Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

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Nature Book Club: Review-The storm whale

I thought for this weeks Nature Book Club I’d have a look at a story Alice recieved for Christmas. The storm whale was the first book by Benji Davies. He has since written several follow ups and many other lovely emotion filled books. Grandad’s island is regularly picked for the home time story at school and Alice has picked the Grotlyn numerous times from the library. His books have seen him win many awards and recognitions over the last decade. At the heart of all his stories are positive messages told with wonderful story telling filled with emotion. The storm whale currently has a theatre production touring which we are looking forward to taking Alice to next month.

Right from the cover you have an inviting story with the boy Noi meeting the whale. You’ve got friendship and care right there from the off. Even though Noi doesn’t have a mouth the illustrations strangely carry an evocative feeling to them with the feelings inferred. The illustrations of the settings are lovely and the details are spot on. The shacks they live in are just like locations I know along the coast and the interiors feel just right.

The blurb on the back tells you exactly what you are getting here and shows off Noi and his dad and where they live. Within the story there are nice little details like Noi and his dad have six cats, so straight away Alice wants to spot them all counting the hidden cats. The story focusses on the lonely boy Noi, with his father working leaving him alone. Noi’s empathy and compassion for the whale reunite him and his father. The story is very touching. The book itself is often available cheap in the supermarkets, but even full price it is well worth the money.

 

TOUR DATES 

If you are interested in seeing the theatre production on tour mentioned here are the dates:

East Riding Theatre Sat 9 – Sunday 10th February

Eden Court Theatre and Cinema Tue 12 – Weds 13th February

The Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham Sat 16 February

Stantonbury Theatre Mon 18 February

Theatre Hullabaloo Thurs 21st Feb – Sat 23rd Feb

York Theatre Royal Tue 26th Feb – Sat 3rd March

ARC Stockton Arts Centre Fri 8 – Sat 9 March

artsdepot Sunday 10th March

Theatr Clwyd 21st – 23rd March

Carriageworks Theatre 2nd – 3rd April

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry 24th – 27th April

The Key Theatre 28th April – 30th April

 

12 Days of Wild: Day 12

And so 12 days wild comes to an end. I always enjoy taking part in these online communal nature pushes. While I live my life this way much of the year it is nice to reflect on what we do. But blogging each day is a drain on time so don’t mind going back to my usual interspaced blogs.

We had a few trips for boring practical purposes to do in the morning. But we popped over Tesco’s carpark to have a quick stroll through the community orchard and along the railway track. Alice told me we needed to look for fairy doors and she was right.

A robin serenaded us from the shadows.

On the way back we saw a few of the ducks along the drainage ditch.

Then in the afternoon, Alice wanted to go down to the beach again. She did really well walking and we made it a good way down the beach. I had taken the bucket along to collect more driftwood. Alice helped out finding pieces she felt were worthy of coming home. The sanderlings were running about back and forth around us. I’ve rarely had them coming so close to us, so that was a joy to see on the last day of 12 days. I didn’t have my camera on me, but I may try walking that way again over the next few weeks to see if I can get some photos of them. I did have my phone though so captured a pic of Alice decorating one of her castles.

It’s been a good break off and I’ve enjoyed blogging about Alice and my nature experiences. The daiy blogging will stop but the love of nature won’t.

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Nature book club: Review-Moon

For the last month or so Twitter has had a new hashtag hour #naturebookclub. Currently, this is taking part on Sundays 6-7 pm. It’s a growing community and I’ve seen some great recommendations through it. As a teacher and a parent I’m finding I recommend picture books a lot, so I thought I would look at reviewing some of the children’s books I’ve enjoyed, both at school, and with Alice.

Moon-Britta Teckentrup

Alice goes through phases, much like the moon, of being obsessed with the moon. We have to check out the window in the morning and at night to see it’s still there and how big it is. So, I thought she would probably enjoy this book. The book doesn’t have a running story as such. It goes around the world showing different landscapes describing what happens. On each page, there is a cut out of the moon. As you go through it gets bigger and then wanes. This is the main reason I’ve used it for education, to discuss the phases of the moon. It isn’t detailed in the text but as you go through the book you can talk about wider subjects. Alice was asking whether the animals were nocturnal the other night for example.

