Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Birds nest in my wood this year

Discovering bird nests is one of my favourite spring past times and each year Ian, my step dad, and I seek out as many as we can in the wood. We have a good varitey of species nesting consistently each year, however many have escaped our eyes this year.

Here's a list of all the nests we have found this year followed by a list of bird species we typically find in the wood, but haven't found this year. Carefully sticking a camera close to a dark nest means the quality of the photo's aren't great but they give you an idea of where the nests are and what they look like.

Bird nests we have found this year

Great spotted woodpecker


The woodpeckers nest somewhere in the wood every year and this year we were treated to them nesting super-close to the house. The chicks are VERY noisy and call constantly throughout daylight hours. I shot some footage of their nest in a vlog a few weeks ago. The chicks are due to leave the nest any day now and are sticking their heads out to look at their new world.



Sadly one of the nests that failed this year. One day there were eggs, the nest there were none. Presumably it had been predated, possible by mice.


Wrens wrens; everywhere! A very common bird and I find many of their nests each year. This year one of the nests has been under the roof shingles by the front door at chest height. This means I’ve had a great view of the parent sitting on the nest right up until the chicks fledging.

This is the nest under the shingles by the front door. There's at least 4 chicks in the nest and it looks rather packed in there.

This is a typical wrens nest made from moss and leaves. The opening is missing the little twigs at the bottom that remind me of a wicker basket meaning the nest is probably not finished.



Blue tit

We have several nest boxes around the wood, many of which are occupied by blue tits.

Great tit

If there haven’t been blue tits in a nest box, they have great tits instead. Look at these ones in the old canary house!

I call to the great tit chicks so they think I am their parents bringing food. 

Stock dove

Two of the three owl boxes have stock doves nesting. I recorded some footage of their eggs in this vlog.

This is a still from the video footage I took of the stock dove nest inside one of the owl boxes. Look at those pearly white shells!

Wood pigeon

Stupid birds (actually clever) nesting low down and getting spooked every time I walk buy them. They are everywhere.

Long tailed tit

One of my favourite nests; a dome made from moss with a small hole and lined with soft feather. The one I found this year later got scratted out of the gause bush by a predator.


We first nest of robins was found in a fern on the ground. They successfully fledged. Look at the video to see the babies. Ian found another nest in his dust extractor for the log splitter. He didn’t realise until after he had moved the extractor to a different location for 2 hours then moved it back, then to realise it had small chicks in it! Thankfully the parents returned.

A short video of the robin chicks in their nest

Tawny Owl

Oure resident brown owls have nested every year (apart from last year) over the last decade in one of the three owl boxes Ian put up. This year they nested in the left box. I climbed up to sneak a peek at the chicks in this vlog.

A snap of the two gorgeous fluffy owlets in the nest box.


I have a love/hate relationship with treecreepers. I love them because they are interesting birds that hop up tree trunks yet hate them because they have been keeping me awake since 4am for many years. 2-3 pairs nest under the oak roof shingles each year. We’re so lucky to have these often-secretive bird come so close. They happily land on the shingles just above our heads and make their way under them into their nests.

Ian and Dave spotted a fledgling fop onto the deck then make its way up the side of the house, wide legged like John Wayne.

Dave photographed the tiny treecreeper fledgeling making its way up the side of the house

Spotted flycatcher

For the second year they have nested in the eaves of the house. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen eggs or chicks this year so think they may have moved location.


The maggies nested about 20 metres from the house but I think the chicks didn’t fledge. I often saw crows attacking the nest, then one day heard a maggie chick calling in distress and ran over. A chick fell from the nest in front of me. I picked it up to see it had a damaged wing and some blood. Unfortunately, he died the next day. Either a predator attacked him or possible his parents thought he was ill and booted him out.

Song thrush

Each year the thrushes nest in the most inconvenient of places; in machinery in use, vehicles, in wood piles- you name it, they nest there! This year was no different. A pair nested in a wood pile but unfortunately something took the eggs. Surprisingly, it’s the only thrush nest we have found this year. Very strange!


We normally find loads of blackbirds nesting in the wood but this year I’ve only found one empty nest. They will be somewhere though as there are many adults and juveniles around.


Due to the crazy amount of rain at the start of the year, the water table has remained quite high meaning the seasonal pond has stayed full over spring. I’ve watched the moorhens swimming around the pond each day but they suddenly disappeared. After searching for some time I found a moorhen nest but no parent or eggs. Maybe they were put off by the lowering water table. Maybe the fox filled his belly.


Like the moorhens, the ducks were attracted to the pond this spring. I watched a pair of mallards court from my window but spent many walks trying to find their nest. Eventually I found the nest in the middle of the pond on the upturned root of a tree fallen many years ago. She was perfectly camouflaged. It was only a ray of light shining between the trees and directly onto her back that gave her away.

