Garden Progress, Wildlife Insights

MIA Catch Up 1 – Birds and Bugs

It’s been 7 weeks since I last posted here and looking back at my last couple of posts, soooo many things have changed. Nature (and Roger!) works fast.

In that time we’ve been incredibly privileged to have a pair of very busy blue tits successfully raise their babies in our next box.

Blue Tit emerging
Blue Tit emerging, taken with my iPhone through the eye piece of a spotting scope

On my quest to find out about how we could make our new garden wildlife friendly, I joined the RSPB in January. I’d forgotten the gift for joining was a bird box, and was very happily surprised when it arrived in February.

Lovely surprise from the RSPB
Lovely surprise from the RSPB

The beautifully made box sat in the conservatory for a couple of weeks, as we couldn’t decide where the best place was for it. Then I read somewhere that it was time to put up bird boxes as prospective residents would be scouting around for a good home, so it went up in the easiest place to put it, next to the bathroom window.

 

It was then forgotten about as we carried on with our garden and house plans.

Just before the scaffolding went up, Roger mentioned that he thought he’s seen a bird go into the box. I spent ages on the raised patio staring at the box, but I saw nothing. We thought if there were any birds looking at the box they would be scared off by the men that would be working from the scaffolding.

 

Some windows were replaced, all the fascias were replaced, then the roofer started on the chimney and roof repairs. “Did you know you have Blue Tits nesting in your box?”

We saw those busy parents constantly in and out the box from then on, sometimes taking a brief rest on the scaffolding. More men came to take the scaffolding down, the Blue Tits just carried on parenting.

I spent hours just starring in wonder. Roger bought me a spotting scope so I could get a close up view, as the parents got more and more bedraggled and the babies got noisier and noisier.

Watching the Blue Tits
Watching the Blue Tits

It wasn’t long before we saw lots of little faces keep appearing at the hole. They were getting ready to fledge. One morning, looking at the box, I had a feeling today was the day. On my return from work they were gone. No dead baby birds under the box or in the garden. My heart went to them, wishing them all the best for their futures.

***

So, back to the beginning of June…the upper tier of the back garden had a new retaining wall and had been de-turfed and seeded with a wildflower meadow (written about in the previous post). What to do now?

On of our favourites local places to go on our motorbikes is Carsington Water, a beautiful peaceful place. It has a small RSPB shop which we always visit before having a cup of coffee looking over the reservoir. We loved this magnificent bug hotel they had for sale.

Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop
Huge Bug Hotel at RSPB shop

Luckily it wouldn’t fit on the back of a motorbike, so Roger got thinking and turned a few packing crates into a beautiful one of our own.

As you can see, not all the floors are ready for inhabitation! We need to go on a walk to find pine cones and other interesting bits and pieces before winter.

But, now Roger had an urge to build more houses! I’d been trying to get his son to build me a bird table since we moved in, he’d now lost his chance. When I next came home from work, there was a bird table. Not just any old bird table, a delightfully crafted one.

I’m very happy, the birds are very happy.

***

We have a friend, actually we have two! A pair of robins. They appeared whilst the Blue Tits were mid parenting, so they either didn’t have a nest or lost theirs. They are incredibly inquisitive. We’ve done more work on the garden (or rather, Roger has) which I’ve still to write about, and they’ve been there every step of the way, keeping all of us company as soon as any of us stepped into the garden.

One was very brave and followed Roger into the conservatory! He did panic and needed a gentle coaxing out.

Over Friendly Robin
Over Friendly Robin

That’s the bird and bug news, wild flower meadow news still to come!

Walking Discoveries

Afternoon Canal Walk

As the wind and snow had mostly disappeared, I could finally get out to discover more of the surrounding area. My daughter was home from uni and wanted to practice using her new camera so she came along too.

From our house in Disley we took the path almost opposite which leads to the Peak Forest Canal. Turning right we headed along the canal path towards New Mills. We continued past the Swizzles factory and New Mills Canal Basin until we reached a footpath across the fields down to the River Goyt.

Canal in Disley
Starting our canal walk, heading towards New Mills
Reflections in the Canal
Perfect reflections
Canal in Disley
Following the canal path
Painted Canal Boat
Beautifully painted canal boat
New Mills Canal Basin
New Mills Canal Basin

I didn’t see as much wildlife as I expected. In the trees on the opposite side I caught a glimpse of a squirrel racing through the branches. Most of the ducks and geese were gathered in the canal basin amongst all the moored canal boats. There was a large friendly black duck with beautiful feathers that changed colours as he moved, which I’ve not seen before. Some of the residents of the boats further down the canal had seed feeders and fat balls in the hedges for the birds which attracted plenty of sparrows and I got a brief glimpse of a long tailed tit which I’ve not seen since I was a child.

But, quite a surprise, were the lamas in a field as we approached the river! They were quite happy munching on the grass. Despite plenty of effort to attract their attention they ignored us completely, much to Esme’s frustration, as she wanted a photograph of one with it’s head up.

