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Posts Tagged ‘environmental education’

In the office this week we have been watching Sylvia’s latest video blogs, the first featured a large frog and the second a very tiny froglet, Kim has a pond in her garden and commented that she couldn’t mow the lawn because of the tiny froglets, Sylvia has froglets and toadlets in her garden, this got me thinking – how many people would be able to identify a toad from a frog?

 

Frogs & spawn

Frogs

What do they look like?

Common frogs have smooth skin which can be grey, olive green and yellow to brown with irregular dark blotches and a dark stripe around their eyes and eardrum and dark bars on their legs, they can lighten or darken their skin to match their surroundings, adults frogs grow to 6-10cm in length they can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. In Spring frogs lay their eggs in large clumps this is called frogspawn.

Where do they live?

Common frogs are most active at night between February and October you can find them by ponds, lakes and canals and in meadows, woodland and gardens, in Winter they hibernate in pond mud or under piles of rotting leaves, logs or stones.

What do they eat?

Frogs eat snails, slugs and worms as well as insects which they catch with their sticky tongue.

 

Toad

Toads

What do they look like?

Common Toads have warty skin which can be dark brown, grey and olive green to sandy coloured, they have broad, squat bodies and they tend to walk rather than hop. To deter predators they secrete an irritant substance from their skin and can puff themselves to make themselves look bigger, females can grow up to 15cm long the males are slightly smaller, toads can live up to forty years.  In Spring Toads lay their eggs in long triple stranded strings in still water amongst water plants.

Where do they live?

Toads are more active at night and can be found in woods, parks, scrubby areas, fields, ditches, lakes and damp areas of the garden often in compost heaps, during the Winter they hibernate in deep leaf litter, log piles and in burrows.

What do they eat?

Toads eat slugs, worms, insect larvae and spiders occasionally larger toads eat slow worms, small grass snakes and harvest mice!

 

Provide the frogs and toads in your garden with a safe place to rest and hibernate by putting a

Frogitat – Ceramic Frog and Toad House

Frogitat - Ceramic Frog and Toad House

or a Woodstone Frog and Toad House Bunker

Woodstone Frog and Toad House Bunker

in a wild quiet corner of your garden.

You can watch Sylvia’s video blogs on facebook or by subscribing to ‘Sylvia’s Briefs’

Gill

 

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Last week we managed to get away for a short break to Silverdale this is one of our favourite places and one we visit regularly throughout the year. The area has a diverse landscape (ancient woodland, flower rich meadows, limestone pavements and coastal saltmarshes) making it a haven for a large, varied and unique range of wildlife, Thomas is very interested in birds and saw a record number of species –  82 in total, but it was the Butterflies that really caught my attention especially the Brimstones which were dancing along the hedgerows.

Photograph of Brimstone from Butterfly Conservation website

Brimstones are quite big butterflies with leaf shaped veined wings which blend in well when they are resting amongst foliage, the females have pale green/white wings and the males have yellow-green underwings and yellow upperwings making them very easy to spot. In Spring the butterflies feed on Dandelion, Primrose, Cowslip, Bugle and Bluebell flowers which can often be found under hedges, the caterpillars feed on Buckthorn leaves.

Butterfly numbers have nearly halved in the last forty years, last year’s hot summer did boost numbers but there is a long way to go before their numbers return to a healthy and stable population. Butterfly Conservation is a charity dedicated to protecting butterflies, moths and our environment (www.butterfly-conservation.org) through conserving and creating habitats, recording and monitoring, raising awareness and encouraging  individuals and families  to get involved. On their website there is lots of information and pictures of Butterflies and Moths and a really useful guide to help you to identify which Butterfly or Moth you have seen.

This April 2014 Butterfly Conservation is offering half price membership (with the code GARDEN50 and paying by direct debit), plus the first 100 people to sign up will receive a free pack of seeds, either Phlox, Pot Marigold or Cornflower, these are not only lovely flowers but are known to attract a variety of Butterflies and Moths, like the Humming-bird Hawk-moth and Peacock, included in each new membership welcome pack is their new gardening book, which contains details of how to encourage Butterflies and Moths into the garden as well as general gardening information, this book is exclusive to members and not for sale anywhere.

