Day 21-mini beast hunting

Today my class and I got out to hunt for mini-beasts. Try to get our national insect week under way properly. We took our pooters out to see what we could suck up to inspect. I reckon the ant and woodlice population to took a dramatic dive as a result of my class sadly. But they are learning lots. Their level of respect to the mini beasts have definitely gone up. But it wasn’t the insects that grabbed their attention. The south fence has long wet grass where we found a wealth of frogs. I discovered a number of the year 4 girls are superb at capturing frogs. I have a suspicious feeling I am going to be brought frogs for the next week.

 

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We found a moth with a keen attraction to one boy in the class Kept settling back onto him. Not sure what that says about his scent.

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One keen eyed child found some prints.

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Day 20-National Insect Week

Today we started our work in school on National Insect week. The kids had teaching assistant cover this morning while I was having my planning time out of the classroom. I’ve planned a snazzy bee survey later in the week which will contribute towards the Friends of the Earth bee survey. My class has also been working on gaining points towards RSPB wildlife action awards. The wildlife action awards involve a whole host of activities to encourage the RSPB’s every child outdoor hunt, from beach walks to bug hunts to writing letters to MP’s they cover a series of different elements to help nature. We have carried out a number already: sketching butterflies, growing flowers, bird watching, raising recycling awareness and a very messy session making pine cone bird feeders. This week our bee hunt will count towards the wildlife action awards as there is one point for taking part in a survey. Our bug hunting as part of National Insect Week will count for another and we are doing some litter picking for a third point in one week! I’m glad to say when I returned after dinner they were able to tell me what an entomologist was and what made an insect. A good start to the week.

RSPB wildlife action award booklet

After work I went to the post office in the centre of town and on the way back to the car took a small detour through Queen’s Gardens. I enjoyed the sight of a number of content ducks and pigeons. One pigeon seemed particularly keen to pose for photos.

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And in the murky depths something lurked!

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Back at home cooked tea, tidy around of baby things, then a bit of late night gardening. I found a moth in the water bucket, which I saved to put back in the ivy where it soon fluttered away from.IMG_20160620_185537

Day 19-Bee happy

Today has been a fairly boring day marking school books and planning lessons for next week. We are having a focus on National Insect Week. We’re going to become entomologists over the next week. The field guides are ready, the pooters are out and the magnifying glasses are ready.

We are starting tomorrow by discussing what an entomologist is and what we think we might see. Then Tuesday when the forecast is better we’ll be getting out to hunt. Then Wednesday and Thursday having a focus on habitats and making habitats for insects. Then Friday we’ll finish with looking back on our favourite and least favourite finds. Overall though leaving it loose so I can follow the children’s interests.

Literacy national insect week day 1 powerpoint

 

I’m using several of the lovely videos from the Royal Entomology Society to discuss our plans for next week.

With all my marking and planning haven’t had much of a chance for wildness. On the way back and forth to the car to take school books in and out I’ve logged  a few more bee sightings on the bee app. Yesterday I only spotted white tail bees, but today added honey bees to the species in the garden. I’m loving all the new varieties of wildlife and plants I’m discovering about through taking part in 30 days of wild. I’m also  getting more used to taking photos on my phone. Managed a nice level of detail on the white tailed bees wings.

Two honey bees

More white tailed bees

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And a random tiny snail.

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Day 18-The great British Bee Hunt

Today I joined the great British bee hunt which despite the similarity in title to the Great British Bake Off in involves no tasty baked good. As has been well documented bees are under many threats. Spring watch has currently been pushing the app. Friends of the Earth monitor numbers and type of bees buzzing around. I downloaded the app and recorded the number of bees in the garden. This is a nice little app. It has pictures of the different types of bees, so you can learn what the names are of the different bee species out there. I plan to take my class out some point next week to do some bee counting and could also see this being nice to do with your kids. Should be good fun tracking and tallying with the class.Trying to get the photo on my phone today was a bit trickier as the bees didn’t seem to want to be counted. I found 4 white tailed bees. Strangely satisfying doing my bit for science.

The app

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Day 17-Feed the birds, tuppence a bag

Today my class and I set up two coconut feeders to add to our window feeder to try to lure some birds a little closer.

I took another couple of children out to take photos around the school site. They’re really keen to get a good photo of the two magpies on the field. But the magpies are too weary to let them get close.

 

Today I also signed up for a free online course to learn more about the soil under our feet. I completed the Open Universities free introduction to ecosystems earlier in the year and thoroughly enjoyed studying again. While probably no more detailed than the A level biology I did decade ago it was still nice to refresh my knowledge and hear some more up to date research. The courses through future learn have varied a lot. Some I’ve tried have been great, others useless, but as soils is being led by my old University, Lancaster, I am hopeful for an interesting course. It will also carry on my wild studies after the 30 days of wild sadly end.

Day 16-A bird on a wire

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Today was a busy day at school. Report writing during the afternoon and then moderating maths after work at another school. A fairly unproductive meeting didn’t leave me in the best mood. On the way home I stopped of at B&Q along the River Hull. After popping into get a few bits I needed I took a walk down a narrow footpath enclosed by thick bushes. This took me out into a scruffy path alongside the River Hull. Littered by cans and crisp packets, and probably frequented by less than savoury character at night, might not seem like the nicest area to look for wildness, but flitting back and forth over the river were a host of birds. Bees were flitting over the bushes. A few minutes walking just a short way down the path left me feeling much more revived especially after seeing a lovely little chap in green on the wires of B&Q.