Railway bridge over River Goyt
Magnificent railway bridge over River Goyt

Following the river brought us to Torr Vale Mill which used to be a cotton mill and is now being developed into office space and an arts centre. Along side the mill is a beautiful double arch viaduct and a weir. Leading from this stunning area is the Millenium Walkway, suspended over the rushing water. We crossed the bridge over the river at the end of the walkway and climbed up into New Mills. We were then able to rejoin the canal at the basin and retrace our steps back home.

I’m still amazed at the beauty and peacefulness just over the road, but not visible, from my house. I can see myself using the canal path to get the New Mills all the time and can’t wait to see it come to life through the Spring and Summer.

Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
Double Arch Viaduct and Torr Mill Weir
New Mills Millennium Walk
New Mills Millennium Walk
Walking Discoveries

Discovering Disley

Before moving here 10 weeks ago, I’d driven through on the A6 many times but I knew nothing about the surrounding countryside. I get an amazing view from my front door over adjoining villages and Kinder Scout, the highest hill in the Peak District, but so far I’ve only looked at it and taken photos.

Roger grew up in Disley and has many tales of mischief and adventures which took place all around where we now live. Sunday was finally a sunny, if very cold, day and he could keep his promise to start showing me my way round the many footpaths.

Map of walk 25th Feb
Map of walk, each number represents 1km

Wrapped up warm and reluctantly accompanied by two of the teenagers, we set off down towards the Peak Forest Canal, which is barely 0.5km away. It’s a wonderful waterway and I’ll be investigating it more in the near future. There were several inhabited houseboats moored alongside the pathway. I imagine the warmer weather brings this stretch of water alive with many more boats, people and wildlife. The ducks and geese were keen to say hello, but they weren’t so happy when they discovered we hadn’t brought any food with us!

We discovered community built dirt jumps just off the path, which perked up the male teenager. I think he might be back with his bike! Just a few metres further on, wooden steps down through the trees led to a view of a steep drop down to a fast flowing run off from the canal.

Near the 2km mark, gazing out over the fields towards Hague Bar we spotted a large bird of prey drifting on the thermals. On the other side of the canal, which still had icy patches, were happily grazing sheep.

A cheeky robin watched us cross the canal to start heading back up through farmland onto the busy A6, which was a very sudden sharp contrast to the peacefulness of the canal. A quick refreshment break at The Rams Head and we were ready to complete the second half of our loop.

Climbing up again, through the gardens of St Mary’s Church there were plenty of beautiful woodland plants to brighten up the way. Following the footpath with fields, and the odd house, either side I felt very lucky to be living so close to such stunning scenery.

Just before turning left at around the 5km mark, I could see The Cage (an iconic folly that can be seen for miles) at Lyme Park and Bollinhurst Reservoir. I’ve visited Lyme Park, and The Cage, many times before but it was a surprise to me that I’d never seen this reservoir and didn’t even know it existed. I think I might be taking a walk in this direction before long!

The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
The Cage at Lyme Park in the distance
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees
Bollinhurst Reservoir through the Trees

Crossing Buxton Old Road we were now heading downhill, along a track which resembled a stoney old river bed and back to where we started.

What a fabulous couple of hours. I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful area.

There are Pixies living in Disley!
There are Pixies living in Disley!
Wildlife Insights

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Scrolling through Instagram Friday morning I came across a post mentioning the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – this weekend! I was instantly interested and got online to find out more as the past few days, we’ve really noticed the birds singing and chirruping and getting, well….very noisy! I’ve popped outside to try and spot them but haven’t seen anything. So, an hour in the garden with the sole purpose of birdwatching felt like a very good thing to do.

birdfeederFriday, I hung up a seed and insect suet roll bird feeder (I’d bought recently) at the end of the garden, where there’s a large open field over the fence. Within minutes two cheeky jackdaws were trying to land on it, to no avail as they were too big. I spent the day working from the conservatory where I could see the feeder, but sadly there were no further visitors.

Saturday, I downloaded the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch pack, which included a calendar with some great tips to get my wildlife garden going throughout the year. I also saw the site has some fabulous features with lots of inspiration. I decided it was certainly worth joining the organisation and signed up.

 

binocularsSunday, 9am, armed with a cup of coffee and a beautiful old pair of binoculars (given to me by my dad many years ago) I made my way up to the seating area, next to the apple tree. I could hear plenty of birds singing away but still couldn’t see any.

Over the next very peaceful and pleasurable hour, I saw many birds flying overhead although I couldn’t make out what they were. Through the binoculars I saw 2 blackbirds and a collared dove in a big tree over in the field.

There were plenty of jackdaws flying in and out of the same tree as well as settling on the surrounding rooftops. I used to have lots of magpies in the garden at my previous house, it seems jackdaws will be my new boisterous friends!

When I turned round, still looking through the binoculars, I saw a thrush and a goldfinch in a tree several gardens down. That made me smile.

I’m hoping as I work on my garden with all my plans to attract more wildlife, that I’ll see many more birds whilst taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch in 2019.

thrush in tree
The tree a few gardens along
view from my chair
The big tree in the field