Nest box week

A quick shout out for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) National Nest Box week. My local area currently has a good supply of natural nest spots. But with new housing estates destroying many of these I’m aware the birds may be short of nest spots in years to come.

Traditional advice is to place between 1 and 3 metres. Some species do have specific height requirements, so check if you have your heart set on particular species.

Open fronted nest boxes should have a bit of cover around them. Mine has a lilac tree in front and honey suckle growing over the fence. These open fronted nest boxes are favoured by robins, pied wagtails and wrens.

Nest boxes shouldn’t be placed too close to feeders as these may make an area too busy putting off nesting birds. This is tricky in a small garden like mine, as I can’t put either too close to the house, so I’ve tried to place the feeders and nest boxes with what distance I can apart. Birds need clear flight paths into the nest, but it helps fledglings if there are branches they can get out onto near the nest box.

If you have predators in the area ensure cats can’t get to the boxes. Metal plates can be used around the holes to stop squirrels and some other birds attacking the eggs.

In addition to the nest boxes I have nest lining materials in the garden. Natural wool in a hanging store and straw are available to be claimed. As this is only my second year in the house I’m not relocating nest boxes yet, but if in another year none of have been used I may try different spots.

Follow on twitter to see if I have any nesting success.

Alice is eagerly waiting to see if anything comes, imitating my binoculars with her popoids. I can see I’ll need to get her set.

Alice binoculars

Daunder

Today’s word for the day from Robert Macfarlane: “daunder” – to walk without fixed purpose, to wander aimlessly, to stroll, saunter & idle about, in city or in country (Scots). Cf another fine Scots verb for this, “to stravaig”.

This morning I had an appointment, but following that I decided to take a daunder back through the park. Of late, I haven’t had much chance to go through what it a lovely local space for me. The avenue of trees, the wide expanse of grass, the surrounding gardens all make for a pleasant stroll. Squirrels enjoy a number of confirs in the surrounding gardens. The park provides a rich variety of habitats with wet areas, woodland, ground cover, short and long grass.

During Winter one of the areas of trees becomes bogged down and for a few months becomes a temporary duck pond. Today the mallards were resting by the side, while the crows hopped back and forth around the edge.

Many of the surrounding stone walls are covered in ivy. This wonderful Autumn rich pollen source has now gone to seed. Once dropped the ivy can continue it’s creeping domination of the southern corner of the park only to have it’s efforts thwarted later in the year by the groundsmen.

Signs of Spring are poking through with snowdrops in flower and daffodils preparing for their colour burst.

One of my favourite areas of the park takes a path through trees into a short holloway to nowhere in particular. The chaffinches were out in number today hopping around the ivy encrusted trees.

Throughout the park I could hear the sound of great tits chattering back and forth.

The blackbirds were accomodating for photos.

Just a quick wander round the park shows life is starting to emerge again. The Spring flowers are showing their heads. The birds are finding their voices again. The sun is almost warming. Good to be out.

Big Garden Birdwatch

Last weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB is survey has been going since 1979 and provides useful information on the rise and fall of garden birds. I have been putting out a variety of food across Winter attracting in a good variety of birds. However the weekend before didn’t bode well.

The snow started to come down. At first slow, then in proper flurries.

Thick enough to settle.

Come the day of the birdwatch the snow had gone, but it was still a cold, grey day. Not ideal conditions, but I’m pleased to say I still had good numbers in. The way the survey works is you count the greatest number you see at once, so you don’t count the same bird again and again.
So my results as follows:

4 Blackbirds
5 Starlings
14 Sparrows
3 Wood pigeons
2 Great tits
1 Crow
1 Wren
1 Blue tut
2 Jackdaws
10+ common gulls

So I just managed to break double figures. This was a quiet day as my garden goes, so several regular visitors didn’t show. No robins or goldfinches, which are out there now as I write. But still a respectable variety of species for a small garden.

A mass of gulls made up one of my highest counts. Though only in briefly they swoop in, quickly, and in large numbers.

The missing birds.

A little disappointed that a few birds didn’t show, but I’m still happy that my garden is helping support a decent variety of garden birds. The initial results nationally seem to be showing the sparrow as top, followed by starling, then blue tit. Being by the sea my results differ from the norm. Hopefully over next year as the cover in the garden builds at a variety of heights I will see further wildlife visiting.

Grow wild free seed

It’s the start of the year so Grow Wild seed kit applications are open. Grow wild have been running a campaign for several years to transform local areas with native, pollinator friendly wildflowers. The seed mixes weren’t just generic shop mixes. They were made for different areas of the country to promote flowers that would have grown in each region originally.

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I’ve had the seed kits in 2016 and I grew them in a pot. That little pot attracted in a mass number of insects particularly bees. The goldfinches loved sitting on them too. Not all applications will be successful, but well worth supporting if you can. If successful I have an area at school in mind to assign as meadow. With the fruit trees and garden area I’ve started it will bring in a god variety of insects.

