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.

Day 11-An inordinate fondness for beetles

If Thursday was a butterfly day today is a beetles day.

J.B.S. Haldane, the evolutionary biologist was asked by a theologian what he could deduce about god from a lifetime of studying animals. His apocryphal response was that god must have an inordinate fondness for beetles. This alludes to the fact that there are more species of beetles than in any other order. With around 40,000 varieties they make up a massive amount of insect varieties. Their role as detrivores makes them vital in many ecosystems. Each year in school I like to put some time aside for looking at beetles as part of our animal topic, but this year I have got something special for the children.

I have set up a tank for a pair of giant rhino beetles for our new class pet. I received two larvae of Megasoma elephas elephas. These beetles can be found from Venezuela to Mexico and are one of the largest beetles in the world reaching up to 13cm in size. The substrate is all set and the larvae seem to be settling nicely into their new habitat. I hope the kids are as fascinated by them as I am. The variety of beetles and amazing range of colours makes them a stunning species to study.

The larvae will take a number of months now to bulk out on the wood and leaves in the soil before they make their pupa to emerge as beetles.

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The tendency in schools is to cover the more showy butterflies or frogs for looking at life cycles, but beetles are really easy to set up and their are some lovely stories and non-fiction books available.

Steve Jenkins-The beetle book

This beautifully illustrated book shows off many beetles from around the world, discusses beetle facts and many different types of beetles.

A beetle is shy-Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long

Another beautiful non-fiction book looking at types of beetles and their life cycles.

The life cycle of a beetle

A quick read covering the life cycle of the beetle in easy to understand language.

 

Within the classroom mealworms are really easy to rear if you want to show children a lifecycle and if you get a good colony going you can feed the meal worms to the birds.

Instructions here

Not my video but covers the basics.

 

Stag beetles are the largest beetle in the UK, but are under threat. See detail here. Sadly not an insect we get up North, but see what you can do if your in the South here. Even if you’re not going to attract stag beetles a wood pile is a vital habitat for wildlife in the garden. I have a small wood pile in the garden where I also pile twigs and leafs to encourage wildlife. I started one with my class at school, but the caretaker told us we had to dismantle it as it was a fire risk if people broke onto the site they may set fire to it. Don’t get to have any fun. But I look forward to seeing how my rhino beetles develop.

Day 10-A more domesticated wild

Up to day 10, a third of the way through. So far managed something each day, some days more wild than others.

Today I took my class on this half terms trip to Hull RSPCA Animal Welfare Centre. While not wildlife, many of the animals at the centre are pretty wild. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was originally set up by 22 reformers. MP Richard Martin being the most significant. But William Wilberforce of Hull was also involved in establishing the RSPCA. Wilberforce is probably better known for his involvement in abolishing the slave trade, but also helped the RSPCA, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Church Missionary Society. The Hull branch of RSPCA was established in 1903 and is now largely responsible for domesticated animals.

 

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William Wilberforce (1759-1833)

While at the centre the children got to see the dogs, cats, rabbits and the newly established ferret unit. The children were a bit frightened of the dogs. Many of the dogs are of the rip of your face off variety, thus why they’ve been taken to the RSPCA. The kittens entranced the children more with lots of oohs and aahs. The ferrets were largely sleeping, but for many of the children it was the first time they’d seen ferrets and that in itself was exciting enough. The rabbits were fussed over with many children wanting to take them home.

 

Overall a nice trip out, but the children were a bit disappointed they didn’t get to handle the animals. As many of the animals have been taken from bad situations they can be quite skittish and many have never encountered children. That along with the risk of spreading disease means the animals can’t be handled. But I’m glad the children get a chance to see these animals and start to understand that not all humans look after their animals carefully. They were taught about the RSPCA five animal freedoms. Hopefully by taking the children to the centre less animals will end up there in the future.

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Day 9-Butterflies

Today has been a day for butterflies. Before I left on paternity leave last month I had a butterfly home set up in the classroom with caterpillars set to pupate. However sadly for me they hatched out and needed releasing before I returned, so I was deprived of seeing them fly. The children however told me lots about them on my return. From their description we identified them from the National Trust-Butterflies as painted lady butterflies.

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I feel I missed out on one of the school yearly rituals of cultivating the caterpillars and releasing the butterflies. So I have brought my butterfly guide home. I hope to set up a few butterfly feeders to attract some more into the garden. I’ve seen what I think are small whites in the garden. I want to see if I can spot any more as butterflies are not an area of entomology I know that well. However it is looking like rain, so going to hold off for now.

Later in the year can use the RSPB butterfly banquet set up.

Carrying on with the butterflies I introduced Alice to the classic Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillar. She responded by screaming for the source of milk (also known as mummy). Hearing that the caterpillar was still hungry obviously appealed to her.

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Day 8 feeling the grass

Today I took my class out to explore bare foot walking on the grass. Year one science targets involve exploring our five senses, so we smelled, looked, listened and felt the grass. We left off tasting it. I thought I might get a few parental complaints if their children came home saying their teacher had told them to eat grass. They loved taking their shoes and socks off and exploring something they go over every day in a different way.

We came back in to discuss how it felt and they wrote up their thoughts. In the background we had one of the Springwatch live cams on. They enjoyed seeing the baby blue tits.

It is world oceans day today. Nice to see National Geographic listed snotbot as a breakthrough innovation in saving our oceans. See here.

Snotbot was done as a kickstarter campaign. People pledged money to give the money to allow drones to be bought to monitor whales. Rather than the more invasive techniques of need to get close to the whales the snot bot can take samples without touching. The snotbots are drones that can hover over the blow hole and take samples from the spray. I donated to it back in the year and it’s good to see the project going well.

See here.

 

Day 7-A new book and new listen

Today has been a busy day at work and with friends visiting hasn’t left much time for wildness. Alice has started to encounter the creatures of England through the stories of Beatrix Potter. My partner Amy has been reading these classic stories to settle her for bed. Next month marks what would of been the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter. Certainly a women worth celebrating. Her stories have delighted parents and children for many years. But more importantly for her work buying up large parts of the Lake District around her home to be preserved for years to come. The National Trust has a number of events to celebrate.

See here

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While Alice is starting a new series of books I have also started a new book-Richard Louv-Last child in the wood. I’m sure many of you will be familiar with this book detailing how children have lost touch with nature. This has been recommended for a long time, but I haven’t got round to it. But with a new child I want to make sure Alice gets the opportunities to enjoy nature. A chapter in I am enjoying this thoroughly.

I have also stated a new audiobook-The butterfly Isle by Patrick Barkham. Over a year Patrick tried to find all 59 species of British butterfly. So far covered 10 species, but I’ve a feeling it’s now going to start getting harder for him to find the other 49. An interesting challenge taken on by someone who states that they had become detached from a love of nature in their childhood.

Hopefully tomorrow will see a bit more wild as planning to take my class out to feel the grass under their feet.