30 days of wild: Day 4 butterfly banquet, music in the gardens

Today I used the 30 days app to assign a random act of wild. The first that came up was simple enough to feed the butterflies. So as we had some over ripe fruit in the bowl out it went for the butterflies. I haven’t seen any takers today, but from previous experience the butterflies tend to like the fruit when it’s gone a bit pungent. As there are plenty of flowers in bloom currently the butterflies may not be interested. However in Autumn leaving out fruit in this way can really benefit the butterflies.

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Then this afternoon we headed out to the memorial gardens. Hornsea has a new band stand and there are musical events planned across the Summer. Today was the Driffield Silver Band.

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There was a good turn out. Many people came to enjoy the music and sun. Alice wanted to get a bit closer to the action.

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Her cousins joined her, although not sure what they made of the brass music from their faces. But I rather it was rather jolly.

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So Evie and Alice went to explore more of the gardens.

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Then back for another barbecue in the sun, more eating out. Tomorrow I return back to work, so it will be time to start 30 days wild with my class.

One last picture from my own garden today. The garden is full of dragonflies at the moment and this one obligingly posed on one of the roses in glorious full bloom.

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Focus on painted ladies

Today’s focus isn’t going to be a focus on art. A few weeks back my class received their insect lore painted lady caterpillars. They have finished their time in the cocoon oven and are have emerged as butterflies. So as I get set to release them it seems a good time to look at them in more detail.

The painted ladies are favoured by schools for looking at life cycles as insect lore has made them readily available. However few schools go beyond to look at the remarkable life of these butterflies.

Starting as the eggs they hatch out as tiny millilitre big caterpillars. This is how most schools receive them in their little pots.

They rapidly grow in size of about 2 weeks before turning into cocoons. One thing that always surprises the children is when they see the cocoons wriggle. In the wild in the U.K. they favour thistles and nettles for food.

They remain cocoons for around a week before emerging as butterflies.

As butterflies they use their proboscis to feed. A bit like a long tongue that curls up when not in use. Their fascinating to watch feeding.

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All this would be remarkable enough, but painted ladies have more about them. They are in fact migrants to our shores. Now when people say migrant, currently probably think more on a UKIP lines, or else birds.  But these butterflies make amazing journeys. Painted ladies can’t survive our winter, so they travel all the way from North Africa and across Europe. They are the only butterfly to of been reported in Iceland.

We don’t see the migration though as they travel at high altitudes. Over several generations they make the journey as they only live around two weeks as a butterfly. The navigational skills contained within this tiny species is mind boggling.

Now doesn’t that make for a more interesting use of them teaching children than just getting them to alongside reading the very hungry caterpillar. The use of them in schools is often frowned upon, so if you are going to get the most out of them for the children. Teach about their life cycle, their eating habits, structure and the remarkable story of their migration.

For an interesting read for children on migration check out Chris Packham’s and Jason Cockcroft amazing animal migration. It explains migration in a way that made sense to the five year olds I’ve taught.

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Further reading

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/19991550

BBC documentary (currently unavailable, but worth watching out for)

30 days wild: day 3-cook in the sunshine

This morning wasn’t massively wild. We went to nursery for a craft fair. We won some cereal bars (not the most exciting prize) on the tombola and bought some nice wildlife cards.

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Then had a tea and scone at one of the local churches coffee mornings. They had a band playing and it was rather jolly. Alice got a bit bored though, so took her walking on the grass at the back of the church. She did enjoy her digestive biscuit from the church. Took the better part of an hour to finish it though.

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The afternoon fitted in a bit more wild activities. I keep well topped up bird feeders, but being 30 days time I thought I’d spoil them, so they’ve got the full range of options on the front and back garden feeders.

After Alice had her nap she joined me in the garden complete with her new explorer hat. We had bought her a watering can of her own a few days back, but hadn’t given it to her yet. She knew what to do with it straight away. She’s obviously watched me well. Didn’t give her any water yet though as didn’t fancy changing her just before tea.

I also added to the gardens wildlife provision planting the free seed mix that came with the 30 days pack and some night scented stock. It’s loved by moths apparently.

We finished off with tea on our new barbecue ticking the wild act food in the sunshine. Alice was a bit fractious though and wailed throughout taking some of the enjoyment away. Then she smeared beans on her new hat. Good job it looks like it’s easy to clean.

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Then managed a quick wild act while putting Alice to bed. The RSPB have an online petition placing nature on the agenda for the election. Only takes a minute to do if you feel inclined.

link

Now we’ve got an evening ahead of chilling watching fantastic beasts and where to find them. A rare night as parents we are going to try and sit down and watch a movie. I’ll leave this blog with a picture of my previously mentioned poppies that we’re looking nice today and a Bee enjoying a cornflower.