Sadly, I found the remains of Mr duck close by the pond a few days later. Presumably a fox had eaten him.

Each day I checked in on the duck and each day the water level dropped. To my delight, the chicks hatched and I watched mother lead them away into the undergrowth. I haven’t seen them since and hope they are safe.

Can you spot Mrs duck and her newly-hatched ducklings among the swampy remains of the seasonal pond?



Hated by many, but loved by me. At least one pair of crows nest somewhere in the wood each year.

Bird nests we have found in previous years

Black cap

We’ve seen a couple of pairs around all spring but failed to find their nest. Unfortunately, I found one the females dead on the deck a few weeks ago. Presumably she flew into the window. Rather upsetting.

Last year a pair nested just outside the office window.

Marsh tit

Last year we watched the marsh tits raise their young in the natural hole of a log placed in the garden on the ground.



Last year we found the buzzards nesting in the other bit of the wood. They are noisy beasts and spend many hour circling above the wood and they often swood through the trees.We think they are nesting in another woodland a couple of fields away thus year.


Last year they nested about 70 metres from the house. I loved watching the young flitting tree to tree when they left the nest. Magnus the magpie didn’t approve of the juveniles sitting in the trees above his aviary


Normally one of the first nests we find but haven’t seen any this year. There are several chaffinches around though


They’ve nested in the single conifer in front of the house this year but haven’t seen them since early spring. Presumably they have moved to a different area to nest.


No sign of their nests this year.

In all, it hasn't been the best year interms of the veriety of spefcies or the number of nests disocovered. This could be down to the cold and wet start to spring which has impacted farming and plant growth in general.

PS. Do you have nests where you live?

Thursday, 9 June 2016

How I’ve improved my health and wellbeing since going self-employed

How often do we all here that we should dedicate more time and effort to care for our own minds and bodies?

ALL the time, right?

Well, I’m on a mission to be healthier and more active, but in a sustainable manor. I know I’d fail to keep up any short-term methods such as the 30 Day Shred or a boot camp. Finding a routine I can stick to every day, ideally for the rest of my life, is my goal.

When I went self-employed last year I looked forward to spending more time on ‘me’. Without the time-sapping commute to work and a restricted timetable, I imagined myself jogging every day, eating healthy lunches, snacking less and bouncing out of bed every morning at 6am to do 60 squats and 30 lunges.

I think I set my expectations of myself a bit too high, but I have managed to keep up with a new routine.

I’ve been running two to three times a week and going to LionFitness Metafit class once a week, going on long walks in the hills in evenings, eating healthy lunches and snacking a lot less than I did do when I worked in an office with other people. Even though I haven’t noticed a difference in my weight, muffin tops or legs, I have noticed a big difference in my energy levels. RESULT!

I can honestly say that running first thing in a morning does wonders to your body; you feel more awake, your body feels energised and your mind feels stress-free and enthusiastic. It’s been the perfect way to start my working days. However, a couple of weeks ago my groin felt pulled and my knees started to ache. I’m genuinely terrified that one day my knees, which have always been a bit sore, will one day pack in and I won’t be able to hike and climb mountains. So I’ve stopped running the last few weeks just to give my knees some time to rest. Hopefully the problem wont persist.

One advantage my work commute gave me was the time to listen to Podcasts. Fitting them in now is somewhat harder, but running has provided the perfect opportunity to listen to my favourite shows. I’ve learnt so much about the benefits of mindfulness and other practices to improve health and wellbeing through listening to Podcasts such as Ted Hour and Note to Self (They are awesome- deffo give them I listen).

The digital revolution has opened up so many ways for people to improve their health; educational podcasts, personal monitoring devices such as the FitBit, sleep improvement apps, endless self-diagnostic websites, discreet postal medicine services such as Lloyds and community Facebook groups. The diversity of services and innovations has definitely helped me to get better at ‘looking after me’.

How do you ‘look after you’? I’d love to hear about your methods and routine.

PS. I've written this post in collaboration with Lloyds Pharmacy.
All words are my own thoughs and opinions.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Calling a cuckoo by the river Derwent

After a miserably cold and windy week the weather changed to what one would expect for this time of year; warm and still. The best thing about this time of year is that you can eat dinner and still have time to go for an evening walk before night falls.

We chose to walk by the river Derwent near the village of Bubwith, just a few miles from where we live. The river was calm and the water moved slowly and, at first, we feared the walk wouldn't surprise us with anything of interest.

The flood plains that were underwater for many months only drained a few weeks ago and now the land is lush and thriving with wildflowers.

In places, the footpath was bare of vegetation and the ground was cracked; something so easily overlooked, but I stopped to admire the contrasting textures and colours.

