Tag Archives: birds

We’re Giving Nature a Home

Do you have an outdoor space? Have you thought about the wildlife that calls your space home?

I have been browsing the RSPB website and reading about the campaign to Give Nature a Home. I was shocked to learn that out of the 6,000 British species assessed recently, more than one in 10 are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether.

But we can help. We can make sure our outdoor space is wildlife friendly and we can create homes for all sorts of birds and bugs. We can let the grass grow a little longer, we can plant wildflowers and hedges, we can make a pond or build a bug house, feed the birds or put up a nest box.

Over the last two years, as I have become more and more interested in wildlife and the world of minibeasts (thanks to my bug loving children) we have worked hard to make our garden a haven for birds and bugs alike. We have buried a bucket for beetles, we have dug out a small pond, we have made a nest box, and the plants we chose for the borders this year were picked to be butterfly and bee friendly.

We regularly enjoy watching some of the creatures that call our garden home and this year we are really seeing the benefit of our efforts.

We have a large apple tree at the bottom of the garden and hang several bird feeders in the tree and have a ground feeding tray for the larger birds. We regularly see Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds, Magpies and Robins and have occasional visits from Woodpeckers, Starlings, Jays and Goldfinches.

Every day we see butterflies and bees enjoying the flowers and long grass. The Speckled Wood butterflies and both Small and Large Whites are very common visitors and we have lots of caterpillars. Yesterday I saw a Blue Butterfly in the garden for the first time, I think a Holly Blue.

The pond is thriving. We have several tadpoles left but are also now enjoying watching the frogs.

The kids frequently go bug hunting and find worms, woodlice, beetles, spiders, centipedes and for the first time this year we have grasshoppers.

Garden WildlifeCan you give nature a home? The RSPB Website had some great ideas to help you get started and you’ll soon be enjoying the wildlife that moves in!

 

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Hot, hot, hot!

I think we can well and truly call this a heat wave. The thermometer registered 30 degrees Celsius in the house, in the shade and over 40 degrees Celsius in the sun outside! So once again, we’ve spent the day in the paddling pool. Well, it really is too hot to do anything else!Paddling PoolWe ended the day with a BBQ! The kids love BBQs, although really I think what they love is the idea of a BBQ as they never seem to eat much of the food cooked on one! They all much prefer the salad accompaniment!BBQWhilst we were sitting eating dinner we were visited by several birds, some in the apple tree and a female blackbird who landed only a few feet away and rather than fly off, decided we were OK and she hopped round eating her dinner!BirdsAnd then as we were going inside ready for the kids bedtime, Jasmine spotted this amongst the flower bed.GrasshopperA grasshopper! We were all very excited about seeing this in the garden!

 

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Big Nature Weekend at Leith Hill

Today we drove to Leith Hill to take part in the Big Nature Weekend/BioBlitz event, run by the National Trust and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Leith Hill is the highest point in Southeast England and is set within the Surrey Hills. It is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The event was held in the Rhododendron Woods, a beautiful landscape created by Caroline Wedgwood, the sister of Charles Darwin.

The bioblitz began yesterday evening, when they started with moth trapping and bat surveying. This morning, bright and early, they began trapping small mammals and investigating the moth traps. They also started bird ringing. Of course, we weren’t up late enough last night, or early enough this morning to join in with these activities but we arrived at lunch time today and filled the next four hours with bugs, moths, newts and much, much more!

Our first stop after arriving was the main tent, where they had all the moths and bugs in containers, nets or on egg boxes. We saw a huge selection of different moths, from small to really huge!MothsTop left: Poplar Hawkmoth. Top right: Lime Hawkmoth. Bottom left: Elephant Hawkmoth. Bottom right: Peppered Moth.