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Oldhouseintheshires

Focus on poppies

As the poppies in my garden and on road verges are coming into flower I thought I’d research poppies today. Within my garden I have a few varieties planted this year: the common poppy, oriental poppy and Californium poppy. They look spectacular in bloom, but short lived as I think next doors cats are knocking the petals off.

_DSC0849Both the common and oriental poppy have the RHS perfect for pollinators seal of approval. Easy to grow in sunny spots in the garden. The seeds were scattered and raked. Others started in wildflower mixes in pots that have been spread to the border. The common poppy likes dry and well draining soil, whereas the orientalist opposed has varieties that can stand clay soil. Scatter in October for flowers the following Spring.

The RHS even recommends them as a flower to grow with children as they are simple enough to grow and enjoy. A good teaching opportunity for seasonal change and teaching long term cycles of flowers rather than the instant gratification of just growing cress.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/education-learning/gardening-children-schools/family-activities/grow-it/grow/poppy

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The poppy has various symbolism. Within the wizard of Oz it puts people to sleep, with the opium gained from poppies well known for sleep effects. It has been a symbol of death and rebirth, but it is mainly known for remberance. As the common weed that grew up in the aftermath of WWI on the battlefields it became the symbol for remberance. The red being the more common worn to remember the soldiers, while the white poppy is worn to remember all who have suffered from war.

http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/

The symbolism most popularly represented in John McCraes poem, “In Flanders fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Alice and Amy at the weeping willows memorial when it visited Hull earlier in the year.

While they won’t last long, between cats and birds in my garden, I intend to enjoy the poppies while I can.

 

30 days wild 2017: day 2 Bempton walk and book review

This afternoon was one of the bigger acts of wild we went for a wild walk. We headed in the car up to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. The Bempton reserve is one of the best places for seabirds. With many coming to nest at this time of year. There are a number of well built observation platforms along the cliff edge and along the cliff edge are fields of wild flowers. It was raining lightly on arrival, otherwise I imagine we’d of seen a lot more butterflies.

The cliffs were thronged with seabirds. Every crevice is taken. It’s amazing how they stay perched.

We we saw the gannets. Lovely looking birds with their long necks and pointed tails they are rather striking particularly in flight.

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We saw the guillemots. They just come to land to nest. The rest of their lives are spent at sea, so this is the best chance for most people to see up close.

There were plenty of razorbills. Similar to the guillemots in looks, the main difference for me is the beak. As with many of the species at Bempton they are under threat with risks to marine health quality, through pollution, fishing, and rising sea temperatures.

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As well as the seabirds I saw a fair few farmland birds: sparrows, corn buntings, a moor hen and a few pigeons trying to hustle in on he sea bird action.

The star of the show though at Bempton are the puffins, which we saw up close through one of the RSPB telescopes. Wonderful characterful birds, however my camera wasn’t up to the job. You can just make out the beak is a puffin hiding in a crevice.

As the day had warmed up and the rain subsided the bug life’s came out.


On the way back to the centre we took Alice out of the howdah for a walk back up the path.

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Back at centre we avoided buying any stuffed toys, but did have a hot drink. Amy had a slice of cake and I had a rather nice Stilton pork pie. While eating the jack daws were very obliging for photos, keen to pick up food scraps.

 

A lovely trip out despite a drab start. Another random act of wild achieved for 30 days. Hopefully the RSPB will be able to keep these birds safe for many more years to come, so Alice can enjoy them when she’s older.

We an add on to day one.

The end of yesterday saw the arrival of a new nature book for children. The national trusts-go wild in the woods. The national trusts 50 things to do before your 11 3/4 is a lovely book and this looked to be in the same vein.

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The quality of he book is lovely. It’s hard backed and has an elastic bookmark to seal the book or mark the page. The book acts like a junior SAS survival guide for children. It covers setting up a camp, building a shelter, tying knots, navigating, tracking, animal prints, food to avoid, finding water, drinking wee, a whole host of subjects to appeal to a mini adventurer. It is showing off a number of bushcraft skills in a good accessible way for children. I was expecting ideas of activities to do in the wood, whereas this is aimed a little older than I expected. But still a nice read. The younger children can enjoy the animal sections and get some den ideas, while the older child can look at developing skills. A nice addition to the National Trusts growing adventure books. If you have a budding bushcraft fan or forest school child they will probably enjoy this.

Focus on greenbottle fly

In the sunshine I spotted these greenbottle flies. While not necessarily considered a beauty the colour of the casing in the sun is as stunning as any jewel. So I thought I’d research them for this focus feature.

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Greenbottles are one of the most common blow flies (family  Calliphoridae) along with heir cousins the bluebottle. However, unlike the bluebottle, who is best known for irritating people inside, the greenbottle prefers to be outside. The name blow fly is an old English expression. Meat that was “blown” had eggs laid on.

