Love At First Sight

Kicking off this post with a huge positive from the past couple of weeks, I managed to see my very first Redwing!

These birds at the time of writing this are classified as red on the UK conservation status lists, with only a few pairs choosing to nest in the UK. These small thrushes are a winter visitor from Iceland and Scandinavia.

The Ivy bushes; now laden with berries, have attracted Blackbirds, Pigeons and other garden birds to feast on their bounty for weeks, because of this when I first saw the Redwings I mistook them for another bird. It took me a while to twig I had seen a Redwing at all.

I was so excited, not only had I seen this truly beautiful bird they were in my local area. There were three Redwings in total, who I saw at the Ivy Bush, I couldn’t of hoped for more. I have seen them on only 2 other occasions since the first time, very briefly. I really hope they are going to stick around until they have to migrate back to their nesting grounds. Fingers crossed for another chance to see them.

From new sightings to old familiar friends, the garden has been a haven for what seems like an abundance of small birds lately. Last week was national nestbox week, where if you can, you are encouraged to put a nestbox in whatever outdoor space you have available. I had put on up in the garden weeks beforehand and at present have seen a couple of birds investigate it but none looking to move in just yet.

I really enjoy treating the garden as a mini nature reserve, giving nature a helping hand is so important. From feeding the birds, having bug hotels, planting native wildflowers and having nestboxes it all make a big difference, not only for existing visitors but it could also aide in encouraging new ones to your space. With habitat loss being one of the biggest threats to nature, anything, no matter how big or small can make a real impact. What things do you already do to give your local nature/wildlife a helping hand?

On a more personal level, since the last post my mental health has not been in the best of places, even with the moments of joy at seeing the Redwings; my mood, self esteem and self worth refuse to stay buoyant. I don’t want to come across as severely negative all the time, I am really trying to keep my head afloat and focus on getting through each day as it comes, which I will admit is harder on some days than others.

My consultation for the next stage in my mental health referral has been booked, I have a goal to focus on and I am within range of getting the help I am very aware I need.

To end on another positive, Yeti, my pet jumping spider has successfully gone through his first molt with me. I had been prepared for this happening as he had made a very dense sling to retreat into. I went a week and a half not seeing anything of him. I did start to get a little worried but he eventually emerged, bigger and looking fantastic. He has fed since the molt and has been super active in his enclosure which is a great sign.

I really hope you are all keeping well and feeling hopeful for the upcoming spring months. I look forward to the macro season resuming properly and potentially finding new mini beasts to capture, research and exhibit in my future blogs. Is there anything in the spring you are looking forward to?

Until next time, take care.

Garden Birdwatch

From the 29th-31st January the RSPB will be holding its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, ones of the worlds largest bird surveys. To get involved all you need to do is pick one hour over the three days, could be day or night and count the birds you see visiting your garden/whatever you can see from your window (not counting birds in flight). Then to submit your results to rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

The results collected from these surveys are really important, for the past 40 years that this survey has occurred, they have been able to note what birds are in decline or on the rise visiting our local patches, e.g the Song Thrush was noted to decline in visiting numbers by 76% from 1979 to 2019. It helps identify what birds need help and what birds are thriving.

As you may of guessed I will be taking part, there aren’t many days anyway where I am not looking out into the garden to see what birds are there. One of my biggest aims with the new garden was to encourage more birds/wildlife to visit.

So far it has been successful. Offering a variety of bird food, from nuts, fat balls, fruit to seed has seen a flourish of new visitors to the garden.

A great activity I would recommend, something I have made very recently is my own bird feeder using pine cones. All you need is lard (do not use butter/margarine as this has a negative effect for the birds), bird seed mix, pine cones and twine. Letting the lard come up to room temperature mix in the seed and cover the pine cone (I would suggest tying the twine around the cone before doing this). Once covered, refrigerate the cones until the lard has hardened again. Now tie the feeder up somewhere in the garden and hopefully it should entice birds to visit.

If you are currently homeschooling this could be a great natural science activity, getting children involved in noticing the natural world and having fun getting messy mixing the seed with the lard (the best way is hand mixing!)

One of the newest visitors that I have managed to capture this week was the elusive Jay, for their size and their beautiful colouring they can be extremely difficult to spot. Only breaking cover to visit the ground feeder, they are very shy birds. I used my pop up hide to be able to get a snap of them, sat in the hide it took a while for them to get used to me being there and brave visiting, I could only just about see them as they hovered around the garden border in cover.

I was absolutely thrilled to see them into the garden and be able to document it with the picture. I really hope that they become regulars. Other newcomers have included a Greater spotted Woodpecker, Blackcaps, Green Finch, Chaffinch and Goldcrest. I have not been able to decent snaps of these but again I am hopeful they will return.

I have been trying to get out into the garden as much as I can, especially as this past week my mental health has been all over the place. I have mentioned on numerous posts how soothing being out in nature for me, its not a fix but it is a stop gap for my mind, to focus on something outwardly rather than being stuck within my own negative thoughts.

I have been trying to make a real effort in not being so self critical recently. To try and ignore the voice at the back of my head that tells me no-one likes me, I am not good enough and that I am doing everything wrong. This is easier said than done, I fail at it a lot but I am going to keep trying for my own sanity.

I hope that you are all managing to keep your spirits up or if not that you are able to recoop and talk it out. Until next time, take care.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

After a very brief break from blog writing, I’m back with what I hope you find a great variety of captures. The opportunities for photography in the garden recently has been fantastic.

The bird feeder has started to attract a great variety of birds and the mini beasts have been out in force during the warmer weather we have been lucky to have experienced recently.

I have been setting myself goals each day for what I would hope to snap each session. Of course nature is very unpredictable and I have to be flexible as to what is available to shoot.

Generally, I will start by choosing which lens I will be using for that day ( a choice between my 150-600mm or macro 105mm lens). This determines what I will be trying to shoot, e.g macro lens for mini beasts or flora.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to mix my photography up in this way. It has allowed me the focus on a particular subject each day rather than trying to capture absolutely everything, which could result with me missing photographic opportunities and more than likely leave me frustrated.

An update on the garden, another small flower bed had been dug over and more wildflowers have been sown. The flower bed I mentioned in my previous post has now sprung to life, small seedlings are beginning to poke their heads out through the soil. These are very exciting times.

I am unsure as to what project I will next kick start for the garden, a wildlife pond maybe? or more flower beds? I will keep you updated.

Spirits have continued to remain high during the brief writing break, I repeat myself often when I say this; but I am very grateful for times when this is the case for my mental well being. I have been keeping myself active with other small activities that have helped tremendously. Activities as simple as, baking a loaf of bread with a very established and active sourdough starter I started (RuRu), gives me a sense of achievement.

I hope you are all managing to remain positive as lock down continues, if not please, please reach out. We are in this together! Until next time, take care.