Posted in Environment, Nature

Caring for a hedgehog

Snuffling around

“I heard a growling outside my kitchen window…”

So started Simon’s encounter with a rather spiky garden visitor. Unfortunately this particular creature seemed to be rather poorly, it was wheezing and wasn’t moving much.

Simon put the prickly creature in a cardboard box containing water, and rang up several wildlife rescues. Nobody answered but then again it was after 10pm. Hedgehogs may have been up and about but many humans were heading to the Land of Slumber.

Understandable maybe, but it still left a dilemma for Simon. What to do now? Was the hog hungry? Thirsty? Should he keep Mr/Mrs Tiggywinkle overnight in his house? Should he try and feed the hedgehog?

He decided on the latter, buying dog food at a late night supermarket. Surprisingly, when he got home, the hedgehog was trying to climb out of the box. So Simon found a bigger box and, along with the water and now dog food, back in popped the rather large Mr or Mrs Tiggywinkle.

The following morning, the hedgehog kept escaping.

Simon told me: “It broke out of the cardboard box and hid under the bookcase in the spare room. I found it a couple of hours ago. So I put it in a plastic box. It’s done the same thing again.”

It ate some of the meat so that was one good thing, although food and animals can have consequences. Especially escaping ones.

Meal time

“I don’t mind the hedgehog on the floor,” continued Simon, “although I’d prefer it didn’t poo on the carpet.

“It went exploring in the night. I found poo in front of the TV. I thought I could smell something but presumed that it was just the dog food I’d left out.”

The hedgehog turned out to be an avid reader with a great love of books – or at least that was the way it seemed considering how often he/she headed towards the bookcase. Unfortunately hedgehogs are quite tricky to free from hiding spots under bookcases.

Checking out the book collection

That morning Simon got through to a nearby rescue sanctuary. Taking the hog for a check-up, the hog expert told Simon he had done the right thing by keeping the creature in overnight and recommended he released it that evening as it may have a litter nearby. There was no way of finding out if Spike was male or female as he/she had rolled into a ball when being examined.

The hedgehog slept that afternoon, tucked up in Simon’s fleece. In the meantime, Simon was busy constructing a new home for his house guest. He made the hedgehog house out of wood and stuffed dried grass into the sleeping area. To keep cats and other potential predators at bay, he covered the house with raspberry canes.

Creating a hedgehog home
The finished house
A house for hogs
Fast asleep

By evening, the hog’s breathing was less laboured and noisy. Simon released the still-sleeping hog into its new home, along with food and water. In the morning, the hedgehog had upped and left, back on his or her rounds once more. If you would like to build a hedgehog home for your garden, visit https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/nature-on-your-doorstep/garden-activities/giveahogahome/

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Nature, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: The Other Environmental Crisis

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Increasingly there has been more and more talk from politicians about climate change. There has been widescale protests from groups such as Extinction Rebellion and the young activist Greta Thurnberg has spoken out against the climate changing. Personally I believe there has always been climate change taking place over a gradual basis for millions of years – but the meddling with nature by humans over the past couple of hundred years has damaged the balance and has exacerbated and quickened the changes.

When the powers-that-be focused on the climate, I was glad that finally people at the top seemed to start caring about nature. But I then started to feel that the focus seemed very much on ‘green technology’. Is this type of technology really green? For example, where do the batteries for electric cars come from? I don’t know but I don’t believe technology is the be-all and end-all. If I were in politics, I would also opt for more incentives to use public transport; safer, more attractive and convenient paths to walk on; better cycle routes…

Behind all the talk about climate change, there is another emergency going on that is closely connected to the issue. This is the biodiversity emergency.

According to the WWF: “Biodiversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.”

WWF


But the WWF adds: “As humans put increasing pressure on the planet, using and consuming more resources than ever before, we risk upsetting the balance of ecosystems and losing biodiversity.”

The wildlife charity’s https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018 found the global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians had declined by 60 per cent (on average) since 1970. 

Borneo’s forests are vital for biodiversity – but too often attracts humans wanting to plunder it for natural resources such as trees, coal, metals, minerals and rubber. Depressingly, the WWF says 30 per cent of Borneo’s forests have been destroyed in only 40 years. Of course this will have an impact on its wildlife. Half of all critically endangered Bornean orangutans have been lost in the past 20 years. 

The decline of biodiversity is happening in Britain too. In a recent RSPB magazine, it stated that the latest State of Nature reports that the abundance and distribution of nature in the UK has declined by 13 and five per cent respectively since the 1970s. Since the 1950s, the UK has lost roughly one wildflower species per county, per year – these are vital for moths, butterflies and other insects. Indeed, the abundance of butterflies has decreased by 16 per cent. Insects, as well as being important for pollination, are important food for birds.