These moths pictured made the biggest impression! I was amazed at how beautiful I found the elephant hawkmoth, and Jasmine really liked the peppered moth. Both Thomas and Jasmine got to hold one – Jasmine held a peppered moth and Thomas held a lime hawkmoth.Holding mothsNext we went to the Amphibian and Reptile Group stand where they had newts, snakes, slow worms and tadpoles to see. For most of us this was the highlight of the day because we got to touch a grass snake and a slow worm, and they had a great crested newt in their newt tank! They also had an Adder, which Jasmine asked if she could touch. We quickly explained that it probably wasn’t a good idea because adders are poisonous!

The kids spent a long time looking at, and stroking, the snake and slow worm while I chatted about great crested newts. For anyone who doesn’t know, due to enormous declines in range and abundance in the last century, the great crested newt is strictly protected by British and European law. They had to have a license just to have them on display in a tank today! So it was a real privilege to see it.Newts and snakesAfter reptiles and amphibians we went to see the birds next. They were catching the birds in large nets and then measuring, sexing, ageing and ringing them before releasing them again. We were lucky enough to get there just as they were coming back from checking the nets.

One of the lovely volunteers brought each bird for us to look at once they had collected their data and talked to us a little about it before releasing it. We saw a greenfinch, a nuthatch, 3 siskins and a goldfinch.BirdsOnce all the birds had been released we decided to have a go at the trail around the woods, so we got our map and set off. The rhododendron woods are beautiful, full of life and so much to see. As we did the trail the kids loved looking out for all the markers and answering the questions. The trail was really well thought out and perfect for the kids. Ben was getting a bit tired so he spent some time in the buggy, but mostly they all explored and discovered and chatted and explored some more!Rhododendron woodsOur final activity of the day was pond dipping. We saved the best till last! The kids all got stuck right in, and this produced Jasmine’s highlight of the day because she saw the long-awaited dragonfly nymph. She has been waiting and waiting all year to see one so she was very happy!

Again we got chatting to the volunteers and they were all wonderful with the kids. They let both Thomas and Jasmine hold the newts and move them into the pond dipping trays. They talked to them about what they had found and were just generally lovely. Sadly, by this point of the day the camera was running our of battery so I only got a few photos.Pond dippingI think Thomas and Jasmine could have stayed by the pond, dipping and chatting all day! We had several last go’s before we finally managed to get them away and back to the car!

We all had a great time today and I am really pleased we went and joined in – we almost didn’t go at one point. We will definitely be going back to Leith Hill to see more.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Becoming a Friday Tradition

Friday afternoon is Forest School time for Jasmine and Thomas. Forest School is in Ham Common Woods so Ben and I go to Richmond Park while we are twin-less. Sometimes we go into Pembroke Lodge and enjoy a drink and a cake, but most of the time we go exploring.

Two weeks ago we found a huge rabbit warren under an oak tree and now Ben asks to go and see the rabbits every week!

Today was extra special for Ben because Gordon came with us as well, and Ben does love his daddy! He was super excited to show daddy where the rabbits live and where we sit and watch them!Rabbits 2Once we’d eaten snacks, watched the rabbits and fed a crow we started walking back up the hill. Ben wanted to do some bug hunting under logs so we walked from tree stump to log, carefully lifting them up to see what we could find.Bug huntingWe only found red ants, woodlice, an earwig and a couple of ground beetles today. But while Ben and Gordon were busy studying red ants I saw a flash of colour dart into some long grass. I didn’t get a very good look at it but was sure it was a bird and my first thought was a woodpecker or maybe a jay. As I watched I saw it move again so we decided to walk towards it and see if we could get a better look, but as we approached nothing moved so I started to think whatever it was had gone whilst I blinked! But then we saw it fly up and away into a tree. A green woodpecker! I was very excited! We watched it for a while with the binoculars but it was so well camouflaged in the tree it was difficult to spot when it moved.

It was almost time to go back to the car to collect Jasmine and Thomas but there was just one thing left to see. I had mentioned to Gordon, only an hour earlier, how I had never seen deer in the part of the park we were in. Well, of course that meant that today we saw three, sitting really close to the steps we walk down! Typical!Deer

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In Photographs

We have had a really quiet day today and don’t seem to have done much. I mean, we’ve been busy all day, but just with”stuff”.