In other news the Nature Book Swap has its first expressions of interest. If you fancy some nature books take a look here.

Nature Book Swap

The arts and humanities research council have announced the short list of the UK’s favourite nature book.

Here

The list is an interesting mix of fiction and non-fiction and old and new. The books are all ones that have touched people in different ways. They all have some emotional impact.

I read a lot of nature books both fiction and non-fiction and as part of this blog I have shared many I’ve enjoyed. Following on from the dark is rising book group, the AHRC book list and the seed swap I wondered if anyone was interested in a secret nature book swap? You may have ended up with duplicates for Christmas. So here is a use for them.

The concept was done during the 30 days wild. Emails of interest are collected. People are sent an address to send on a nature book too. In this way people encounter new nature books and share their love of the written word.

If you receive a book you own or have read pass it to a friend or family member you think might like it. If you can’t think of anyone give it to charity. No harm having charity shops filled with quality nature writing. Someone will enjoy it.

So initially just looking for who is interested. If you are email me your name and address. All information will remain confidential except who you are sending a book too. I can’t except any liability for anyone who doesn’t receive a book. This relies on trust and goodwill. UK only so no one has excessive postage.

I’ll set a deadline of interest to next Friday 12th January. So anyone interested email: natureswap@mail.com

Follow on twitter

#naturebookswap

New Year at the Bay

For New Years Eve we had a quiet night in as Alice isn’t quite ready for parties. New Years Day we headed up the coast to Amy’s dad’s house at Robin Hood’s Bay where we had a lovely meal at the Hare and Hounds in Hawker. Amy had the trio of pork and I had the home made burger with goats cheese. I just expected a few pieces crumbled on the top, but it was a solid slice of grilled goats cheese. It was all delicious. Alice had a good wait, so had walked back and forth across the pub multiple times before food. But she did quite well for her age. She has decided to reject booster seats now. She wants either a chair to herself or my knees to sit on. She knows her own mind for a one and a half year old.

The next day saw a good sunrise over the bay with breathtaking skies. I think I said it last time I went, but photos don’t do it justice.

The next day we got out for a walk. I was taking photos as we went for the New Year Plant Hunt organised by the BSBI. The aim being to monitor what wildflowers are in bloom in Winter.

A few seen on the way.

Red Valerian

The winter heliotrope. A rather delightful low laying wildflower.

Plenty of gorse along cliff faces.

We had a nice walk along the beach. We didn’t quite make it to Boggle Hole, just down the coast. Boggle is a local name for a hobgoblin, a mischievous little person. Boggle Hole was one of the spots the smugglers on this stretch of coast used, thus the name.

Alice was keen to get in the howdah today trying to clamber in before we were ready.

Continue reading New Year at the Bay

The wonder of the Lost Words

In my Christmas Round up I mentioned my main present deserved a blog of its own. Having had time to reflect and enjoy reading it I now feel ready to comment on this book of wonder. I’ve only wanted to read a few pages a day so I could prolong the joy.

For Christmas Amy bought me The lost words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. I’ve been aware of the book before its release and had held off on buying it hoping I would receive it as a present. The concept of the book is brilliant for nature lovers and as a teacher who promotes outside learning irresistible. The Oxford Junior dictionary took out 50 nature related words and replaced them with words considered more relevant. These were mainly computer related words such as, “chatroom,” and, “broadband”.

I remember the news story back in 2015 informing us of this decision. While I can understand the reason it saddens me that it is considered more use for children to know what an attachment is rather than an acorn. Many of the changes were seen as a continuation of the disintegration of childhood. Children increasingly have more solitary lives, less time outside and a disconnect form nature. All of this adds up to less resilient children and potential increases in mental health issues. While an argument could be made that the computer time still allows children to interact with people on a global scale it isn’t the same as face to face interaction. This coming from an avid blogger and twitter reader. I appreciate the use of the internet in creating new communities, but it isn’t a replacement for being outside with your friends.

The lost words takes these nature words to use as a basis for an acrostic poem. One poem for each word. Then each word has a title page of the word and then an illustration page. Presented as a beautiful A3 hardback the artwork gets the space it deserves. It feels like a quality package, but is selling at a very reasonable price for something that feels so special. I’ve been a fan of Jackie Morris’s artwork after buying, “something about a bear”. I went onto buy many more of her beautifully illustrated books. The style is perfectly matched to Robert MacFarlane’s words. MacFarlane’s nature writing has been nominated and won many accolades over the years. The partnership between the two on the lost words is a perfect blend. The poems are written as spells. These poems are wonderful fodder for the imagination.

While Alice is currently to young for understanding the poems I like the idea that in the future we use the book as a basis for a wildlife treasure hunt. A fieldguide for childhood lost. We’d attempt to find all the items from the book. Some are readily available in our garden, some would require hunting. A book to go back to again and again. It’s currently making for a perfect fireside read during the cold Winter nights.

And as if by magic a goldfinch has been summoned to my garden.