What happens to one species affects another, such is the way of ecosystems. According to State of Nature report, the causes are “agricultural management, climate change, urbanisation, pollution, woodland management and invasive non-native species.”

Climate change harms nature, but so too does pollution. So too does habitat loss and urbanisation. If wildlife has no home, how can it exist? Thank goodness for environmental charities such as the Woodland Trust and the RSPB. They buy land and maintain it as nature reserves and woodland.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Climate change has a negative impact on wildlife but if we work with nature – not against it as we have done in the past and present day – we can, I believe, help to combat climate change, or at least reduce its most harmful effects. And at the same time, we will help the planet get back into its rightful balance. But humans have to realise that we are part of the natural world. In a religious, spiritual and ecological sense, I suspect we are meant to be the caretakers of the planet – not the lords and masters.

The hypocrisy of the world’s politicians strikes me. The UK’s Prime Minister is good at talking the talk, not so good when it comes to actually genuinely caring about the environment. He and his party want another runway at Heathrow Airport; they wanted to plough on with HS2, a very expensive and unnecessary high speed train that will destroy ancient woodlands; they are seemingly intent on destroying wildlife habitat for often unnecessary office and home developments – even though there are many empty and derelict buildings in urban and suburban landscapes that could and should be used. Now he will proclaim how Britain will be carbon neutral. You want to be carbon neutral? Why not put nature first – protect our wildlife habitats, leave our green spaces alone, create more nature reserves. Look after nature and we will find nature will more than likely return the favour.

WWF – Endangered Species Conservation | World Wildlife Fund

rspb_state-of-nature_summary-report_uk.pdf

What is biodiversity? | Pages | WWF (worldwildlife.org)

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Learning about Trees – the Rowan Tree

My rowan tree, photographed in July

I have written previously about my goal to be able to recognise and name trees. So I thought I would start close to home, from my driveway to be precise. My driveway was once a barren spot, fit only to park a car, but over the last few years it has become a mini wild area. And one of the residents of my ‘wild driveway’ is a rowan tree. Back in 2014 or thereabouts, I joined the Woodland Trust for the first time. I kept seeing their sign whenever I walked in one of their woods and I realised that it was thanks to The Woodland Trust that there were so many beautiful and accessible woodlands near me (and possibly near you too if you live in Britain).

My rowan tree, planted in my ‘wild driveway’

And yes, the thought of a free gift also enticed me. This free gift was a rowan tree sapling. Rowan trees, also know as the mountain ash, are slender, with silver-brown bark. They’re excellent for wildlife as they have white spring flowers and red berries in autumn. So win-win for insects and birds alike. They are deciduous so lost their leaves in winter.

The Woodland Trust says the rowan tree – which can grow to an average height of 8 to 15 metres – can live for 200 years so hopefully my tree will long outlast me, providing pollen and nectar for pollinating insects (including bees) and berry food for birds such as song thrushes and waxwings. Of course, like all trees, my rowan also absorbs carbon and purifies the air. So even my tiny driveway is doing its bit for climate change too.

And as an added extra, it looks great too!

Red berries in autumn Picture courtesy of The Woodland Trust

In the wild the rowan grows higher (1,000m) than any other tree hence its other name, the mountain ash. There’s a lot of folklore connected to the rowan – it was seen as a magical protector and planted outside houses to keep witches away.

The Woodland Trust
Posted in Environment, Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A nature stroll through Grimsargh Wetlands – one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves

Grimsargh Wetlands – The Island Lake

Grimsargh Wetlands is one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves, having been created by transforming three decommissioned United Utilities reservoirs into a fairly small (it’s a 30-minute one-mile stroll around the reserve) but highly important nature reserve. Back in 2003, it was designated a Biological Heritage Site but it was in 2017 when it was formally handed over to the parish council. Grimsargh Wetlands Trust now runs the site.

The Island Lake

We hear much of a housing crisis for people, but there is also a ‘housing crisis’ for nature as humans take away more and more wildlife habitat so when I hear of new nature reserves being formed or current ones being protected, it gladdens my heart. I first heard of Grimsargh Wetlands through a newspaper article this year after the Grimsargh Wetlands Trust, which maintains the reserve, received a £10,000 grant. This inspired me to pay a visit.

It’s only a few miles away from Preston, in the village of Grimsargh but, after parking in a side street, off the main road, we were unable to find the reserve at first. There appeared to be no signs but, strangely, once we left, we kept coming across signage! (Isn’t it always the way?)