Gardening for Butterflies and Moths

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more Butterflies in your garden, this Easter keep a look out for Butterflies or why not become a member of Butterfly Conservation and help our beautiful Butterflies and Moths?

Happy Easter

Gill

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Last week I managed to get on my allotment, it was Mother’s Day to be precise, the weather was glorious and the birds were singing – it was perfect! My first job was to tidy up and weed the beds now that they have dried out sufficiently I was delighted to find lots and lots of Ladybirds which have successfully survived our mild winter this is great news but unfortunately our native Ladybirds are under threat from another Ladybird, it is called the Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) and is the most invasive Ladybird on earth, arriving in Britain in the Summer of 2004, it is originally from Asia and was introduced to North America in 1988 and then Europe as a biological pest control where it has now widespread.

Group of harlequin (succinea) ladybirds

Photograph from the UK Ladybird Survey website showing Harlequin Ladybirds

In Britain we have 46 species of Ladybirds although 19 of these are not recognisable as Ladybirds as they are not bright coloured or Spotty. The Harlequin Ladybird has over 100 different colour pattern variations making it very hard to identify, one of the easiest ways to recognize it is by its size it can measure 5-8mm in length which is larger than most of our native Ladybirds the best way to accurately identify it is to have a good Ladybird guide. The problem with the Harlequin Ladybirds is that instead of producing a single generation of young per year like our native species they can produce two or more, a single female can lay over a thousand eggs. Harlequin Ladybirds have a more varied diet and larger appetite and will eat the eggs and larvae of butterflies and moths, small insects and alarmingly other Ladybirds as well as their staple diet of aphids.

How can we help?

The spread of the Harlequin Ladybird in Britain is being closely monitored through the Harlequin Ladybird Survey www.harlequin-survey.org who would like Schools, Groups and members of the public to send in their sightings of Harlequin Ladybirds, this can be done through their website or by post, there is even an app available to download with a guide to help you to identify Ladybirds and then to report your sightings. If you find any type of Ladybird you can send in your sighting as above to the UK Ladybird Survey www.ladybird-survey.org who will use your information to help the conservation of all our British Ladybirds.

This Easter (and as often as you can) why not go on a Ladybird hunt in your garden, local park, on a walk or on holiday and send in your sightings to www.harlequin-survey.org or www.ladybird-survey.org, you could take a photograph of them or even draw a picture when you get home, everyone loves Ladybirds especially children.

Happy Hunting

Gill

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Happy New Year to you all, let’s hope that this year brings a repeat of the good weather of 2013 and with it another bumper crop of fruit and vegetables.

It is not only our garden that benefitted from last year’s good weather our native wildlife benefited too with many species showing a remarkable increase in numbers.

Red Admiral Butterfly

The National Trust reported that 2013 was a fantastic year for Butterflies; they thrived in the long hot summer months, sightings were up by an average of 80% during the summer’s three official counts, unfortunately for gardeners the Cabbage White did particularly well. The long warm and dry weather was welcomed by insects including moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Although the cold winter, late spring and hot summer was good news for gardeners by keeping down the slug population, this was not good for the frogs, toads and mammals who eat them, again good for gardeners the numbers of aphids was greatly reduced but this affected the seven-spot ladybirds, hoverflies and birds that rely on them as their main food source.

Almost everything is affected by the weather, at the moment the ground is very wet and very little outdoor gardening that can be done, why not start planning and preparing for the year ahead by checking and ordering your seeds, propagators and seed sowing essentials, click here for lots more information to get yourself organised for seed sowing.

Why not have a go at Sylvia’s January Competition for a chance to win a

Stewarts 52cm Premium Variable Temperature Electric Propagator

Stewarts 52cm Premium Variable Temperature Electric Propagator

All you need to do is

Tell us what you do with your seedlings when you pot them on.  This is not a trick question. We really want to know what you do with them to secure their future as productive plants.

For full details and how to enter (by midnight 31st January 2014) click here.

