Well, I am glad British Summer time is finally here…. looking out of the window, it is a very grey day and pouring with rain!
I have had a busy week this week! We are preparing lots of areas at school for our Grow Zone this year and the preparation and organisation can take a lot of time. With 16 classes of children, I want to ensure that all pupils have some kind of experience of growing and caring for the many plants we are going to use. I write a regular blog about all we do at school and you can access this HERE. I have lots of plans for a big ‘up-cycling area, where we are going to undertake a series of pallet-based projects for our growing area. Including the pupils in the plans is important and this week the area was measured by Yr 6, so scale drawings could be created. We will be starting in earnest after the Easter break.
I also organised a Viking cooking session on an open fire! Not all schools would be willing to undertake such an experience, but Michael Drayton is all about creating memorable experiences, and this is certainly one! We made a simple dough, wrapped it around a stick and cooked it on the open fire. Breaking that warm dough off of a stick, smearing it with jam and eating it outside is definitely an experience these kids will remember! There is more about the experience and lots of photos on our school blog.
Wednesday took me into another school. I spent a lovely day with a Year 2 class, learning all about owls as part of their Noctural Project. Steve and Debbie from S&D Falconry, brought Molly (a Barn Owl) and Izzy (A Tawny Owl) into the classroom. I feel it is very important that children have ‘hands-on’ experiences with wildlife as this is what forms the memories. They were able to look closely and touch these incredible birds!
I also showed the children some clips from the Natural World series that was recently on TV; Super-Powered Owls. If you have not seen it yet, I strongly recommend you nip onto iPlayer and take a look, it is superb! After learning all about owls and their adaptations, the pupils demonstrated all they had learnt with some amazing labelling of barn Owl images. remember… these children are only Yr 2 (6 and 7 yrs old!)
The afternoon was spent creating some Barn owl Artwork. Using images and a stuffed Barn owl that has been lent to me, I taught the children how to draw each element of the owl. The results were spectacular!
Thursday took me back to YewView. An exciting day, as we are having some more cameras installed, including a PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) down by the river, so we can watch our otter platform and the Barn Owl and Kestrel boxes. I hope to share some more images of those with you in the near future. We have also had the infra-structure put in so I can put some cameras around the wildlife pond, where our Kingfisher hunted last year. I will be getting a camera up on the perch so we can keep an eye out for them!
I also put up a woodpecker box. There are absolutely loads of Great Spotted (and some Green woodpeckers) at Yew View. Lots of the old fruits tree that have sensibly been left in situ, show evidence of feeding and nesting in previous years. Woodpeckers excavate hollows in trees to nest in. This nest box has a part excavated hole and then a narrow chamber carved out of a Birch log. There is plenty of scope for the woodpecker to further excavate this. Due to the small space, it was going to be difficult to put a camera inside, so I drilled a hole in the roof and mounted a camera on top of the box in a waterproof box. I ensured that the hole I drilled was large enough to allow the IR LEDs to light the inside of the box. I have never tried a box like this, so we will see what happens. It has been suggested that I add some balsa wood to the interior to encourage further excavation.
Sadly, our Yew View Tawnies have not made another appearance, but if you would like to see the ultimate in tawny cams, then check out Dave Culley’s live cameras! He has created a Tawny chamber in a hollowed out tree trunk and the eggs started to hatch this week – the images are incredible!
Friday took me back to Michael Drayton, to take my Eco-Crew on a day out organised by The Heart of England Forest. A number of schools had been invited to a tree planting event. You can find out more about this project by clicking on the image below and visiting their website.
The Heart of England Forest Project is a partnership initiative between Warwickshire landowner, Felix Dennis, and The Heart of England Forest Ltd., a registered charity.
The aim of the partnership is to plant and preserve a large native broadleaf forest in the heart of England.
Who is Felix Dennis?
In 1995 he planted his first small wood near Dorsington, Warwickshire. Subsequently, he conceived the idea of establishing a large native forest and founded The Forest of Dennis Ltd., a registered charity, to fulfill his mission. The charity changed its name to The Heart of England Forest Ltd. in 2011.
What has The Heart of England Forest Project achieved so far?
To date, The Heart of England Forest project has been responsible for acquiring and planting 1,900 acres of land with native broadleaf saplings, much of it close to veteran woodland also purchased by Mr. Dennis.
The project recently established its own tree nursery. Hundreds of acres of land have been gifted to the charity itself and more will follow.
We had a wonderful day and were thrilled to think that we had played a part in creating a forest for future generations to benefit from!
It was a gorgeous day, so we spent the last hour up in the woods, learning about badgers and looking at an amazing sett and then having a go at building our own den… what better way to spend a Friday afternoon? I love spending time outside with children and these guys thoroughly enjoyed themselves… as you can see by the photos!
Back to my garden!! I am so busy at the moment, I hardly seem to have time to get out in my own patch at the moment! Everything is progressing well though and there is interest in all my tit boxes and the Jackdaws seem to be keen to move into all of my owl boxes! I am in the process of updating my website and you will be able to follow these boxes soon.
I have also set a couple of static photo points up in the garden and This seems to be working well! I have an iPhone that is set up on the iCloud. I created a shared folder on the iCloud for each of my static photo points. The point simply consists of a 90 degree metal corner bracket that I can fit my phone into. This ensures that I always photograph from the same point. Once, I take the photo, I click to shed it and navigate to iCloud and the album I have set up. I can then save all the photos I take of the development of my pond over the year in one place and access them all on my iMac back in my office. I have set three points up at Yew View and shared these folders with the owners, so they can also thane pics and share them to the appropriate album. By the end of the year, we should have a time-lapse type collection showing all the changes.
Yesterday, I set one up for my wild flower meadow, which I planted last year. It is looking pretty good already and I can’t wait to see how it matures this year.
So, nearly up to date! Today, I aim to finish my new ‘Prickly Diner’ with HD camera! I am sure we will have some rat visitors, but I am hoping to capture some HD footage of some hedgehog visitors this year. I just need to make some adjustments to camera set-up and pop the lights in and then see if I can get it up on my system.
With the Easter break now here, I am hoping to catch up on some jobs in the garden and get planting some seeds ready for the new season…. there never seems to be enough hours in the day and next week it is going to be April!!! Where is the year disappearing to?!