Sunday, 20 April 2014

Idyllic Eskdale

Yellowhammer at the window

We recently spent a wonderful weekend at a brilliant B & B in Eskdale Green, in the Eskdale Valley, on the western side of the Lake District.
The B&B sits in the middle of it`s own five and a half acres of natural Fellside and ancient woodland, it has spectacular views across the Eskdale Valley.

The B&B has all the usual modern luxuries, but some things not many places can brag about, like roe deer in the garden and red squirrels feeding just the other side of the glass windows in the Conservatory! Not to mention the vast array of birds visiting the many feeders, including: blue, great and coal tits, gold and green finches, siskins, jay, yellow hammers. We just missed out on the barn and tawny owls! There are also bats roosting in one of their outbuildings.

So peaceful and idyllic, so many places worth a visit nearby.
Many interesting and easy walks from the house,  but also the climb up Scafell, can start from the house! 
For further info see one of the leaflets at the next meeting, or go to:
Walney Island is very close by and worth a visit as is St Bees Head, as are the many bird and nature reserves, roman reserves, stone circles and  ancient crosses. and England`s oldest narrow gauge railway, including 7 miles of line, 12 locomotives and a railway museum.


Red squirrels visiting

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Take a stroll among a bluebell spectacle at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands this spring

Gorst trail Burton Mere wetlands

Now is the perfect time to discover one of the best bluebell woodlands in the region - at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, on the Dee Estuary. Each spring, the nature reserve s Gorse Covert, a 3.4 hectare semi-natural ancient woodland, bursts into colour with a blanket of blue and this year, the bluebells have not disappointed.
Having flowered much earlier than last year due to the mild winter and early spring, many of the flowers are already beginning to emerge and tease admirers with their colour well before their usual May bloom. 
Last year, hundreds of visitors to the nature reserve told staff of their delight at seeing such a pristine area of the iconic British flower.

Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer at RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said:  Last May was when visitors really started to notice the intensity of the bluebells. People were coming to the reserve purely to see the bluebell spectacle. The contrast of the deep blue against the greenery of the trees creates a lovely setting for a relaxing stroll.
On our guided walks this year, visitors can not only enjoy a stroll into the heart of the bluebell woodland, but there will be the chance to venture up to Burton Point, a previously inaccessible part of the reserve, where there is another impressive stand of bluebells, along with breathtaking panoramic views over Burton Mere Wetlands and across the estuary to the Welsh hills.
While Gorse Covert can be enjoyed independently by all visitors to the reserve, visitors are welcome to join a Bluebells and Birdsong guided walk, to discover more about the bluebells and other interesting flowers and wildlife on the reserve.
Dan added:  The walks are a great way to discover more about the nature which lives on the reserve. The nesting birds will be in fine voice, adding to the tranquil atmosphere, and you will be given tips on how to pick out the songs of different birds. It s a great way to spend a morning.

Two Bluebells and Birdsong guided walks will be held  one on Saturday 26 April and the second on Sunday 11 May, from 10am to noon.  The cost is £5 per person, discounted to  £3 for RSPB members, with children half price.  This includes a hot drink and a snack in the reception hide, and covers the entry fee to the reserve for non-members. 
To book your place, phone 0151 353 8478 or email
For more information on the reserve and its activities, check out the website

Merseyside's garden wildlife revealed

Worlds biggest wildlife survey reports a chorus of frogs hopping around in Merseyside gardens, but our native squirrels are in the red.
More than half of people in Merseyside who took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch see common frogs in their gardens on a regular basis but only a fraction ever see the endangered red squirrel, according to the second round of results from the world s biggest wildlife survey,  run by the RSPB.

This year, for the first time in the 36-year history of the survey, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were also asked to tell the RSPB about some of the other wildlife that visits their gardens throughout the year, including common frogs, red and grey squirrels, badgers and hedgehogs. This follows the release of the bird results by the charity at the end of last month.

Almost half a million people took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch and most of them supplied extra information on the other garden wildlife they see. The RSPB hopes to use it to build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for all types of wildlife and tailor its advice so people can help their wild visitors find a home, feed and breed successfully.