It was at that point the somewhat uneventful walk became full of wildlife. A pair of mute swans with last year's young gracefully floated along the river, arching their necks now and then to scoop some water with their bills.

A red shank announced its presence as it flew over our heads and out across the plains. A pair of curlew shortly followed, with their more whimsical call.

Then, we heard the star of the evening; a cuckoo! Only the third I have heard this year. 'Watch this' I said to partner, Dave, and step dad, Ian. I then mimicked the call of the cuckoo while looking out in the direction we heard the real bird call. In just moments we spotted him rise above the bushes way over the other side of the river and head towards where we stood. He landed in an oak on the opposite bank and called loudly in response to me. A few minutes later he took to the sky again, crossed the river some distance in front of us and carried on over the plains to the woodland beyond. I hope I didn't scare him away!

Many years ago I played the same game with a cuckoo who, after much confusion of where the 'other cuckoo' was, landed on a telegraph wire just a few meters above my head and spent 15 minutes peering down at me as I called to him. I wonder what he must have thought!

The light was disappearing and I looked out across the plain to see two small dots in the distance. "Deer", I said. We looked through the binoculars to see two deer grazing maybe a mile away. Thankfully Paddy couldn't see them from his weight or we would have had to put his lead back on.

It was a real treat to see a cuckoo. We wondered whether anyone was in the bird hide on the other bank eagerly trying to spot the two cuckoos that were battling it out. We sniggered at the thought and I danced around abit pretending to be a cuckoo in flight.

All in all, a perfect way to spend a June evening for 30DaysWild.

Have you called a cuckoo before?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Climbing beautiful Blencathra

The campervan was packed with food, fancy dress and bedding and ready to go to a festival the other weekend but Dave came down with a bug the day before we were due to set off. It was a huge disappointment but we made up for it with a last-minute trip to the Lakes the following weekend.

Inspired by John Townednd’s Blencathra feature on Countryfile I had Tweeted asking for for campsite and Blencathra walking route recommendations and Mark from Mark’s Walking Blog  replied with a pic of his camper pitched up with Blencathra in the background. He had stayed at Burns Farm only the weekend before and stated it was a decent campsite and in the ideal spot to get onto the mountain quickly.

Christine from Dixe recommended ascending Blencathra via Hall’s Ridge which isn’t as dangerous as Sharp Edge.

It had been a couple of years since we had been to the Lakes and Blencathra was already on my bucket list. Well, all the mountains in the Lakes are! We’d been up Helvelyn and Scafel but my weird desperation to get up big hills is a long-term condition and seeing Blencathra on the TV made my heart race with excitement.

It wasn’t until 4.25pm on the Friday of last week we made the decision to just get in the campervan and go. Dave was still at work so I ran around like a headless chicken gathering up maps and waterproofs and calling the campsite to check they had space for us if we arrived late. By 8pm we were on our way.

We awoke on the Saturday morning to dark cloud and rain covering the mountains around us but the weather was due to clear up that afternoon. After a hearty fry-up we set off walking to the quaint village of Threlkeld and up onto Hall’s Ridge. The rain had sodden our coats which I had treated with re-waterproofing stuff in the wash. It hadn’t worked.

By the time we reached the foot of the ridge the rain receded and the clouds lifted to reveal stunning views towards Keswick.

The accent was tough on our un-exercised legs but we took lots of breaks to enjoy the views and catch our breath. The earthy ground became rocky and the ridge narrowed as quickly as the wind picked up.

As I’ve grown older I have also grown more cautious. The sound of the wind and the feeling of it pushing my body was unnerving and I clung to the rocks on all fours like a sloth to a branch. Dave, on the other hand, is more goat-like and trotted over the rocks without fear.

The route wasn’t difficult but it did test my nerves a bit. The wind definitely made it more dramatic than it actually was!

We reached the top came quicker than I had anticipated but there wasn't much to see. We we’re surrounded by foggy cloud but I insisted we went slightly out of our way to chance getting a view of the tarn. Dave laughed at me. Understandable as we couldn’t see very far in front of us. “It will clear” I said confidently. “Just like it did when we reached the top of Lochnagar”.

And it sure did! Wow, what a view.

We huddled behind a rock to shelter from the noisy wind and tucked into our packed lunch while taking in the amazing views. I took the opportunity to test out the striking HydroFlask I had been sent to review. The choice was between filling it with hot chocolate or tea. Tea was victorious and was a good choice. Tea keep flask tea tasting good and to avoid having to carry milk separately, I always fill my flask with hot water and add the milk into the flask. Tea bags are carried separately in a small container meaning the perfect tea can be poured, even on the top of a mountain.

