Invite A Tree To Tea!

This summer, the Woodland Trust wants us to have fun with family and friends, while honouring trees for their ‘Invite a tree to tea’ event.  I was very keen to get involved and decided to share my tree-love with my work colleagues as over 1,700 trees supplied by the Woodland Trust have been planted by mainly student volunteers at the University where I work over the last three years.  Since 2014, these 1,700 trees have offset 12.5 tonnes of CO2 – the same produced by 81,315 miles driven by the average car!

Although it would have been great to work outdoors all day and have a proper party under a tree, this just wasn’t feasible, so I therefore decided to hold a ‘Tree Party’ CAKE SALE to raise vital funds for the charity’s work, helping plant native trees and protect precious woodland for people and wildlife.

I baked some black coffee and chocolate brownies as well as some leaf-shaped chocolate chip shortbread biscuits.  Some of my colleagues also donated their homemade ‘treeats’ too, which was very much appreciated!  As well as buying and eating cakes, people were also encouraged to make a ‘tree-based’ pledge to tell everyone how they plan to help or appreciate trees and woodland in the future.  These pledges included printing less to save paper, going on more woodland walks and even making monthly donations to the Woodland Trust.  In total, the cake sale made £27.50 – enough to plant nine trees, which I am very happy about!

IMG_20170807_091119104

“We all need trees. They are essential to life. They clean our air and cool our cities. They provide homes and food for wildlife. And they are the best playgrounds. But they are facing more threats than ever before and they need us to fight for them”.

Have you held a ‘Tree Party’ this summer?  If not, there is still time – you can apply for your free fundraising picnic box and make a tree the guest of honour, or even just hold a cake sale like me!  If you would like to find out what your fundraising could go towards, you can read about the Woodland Trust’s 10 year strategy here: Join us on the Journey to 2025.

Advertisements

Big Butterfly Count

Tomorrow is the start of this year’s ‘Big Butterfly Count‘ – a nationwide survey (and the world’s largest butterfly survey) held by the British charity, Butterfly Conservation and Waitrose, to gain an understanding of the health of our environment.  Counting butterflies helps determine natural health as they “react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators“.  If we begin to see a reduction in butterfly numbers and/or species, it could warn us of other wildlife declines.

To take part, you simply have to count the butterflies that you see in any location within a 15 minute time period.  Like the Big Garden Birdwatch, if you are counting in a single area, you should count the maximum number of each species that you can see at a single time.  However, if you decide to count the butterflies you see on a 15 minute walk for example, then you can add up the number of each species that you come across.

Your results, even if you see no butterflies, will not only support the environmental health assessment, but also help the charity identify species’ trends and consequently develop protection plans.

To help you with your 15 minute butterfly count, you can download a useful identification chart from the Butterfly Conservation!  Once your sightings have been tallied up, you then simply have to submit your results online or via the free Big Butterfly Count app.

The Big Butterfly Count runs from Friday 14 July to Sunday 6 August, so if you find yourself with a spare 15 minutes, do something wild, get counting and have fun!

pb© Peacock Butterfly

Speak Up Week Of Action

Just a quick post for you this evening… did you know that it is Community Energy Fortnight and Speak Up Week Of Action?

Organised by The Climate Coalition, the Speak Up Week Of Action aims to raise awareness about climate change and get people from all over the country to hold events and speak up to show just how much love and care there is for our beautiful planet.

You can check if there are any events happening near you over the next few days on their event map!

If you have not already done so, I feel that this week is the perfect time to calculate your environmental carbon footprint and see if and how you can start reducing it for a future where people and nature thrive.gh

#30DaysWild Days 21-30

I had a really enjoyable #30DaysWild and hope you all did too!  I continued to complete my random acts of wildness during the final ten days of June… and here is what I did:

21. It was another hot day, so I took a stroll during my lunch break to have a look at the large pond on the park near my workplace.  I had not explored the pond for many years, so it was interesting to see how much it had changed.  There are now large amounts of aquatic plants and due to the heat on the day, hundreds of beautiful damselflies!  I was also happy to see a family of moorhens swimming around.

22. Having always welcomed in the solstices and equinoxes, I chose to do an outdoor Sun Salutation for midsummer.

23. The heatwave came to an end, so it was a rather overcast day.  Despite this, I watched the evening sky and focused on the subtle movement of the clouds and gradual change in colour.  This act of wildness brought back memories and inspiration from my university days studying Fine Art.  Feel free to have a look at my archive blog of experimentation and creation which I created during my degree.

24. It was my mother’s birthday, so my family and I went to her house for afternoon tea.  We each took a homemade cake and enjoyed the afternoon out in the garden.  My random act of wildness was taking lots of photographs of the plants and flowers in her garden.

P1030734 (2)

25. My boyfriend and I went to an open day at Holwell Reserves, a LRWT nature reserve.  It was a lovely location and despite a spot of rain, also a lovely day.  On the drive home, we stopped off at Cossington Meadows – another LRWT reserve that we had never visited before.