The greenbottle fly lays its eggs on decaying tissue, on corpses generally. From this the larvae, fly maggots, hatch. Then after three to ten days, depending on temperature and food, the maggot pupates. After six to fourteen days the fly emerges and the endless cycle continues.

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Pretty gross you might be thinking. However this knowledge has been used by forensic scientists to give time of death. Absence of fly maggots or evidence of a disturbed life cycle can show tampering with a body. So I think we should raise a glass to thank the humble fly for aiding the silent witness team in their work.

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While the fly is never going to be as popular as butterflies it’s colours can be just as impressive of what nature can achieve. I will finish with a recommendation for a children’s book that makes you think about whether to splat the fly next time it’s in the house annoying you.

The fly-Peter Horacek

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30 days wild 2017: day 1 dens, apps, bees

Today marks the first day of the wildlife trusts 30 days of wild. Each day of June I will be indulging in one act of wild. Each of these are a small act of nature appreciation. From enjoying a cuppa outdoors, listening to the dawn chorus, to taking walks in nature. They will vary from quick 2 minute activities to whole excursions out.

Last year I managed to do something each day, but some days were quieter than others. However this year I am working back, teaching, in Foundation Stage so have more opportunities to be outside at work. Alice, my toddler, is now walking and is keen to explore. So this year I think we can manage more than last year. One aim, for me this month, is to improve my knowledge of nature. From doing 30 days wildlast year I’ve learnt lots, but again I want to go further. So with this in mind I’m going to be writing focus features on different wildlife I see regularly.

The 30 days wild has a wonderful online community with a active Facebook group, twitter hashtag #30dayswild and a whole host of bloggers. If you’d like your Facebook wall to have something other than election fever I’d recommend signing up to the Facebook group.

Me and Alice started off the day quietly catching up on BBC Springwatch episodes 2 and 3. Alice seemed quite interested in the newts, but not as excited by the jays as Michella and Chris were. She went back off to play.

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She did however perk up for the owls and went to one of her toy boxes and pulled out owl. Coincidence or signs of cognition?

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After her morning nap we drove across to Hull to meet family for a swim, then back for lunch at my parents in their garden. Since I did thirty days last year my dad has added a lot for nature. He’s always fed the birds, but has branched out a lot with more insect homes, frogilo, hedgehog feeding stations and hedgehog gaps.

My parents garden has has always been well looked after and is all looking good right now. The alliums and delphiniums were seeing lots of Bee action. I logged a few sightings for the Great British Bee Count achieving my first random act of wild for 30 days, follow a Bee. Predominantly white tailed bumblebees with a few early bumblebees.

Alice achieved a second act of wild by playing in her den. Cheating a bit as it was a tent rather than built from scratch. But getting it together was a hassle. It is however a ladybird, which adds to its wild credentials. I will be building dens properly later in the month for den day.

Alice got a new tea set amongst other lovely presents from her great aunt. She enjoyed walking around with it immensely.

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The nephews were bug hunting with strange hover devices. In my day it was a pooter and if you were lucky you didn’t swallow any bugs. They did catch one wasp, which was released before becoming too enraged and a lot of woodlice.

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And then squeezed one last wild act in. I installed the wildlife trust nature finder app.

Not bad for the first day of 30 days. 3 acts covered.

  • playing in the den.
  • follow a Bee.
  • Download the nature finder app.

Focus on sparrows

As part of improving my wildlife knowledge during 30 days wild I am aiming to research a bit about common wildlife I see. The first focus on one of the commonest visitors, the humble sparrow.

Sparrows are a regular visitor to my front gardens bird feeder and an irregular visitor in the back garden. They are social little birds usually arriving in pairs or often coming on their own to be followed by another. They can be found across the UK all year round and in almost all habitats, although they are disappearing from cities.

Through the eighteenth  century sparrow bounties were offered in many parishes to keep numbers down. Being fond of grain crops they were considered a pest. These sparrow clubs continued until the 19th century when it was realised it wasn’t helping.

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Despite being one of the most common birds on the planet their numbers have dropped dramatically (up to 60%) over the last twenty years, particularly in cities. Different theories have been put forward from car pollution killing insects to lack of nesting spaces.

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During the breeding period (April to August) protein is of great importance. Promoting insect life in your garden can help. Alternatively food like meal worms can help this.

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Being social they like to nest in groups, so a run of nest boxes together can help. When numbers start to drop it is hard for numbers to go back up as they appear to like the company. So it is important to help before it’s too late. The RSPB sell nest boxes designed to help this.

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For more information:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/h/housesparrow/

http://www.garden-birds.co.uk/birds/housesparrow.htm

Why Sparrows struggle to survive RSPB podcast

And I’ll finish with a male sparrow caught mid snack.

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