Winter Birds

It goes without saying that winter can be a tough time for wildlife, but when the leaves have fallen from the trees it becomes much easier to spot birds and follow the tracks and signs of other animals. We also do of course get to see different birds, those migrants who have come south for the warmer weather, so it’s an interesting time of year. If you’re just getting into birding, please don’t pack away your bins til spring, as there’s plenty to see if you can handle the cold weather.

Now I adore cosy nights in as much as any hygge-loving soul, but I also get fed up in winter with all the time I have to spend inside so I make a real effort to get out on dry days. Here’s the winter birds I’m looking out for in my local area this season.

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Hawfinch – a rare sight and normally a notoriously shy bird, in recent years we’re seeing flocks. There has been a large influx from eastern Europe and twitchers are understandably galvanized. They feed on the ground so you’re more likely to spot them in winter.

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Redwing – a countryside winter roamer, the redwing has a striking red flank and can team up in flocks with fieldfares.

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Fieldfares – A more colourful thrush, the fieldfare is a winter visitor and can arrive in flocks. Look out for them amongst the hawthorn bushes.

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Waxwings – surely the most glamorous winter bird, with its glossy, waxy coat and little tuft of feathers on the head. If you’re going to follow any of the links in this post, please follow this one to see a lovely video of a flock of gorgeous waxwings feeding on rowan berries.

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Brambling – annoyingly for a bird that looks remarkably like a chaffinch, it actually flocks with chaffinches, so can be difficult to spot!

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Snow Bunting – robins aside, is there a more festive bird? Snow buntings are buntings with white feathers on their underside and migrate from the Artic and Scandinavia in winter. Can be found in flocks along the coast.

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Robin – reliable robin, always present, but only really gets attention at Christmas, with good reason. The UK’s favourite bird.

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Goldcrest – an elusive garden bird, they join mixed flocks in the colder months and their tiny beak favours pine forests.

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Blackcap – quite dull looking and often overlooked, yet quite pleasing and fluffy. I saw one this morning as I drove through a very treed area.

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Shorelark – they like coastlines and sometimes wander into fields and are really quite rare in the UK.

Whats winter birds have you seen so far this season and what are you looking forward to searching for? 

 

FYI these are not my photos, just from the internet.

 

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Alternative vegetarian & vegan Christmas dinners

I don’t want to lecture or rant.* You’ll do what you want, regardless. But maybe just consider that the seasonal slaughter of turkeys and ducks is not completely necessary? There are some alternative meals you could be enjoying instead.

Scouring Pinterest for some veggie Christmas dinners for this post has been mouth-watering stuff, and actually all the recipes I’ve found seem quite easy. No defrosting the bird in the bath overnight only to find it’s too big for your oven. And what with Sainsbury’s vegan cheeseboard, procuring affordable non-meat and non-diary food stuffs is actually starting to be feasible.

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Here’s my top 5 suggestions for veggie mains that I’ve narrowed it down to. What should I choose?

  1. Beetroot & squash wellington
  2. Squash, chickpea and spinach filo pie
  3. Vegetable, almond & brazil nut roast
  4. Stuffed roasted squash
  5. Chestnut, port & thyme strudel

I’m also hosting a small Christmas party and looking for ideas for veggie canapes and snacks – does anyone have any ideas?

And if all else fails, Yotam Ottelengi will save me from a meaty Christmas.

*But it would be remiss of me not to provide a few Christmas turkey facts for you to consider.

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Cute Vegan Organic Skincare – Christmas Gift Set

Fair Squared are one of my favourite organic, natural skincare and beauty brands, and their products are all vegan and Fair Trade. They never test their products on animals – so they are right up my street. Fair Squared are one of those companies that have so many certifications that they can barely fit them all on the packaging; Vegan Society, Fair Trade, Peta, Natrue, and Fair Rubber.

They sent me this lovely Christmas gift set to try out.

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Fair Squared Christmas Gift Set *

4 cute mini skincare essentials, all certified vegan and Fair Trade, using natural ingredients. At £8.95 this is a really good idea as a Christmas gift set for a friend or family member who likes organic, natural, vegan, cruelty-free products, and a good introduction for someone looking to get to know an organic brand like this but doesn’t know where to start. I really love the simple packaging on these bottles.