The RSPB s partners, including Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC), People s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), and The Mammal Society, have been highly enthusiastic about including these data in their national datasets.
According to the national results, grey squirrels came out on top overall, with 72% of people seeing them in their gardens at least once a month.  In Merseyside 70% of participants see a grey squirrel in their gardens regularly.

At the other end of the scale, the greys native relative, the red squirrel, was one of the least-seen garden visitors, with 75% of participants in Merseyside reporting they never see one in their gardens. The red squirrel, which is threatened by a lethal virus carried by the grey, has been lost from much of the UK. In areas where the greys don't carry the virus, the reds are still affected, essentially being out-competed by their rivals.

Less than a third of participants in Merseyside saw hedgehogs in their gardens regularly. Hedgehog populations have seriously declined nationally by around 30% since the millennium.

When not hibernating, the common frog takes the lead as the most abundant garden amphibian, according to the results. Approximately half of people in the UK see a common frog in their gardens at least monthly, regardless of whether they live in a rural, suburban or urban area. In Merseyside, 51% of participants see a common frog in gardens regularly.

When it comes to toads, nationally 28% of people see them monthly, however in Merseyside, a third of people report never seeing one in their gardens.
Last year, 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report revealing 60% of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.

Many garden favourites were among the creatures shown to be in serious trouble including starlings and hedgehogs, as well as some butterflies and ladybirds. All are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist, commented:  This massive survey shows how important our gardens are for the amazing variety of wildlife living there.

The State of Nature report showed that we need more information across many species groups, so widening the Big Garden Birdwatchs scope to include other animals made perfect sense.

This is the start of something big and something very, very important. In a few years time we’ll be able to compare how the distribution of garden wildlife may have changed. Hopefully, the fact that more people are helping to give nature a home in their gardens and outside spaces will mean we see improvements rather than declines.

Dr John Wilkinson, ARC Science Programme Manager, said:  It s great to know that frogs and toads are still widespread in UK gardens, which are a crucial habitat for both of them, but worrying that toads are relatively so much less common than frogs, especially in England. Future results from Big Garden Birdwatch will be critical in helping to understand all the factors affecting all our wildlife, including amphibians.

David Wembridge, mammal surveys coordinator for the People s Trust for Endangered Species, said:  Gardens can be ideal habitats for mammals but from the Big Garden Birdwatch and People s Trust for Endangered Species  (PTES) mammal surveys, we know that only a minority of gardens are regularly used by hedgehogs   one species we re particularly concerned about. With numbers falling in the wider countryside, doing more to encourage hedgehogs into the green spaces around our homes and places of work could make a big difference.

Marina Pacheco, the Mammal Society's Chief Executive, said: "Those taking part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch have captured one of the largest snapshots ever recorded for some of our most endearing and threatened mammals. It's fantastic to know that gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly-declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. As well as taking part in an enjoyable survey, participants have greatly increased our understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of UK mammals."

Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB s latest campaign, aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces   whether it by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.

The RSPB hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Discover nature's home this Easter at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Discover nature's home this Easter at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands Whether the sun is shining or it s time for umbrellas, there s fun to be had in all weathers this Easter at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands.

Families can take part in the Baby Bird Trail, a self-led activity running throughout April, which offers visitors the chance to uncover facts about the reserve s special birds and their chicks. Or for the more adventurous families, head out onto the reserve with the new and improved Wildlife Explorer backpacks.

Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer at RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said:   The Wildlife Explorer backpacks are a fantastic way of discovering the less obvious wildlife on the reserve, while the Baby Bird Trail is great fun for all ages.We are looking forward to welcoming families to the reserve and helping them to have an enjoyable Easter holiday.

The Baby Bird Trail is free and visitors can take part between 9.30 am-4 pm. The Wildlife Explorer Backpacks are free to hire for members,  2.50 hire charge for non-members.
For more information on the reserve and its activities, please call the reserve on 0151 3538478 or check out the website

Monday, 7 April 2014

Help for hungry hedgehogs

Prickly garden visitors may need some help after hibernation, says RSPB 

Now spring is here and the weather is warming up, most hedgehogs will have woken from their winter hibernation. However, with fat reserves running low and having lost a third of their bodyweight, they ll be on
a desperate hunt for food in our gardens to fatten themselves up before the breeding season begins.

