Focus on the garden snail

One of the nice things about 30 days wild is that many of the activities encourage you to slow down, to take it easy. In this fast paced world of instant communication, instant gratification, next day delivery, hectic jobs it can be easy to lose track of what matters. But many of the wild acts make you sit back and take a break. So today’s focus is slowing down to look at the common garden snail.

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Originating in the Mediterranean and Europe this common garden visitor has spread across the world. It arrived in many places by accident, whereas South Africa and California it was introduced as a food animal. It is considered a pest for agriculture and is probably top of the hit list for gardeners. It has a wide ranging diet eating many bushes, trees, crops and vegetables. Although it is classed as an omnivore as they will eat worms and crushed snails on occasion. They have mouths of many tiny teeth, the radula

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They are hermaphrodites having both male and female organs. This is true of slugs and many fish as well. They normally reproduce sexually, though occasionally self fertilisation occurs. When they mate they lay around 100 little pearl like eggs. I’ve found them in damp spots in my garden like the log pile.

They move by contracting and releasing their muscular “foot”. Combined with the mucus trail they release to reduce friction they can move up to 1.3 cm per second.

They prefer to come out at night or early morning. Though wet weather will bring them out. When it’s dry they can hide in their shell, the number seal themselves in with a layer of dried mucus to retain moisture.

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If teaching about snails, the book snails trail is a good choice.

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For snail control around your favourite plants crushed egg shells and copper tape can act as a barrier to movement. I planted sacrificial lettuce in the border last year. Then Guinness traps work well. The snails love Guinness, but the black stuff dehydrates them. Apparently throws them over e fence doesn’t help as they have a good homing sense.

I will finish with a very brave, or foolhardy snail, on the bird feeder this morning.

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Snail races

Today we set up snail races in the class. At the beginning of the half term we had a number of the boys viscously killing snails. While I have no issue removing the things from the garden I don’t like killing them by slowly torturing them. So over the term we have looked at creating more respect for them keeping a few at a time in a tank in the class.

Today we captured a whole snail swarm for us to do snail races. A tray was used, sprayed with water and the snails released into the middle. The winner was the snail who got to the edge of the tray first. About half the kids sat for the better part of twenty minutes watching snails crawl over each other to the edges.

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A new garden

Me and my partner, Amy, are set to move house. While we’re very happy in our current house it just isn’t going to be big enough as Alice gets bigger. Amy has a house in Hornsea, a small seaside town on the North East Coast. It has been rented for the last few years while she was living in Indonesia and then at mine. Her tenant has now moved out and we are set to move next month. We went to check out the house today. I’m excited to get to work on the garden. The flower beds are a bit heavy on the dandelions. It needs a bit of love and attention to encourage a greater variety of wildlife than the mass number of slugs and snails currently.

It already has some lovely flowering bushes. A good collection of roses and a small apple tree.

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The roses are looking good.

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With a bit of love and attention maybe get enough apples for a crumble.

The back is a bit bare currently. We need a rail around the decking for when Alice is walking. A few pot plants will add some colour and get some wildlife closer to the house. I reckon one of the bird feeders can go up this end close to the house so I can see through the windows in the kitchen.

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There are two bays for vegetables at the side of the house, but there pretty shaded. Considering a mud kitchen for Alice.

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Various flowers.

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The shed has been overtaken by a rose currently. Unfortunately we need to replace the shed at some point so it will need cutting back but currently it is festooned with pollen beetles (identified thanks to the 30 days of wild facebook group)

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Being a wet grey day the snails were out in force.

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I’m looking forward to getting to work. We’ve got a good compost heap at the bottom which looks like it has some compost ready at the bottom for me to use. I’d like some trellis to put some more wildlife cover along the edge. The trees need a bit of care to encourage some upward growth. I’d like a small water area somewhere. I don’t want to go for the full pond while Alice is little, but can at least have a small water feature somewhere. I’m hopeful for a greater diversity of birds than my current garden gets. There is a nice passageway behind of hedges, so there is the possibility of hedgehogs or foxes. Within Hornsea there is a mere where bats sly, so may look at getting  a bat box up. A whole new world of wildlife possibilities.

Day 19-Bee happy

Today has been a fairly boring day marking school books and planning lessons for next week. We are having a focus on National Insect Week. We’re going to become entomologists over the next week. The field guides are ready, the pooters are out and the magnifying glasses are ready.

We are starting tomorrow by discussing what an entomologist is and what we think we might see. Then Tuesday when the forecast is better we’ll be getting out to hunt. Then Wednesday and Thursday having a focus on habitats and making habitats for insects. Then Friday we’ll finish with looking back on our favourite and least favourite finds. Overall though leaving it loose so I can follow the children’s interests.

Literacy national insect week day 1 powerpoint

 

I’m using several of the lovely videos from the Royal Entomology Society to discuss our plans for next week.

With all my marking and planning haven’t had much of a chance for wildness. On the way back and forth to the car to take school books in and out I’ve logged  a few more bee sightings on the bee app. Yesterday I only spotted white tail bees, but today added honey bees to the species in the garden. I’m loving all the new varieties of wildlife and plants I’m discovering about through taking part in 30 days of wild. I’m also  getting more used to taking photos on my phone. Managed a nice level of detail on the white tailed bees wings.

Two honey bees

More white tailed bees

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And a random tiny snail.

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Day 14-Budding young photographers

We started the school day today with the children entering to a slide show of photos of wildlife around the school grounds: black birds, spiders, snails and bees. I let them know I would be taking out children over the next few weeks for them to take photos of the wildlife around school as we try to map out what is on the school site. After finding several children crushing snails yesterday with glee I’d like them to learn a bit more respect for snails. While I have slug and snail beer traps in my garden I don’t take glee in killing them.

At breaktime we went out as a class into an enclosed area to snail hunt in the solid thick plants. Initially the children couldn’t spot any. After they’d been encourage to get hands on, lift leaves, check in the thick of the bushes they found an abundance in the damp wet plants. Then they were given a chance to take some photos. This largely led to out of focus snails photos, but all budding wildlife photographers need to start somewhere.

We have taken two snails into the classroom (returned back that afternoon). So we could see them move within a tank set up for them. The children loved seeing the snails foot in action through the transparent plastic. Hopefully have less being crushed for a few days as they learn to enjoy and watch rather than kill.

At dinner took a smaller group out to look for a wider variety of wildlife. This gave me some more out of focus daisies, but the children had a whale of a time. They got up closer to some of the birds, bees, spiders and their favourite the frogs.

 

My personal favourite.

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Not too bad for five and six year olds.

 

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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