Big Butterfly Count

Yesterday saw the start of the Big Butterfly Count. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation to monitor butterfly numbers. Many species of butterfly have suffered over the last decade. But if we don’t put figures to the declines protection won’t be put in place.
Within my garden I will probably only see a handful of species. I see plenty of varieties of whites. However they don’t stop for photos much. The red admirals are more obliging.

Butterfly

Ringlets are common on my walks.

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Speckled woods I see in my garden and out and about.

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Small tortoiseshells are a less frequent visitor to my garden, but common enough in my area.

small tortoiseshell

Then occasionally I’ll see a peacock.

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On the Big Butterfly Count website there is an ID sheet to download to help support identification. I’ve printed and laminated an A3 one to go outside in my outdoor classroom near the bug hotel to encourage the children to keep their eyes out.
Sightings can be submitted on the website here. My garden has a few more butterfly attracting plants than last year, so we’ll see if I spot anything new this year.

30 days wild 2017: day 8-2 minute beach clean

Today has been a busy day for social media with the UK election. So after putting Alice to bed I headed down to our polling station on the sea front at the Floral Hall. Whichever way you lean politically I hope you had you right say by placing your vote. As it is World Oceans Day I decided I would do a quick stroll along the sea front. I couldn’t make it to an ocean, so the North Sea was my substitute.

_DSC1142Not wanting to waste an opportunity for another wild act I came prepared with litter picker and bin bag to do a 2 minute beach clean. The concept of the beach clean is simple. After a series of storms beaches were left scattered with rubbish. Beach cleans were organised to remove it. Just two minutes gives you time to pick up a remarkable amount of rubbish. If this rubbish isn’t removed it can cause an horrendous amount of damage to marine life. But safety first. Don’t forget to use a litter picker and gloves if handling rubbish. The website offers more safety tips.

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All I did was walk from one set of steps down to the next. Some of the rubbish was literally a few metres from bins. They will of passed the bin to get off the beach where they’ve thrown it. I found polystyrene, a can of cider, plastic wrappers and tin foil left from someone’s picnic.

But for just a quick stroll I cleared a good chunk of rubbish, filled a bin bag and can feel happy with myself for helping on World Ocean Day. The official website are working on an app to share your waste, literally a rubbish idea pardon the pun. Although I’m sure it will actually be quite interesting to see people’s finds.

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Walking home I noticed the clouds were looking particularly attractive. House martins were swooping in large numbers over the road and I felt a great sense of calm from my little nature excursion.

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Two wildlife surveys

Last year I took part in the Great British Bee Count for friends of the earth. This survey allowed you to either log how many bees you saw in a set time or to log sightings of species. I loved the app. It was simple to use. Take a photo of the bee on your phone, then it gave an identification sheet. I became a bit obsessed chasing bees. The hunt returns 19th May.

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The Woodland Trust have another survey, The Big Bluebell Watch. Over half the worlds bluebell population are in the UK, so the Woodland Trust want to know where you have sighted bluebells and if their native and non-native. Bluebells are traditionally a sign of ancient woodland and offer an early source of pollen to many insects. So the Woodland Trust wants to make sure they don’t disappear.

I’ve sighted lots along the old Hornsea Railway way and made my submission.

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50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ 

One third of children have never climbed a tree by the age of 15. Half have never made a daisy chain. Similar numbers show for experiencing a game of conkers. All of these were common childhood experiences for me. Many went with the changing of the seasons. These worrying trends are not only bad for children’s health, the benefits of outdoor play being well documented, but it is also sad to see such simple joys missed out on. A child is now more likely to be treated for repetitive strain injuries from playing consoles than for falling out a tree.

50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ is a lovely little book aiming to address this imbalance. As the title cunningly suggests it lists 50 nature activities. It was put out by the National Trust. I originally bought it for some ideas for my work as a teacher, it’ll be a few years until Alice is ready to do most of them. But it is a lovely book for a child and would make a good present for a nature living child of about 4-7 years old. After that I think they might see it as a bit babyish.

The book gives advice and tips on outdoor adventures. Beginning with advice on getting ready, kit and the countryside code. The book is a good quality hardback with elastic to keep it sealed as you add in pictures and a nice size for carrying. 

Each of the 50 activities entries has a description and a place to sign off. Many have spaces to draw pictures and tick lists. For example what animal sounds you heard outside. There are facts and advice for grown ups alongside the details. So the whole book ends up personalised by the child. 

The activities are mainly things that were common childhood pleasures 30 years ago for me, but increasingly are not experienced by children. Things like rolling down a hill, picking blackberries and flying kites. Others are activities requiring planning and booking, such as rock climbing and horse riding.

At the end of the book there are some puzzles, doodle pages and other parts to keep a child busy if they find themselves stuck waiting for their adventure.

The National Trust also made a nifty little app to go alongside it for the more technology living child. The app suggests activities for the season and keeps track of what they have done. There are also additional challenges to unlock and certificates to earn for the completist. 

There are other books in the series such as even messier adventures and night time adventures. The National Trust have done an excellent job encouraging children to get outside. It’s had a good amount of success and hope it continues to 

http://www.thejournal.ie/tree-week-2639919-Mar2016/

Free trees

The woodland trust are currently pushing the need to plant trees. The UK has one of the lowest tree covers in Europe. Our woodlands have been diminished. With most gardens small people don’t want large trees. Many people are turning their gardens into fake outdoors with fake grass, so trees are diminished. The woodland trust are looking to reverse the trend planting 64 million trees by 2020. They are offering free seed packs for: rowan, dog rose, alder buckthorn and holly.