Annoyingly, we forgot binoculars but we still saw geese and swans with the naked eye. On the website it says there is a colony of ringlet butterflies and a possibility of hearing the distinctive curlew or glimpsing roe deer through the reeds. Bats have also been spotted here too.

The Mere

Directions on the internet stated it was at the back of a new housing estate. We found a path and followed, crossing a field. I think we took a wrong turning early on but our encounter with a group of children and their teaching assistants confirmed that we were heading in the right direction – especially when we came across a hide in front of The Island Lake. This is a shallow lake with mudflats. Following the path around, we came across The Fen. The Trust is hoping to create at least three ponds and increase the extent of reed beds in this marshland. There are also plans to grow more wildflowers at the reserve, especially by the viewing platforms.

Our walk took us back to the road and it was now when we noticed signs to the reserve!

We took another turning, away from the main road towards The Mere, another reservoir turned lake. Here we saw volunteers carry wooden boxes – tern nests – to an island on the lake. They were hoping terns would come to live and breed there. Interestingly, one of the volunteers said that Preston Docks – an urban location – has a colony of terns.

The reserve is next to the former Preston/Longridge railway embankment. I learnt that Longridge stone was taken from the quarries in Longridge, a small town near Grimsargh, to be transported to Preston and further afield.

It may not be the largest reserve but its habitat will be of great importance to wetland birds and other wildlife. And it is a very pleasant scenic walk for us humans too.

The Island Lake

For more details, visit: Grimsargh Wetlands | A Haven for Wildlife

Watch stunning drone footage of one of Lancashire’s newest nature reserves, which is being opened up to the public | Lancashire Evening Post (lep.co.uk)

Posted in Environment, Nature

The Guardians of Mason Wood

Mason Wood

I discovered this wonderful selection of wood art in Mason Wood, Preston. I imagine it’s depicting both the wild creatures who live here and the gentle guardians, usually invisible and secretive, who look after the woodland and its inhabitants.

I apologise for the lack of Cosy Cottage updates recently. I got sidetracked but am back again! 🙂

Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.

Posted in Environment, Nature

Rewild Yourself – a book of ‘nature spells’

Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes

When I was a child I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and, for a while after, I was convinced that one day, just one day, I may just pop into a magic wardrobe in MFI, or some other furniture store, and enter a magical world. (The wardrobes at home were disappointing to say the least). Unfortunately I never found this elusive wardrobe, or indeed Narnia. (I never found a way to visit the Care Bears’ Care-a-Lot either, childhood is full of disappointments!)

But a different sort of ‘magic’ truly exists, one that inspires us, thrills us, motivates us, makes us feel happy… Sometimes some of its ‘magical creatures’ may appear to be invisible as unicorns and when we eventually glimpse one of these ‘fantastic beasts’, it feels like a magical experience. So what is this wonder that heals our spirits and minds, that makes us smile?

It’s nature.

Recently, I bought a copy of Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes. Using the allegory of magic and the inspiration of fantasy stories, Simon Barnes explains in 23 chapters (or ‘spells’) how to make nature more visible. It’s a brilliant, easy to read, accessible book that would be perfect for those just getting into nature and inspiring for the well-established nature lovers. Each chapter feels magical – ‘We can make a magical transition from one kind of place to a completely different kind of place and do so, if not instantaneously, then certainly within astonishingly few minutes’.

And then there’s ‘so you can enter another country – the wild country – not through a wardrobe but by means of a Magic Tree. Enter, then, with joy. And after that, you can turn your mind to another spell’.

Tips on how to enter a new world…

Yet along with this magical feel, thanks to Simon Barnes’ eloquent prose, each chapter has a handy practical – and often simple – hint to attract or discover wildlife. Do you have a pair of ‘magic trousers’ or have a ‘magic tree ‘ that attracts butterflies into the garden?

So while as an adult I know there’s little chance of finding a wondrous world at the back of my wardrobe, my garden on the other hand ….

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Creating a Wildlife Pond

The new pond

Last autumn, Simon dug a pond in the newly cleared decking area of the garden.

The old pond, a large black container which was placed in the hens’ garden, had been dug out a few months prior. It was too deep, in an area which was sheltered with overhanging trees, hard to access or even see because of surrounding shrubs, and, perhaps worse of all, the chickens kept insisting on drinking from it!

The water had turned stagnant and smelt dreadful and I do not know what happened to the pond plants I had put in there a few years ago. The cobbles I had once delicately placed around had gradually slipped in over the last two years and there were no life forms living in or around this hostile environment.

So we took the large tub out, dug compost over the hole and relocated the pond – this time using a small (albeit heavy) sink. Duckweed and water plantain were planted in the pond and cobbles decorated the edges. It was all set and ready for wildlife to visit. In fact, a mere five minutes or so after completion, a little robin arrived and perched at the side of the pond as if giving his approval.