Good Luck

Gill

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After 140 years of being in decline there is now evidence that our much loved and endangered Red Squirrels are on the increase, this is fantastic news.

In September it was revealed that a 3 month survey carried out by volunteers of Red Squirrels Northern England (RSNE) in 300 woodlands in the north including Cumbria and Northumberland found that Red Squirrel numbers had increased by 7% compared to Spring 2012, in contrast to this the numbers of grey squirrels in these areas had declined.

Only this week it was announced that scientists have discovered that some of our Red Squirrels have developed an immunity to the Squirrel Pox Virus, this disease is transmitted by the Grey Squirrel to our native Reds although it does no harm to the Grey Squirrel it can kill our Red Squirrel within weeks.

These findings were published in EcoHealth by Tony Salisbury, from the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London and suggest that a vaccine can be used to help our Red Squirrels fight the Squirrel Pox Virus.

photos of red and grey squirrels

Population estimated at 211,000 (30k England, 121k Scotland, 10k Wales, 50k N Ireland and Republic of Ireland). Population estimated at 2.77m (2m England, 0.2m Scotland, 0.32m Wales, 250k N Ireland and Republic of Ireland).
Native to GB, probably introduced to Ireland. Native to North America, introduced to Britain in 1870s.
Habitat: deciduous and coniferous forests, but coniferous forests may be advantageous. Wide range of habitats, including broadleaved and conifer forests.
Life expectancy – up to seven years in the wild. Can live up to nine years in the wild.
Squirrel poxvirus is nearly always fatal to red squirrels. Can carry squirrel poxvirus with no effects.
      Source: British Mammal Society/Colin Lawton                           

A long, hard winter can also affect our Squirrels if you want to give them a hand why not put up a Squirrel Feeder in your garden/school garden so that they will always have a permanent and easy source of food.

Wooden Squirrel Feeder

Click here to find out more about helping our other garden wildlife through the winter months including Hedgehogs, Frogs, Toads, Newts, Bats and Dormice.

Love your wildlife

Gill

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Why not play your part in increasing and preserving our beautiful wildflowers by joining The Recycleworks Wildflower Seed Project 3013/2014.
 
Schools or Community Associations that support children can register FREE and they will receive 5 Seed Collecting Tins to store their valuable seed until the spring followed by instructions of how to sow and grow their wildflower seeds.
                  Seed storage tins
This year, while stocks last, we are giving away to each new member of The Recycleworks Wildflower Seed Project 2013/2014 a beautifully illustrated guide to ‘Collecting and Propagating Seed of Hay Meadow Flowers’ which has been produced by The Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, who through their Hay Time Project work with farmers and landowners to restore meadows in the Yorkshire Dales and Forest of Bowland that have lost some of their wildlife value using seed harvested from nearby species-rich donor meadows, they involve volunteers in their work and provide educational opportunities for schools and the public. The full colour guide shows hay meadow plants in flower, their seed heads/pods and their seed as well as information on seed collecting, storage and propagation.
 
Hay Meadow seed saving brochure0001
 
 
COLLECTING SEED

Collecting seeds is a wonderful thing to do with children, they will learn where seeds come from, and not only be rewarded with free seeds but also lots of free plants in spring and with the satisfaction that they have grown them themselves from ‘their’ seed.

Some of the most rewarding and valuable seeds to collect are from Wildflowers and Nectar Rich plants which provide food for our bees, butterflies and pollinating insects, by growing these you will be giving back to nature and enriching your environment.
 
Here are some of the many plants that are beneficial to insects: Buddleia, Ox Eye Daisy, Borage, Verbena Bonariensis, Evening Primrose, Calendula, French Marigold, Teasel, Thistles, Foxglove, Cornflower.

Ox Eye Daisy

Where to look for seeds
The best places to find wildflowers are in uncultivated areas such as on grass verges, under hedges, on the edges of parks/playing fields (where the grass cutters can’t reach), church yards and meadows. Nectar rich flowers can usually be found in gardens. You may need to ask the landowners permission before entering their land to collect seed.
 