The selection of what is sent to you is random, so until it starts growing won’t know for sure what I’ve got. I don’t really have space for a rowan tree, so if I find I’ve got one of the larger species it may need planting at school or elsewhere. All the selected trees offer good benefits to wildlife with significance for caterpillars and birds particularly.

Having had the free Kew Gardens wildlife seed pack last year that is now starting to grow I quite like these random surprise packs. It’s a nice idea but the various organisations offering them to help wildlife.

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/seeds/winter-moment-banner-860x250

 

Buddhist advice for turbulent times

Yesterday I finished reading Pema Chodron’s book when things fall apart. This has been sitting in my kindle library for a while as a cheap purchase a while back.

Her writing had been recommended a number of times but I’d never given it a go. As life has been pretty good I hadn’t seen much need to read it, but came across it in my library having just finished one book. As a quick read I thought I’d give it a go and I’m glad I did.

Much of the focus of the book was on dealing with fears and difficult times through the Buddhist concept of loving kindness. First through love for yourself then widening to love everyone.

There was one passage that stood out as relevant to our current turbulent times. With uncertainty in America under Trump, Teresa May threatening to abolish the human rights act and more threats to the environment than anyone can track this stood out:

Times are difficult globally; awakening is no longer a luxury or an ideal. It’s becoming critical. We don’t need to add more depression, more discouragement, or more anger to what’s already here. It’s becoming essential that we learn how to relate sanely with difficult times. The earth seems to be beseeching us to connect with joy and discover our innermost essence. This is the best way that we can benefit others.

 

Pema Chodron-when things fall apart (1997)

Though written a decade back this advice has only become more poignant. The book was a good read going beyond the premise of the book with how to enlarge your own loving kindness and many interesting meditation techniques. It will be a book I’ll return too.

There has been some excellent advice on dealing with events of the last year from a Buddhist perspective but I hadn’t quite worked out my own way of moving on.

Jack Cornfield article

Buddhist responses to Trump

For me sitting back isn’t an option. I will continue trying to be a positive force within this world, pushing back against negativity and trying to do what I can to make a difference. Through loving kindness to myself and others around me, through my efforts to help the environment, through my work as a teacher.

I will finish with a favourite quote:

Be the change you wish to see in the world

Mahatma Gandhi.

Last child in the woods

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I finished reading Richard Louv-Last child in the woods. It has been quite a long time reading as new borns slow down your reading rate, but well worth the time. Louv looks at how American children have become detached from nature. The first edition was published in 2005 and has been revised since While examining Americans it is just as relevant to the UK. The book examines different reasons children are becoming detached such as law suit culture, screen time, parental fears. He covers hope the future in ways we can make sure our future generations reconnect to nature. The book finishes with suggestions of what you can do for different groups: children, schools, etc. This addition has been written for the UK edition on Kindle to name UK organisations where relevant. An excellent read for any parents or nature lovers.

The theme of the book is only becoming more important as climate change continues to threaten. With many native species under threat in the UK there are many concerns for the future if children don’t care. I’m glad to say many UK organisations are recognising the disconnection of children. Without the engagement of children these organisations will slowly die. The RSPB home for nature, the woodland trusts tree party, the wildlife trusts 30 days of wild are all excellent examples of how we can promote nature.

I’ve moved onto foxes unearthed by Lucy Jones examining the love hate relationship of foxes in the UK. I’ve read the first chapter so far covering some of the history of foxes in literature and the history of hunts in the UK. Quite gripped so far.

Day 26-spare a thought for nature

Currently I have held off on making an comments on the EU referendum. Like many of you I was disappointed by the decision to leave. I don’t want my baby girl coming into a world full of uncertainty, disunity and it seems hatred towards our fellow man. The decision, I feel is short sighted and in many cases made as a result of false promises and misinformation. While part of me would like David Lammy’s call for MP’s to ignore the referendum and vote for the good of the country. Or for the petition for a second referendum to be successful, seeing as the result was so close and it has already been revealed Farage is back pedalling on putting £350 million into the NHS. An issue many people based their decision on. But this is not how democracy works. The vote was taken and the decision made. Should parliament decide to ignore or over turn the results for a second referendum it would weaken belief in the democratic process. So the referendum will need to be lived with.

A guardian article on the subject of leave and the environment.

The decision to leave leaves great uncertainty for the environment. The RSPB, wildlife trust and PTES had all come out in support of remain. Many area of natural significance are currently protected by EU laws. Wildlife friendly farming has been pushed by the EU. Many animal rights rules come from the EU. Many of these were not perfect, but they will need to be rewritten with us leaving. Now is a time for unity within conservation groups, not just within the UK, but internationally. With all the work needing doing drafting trade agreements, movement, migration, immigration, the worry is environmental issues will be low on the agenda.

Now is a time to take action. Join wildlife groups, write letters to MP’s, emails, petition the government. Make sure the good conservation work done within the EU isn’t undone.

Below are a number of environmental issues you can support quickly through the links below:

A number of leading leave campaigners believe in fox hunting with dogs. They may use the opportunity created by people being distracted by the EU news to repeal the ban. Don’t let this happen. We hold our nose up at other cultures who all bear baiting, cock fighting. Why would we allow something so barbaric with so little purpose to come back.

The RSPCA provide a letter format to lobby your local MP.

Keeptheban.org.uk

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Keep bee harming pesticides out of our fields.

A friends of the earth campaign to stop harmful pesticides being used which threaten bees, and from there many other species.

Give the hedgehog better protection.

The wildlife trust-protect our marine conservation zone

The UK government have designated areas of sea as protected areas. While these rules have been flouted regularly if an effort isn’t made the oceans, we may rely on in future, will be depleted.

The peoples trust for endangered species

There are opportunities to help through surveys or action.

Stop the badger culls.

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