song on different days it has been the Robin one morning and the Blackbird another.

Our fledgling blue tits came back for a visit recently looking very well.  How do I know they were the right ones...because the parents ignored me completely  as they always did when tooing and froing from the box through the carefully and thoughtfully placed washing.

The goldfinches are still eating us out of house and home so there must be an awful lot of them.  This happened last year then all of a sudden they disappeared just when I had stocked up with nyger seed which subsequently went stale. 

Sadly the Robin and Blackbird have stopped singing  until the moult finishes in August. It would be unbearably quiet in the garden if it were not for the non stop chatter of Jackdaws and  singing of the Goldfinches, but they too will be off to Africa soon with the swifts.  Thankfully the thrush and the wren have started singing again  after several weeks of silence.   There is little more captivating as catching a glimpse of a perfectly formed young wren in the undergrowth and there seem to be many this year, living up to their name troglodyte as they rummage in the undergrowth. Occasionally a male will burst into bright song for a short while, perhaps gathering in the brood.

Readers may think by now that I am obsessed by birdsong, that is very true and I see no change  as I study it in much more depth.  To my mind this  is a perfect expression of the joy of living   in the purest untainted  form.

The woodland project is still going strong and as the visits mount I have become more aware of the nuances and small changes taking place. A marvellous project that influenced  me into taking this one on ( a year in the life of Harrocks Wood ) was reading the link below over the past year... . .   

'The Long View'....... which  reached its culmination exhibition and publication this June.  Inspired by this I  contacted  other local historians and The National Trust ....with very mixed responses.   The more famous the person the better the response and  after tracking down the ranger for the area this improved and much help in gathering  information is  ongoing.   In consequence the project is  taking a new turn  to try and  locate  the necessary documentation for ancient woodland status.

This is the worst time of year for being bitten or stung as many larvae erupt from the ponds as flying insects. Some are more attractive than others and many do not bite as they spend there short life span above water finding a mate and laying eggs.

Now the ants.....the nest in front of the garage erupted with flying ants at midday with all the non flying ants rushing around in all directions  with no apparent purpose except mutual excitement.  The event only lasted an hour and then they were all gone.  Each year this marks for me the highest point of the summer and the heat to my relief will begin  to fall and the summer will start to wane.

New Life

Needing exercise after a very sedentary two  days over Christmas divesting the stress of the previous two  months (why do we have to build u...