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ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

Small Skipper

ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

I ventured out of the house for the first time since March 22nd last Friday! I’m still shielding, but we have been advised that we can go outside once a day, for health benefits, as long as we follow strict social distancing. It was so nerve-wracking, but the wildlife at the Heather Farm Wetlands area welcomed me back with what felt like a huge hug to the senses. The sights, sounds, scents, space and the feel of the breeze was just the therapeutic boost I needed. It’s peaceful in the wetlands, with only a few visitors, who were all keeping a good distance. I felt safe and that was really important!

Skipper and Flower Beetles

I didn’t have to go far before seeing skippers flitting about all around me among the grasses. It was magic! A mix of both small and Essex skippers were so abundant in this perfect habitat. One obliging small skipper allowed me to get close-up with the macro lens and I hope this shows you why I just adore them. So fluffy, with the most enormous eyes! They were adorning the thistles along with thick-legged flower beetles, spiders and froghoppers (the larvae produce cuckoo spit!). See if you can spot them!

Skipper on Thistle

Grasses are so important to skippers! Small skipper larvae usually feed on Yorkshire-fog grass, and Essex skipper larvae will usually be found on Cock’s-foot grass. Both species will also use Timothy, False Brome, Meadow Foxtail and Creeping Soft grass. Aren’t they just the most wonderful names? Both the Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trusts have great information about grasses and sedges!

Essex Skipper on grasses

It’s really difficult to differentiate between the small and Essex skippers! It’s actually a bit early to be seeing the Essex on the wing, they would usually appear in July. Many of our butterflies have been emerging early this year, after the hot month of May. I am pretty sure that a number of the skippers I saw were the Essex, as a head-on view showed me the black-tipped antennae. The small skipper has an orange-brown tip.

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ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

I Predict A Riot

ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

So much fun watching the fledglings this week! We have large numbers of juvenile starlings now and they really are riotous. Their antics at the feeder have been a source of joy and amusement, not just for me and Simon, but also for many of my neighbours. When they all flock in together, there is hardly enough room on the feeding station for the fledglings, let alone their parents!

The stare!

Staring Starling!

Fledgling Blue Tit

Fledging Blue Tit


Do a little dance!

Shake Those Tail Feathers!

Singing for supper

Singing for Supper

When the starlings aren’t monopolising the feeding station, the beautiful fledgling blue tits are now visiting. They are so dinky but very vocal! The ragged looking adults are being constantly harassed by the cute little fluffies. Actually seeing a feed is a real joy! Sometimes the blue tit adults bring food from the trees down to fledglings perched on the feeder. They’re all still going through my suet and seed at the rate of knots, but it’s wonderful to feel like we are contributing to the welfare of these new lives!

Feeding a fledgling Blue Tit

Dinner Time!

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ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

The Messy Eater

ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

As most of you will know, I can’t leave my home as I am in the shielded group. I can’t even get into the garden as we’re in flats and the gardens are a communal space! I do, however, have a window that looks onto a small area of lawn and a little flower bed with hydrangea and roses.

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

When we were initially asked to stay shielded indoors, I knew that the hardest aspect of this for me, would be not getting out to my favourite nature reserves and parks to watch wildlife. I ordered a new bird feeding station, a little flower shaped feeder and a bird bath to encourage our garden birds to come to me. The feeders and bath are all set quite high, as we have two cats so I wanted to keep the wildlife safe! My regular visitors are the starlings, great tits and blue tits. The hot weather has made the bird bath a popular new feature and several of my neighbours have followed suit and added bird baths to their little patches too!

Thirsty Work

Parenting is thirsty work!

 

The little flower feeder has been very popular with the blue and great tits who both like an open feeder and good perch. I got Simon to stick it into one of my large planters to give it a bit of extra height. The blue tits are looking quite bedraggled at the moment as they have been very busy taking food to the nest. I suspect they have started their moult as well. After a very heavy shower the other day they looked especially untidy! I think it just adds to their character and tells a story of how much parenting work they are doing!

Bedraggled Blue Tit

Bedraggled Blue Tit

After The Rain

After the rain!

I have been filling (or rather sending Simon outside to fill!) the flower feeder with suet pellets for a high energy food source. The great tits absolutely love it! They’re not nearly as bedraggled as the blue tits but I am sure they have a busy nest nearby.

Take Away Dinner

Take Away Dinner

For weeks now I could see increasing activity from the starlings and felt sure that their young must be close to fledging! I was finally rewarded with the sight of a couple of fledged starlings at the feeding station. They are wonderful to see and hear! Very noisy, demanding food from every single adult nearby. The coconut feeders with suet and seed have been great for the starling fledglings, soft and easily digestible and packed with energy! They really are rather messy eaters though. Plenty ends up being dropped on the ground but the pigeons are happy to come and hoover them up.

The Very Hungry Starling

The very hungry starling!

 

The fledglings are great to look at closely with the telephoto lens! The markings are, of course, very different and they are able to open their beaks incredibly wide due to the soft gape flanges in the corner of the beak. I also noticed that the fledglings eyes are quite blue in colour.

Fledgling Starling Detail

Juvenile starling detail

I’m looking forward to seeing blue and great tit fledglings joining the starling at the feeder soon! I had a brief glimpse of a blue tit fledgling this afternoon so watch this space for more fledgling stories.

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ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

Shielded

ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

So just who are The Shielded?

Well the media are rather misrepresenting us I think! We are the unseen 1.8million. We’re not all in care homes, aged over 70 or “people who would probably have died at some point this year”. If I hear, or read, one more report that claims that many of the Covid-19 related deaths don’t really count, because that person would have likely passed away soon anyway, I will scream! Every death is a person, an individual with loved ones. All the World War rhetoric inspired me to get hold of a vintage gas mask. DON’T wear one of these to protect yourself against Covid! It’s a representation of the suffocating mask I feel has been placed upon me. I can’t help but think of Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est! Please read it. I am stumbling and floundering.

Masked

Many people in The Shielded group are there because they have a lifelong illness that requires immunosuppression. This could be because of cancer, organ transplant or autoimmune disease. The aim of our treatment is to give us as long a life as possible! Many people in this group are young. Most people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis – are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. I was 19yrs old. My mother was told that it was 50/50 if I would actually make it through the night. I stay shielded so that she, and the rest of my loved ones, don’t have to hear that kind of news again, because I’ve contracted coronavirus!

Shielded Warriors

While the majority of the population are now thinking about the easing of lockdown, The Shielded know that we’ve got a few more months of being shut away in our own homes, before we can even get that “one exercise outing per day”. Count your lucky stars people! We’re not superheroes, just ordinary people who would like to get on with our lives in the usual way too. Some people are waiting for operations, new therapies, hospital referrals or local treatments. Part of normal life for a lot of us. We’ve accepted that certain things have had to go on hold. You can help us get back to our normal by Staying Home, Protecting The NHS and Saving Lives. Who knows, you might even save mine!