How to collect seed
You will need paper bags or envelopes, scissors and a pencil.
Some seed heads will shed their seeds very easily, simply empty their contents into your bag, or cut off the ripe seed head/pod and place in your bag then write the plant name on the bag, the date, the place and also where it was growing in sun/shade or in dry/wet soil this will help you when you grow your new plants next year. If some of the seed heads/pods are damp, lay them out on paper to dry before removing the seeds. If you are not sure of the name of the plant cut off the seed head/pods and a leaf or take a photograph so that you can identify it later.

Evening Primrose

Storing your seed
Some of the seeds will need to be cleaned by removing the husk and extracting the seeds from their pods/seed heads as these may contain small insects too. Place your dry seeds in a cold, dry and dark place until February/March. This can be in a container in the fridge so that they go through the natural cold winter conditions. It can be in a sealed tin (which will protect them from insects and animals) in the shed, but dry, cold and dark is important. If they get wet or warm they may start germinating and if it is too early for spring they will not survive.
 
Some seeds can be toxic, take care when collecting seed and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
 
Make the most of the warm Autumn days and collect some wildflower seeds.
 
Gill

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Working together, 25 wildlife organisations have taken a very close look at our native wildlife and on 22 May 2013 published ‘The State of Nature report’. This report has alarmingly revealed that 60% of the species studied have declined with more than 1 in 10 under threat of disappearing. The decline in many of these species can be reversed by providing a clean habitat, good food and a healthy environment so that they can breed and their young survive.

Communities, Schools and individuals really can make a diference, last week the RSPB launched the ‘Giving Nature a Home’ campaign to encourage people to create habit, homes and a safe haven for their wildlife. There are many ways that you can do this here are a few suggestions.

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

The Hogitat Hedgehog House

–   Put a hedgehog house in a quiet area of your garden

–   Build a pond

Frogitat - Ceramic Frog and Toad House

Frogitat – Ceramic Frog and Toad House

–   Provide a home for frogs and toads

–   Let a corner of your garden go wild

–   Create a dead wood pile for insects

 Wooden Bat Box

–   Put up some bat boxes

–   Feed the birds regularly, provide fresh water and nest boxes

–   Plant a tree or shrub

Attractor Pack - Bumble Bees

–   Grow nectar rich flowers that benefit bees and insects

Solitary Bee Hive

–   Put up bee and insect houses

I am very passionate about wildlife, in our garden we have: a large pond which is home to many species, nestboxes (most of them occupied) on all 3 sides of the house, a bee house, hedgehog house and in the very near future I will be putting up some insect houses.

Why not take a look at your garden and see if you can make it a haven for wildlife too.

Gill

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Next week (17-23 May) is Recycle Week.

We are all aware that recycling is very important to the environment, I am sure that many people recycle items of their rubbish in their weekly collections, but could we do more? Can we recycle our waste and benefit our garden?

 Twin Bin Composter from The Recycle Works

Green Waste

Millions of tonnes of green garden waste are produced each year, don’t throw it away it contains valuable nutrients. Set up a compost bin to collect and transform your garden waste (grass, prunings, leaves, weeds etc) into wonderful home-made compost which can be used to grow flowers/vegetables, as a soil improver or as a mulch.  Teabags, Cardboard, Newspaper and Fruit and Vegetable peelings can all be added to the compost bin too.

 Twin Bokashi Bucket System

Food Waste

Cooked food waste including meat, fish and vegetables is usually thrown away but can be recycled in a Bokashi Compost Bucket using EM’s – Effective Microrganisms without the fear of smells. Simply place your scraps into the bucket with a sprinkling of Bokashi Bran and re-seal the lid, when your bucket is full leave for two weeks keeping the lid sealed and either dig the contents into the garden or add to your compost bin. Whilst the compost is maturing a nutrient rich liquid is produced, dilute this with water 1:100 and use as a plant feed in the home or garden.

Harcoster Rain Diverter

Water

Gardens can be very ‘thirsty’ especially during warm weather to reduce the amount of tap water you use collect rainwater from your down pipes with a rain diverter and store in water butts.