I took Ben to toddler group this morning and Gordon cleaned the rabbit hutch with a little help from Thomas and Jasmine, the kids played in the garden, Gordon and I sorted some stuff out, we played with the rabbits.

So because I can’t think of much to say here are some photographs I took.25th June Collage 1 25th June Collage 2 25th June Collage 3

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Keeping busy in the garden

We have spent the majority of the last couple of days in the garden. The kids love being outside and can happily play out from breakfast to dinner. As long as they have the sand, mud, some bugs and their bikes they are happy!

On Monday I got the tuff spot out for some messy play. We haven’t done any messy play for a while so I knew the kids would enjoy it. I gave them a selection of breakfast cereals and some plastic animals. They have been playing with their animals for a few days now so I thought they’d be a good choice. Of course, inevitably the kids added cars and diggers into the play as well! Cereal playThe kids did also enjoy eating the cereal! I had used granola, corn flakes, oats and Fruit Loops. Thomas loves granola so he was very excited about having that and he ate quite a lot of it! Jasmine chose the oats and although she mostly played, she did eat some. Ben had a bit of everything I think!

Eating cerealThey also invented a treasure hunt game. Jasmine got a yoghurt pot and added some oats and a Fruit Loop. The boys took it in turns to pour out the cereal until they found the Fruit Loop. Once they found it they had won and they were allowed to eat it!Cereal treasure huntWe also did some bird watching on Monday, and whilst we were playing in the garden a robin, a starling, a wood pigeon and some blue tits came to visit us.Birds in the gardenYesterday I went shopping in the morning and the kids stayed at home with Gordon. When I got back they were already playing in the sand and were very happy to tell me they had found a woodlouse spider! I was also told I didn’t need to worry because it was in a bowl and they’d given it some sand and grass!Woodlouse spiderThe rest of the day was spent in the sand and mud; boys in the sand and Jasmine in the mud. I also harvested our first few peas and we enjoyed eating them as an afternoon snack.Playing and peas

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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A Windy Walk on Headley Heath

We woke early this morning (thank you to Thomas and Jasmine) but this did have its benefits. We got a bird feeding station from the garden centre on Wednesday and put it out in the garden on Thursday morning. There has gradually been an increase in the number of birds as they are slowly finding all the food we have put out for them, and this morning as I looked out of the window I saw a woodpecker, first in the apple tree and then on the peanut feeder! It was a wonderful sight and I was very excited! All the kids crowded into our bedroom to watch it.

Shortly after, as we were eating breakfast, we saw a jay as well! So since having the feeder out we have seen lots of blue tits, magpies, wood pigeons, a pair of collared doves, blackbirds, a jay, a robin and a woodpecker! I also saw another small bird this morning but didn’t get a very good look. I think it was a dunnock or a sparrow but I’m not sure so hopefully he’ll be back.Birds in the GardenThis afternoon it rained. There isn’t much to do in our back garden in the rain but we all wanted to get outside, so we went for a walk on Headley Heath.

Actually, for most of the afternoon (after we’d left the house of course) the rain held off, but it was incredibly windy.

We took a new route around Headley Heath today. As we entered through the gate, one of the first things we saw was what we *think* was a badger sett. It was definitely an animal hole and we couldn’t see any evidence of rabbits nearby. There was also a large area of cleared soil, which is what made me think of badgers.

A short walk into the woodland and we found another hole. This time we did see evidence of rabbits so we think this was a rabbit hole. Animal HomesAs we continued our walk the kids did the usual climbing trees, balancing on fallen logs and bug catching. We took a net with us to sweep the ferns, but we didn’t find much today, even in the undergrowth and under logs. We did see a millipede, a lacewing and what we think was a soldier beetle.Headley Heath in JuneToday was mostly just about getting out and walking. It was so windy there wasn’t much to see; even the birds were hiding away! But we still managed to fill almost two hours and have a really wonderful time.

 

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