I LOVE the bright colour of the flask. The HydroFlask is available in loads of other bright colours, 3 different capacities and 2 different mouth sizes. This one is a ‘standard mouth’. Some may say it’s just a flask but I’m a sucker for aesthetically pleasing accessories; as long as they have a practical function. It’s an ‘Instagrammable’ item, don’t you agree? I love the photo of the bright flask against the natural earthy colours of the stone wall and Blencathra as its backdrop.

The website is pretty swish and, as a marketer, I love the design and copy throughout the website. It clearly explains why the HydroFlask isn’t just another flask due to its TempShield™ double wall.

The path along the back of the mountain was well-maintained and we ambled along taking in the 360 degree views.

The decent was gentle and by now the air was warm and the sun shone brightly.

A landed helicopter just ahead came into view and then spotted 15 or so people gathered close by. Many were wearing red so we concluded it was Mountain Rescue. We couldn't see what was going on so cautiously made our way down so as not to interfere.

We had hoped it was a demo or a training exercise but, on overhearing the group of walkers amongst the red-wearing team, we figured it was a real emergency. Later we read on the internet that it was 70+ year old man who had suffered a heart attack and the Mountain Rescue team saved his life using a defibrillator. Thankfully the man was located at the foot of the mountain, just a few hundred meters from the road, meaning the rescue team on the ground could get to him quickly. Considering the poor visibility we had experienced on the tops, it could have been a worse situation if the team had had to make their way up to the top on foot.

It was quite a sad end to the decent but we cheered ourselves up with beverage at the Horse and Farrier Inn bee garden in Threkeld. We supped our drinks in the warmth of the sun while peering up to mountain tracking the route we had taken.  Afterwards, we plodded back to the campsite to fall asleep in our camping chairs with a beer in the last of the evening's sun.  Perfect.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

New Life: A tour of the bird nests in my wood

May is my favourite month of the because the world around me suddenly springs into a scene of vivid colours, fresh growth, warm light and the happy sounds of birds singing.

Each month, the Outdoor Bloggers community create a post around a theme set by its members. This month, I set the theme ‘New Life’. My interpretation of the theme centres around the nesting birds and evidence of wild animals around the woodland in which I live.

In this video, I take you on a tour to show you some of the bird nests I have found; some with eggs and some with young chicks.

If you like owlets (baby owls) and robin chicks, click play.

Outdoor Bloggers was set up by Zoe, writer of Splodz Blogz, and I. It’s an initiative to bring bloggers who share a passion for the outdoors together and share stories, knowledge and enthusiasm for anything outdoors-related. We already have over 50 members who blog about varies outdoor activities from nature photography, trail running and climbing to cycling, camping and outdoor education.

If you blog about the outdoors, we would love for you to join us! Head over to and register to be a member. It’s totally free and your blog details will be added to the directory and you will receive a monthly newsletter from the Outdoor Bloggers team.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Vlog: Releasing Lindy the rescue hedgehog

Finally, after almost 7 months of being in a care, we released Lindy back into the wild.

Lindy has come along way since Ian, my step dad and Rachel, our next door neighbour, found him while on a walk last October. He was tiny, very thin and was wandering around in the daylight. Ian knew the hedgehog was in danger so scooped him up and brought him home. After consulting a hedgehog hospital we committed to caring for him for the winter.

For the last 4 nights of his care he lived in Magnus the magpie's aviary so that he could acclimatise to outdoor conditions after spending so many months in the warmth of a cage with a heat mat in one of the sheds. I set up the wildlife cam so I could monitor his feeding at night and was pleased to see him foraging and eating all the food I left out (with a little help from Magnus). I vlogged about his final few days in captivity here.

Here's the footage I recorded of Lindy's release and our farewell to the cute little ball of spikes. Enjoy!

Follow Lindy's journey in these previous blog posts:

We rescued a baby hedgehog
Update on Lindy the rescue hedgehog
Vlog: Catching Lindy the rescue hedgehog on the wildlife cam

PS. Stupidly I uploaded my last vlog to the wrong YouTube channel. 
Please click here to subscribe to right The Thrifty Magpies Nest blog channel.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Vlog: Catching Lindy the rescue hedgehog on the wildlife cam

I'm very excited to post my very first vlog. I bought myself a (bright pink) selfie stick especially recording vlogs for The Thrifty Magpies Nest and for recording 'how to' posts for SocialRocks, my social media consultancy business.

In this vlog I visit Magnus the magpie and collect the wildlife camera to check whether it has captured any footage of Lindy the rescue hedgehog who is currently acclimatising to the outside in the aviary before being released.

Oh, and why does YouTube always insist on giving you a choice of three video thumbnails that are all so unflattering?

I'd love to hear what you think of my first video in the comments here or on YouTube. Thanks!