I undertake all sorts of consultancy work, but I must admit, the kind of work I did today is one of my favourites! As a qualified teacher, the great advantage for schools to get me in to set up feeding stations and camera nest boxes, is that I can also take groups of children, teach and take an assembly! The school that I worked at today school had raised some funds and were keen to have a nest box camera. They chose one from my shop… the side nest box that I had success with last year with a family of great tits. They liked the idea of the side-on view and on a visit I made to the school last week, I could see a potential tree for it.
They were also keen to get some bird feeders up in school so they could do the Big Schools’ Bird Watch and teach the children more about the wildlife that can be attracted into the school grounds. They had little idea about what to get and where to put it, so I organised the whole thing and stocked up on the budget they had given me!
I arrived at school with a car load;….. nest box and camera system, five bird feeders and a good range of food, hooks and chains to hang them, a ladder, all my tools and just about everything else I could lay my hands on that I thought I might need!
My morning started with assembly, where we looked at all the feeders I had bought and the different types of food. They already had a super display up using the resources from the RSPB, FREE to all schools who sign up for the School’s Bird Watch. I showed them the nest box and the camera inside. I was able to show them my website and we looked at all the pictures I took in my nest box last year, so they were able to see my great tit family growing up. There was much excitement and lots of questions.
The children returned to the classroom whist I started the task of putting up the nest box and wiring it all back into to school, through a classroom and to a lovely big TV in a little area just to the side of their school hall. It is going to be a fantastic place for the children to watch their nest box as it is in such an accessible area. Of course, today, it had chosen to pour with rain. Armed with drill, and screw driver, I eyed up the tree I had chosen. It was well positioned and had a nice flat area of trunk, perfect for the nest box. The other advantage was that it was a good climbing tree… I would be able to climb up to mount the box rather than relying on a ladder. The children watched out the window as I expertly (of course!!) climbed up and mounted the box onto the trunk. I then ran the cable from the tree, across to a roof corner and then into school through a hole drilled in the wall. With the cable clipped along the wall, all the way back to the TV, it was a relief when I plugged it all in and we could clearly see the inside of the nest box! Phew!!!
Next came the feeders. Two of the classroom overlooked a small playground area and then a bank, full of trees and bushes… absolutely perfect for feeders. The classrooms would have an excellent view of the feeders and the surroundings suggested that there would be a variety of species likely to visit. I had chosen some Nature’s Feast feeders… trialled and tested in my own garden. The ‘Twister’ feeder is excellent as it feeds three different seeds at once. I filled it up with a group of children. We put black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and a mixed seed, with niger into the three compartments in this feeder.
Next, a different group of children filled the metal nut feeder. I am sure the squirrels will be down before long, so I chose a robust metal feeder .
We then had another group of children setting up a fat bar feeder and a fat ball feeder. I explained why it was important to remove the nets on the fat balls.
We hung all the feeders in a position that meant they could clearly be seen from the classrooms.
I had one more feeder to set up and that was for the reception classroom. They were on the other side of the school. I chose a Nature’s Feast sunflower heart one for them. I strung a wire down from a roof strut outside their classroom and they helped to fill the feeder up with me. I don’t think we will get such a variety on this feeder, but I am pretty confident that the children will get some visitors.
After lunch, I returned to the classroom and talked to the children a little bit more about the birds they might see and how they need to maintain their feeders both by filling them up and cleaning them. I took groups of children to the windows to see if we could see any birds yet. These feeders had only been up a couple of hours and the levels of excitement reached fever pitch as we were delighted to see blue tits, great tits, coal tits, a flock of five long tailed tits, chaffinches, a dunnock and a blackbird! The children were so excited ( and so were the staff) as no one had expected it to be such a hit so quickly.
It is a highly rewarding experience to introduce children to the joys of wildlife watching and I am sure many will go home and set up feeders in their gardens if they haven’t already. I hope that this experience will foster an early fascination in wildlife… one that these children will take into adulthood… what job could be more rewarding than that??