Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Early birds through my kitchen window

Early bird survey
Yesterday morning and this morning I got up earlier than usual for me at the weekend, and did the Early Bird Survey  for the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology).  All it involved was recording the time that I saw different birds at our bird feeders, from the first bird onward, up to a maximum of ten species.  It also fits in tidily with the weekly photo challenge of ‘Window’.

We have a sunflower seed mix, peanuts, ‘buggy’ fat balls and a fat block, and I’d scattered some seeds on the drive to see whether I could attract any ground-feeders (I don’t usually do that to avoid attracting rats – yuk).

We have streetlights about 50 metres from our house, which may or may not affect the time that the birds begin feeding – investigating that, is the idea behind the survey.

Earlier start
Yesterday, I’d heard the first bird singing (a robin) before I was ready to start recording, so I was downstairs a bit earlier this morning.  There was a lovely red glow in the sky, but it was still very dark inside.

Before dawn

Before dawn

1: Robin – 7:37
Sunrise is about 8:15, but I’d heard the robin at about 7:20 yesterday.  This morning he was singing at 7:10, but didn’t visit the feeder until 7:37.  (Photo taken later on when it was lighter.)

Robin

Robin

2: Blue-tit – 7:45
A blue-tit was next, at 7:45. Later on, I saw up to four blue-tits in the garden, but only two visiting the feeders at once. On average, a blue-tit visited every five minutes between 7.45 and 10.30, with most visits (7) between 10 and 10:15. They ate seeds, fat from the fat balls or fat-block and sometimes peanuts.

Blue-tit

Blue-tit on the buggy fat balls

3: Chaffinch – 7:37
A female chaffinch came along at 7:37. Yesterday she didn’t appear until much later on. She only visits the seed feeder, or hops around picking up bits others have dropped.

Chaffinch

Female Chaffinch

4: Dunnock – 8:05
The fourth visitor, at 8:05 was a dunnock, or hedge sparrow, picking up seeds from the drive. They don’t sit still much though – fuzzy photo.

Dunnock

Dunnock about to hop off

5: House Sparrow – 8:05

Three house sparrows arrived at the same time, 8:05, on the seed feeders. Later on, there were up to six of them feeding or just chirping and watching. Sometimes they feed on the fat balls or fat block, but mostly they eat seeds.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

6: Goldfinch – 8:12

Sixth species was a goldfinch at 8:12. It returned a number of times, with a friend or two. Very dashing outfits they wear. They eat the seeds; I used to put out Niger seeds for them, but they seem just as happy with the sunflower mix.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

7: Great-tit – 8:15

At 8:15 a great-tit visited. It came back a couple of times, once with a partner, but all three visits were very speedy, just long enough to grab a peanut and go, but not long enough for my camera.

Sun-arise
Here comes the sun…

Sunrise

Sunrise through kitchen window

I carried on watching for several hours (it’s a good long meditation session), recording every bird that visited. I suspected that was all I was going to see (though we do sometimes get greenfinches on the seeds and starlings on the fat).

Prowler
A neighbouring cat was lurking under the car, but didn’t catch anything today, thank goodness (fewer blue-tit visits while the cat was there though).

Cat under car

Predator on the prowl

8: Long-tailed Tit – 10:12

Then ages later, at 10:12, a pair of long-tailed tits came for the fat block. Hurrah! I think they are my favourite birds, and I’ve only seen them a couple of times this winter, so I’m so pleased to see them back.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit – didn’t stay long, this was the best picture I got

Not quite ten today
Eight different species used the food we put out, and all the different foods were visited. Blue-tits were the most frequent visitors, and they ate all the different foods. I also saw a male and female blackbird, a male chaffinch, a starling, jackdaws, collared doves and wood pigeons, but not at the feeders.

I don’t usually note down the time that different birds visit, so it was interesting to notice how different the feeding patterns were. I’d definitely recommend doing a survey like this – though maybe just do half an hour or so for starters!


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A year of healthy changes

My year of health-based changes – a response to this health and wellness prompt.

Last summer I found out that I was coeliac, and needed to cut out gluten from my diet. No bread, pasta, pastry, cakes… Yes, I do miss them sometimes, and reading packets for ‘hidden’ gluten can be tedious. Some complete supermarket aisles are off-limits for me. It also make eating with others more complicated (Do I ask about ingredients or just eat lettuce and tomato?), but to be honest, I think I’m pretty fortunate. Someone else at work had similar symptoms at the same time, and had to have surgery for bowel cancer. All I’ve had to do is change my diet.

rice cakes

I discovered that I really like rice cakes a few months before being diagnosed as coeliac. Very convenient for lunches and on holiday.

Mrs Crimble's Jam Coconut Rings - gluten free and mmmmmmm!

Mrs Crimble’s Jam Coconut Rings – gluten free and mmmmmmm! I may have eaten rather too many of these.

In December I started the NHS couch to 5k running programme. It hasn’t all been easy – there have been some bumpy patches on the way, and weeks with very little running, but overall it has made me fitter, and changed the way I see myself. Most runners seem to run further and faster than me (and some dog-walkers are still faster), but I have repeatedly surprised myself with what I can manage, and that has made me stronger.

Along with running, I re-discovered yoga, after a 20-year break. Yoga has really helped me improve my posture, always pretty poor, and getting worse from too many laptop hours.

My most recent wellness move has been to find out more about mindfulness meditation. The yoga had started me off, and the web and various books have helped me on my way. I took some convincing that it could work for me, an obsessive-compulsive worrier, but I can definitely feel a real change.

I love being able to find little patches of calm and quiet – even a few seconds focusing on breathing or hearing the sounds around me can open up space when my mind starts whirling, and longer sessions give me time to catch up and slow down. If you’ve never tried it, go and read up on mindfulness meditation now!

So, what health changes should I try next?