The illustrations are gorgeous, despite being toned down as it’s night time they are still entrancing. Much like the illustrations of Eric Carle, they are basic looking but lovely and a lot of work will have gone into their construction. The illustrations and text describe moonlit settings around the world showing a wealth of animals.

As with many of the best children’s books coming out now, it can be enjoyed by both the adult and the child as it has a poetry to it alongside the gorgeous illustrations. As a story about the night, this does tend to be one we read in the evening. I’ve read it with Alice, then she’s often wanted to look through it by herself. That’s always a good sign that it has engaged with her on some level. She will sit talking through the pages. She’s at that lovely pre-reading level of making up her own stories to the pictures but is also starting to know some letter and sounds and is pointing them out.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little review and possibly feel inclined to check out nature book club. I would also recommend ‘tree’ by the same author that shows the life of one tree through the seasons. It’s another stunner.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 11

After a busy six on Saturday with excellent news, we headed out for a cooked breakfast at the Floral Hall to celebrate my dad’s birthday. After a good feed, we headed down to the beach. I was on the lookout for beach finds to add to my garden. Many of the open gardens we visited last year had interesting found objects from the beach. Alice was after building sandcastles.

Alice settled into building her castles before shifting gear to dig a hole. Nothing quite like working on the biggest hole you can manage. But I’d rather she did it on the beach than in my garden.

Then we were joined by Alice’s cousins, uncle and dog.

Alice poised for one nice photo with one cousin before the tongues came out.

Then the standard entertainment of making big splashes.

Alice collected driftwood to pretend to make a fire.

We found a good few interesting small finds for adding to the garden.

And a good-sized piece of driftwood for the garden. I was thinking of partly submerging it in the border like the seaside equivalent of a zen stone placed in the landscape.

A nice little stroll out but has left Alice tired. Curled in for cuddles and snacks. One last day of 12 wild days. We’ll see what I get up to tomorrow.

Six on Saturday: 4.1.20-Six for a New Year

Welcome to a new year of six on Saturday. I made it through the last year and  I think I managed to post each week giving me an amazing record I can look back through. I thoroughly recommend taking part. There is a great community through the blogs and Twitter and I’ve learnt so much. I am still off work currently so I’ve had a productive week tidying the garden and getting a few bits planted. I’ve still got my front garden bin tidy to do, but I’ve made lots of progress in other areas. I’ve also had a tidy of a few of the blog pages and started adding a gardening contents page as I’ve noticed lots of traffic to particular blogs. It needs more work but nice to have quick access to particular blogs I refer back to quite often.

1. Bargain tulips

We popped out a few days ago to the garden centre for a family trip out. The bargain bulb trolley is out now with bulbs reduced to £1 each. So each picked a bag. I thought Amy was going to go for the pheasant’s eye daffodils but she opted for the sealing wax daffodils. I’m not a fan of daffodils as they don’t offer much benefit to wildlife and I’m not a great fan of the colours. Most of the ones we have are wilco’s specials so these will be some of the few I know the names of. Alice went with the Red Riding Hood tulips. I’ve grown these before. They have nice stripy foliage and bright red flowers. The alliums were my choice. Three very tall summer drummers. I had said last week I was done with bulb planting, but what I obviously meant was done until I see a bargain.

Alice helped plant her tulips, then lost interest as the other bulbs aren’t her taste. The crowbar came in use again for making nice targetted holes in the border.

2. Muddy puddle

Then Alice got on with the more important work of making a muddy puddle. She used the rainwater from her mud kitchen to soak a section of the lawn.

The lawn is in a pretty bad condition after builders last year but Alice had fun jumping up and down in her puddle.