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Back at home after sorting out tea, school work I did some late night weeding and enjoyed some moon gazing in the peace of the garden.

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A few other sites in the garden.

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Day 15-half way through

Well halfway through and enjoying myself so far. Today me and my class carried on our snail watch taking care trying not to kill any.

Here are two photos the kids took of one snail many of the kids spent all of break watching.

One child filmed by accident.

And two photos they took of blackbirds enjoying the worms brought up by the rain. Some of the kids noticed the blackbirds were pulling the worms out and watched the tug of war taking place.

Within the class our cabinet of curiosities has been set up as a beetle case to go alongside our rhino beetle tank. We’ve looked at the lifecycle of the stag beetle and lady bird and several specimen.

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Next to it the rhino beetle tank and snails (temporary exhibit).

We now have meal worms set up so we can see the darkling beetle lifecycle.

Back at home moved some sunflowers from inside on the windowsill outside ready to plant. The fuchsias are staring to flower nicely and the fat pigeons are dominating the feeder.

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Day 14-Budding young photographers

We started the school day today with the children entering to a slide show of photos of wildlife around the school grounds: black birds, spiders, snails and bees. I let them know I would be taking out children over the next few weeks for them to take photos of the wildlife around school as we try to map out what is on the school site. After finding several children crushing snails yesterday with glee I’d like them to learn a bit more respect for snails. While I have slug and snail beer traps in my garden I don’t take glee in killing them.

At breaktime we went out as a class into an enclosed area to snail hunt in the solid thick plants. Initially the children couldn’t spot any. After they’d been encourage to get hands on, lift leaves, check in the thick of the bushes they found an abundance in the damp wet plants. Then they were given a chance to take some photos. This largely led to out of focus snails photos, but all budding wildlife photographers need to start somewhere.

We have taken two snails into the classroom (returned back that afternoon). So we could see them move within a tank set up for them. The children loved seeing the snails foot in action through the transparent plastic. Hopefully have less being crushed for a few days as they learn to enjoy and watch rather than kill.

At dinner took a smaller group out to look for a wider variety of wildlife. This gave me some more out of focus daisies, but the children had a whale of a time. They got up closer to some of the birds, bees, spiders and their favourite the frogs.

 

My personal favourite.

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Not too bad for five and six year olds.

 

Day 13-Foxes

Day 13 saw the foxes on the school playing field very active. It had been a wet drab morning, but in the afternoon it had cheered up a bit and my class had got out for PE. When we came out the sports coach called us over warning us to come quietly. Over by the bushes were 3 young foxes. My class lay flat on the playground and spent the first 20 minutes of their PE lesson watching the foxes play fighting. The children loved how the foxes played just like them. One child came up to tell me they must be carnivores with their teeth. A very proud moment for me that a lesson had actually gone in. A few of the children had a few misconceptions about foxes. One boy told me they’re as dangerous as wolves. So we might need to examine this concept a bit further. Sadly no photos as my camera is in the repair shop, so I am down to a compact for the rest of the month.

On the subject of foxes there is a new book about documenting foxes in Britain. Foxes unearthed is currently very cheap on kindle £1.99.

I have also been having problems with several of the more blood thirsty children enjoying crushing snails. As it has been wet over each night there are a lot around. I’ve started taking some photos (on the aforementioned compact)  to map out the wildlife and start looking at how we can take care of all of it. I’m going to share them with the kids tomorrow morning, then look at letting them try to photograph them over the day.

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Day 12-homes for wildlife

Today I am working on planning for school, so have limited time for anything major. I’m having a focus on feeding and homing wildlife in the garden.

In a corner of the garden near the shed I’ve added some more leaf matter and some twigs around my small log pile to help out the detrivores. Hopefully help out some of the beetles discussed yesterday.

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I’ve set up a bowl of over ripe fruit for the insect life in the garden. As my partner Amy is breastfeeding I think she’s finding peeling the bananas and oranges too much effort, since much of the time she only has one hand free. So I’m getting left with plenty of fruit for the garden. I was hoping to see a few butterflies, but mainly just seen blue bottles. But it’s all important wildlife.

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I’m hiding in a new bug house amongst one of the bushes. I’ve seen quite a lot of bees buzzing around this spot through the last two days. At one stage there were 8 bees just on this one bush. So hopefully it will serve a purpose.

The bird feeders have been topped up with a feast of seeds, nuts, meal worms, fat balls and suet blocks. I’ve also put a new jar of mealworm peanut butter in the wilco’s feeder. Thus feeder and jars is probably the most popular part of my bird feeder set up. It took the birds a while to get the idea of it, but now they snaffle it all up in a few days.

I’ve moved a few sunflowers into the flowerbeds that I’ve been cultivating inside on the windowsill the last month. Hopefully they will attract insects and later on the seeds will be a good source of food for the birds.

As we’ve had lots of visitors seeing baby Alice I’ve saved the tea bags and loose leaf tea to use for fertiliser in the garden. Ripping open the tea bags I’ve added the tea around the bases of several plants to put nutrients  back into the soil. I’ve been doing this over the Spring and have noticed a greater abundance of worms in my normally worm low clay soil. Apparently tea is also good for spreading around root vegetables for stopping maggot damage.