Paper Potter

Biodegradable pots

Why not make your own pots out of newspaper using a Paper Potter they are very easy to make and great fun for children to do. Egg boxes are great for filling with compost and sowing seeds in, cardboard rolls and toilet roll tubes are perfect for sweet peas, peas and beans as they provide a deeper root run, keep the containers continually moist to allow the roots to penetrate, once planted they will rot down.

 Love Your Environment shopping bag

Shopping Bags

We as a nation use far too many plastic bags, millions go into landfill sites and thousands more become nuisance litter in our countryside, towns and even our seas, looking unsightly and becoming a danger to our precious wildlife. Invest in a reusable shopping bag that will last for years, helping the environment and if it’s a Fair-trade one it helps farmers and workers in developing countries too, it’s a good idea to keep one by the front door as well as a couple in the car.

 PIR Solar Utility Light

Solar Power

Save electricity by recycling the suns energy with solar powered lights which are bright enough to use inside your shed or greenhouse and to light up your garden and feature plants.

Odd Socks!!!

Ever wondered what to do with all those odd socks, if you collect rainwater direct from your greenhouse or shed roof pop one of them on the end of the down pipe to collect the dust and debris keeping the water clean, replace when required!

Reducing And Recycling Waste In Schools

If you have got the recycling bug and want to do more there are many good books on the subject including Recycle – The Essential Guide and Reducing and Recycling Waste in Schools.

Love your environment – reduce, reuse and recycle

Gill

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Last week we had an enquiry regarding our Croma Preservative, there is nothing unusual about that, but this was from The Barn Owl Centre of Gloucestershire who wanted a preservative to use on their owl nest boxes and as it is non toxic, kind to wildlife (and plants) it is perfect.

The Barn Owl Centre of Gloucestershire is a registered charity which has been established since 1997 and who are working to support the environment, wildlife and the community through Education, Conservation and Bird Welfare not only are they passionate about Barn Owls but all species of Owls and Birds of Prey.

Education plays a huge part in their work and their resident birds play an important part in group visits to/from Children, Schools, Farmers/Landowners etc. making it a fun, interactive and enjoyable experience. Wild bird casualties can be brought to them for treatment and rehabilitation with the sole aim of releasing the birds back to the wild once they are fit and well.

Young Barn Owl

Did you know?

Barn Owls ….

… hunt at night, and although they have very good eyesight  they rely on their exceptional sense of hearing to locate their prey.

… are easily recognised by their heart-shaped face, whose outer feathers collect, trap and focus sound just like human ears.

… fly almost silently which enables them to hear the smallest noises made by their prey of mainly field voles, wood mice and common shrews, they eat on average 4 a night.

… eat their prey whole, the indigestible parts are then coughed up in the form of an owl pellet.

… do not hoot (that’s Tawny Owls) they screech.

We have barn owls locally but I have yet to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural surroundings. If you are passionate about Owls and wildlife why not have a look at their website to see how you can help, if you live locally why not become a volunteer.

Many of our native birds are in decline and really do need our help, they need Nest Boxes, which provide them with a safe place to roost and rear their young, Bird Feeders filled with high energy bird food throughout the year and a Bird Bath with clean water to drink and to bathe in to keep their feathers in tip top condition. Wildlife products make excellent gifts why not treat your dad or granddad this Father’s Day (16th June) and help the wildlife in your garden.

Gill

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National Gardening Week was launched by the RHS to get the Nation Growing.

The benefits of gardening are felt by people of all ages and abilities and from all backgrounds, gardens promote a sense of purpose, and an escape from daily routine as well as providing valuable habitat and food for our wildlife and insects and of course good, home-grown, healthy fruit and vegetables for our table.

Rosy Apples

Throughout next week there are lots of Gardening events across the country organised by communities and groups as well as the RHS have a look at the RHS website for events near where you live.

Onions

It has been said that Britain is a nation of gardeners and I couldn’t agree more so what better way to celebrate gardening by getting involved with community groups, young peoples organisations e.g. Cubs, Brownies and with Schools and share your passion, experience and knowledge of this truly amazing pastime.

Lavender Flowers

Dust off your trowel, put on your warm wellies and a good pair of gardening gloves and get gardening.

Gill

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