Tag Archives: bugs

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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Another visit to the Ecology Centre

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Sutton Ecology Centre for a wander around while it was a little quieter. We had such a lovely time on Saturday at the BioBlitz event that the kids were keen to go again and knew just where they wanted to look and what they wanted to find.

When we arrived they spent a bit of time playing in the teepee frame and jumping from log to log before we walked towards the meadow, stopping at the log circle to hunt for toads and newts.Ecology Centre 1We found lots of toads, both small and large but only one small newt. Thomas looked under one of the carpet tiles and found a rather large slow worm, which we were all pleased with as we didn’t see any the day before.

We walked through the meadow and saw lots of butterflies, did some minibeast hunting in the woodland, and then walked over to the pond and the kids enjoyed peering in and trying to catch things with their hands!ecology centre 2Jasmine wanted to find more grasshoppers – her latest favourite animal! – so she went off to the long grass and the boys enjoyed a run around the gardens. While the kids were occupying themselves I managed to get a couple of nice photos of a Gatekeeper butterfly.ecology centre 3As we were getting ready to leave, our friends from Caterpillar Tales arrived! They had brought nets with them so the kids enjoyed a bit of pond dipping before it was time for us to walk home. I say walk, but Thomas and Jasmine somehow managed to run almost all the way home with me struggling to keep up with them! (I had taken a buggy for Ben, knowing he wouldn’t manage the walk there and back.) I don’t know where they get their energy from, but sometimes I wish they could pass some over to me!

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Sutton Bioblitz

Today we took part in the Sutton Bioblitz at the local ecology centre.

We arrived around 11.30am and collected our recording sheets and activity booklets for the kids. The area had been split into three zones, aqua, amber and jade. As you recorded in each zone the kids got a stamp in their booklet and once you’d been to all three zones you got a free garden wildlife calender.

We started off in the aqua zone, where they were pond dipping.

As I was on my own with the kids today I decided against looking in the main pond – see here for what happened last time – so we got our nets and looked in the smaller raised ponds.

We spent quite a long time pond dipping and found lots of different animals including damselfly larvae, lesser water boatman, a whirligig beetle, a ramshorn snail, a pond snail and mosquito larvae. We were so engrossed in finding and identifying that I completely forgot to take any photographs! But I did get this one after we had put the nets away and I was trying to convince Jasmine to move on to something else.

Bioblitz 1Once I had convinced all the children we should stop looking in the pond and do the next activity we moved into the amber zone to look for bugs. We didn’t really find many today, just the odd woodlouse and snail; I imagine because all the logs had been turned over several times previously!

On the volunteers table however, we did see thisBioblitz 2Eurycantha, or New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect.

Pretty scary looking if you ask me, but both Thomas and Jasmine were very keen to hold it.

So, after holding the giant stick insect and finding no minibeasts, we headed over to the meadow to complete the final activity and collect our last stamp.

In the meadow we did some butterfly catching with nets and discovered how hard it is to catch, and then keep the butterfly in the net! I did most of the catching and got a few butterflies in the net but took a long time to work out how to keep them there! The only one I managed was a ringlet butterfly. While we were there though someone caught a small blue butterfly, the first one of the day.

As i was trying to catch butterflies, Jasmine and Thomas had found a volunteer turning over logs looking for toads. He found a couple and then as I was chatting to him all 3 kids began their own toad hunt. They did well and Jasmine brought over a small toad and Thomas found a newt.bioblitz 3It was now almost 2pm and we still hadn’t had any lunch. We went to get our calenders and wrote comments on the event tree. Thomas wrote “I found a newt” and Jasmine wrote “I found a toad”! While Thomas was writing Jasmine did a spot more bug catching and managed to catch a couple of grasshoppers by herself! Her eye for spotting and her ability to catch almost any small bug astounds everyone and the volunteers nearby were very impressed with her patience!

But then it was time to leave. I don’t think any of the kids had thought about how hungry they were while we were there because they were having so much fun. But I bought them all a cake on the way out and suggested we go to Macdonalds for some chips, and I didn’t have too many problems getting them back to the car!

We had a really great time today and each time we do something like this I see the kids enthusiasm grow and grow. We’re so lucky to have such a wonderful place nearby!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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Grandma’s garden

We are having a new boiler fitted at home this week, so today we drove up to my mums in Sheffield to escape the mess!

As soon as we arrived the kids went into the garden.Sheffield 1They played with the cats and hunted for bugs in the plants and the water. We found some bees feeding on daisies, woodlice, and a couple of other bugs. Unfortunately we also found lily beetles and grubs on the lilies. In the birds water table we found some mosquito larvae and drone fly larvae (rat tailed maggots).Sheffield 2The kids can’t wait to go out and hunt for more bugs tomorrow!

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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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A hot couple of days

Wow, hasn’t it been hot!

I apologise now for the brief nature of this post. It is late and I am tired. I have spent the evening playing with my new phone and not blogging! Now it is midnight and I need to write about the last 2 days.. so, quick summary.

Yesterday we went to twins club and celebrated Twins, Triplets and More week with a teddy bears picnic and cake decorating.Twins club

Today, Thomas and Jasmine went to Forest School and Ben and I went to Richmond Park. We went on a butterfly hunt today but it was just too hot, especially for Ben and he really struggled. We did see some Peacock caterpillars and a couple of ladybird larvae, and lots of butterflies. They seemed to be enjoying the hot sun much more than we were! I also spotted the green woodpecker again but still didn’t manage to get a photograph.Richmond ParkAnd so my evening spent downloading apps onto my phone isn’t a complete waste, you can now find me on instagram! Click here to follow me:

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Good Times with Good Friends

We had a lovely day today with our friends Caterpillar Tales.

This morning they were holding a fundraiser at their Toddler Group for The Lullaby Trust in memory of Matilda Mae, so we went to support them with that and then afterwards we went back to their house for lunch and play.

The kids played in the “talking bush”, on the climbing frame, found a huge ants nest in the sand pit, collected lots of ants!, played tennis, played lego, and lots more. In fact, they played really nicely together for hours. It was lovely!Caterpillar Tales GardenIn other news, when we got home we found that one of the silkworms has started to make its cocoon. I’m hoping the others start soon because until they do we have to keep feeding them, which disturbs the one already spinning. This silkworm rearing is much harder than I imagined!Silkworm

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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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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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