3. Homebrew nematodes

This week I had found the book outwitting squirrels was free through Kindle to borrow. The book tackles different ways to tackle different “pests”. On the whole, I let nature take its course and allow the wildlife to find an equilibrium. But I have planted several hostas I would like to protect. In the book, it talks about making your own nematodes. Nematodes are a microscopic worm that preys on slugs and snails. It’s a natural way to keep slug and snails down. It costs about £16 and needs applying about every 6 weeks.  So it is quite a pricey way to combat them. By collecting up slugs and snails in a confined area you can create conditions for nematodes to build. The water at the bottom can then be added to a watering can to add the nematodes into your soil. It is unlikely to be that effective in the cold weather during winter but it’s free for me to try so can’t do any harm. If nothing else I’ve got the kit ready to try again when the seasons change.

A washbasin has been filled with a layer of water, then an island of plant material has been placed on top for the slugs to sit on.

Slug collecting has commenced.

Then the washtub is covered with a tile.

4. Kokedama

Earlier in the week, I’d made a kokedama. It is still sitting looking dumpy but I found a grey saucer which I think suits it better. While I imagine this doesn’t look that amazing to any of you I could see the process of making these being quite addictive. If I had enough materials I could easily encase many more plants in this way. I have one more fern and may dig out some of the ivy seedlings to try wrapping.

5. Fairy house

Yesterday I made Alice another addition to her growing fairy garden. The house has had a chance to dry overnight and I found it a space near the mushrooms put in last week. I think it’s looking quite nice if a bit rustic. Alice wants me to make more so I’m going to need to get the saw back out. Before long we’ll have a whole happy village going on.

6. Burgon & Ball photo competition

And for my final six some exciting news. I won the Burgon & Ball garden photo of the year competition. I will be receiving a lovely bundle of gardening bundles worth a few quid. I had a choice between a garden pack or an allotment pack. The garden pack had some nice secateurs and forks, but as I already own Niwaki secateurs I’ve gone for the allotment options.

Avid Allotmenteer:

So I can add an award-winning photographer to my egotistical over-exaggerated CV along with being a published poet. The photo I entered was one of my favourite dahlia pictures of the year combined with one of my favourite garden insects. I could happily watch the dragonflies for hours. When one landed on the dahlia, my favourite dahlia I grew last year, I went a bit snap happy. But I did get some stunners. So, I’ll be waiting on the postman to deliver me my Burgon & Ball goodies. Then I’ll be itching to get the dahlias started again, but that’s a good few months off despite what Gardener’s World magazine was advising this month.

It’s been a good holiday off and I’ve enjoyed plenty of time with family. Still shaking off my stupid cough, but gradually getting better. I’ve got a little time left to try and get a few more garden jobs done and we’re planning to get out for my dad’s birthday today and another walk on the beach. Enjoy your weekends. I hope the start of the year has been gentle to those who have returned to work.

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12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 10

Today we said goodbye to Christmas. It’s all packed up and put up in the loft with the dahlia tubers. That took up more of the day than we expected, even though it always takes us longer than we expect each year. So it wasn’t until late afternoon I got outside. I’d decided I wanted to have a go at making a fairy house from an idea I’d seen on Pinterest. I needed to saw a log outside. So I picked a nice round one from the log store and got sawing. The birds have been unwilling to come in the garden much lately while I’m out. But once I’m busy the birds don’t mind me. Once I got sawing the blue tits were first in followed by the regular sparrows and blackbirds.

The magic must have been working on my fairy house preparation as I had a visitor I don’t remember seeing in my own garden for a good while. A greenfinch came in for the seed. Greenfinches were hit by disease a few years ago nationally. It’s heartening to know there are still some out there.

Alice didn’t help with much of this project. She did a couple of saw strokes cutting the wood. But the one part she was definite about was that the door should be red.

For a quick little project, I’m happy enough with the result. Alice wants me to make another, so may get better as I go on. I made mistakes with this one I know I can avoid next time. I’m not sure if I’ll varnish it or let it decay naturally. The glue can dry overnight and then we can look for a spot for it in the garden.

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