The old pond in the chickens’ garden, guarded by Florence

Pond Facts

1. Wildlife loves ponds, whether it’s as a habitat or watering hole. In fact, I’ve heard that one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden is to dig a pond. For example, frogs are dependent on garden ponds as they need water to breed.

2. My first pond was in an awkward place, not helped by overhanging trees. Christine and Michael Lavelle suggest trying ‘to avoid a site that is shared by trees because they will not only cut out light, but their leaves will drop into the water, enriching it with mineral nutrients.’ This attracts algae in the warmer months.

3. There are three types of plants for ponds – oxygenator (for oxygen), deep-water aquatics (shades water from too much sunlight), and marginal/emergent plants (offers shade and cover for animals at the edge of pond. They are also used by dragonflies and nymphs to ‘crawl out’ and pupate).

Information taken from The Illustrated Practical Guide to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle.
Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: Covid litterbugs

DSC_3142

It’s 2020 and for many, the world has changed – and yet some things, some people, remain the same.

There have always been humans who throw their litter on the ground, heedless of the fact a bin is just around the corner.

Is it stupidity, for not knowing how to use a bin? Is it arrogance and rudeness? Maybe both?

But my earlier hopes that this pandemic would inspire people to have more awareness and respect for the environment was expecting too much from some members of the human species, it seems.

Now these litter bugs have a new item to discard – used face masks.

Why put it in a bin when you can leave these single use plastic items, covered by germs (maybe of the virus itself), on the ground for wildlife to harm themselves by eating, a child to stumble upon, or a cleaner to have to pick up?

Face mask litter

There are many mysteries in the world and the logic that goes on in the minds of these Covid litterbugs is just one.

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Reblog, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: Our Beautiful Planet

MagazinePic-13-2.3.001-bigpicture_13_8_land

Back in 2017, not long after I started blogging, I wrote this. It felt relevant to me at the time. It feels even more so now. It seems as if we live in an increasingly polarised and divisive world. It’s Them versus Us. Us versus Them. Who ‘they’ are and who ‘we’ are varies, depending on the individual and their world view. But one thing seems true to me, we are heading further and further away from each other. We stay within our echo chambers and put our hands on our ears so we cannot listen to the other side of the debate or other people’s experiences. We revert back to primary school and call each other insults rather than listen. Personally, I don’t think anything will be solved with this attitude. We need to work together on issues of poverty, discrimination, persecution, homelessness, prejudice, violence, conflict etc. We need to look after each other, especially the more vulnerable. We need to be able to co-exist with other species in harmony and respect their natural habitat. We need to care about our planet.

Often at Cosy Cottage, I watch the blue and great tits fluttering over to the bird feeder to nibble fat ball snacks. (Yes, Cosy Cottage also operates as a café for my feathered chums).

And while I do, I brood upon the state of the world.

Is it me or do labels divide us?

Who are you? Are you male, female, transgender, intersex, gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, brown, mixed race, Christian, Catholic, CofE, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, Tory, Labour, Lib Democrats, Green, Remainer, Leaver, poor, rich, comfortable, British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, American …?

And so on… And so on…

Of course, we are this and that, that and the other. I am some of these descriptions too. Of course I am. They form part of each and everyone’s identity and certainly I am proud of my Celtic heritage.

But what if we focus on these labels to such an extent that other issues are forgotten?

Like the planet. Endangered species. Pollution.

Would things be better if, instead of thinking of ourselves and each other in terms of our gender/race/sexuality/religion (etc etc) identities as our first concern, we look at each other primarily as

1. Humans.

2. Humans who live on a beautiful planet – which we really should start looking after as it is our home!

3. Humans who share our home (planet) with our fellow beings (other species) who have just the same right to live here as we do.

For any religious readers, I do believe that, if there is a God, He would want us to look after the planet given to us … And care for each other, humans and animals.

And for non-religious readers, even without a God, why would we want to mess up the home we all live in? Why arrogantly assume we are the only species which matters? Or leave our planet in a polluted, disease-ridden, barren state for the next generation?

Facts of the Day

1. Elephants face serious threats including illegal killing for ivory and habitat destruction. In 1900, there were 10 million elephants. In 2014, there were only 420,000. (www.bornfree.org.uk)

2. It takes plastic 400 years to degrade in water.

MagazinePic-13-2.3.001-bigpicture_13_6_land.jpg

3. Chemicals such as pesticides, found in polluted water, can contaminate food chains through affected marine life. This can lead to nervous system damage, hormonal problems amongst others. (www.plasticoceans.org)

MagazinePic-13-2.3.001-bigpicture_13_11_land