  • Green Tea Body Lotion: containing the finest Fair Trade green tea from India. I love body lotions as I do get very dry skin, especially in winter. This bitesize bottle is perfect for handbags or leaving by the kitchen sink.
  • Vanilla Shower Gel: contains Fair Trade olive oil from Palestine. A cute sample of a classic in their range and convenient for taking to the gym for the post-workout shower.
  • Apricot Shampoo: contains Fair Trade apricot kernel oil from Pakistan. A lovely lather and a beautiful smell of apricots, which is not an ingredient I would immediately think to put on my hair, but the smell is so good that I would definitely use this again.
  • Olive Hand Soap: contains Fair Trade olive oil from Palestine. A really nice and supple soap, left my hands very soft.

 

You can buy more of Fair Squared’s range here.

 

* Denotes a gift I received. My opinions are nevertheless my own and I always give honest reviews.

Naipo Shoulder Massager (Review)

Naipo Shoulder Massager (Review)

I’m one of those people that suffers with back, neck shoulder and joint pain, and it has been ongoing for a few years now. I’ve tried it all: NSAIDs, painkillers, better desk ergonomics, heat packs, Pilates, and while all of this helps (particularly Pilates), none gives such immediate relief as a proper massage.

Being somewhat uncomfortable with the very idea of stripping off and having someone kneading my back with their bare, cold hands, I wanted something a little more private and less dependent on other people. So I was very excited to receive the Naipo massager in the post recently – thank you so much, Naipo, for sending me your massager to try out and review.

I don’t think I’ve talked about it before on this blog, but I suffer from Marfan Syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder that can lead affected people to suffer with chronic joint problems, including dislocations, and cardiovascular problems, such as aortic dilatation (I had to have heart surgery for this 5 years ago, in my early 20s.) More recently this condition has caused me chronic back pain, as well as neck and shoulder pain, that I usually treat with anti-inflammatories and heat packs, and I’ve been working on building my strength and alignment through Pilates (which, by the way, has been a hugely beneficial experience.)

But I’ve always wanted to try massage and have never really felt I could justify the expense on a regular basis, so this little contraption by Naipo is an ideal solution for me as it’s a one-off cost for a product I can use as regularly as I like. I’m really keen to try this massager because the rotating nodes and the heat from the device is supposed to be really good at increasing the circulation in my connective tissues, which in theory will help them to recover more quickly when the pain from inflammation kicks in.

What is Shiatsu massage? A specialist style of Japanese massage that focuses on pressure points. It rotates and stretches the joints to release tension. Essentially, it uses the fingers to manipulate the affected joints or muscles into a more comfortable, relaxed position. While there’s no scientific evidence to suggest it can cure you of anything, but it is helpful in alleviating symptoms.

Benefits:

  • Relieves tired and aching joints and muscles.
  • Relaxes body through use of heat, massage, and taking a little time for self-care.
  • Can be used in conjunction with other methods of pain relief to improve chronic conditions.
  • Stress reliever.

The Naipo Shiatsu Kneading Massager: Neck & Shoulder Massager with Heat

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Features:

  • The Naipo massager has 8 nodes that rotate to knead aching muscles.
  • Heat can be applied to intensify the effect and relax the muscles even more.
  • It’s quite light and portable and can be used in the home, office, or even the car (though not while driving, of course).
  • Ergonomic U-design with handles to manipulate the pressure applied by the rotating nodes.
  • Made from sturdy material that can easily be wiped clean after use.
  • Adaptable design – can be used on neck, shoulders, back, calves, thighs or abdomen.
  • Improves blood circulation.
  • 3D rotating nodes move clockwise and anti-clockwise, switching automatically after a minute.
  • Timer set to 20 minutes to conserve power and built-in thermostat to avoid overheating.

I found the Naipo massager really easy and simple to use as all you have to do is position it where you want to use it and plug it in. It was slightly surprising that the nodes started rotating immediately at full pelt rather than gradually building up to full speed, but you can control this by pulling the handles to adjust the pressure applied to your muscles, which is a very useful feature. It really does feel like a pair of hands as you can feel the nodes getting right into the shoulder joints.

The heat gets to about 40 degrees so it’s a gentle temperature that won’t burn your skin. The package also comes with a dust guard cloth that you can put on over the nodes so you don’t get any friction from the mesh covering, though I didn’t notice that without the dust guard.

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After my initial use, I ended up using the Naipo massager every day after work and it has really helped. I often get a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders purely from sitting at a computer desk all day long, so on a weekday evening this product has become an essential part of my de-stress routine. It’s so easy to use and you can just stick on your shoulders while you’re watching telly.

I cannot recommend this massager enough; it has been so helpful and relaxing and I’m so impressed by the quality of this Naipo product. I’ve just found out they have also released a really cute limited edition Christmas version, which you can also buy on Amazon here.

 

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