Hedgehogs feed mainly on invertebrates and need to find vast quantities of insects and other small creatures to sustain them. Sometimes natural food isn t readily available in the quantities required, so the RSPB is
urging people to give hedgehogs a helping hand by providing some extra nourishment.

Richard James, one of the RSPB s wildlife advisors, said: "As temperatures gradually rise, and nature begins to unfurl, our garden friends, the hedgehogs, also stir from their spiky-ball hibernation. 
Sadly, it s estimated that UK hedgehogs have declined by a third in the last ten years, so it's vital that we do our bit to give them a home in our own gardens this year.

To help complement the hedgehogs  natural diet, the RSPB has launched a new food specifically designed to be a nutritious treat.  Cranberry Crunch is made from top quality ingredients, including: premium suet
pellets; sunflower hearts; peanut nibs; dried mealworms; and dried cranberries. 
Richard continues:  This food provides a healthier alternative to the old wives  tale of bread and milk, which must always be avoided as it causes the hedgehogs stomach upset.  Small amounts of cake, biscuits
and pastry as well as fresh and dried fruits and cooked vegetables can also be used as a tempting and wholesome hedgehog treat. A fresh supply of water will also be gratefully received and used by other garden
wildlife, like birds as well.

As well as providing extra food, the RSPB suggests making your garden as wildlife-friendly as possible to make life easy for our threatened garden inhabitants. 
Many modern gardens have less  wild  space than they used to due to decking and paving, meaning Mr and Mrs Tiggywinkle struggle to find natural shelter in hedges and leaf piles.  Fences can also block
hedgehog highways by preventing them moving from garden to garden. Planting a garden hedge helps enormously   the clue is in the hogs  name. And they re not only good for hedgehogs, they also provide
habitat for nesting birds and a host of insects and small mammals.

You can also help these prickly critters by setting up a permanent hedgehog shelter in your garden. Hogitats, as they re known, are available from a range of outlets including the RSPB.

As well as being cute, hedgehogs bring their benefits:

Don t forget having a hedgehog move-in can be a great advantage to any keen gardener, as they just love to munch their way through all of your pesky slugs and snails,  adds Richard. 

The RSPB warns against using chemicals in the garden, and slug pellets can be particularly detrimental.  The charity also recommends using non-toxic brands when putting preservative on garden sheds, fences and
other wood furniture around the garden as hedgehogs often lick new smells and surfaces.

Cranberry Crunch is available at RSPB shops on reserves as well at the charity s online shop. 100% of profits go to helping save nature.

This year s Big Garden Birdwatch was a bit different. For the first time ever we asked people to tell us about other wildlife that visits their garden. These results will be released on Thursday 17 April.

Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB s biggest-ever campaign, aimed at inspiring everyone to do their bit for nature, wherever they live and however big their outside space.

For more information or to get your free guide filled with tips on how to give nature a home where you live, visit 

Tips to help protect hedgehogs
          Hedgehogs habitually hide themselves in piles of leaves, grass cuttings, pampas grass, compost heaps and bags of rubbish. 
Always check these before burning, cutting, strimming, mowing, putting a fork into or disposing of them.
          Many plastic items can trap, ensnare or cut a hedgehog.  These include netting, plastic can holders, large necked bottles, plastic pots and barbed wire.
          Hedgehogs can also easily fall down holes, into water troughs, ponds, swimming pools and other types of water vessel.  If you cannot prevent them from falling in, then make sure there is always a way for them to get out.
          Dogs can injure hedgehogs, so make sure you know what your dog is doing when in the garden late at night. 
          If you accidentally disturb an active hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material.  The hedgehog will soon repair or move the nest elsewhere.  If there are young in the nest, avoid touching them.  Similarly, if it is a hibernating adult, avoid waking it.  Should it wake, you may want to leave it some food nearby.