Tag Archives: Pond

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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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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Pond Dipping and Wildlife Spotting

This afternoon we met up with our local home education group and visited Sutton Ecology Centre, where the amphibian and reptile charity Froglife were hosting a Life Under the Surface Exhibition, all about pond life.

Froglife is a national wildlife charity committed to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles – frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards – and saving the habitats they depend on. The exhibition is running from today until Sunday 9th June and is totally free and suitable for everyone, kids and adults alike.

I knew this would be popular with my bug-crazy kids, especially as we haven’t been pond dipping anywhere but the back garden yet this year, and as soon as we told them about it Jasmine went to find her net so she could take it with her to catch a pond skater! Luckily we managed to convince her she wouldn’t need it because they would have nets there!

All the way there the kids were talking about the animals we saw at the Ecology Centre last year. Strangely it seems the one that stood out the most for them was the leech and both Thomas and Jasmine kept saying they didn’t want to find one today in case it tried to suck their blood!

As soon as we arrived the lovely lady running the session asked us if we’d like to do some pond dipping first. Well, of course the kids said yes! So they got their nets and bowls and off they went. We had a really good catch today and saw lots of different pond animals including tadpoles, sticklebacks, pond skaters, whirligig beetles, water boatmen, mayfly nymph, damselfly nymph and a smooth newt.Pond Life

As is always the way with an activity like this one child fell in the water and today it was Jasmine’s turn. She just lost her balance and wobbled right at the edge of the platform (despite the fact that we had told her numerous times not to stand right at the edge!) and she had no choice but to either fall or jump in the water! Luckily it is only waist deep for her so Gordon pulled her out and after a few seconds she had got over the shock and was right back at the edge of the platform dipping her net in again, only without her trousers this time as they were drying over the fence!

After a long pond dipping session we released all the animals back into the pond and went to do the craft activity. The kids (or grown-ups) cut a pre-drawn tadpole shape out of a piece of card and covered it in black fabric. Then the kids stuck on a googly eye and painted it with some gold paint. It was a very simple, effective activity which kept most of the kids busy for a while.Tadpole Craft

Whilst most of the kids were making their tadpoles, Thomas had made his way back to the pond to do more dipping. Because the nets had been put away he was just using his hands! Impressively though he caught several tadpoles and a nymph!Pond dipping by handAs the craft activity was coming to an end I suggested that we go and see if we could find any slow worms. The ecology centre have several pieces of what look like old carpet tile dotted around the grounds, and if you lift these up very carefully you can usually find several of these legless lizards lurking underneath. Slow worms are neither a worm or indeed slow! Once they are warm they are in fact very quick! We didn’t manage to catch any today but we did see 3 under one carpet tile.Slow worm

After the slow worm hunt, Gordon took some of the kids off for a wander around the grounds. The final catch if the day was a lizard, and Jasmine held it! I wasn’t there though because Thomas was still pond dipping by hand so I was watching him, but she was very pleased that she had not only been, but held, a lizard!

We had a great time at the ecology centre today and it has definitely re-sparked our passion for pond dipping. We’ll definitely be going back soon to hunt out more bugs, both in and out of the water.

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Pond Life

Our pond is in 🙂

Actually it has been in for a couple of weeks now and we have gradually been moving everything in to it. We moved a few of the daphnia, water boatmen and pond snails last week to see if the water was ready. They survived! So we moved the rest of the old storage box pond yesterday.

Today we went to a local Aquatics centre and got some pond plants and on the way home stopped off at our friends house and collected some tadpoles.

Now I really feel like our little pond is in!


Everyone is very happy and excited, but Jasmine is still a little disappointed because we don’t have any pond skaters yet!

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Busy Wednesdays

Wednesday is our busy day of the week. I try and make sure we have an easy, relaxing morning because after lunch we go to our Home Education group, have dinner with Caterpillar Tales, and then Jasmine goes to Rainbows with Caterpillar Tales’ Rabbit.

So today our relaxing morning involved Reading Eggs, Mathseeds and Lego. Oh, and helping Daddy to move the pond!

We are going to pick up some tadpoles from a friends pond tomorrow so our little area will be almost complete!

This afternoon at Home Education Group, we painted, modelled and glittered, played football and catch, washed a toy car by throwing water over it, climbed and slid, found some eggs in a nest (sadly, probably abandoned as we saw no mummy or daddy bird nearby), picked dandelions, made new friends, collected snails and ants, discovered that sand sticks to snail slime, put feathers in our hair and generally enjoyed being outdoors.

And at Rainbows this evening I got Jasmine her tabard so she looks all official now!

Jasmine in her Rainbow Tabard

Wednesday is a busy day for us, but because we get to spend the afternoon with some really lovely people, Wednesday is actually my favourite day at the moment 🙂

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Playing Here and There

Today we have done a lot of playing.

We started the day in the garden with Rainbow Rice in the Tuff Spot. I gave the kids a selection of diggers, plastic containers, jars, scoops and funnels and they created shakers, drum kits, rain storms and roads. Jasmine, as usual, collected her own pile of toys!

While we were in the garden I released our last Speckled Wood Butterfly. It was a little reluctant to leave so I gently lifted it out of the net to try and encourage it. It sat on my finger for a few minutes before flying off!

This afternoon we went to a local park where I had arranged to meet a couple of other twin mums. I had a lovely chat while the kids climbed and slid and climbed some more.In the park

And finally, the other thing that is worth noting about today is that our pond arrived! Gordon has started digging it into the garden already and will hopefully have it finished by the end of the week.

The pond

I can’t wait to get it filled and start creating our own little pond habitat!

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