26. During my lunchtime walk around Welford Road Cemetery, I spotted a grounded bumblebee.  It was a very large bee and was clearly tired and struggling to walk, let alone fly.  After a few attempts I managed to get it to climb on to the lid of my lunchbox (by lining it with dry grass for it to grip to) and gently placed it on some flowers.  It instantly began to get nectar and was soon a lot more energetic!  Here are some tips on how you can help bees at this time of year.

27. I had a surprising act of wildness on the 27th – I was walking through my local park (again) and suddenly heard loud chirping.  I looked up to see a brilliant nest box in a tree, so continued to listen to the many chicks inside.  I am not yet attuned to identifying chick chirps though, so couldn’t tell what they were… maybe one day I will be able to!?

28. I read a very interesting summary report about the Paris Agreement and 450 Scenario by the International Energy Agency.  There are several other publications on their website which you can download here.

29. I subscribed to the BTO, Butterfly Conservation, WWT and Plantlife.  I am looking forward to receiving monthly updates and information from them.

30. As I spent the day travelling to Brugge, I utilised my time well by doing a bit of bird spotting whilst waiting at several train stations.  At one point, I saw what I believed to be a pair of goldfinches gripping onto and pecking at a stone wall – strange behaviour that I had not seen before (especially from goldfinches).  I have since found out that seed eating birds do in fact sometimes eat mortar from walls for the grit it contains to help with digestion.  Awesome!

Now that this year’s #30DaysWild challenge is complete, it is important that we continue to #StayWild.  I certainly did in Brugge (hence the delay in blogging about my final ten days)… and one of my favourite wild things I did there was spot and photograph several red-tailed bumblebees – a species I had not seen up-close before!

rtb

Did you enjoy #30DaysWild this year?  How do you plan to #StayWild?

#30DaysWild Days 11-20

June seems to be flying by… and I have another ten random acts of wildness to write about!  The majority this time unintentionally ended up being bird-themed.

11. It had been a while since I had been on a decent walk, so my boyfriend and I visited Dovedale in the Peak District.  As soon as we started our walk, a grey wagtail hopped on the path in front of us with a beak full of midges, flew up onto a branch at eye level and stayed there long enough for us to get a good look and some grainy phone photographs (neither of us had taken our proper cameras)!!  I was very excited as it was the first grey wagtail I had seen (that I am aware of) and I had been admiring them on Springwatch the week before.  The yellow of it’s underside was so bright and beautiful!

Grey wagtails unfortunately have a red status with the RSPB – red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action.

12. I decided to have a lunchtime stroll and watch magpies!  I am very fond of magpies, their large nests, their distinctive call… and always salute if I see one on it’s own.  There are often large numbers of magpies near my work and on this particular day, I noticed that there was something unusual about one.  After a while, I realised that it looked smaller and didn’t have a long tail – it was a lovely little juvenile exploring the ground!

13. I planted some chilli seeds back in April and as they had grown into two-inch tall seedlings, I re-potted them and gave some away to my family.

14. It was a lovely hot day (the beginning of the ‘heatwave’) and I had planned to visit my friend for the evening.  I chose to walk to her house via a conservation area, one of 24 in my city.  “Conservation areas are parts of the city that have been designated for their special historical or architectural quality.  They are areas where the preservation or enhancement of the unique townscape is particularly important and they add much to the city in terms of attractive living environments, historical and cultural significance and high quality design”.  Buildings and developments are controlled to preserve their character and appearance, the demolition of buildings is controlled and I am glad that trees are also protected in the conservation areas.

15. As some of you may have seen, there was a fascinating section on Springwatch about soundscapes and acoustic niche hypothesis which you can read about here.  I thought the idea of ‘Soundscape Ecology’ was brilliant and consequently listened to the soundscape of my back garden.

16. I have loved bird-watching since 2015 when I stayed in a lovely cottage in Anglesey.  It had its own woodland, a garden full of bird feeders and as a result, lots of amazing birds, including a great spotted woodpecker and a jay!  I have since spotted and watched many birds, so decided to treat myself to a little British birds Spotting & Jotting Guide by Matt Sewell, who just so happens to be one of my favourite illustrators too!

17. It was a Wildlife Weekend at Bradgate Park in Charnwood Forest and I went bat detecting!  The park usually closes just before dusk, but it was opened up at 9:30pm especially for the 30 odd people who attended the event.  It was run by the Leicestershire and Rutland Bat Group – a voluntary organisation formed in 1984, dedicated to the conservation of bats in the two counties.  My sister and I took our own bat detectors and the group handed out several to other people.  It was a slow start, but once we reached the River Lin, which runs through the Lower Park, we picked up regular ‘calls’ and detected several common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles, one or two Daubenton’s bats and noctules, which I was very pleased with, particularly the latter as you may remember from my post about Bat Conservation that I wanted to see one this year.

18. I spent a nice, chilled-out day in my dad’s garden, admiring the plants, flowers and of course, birds!

19. Having seen a glimpse of several ‘fork-tailed’ birds near my dad’s house, I wanted to learn how to distinguish between swifts, swallows and martins from just a silhouette.  I found a brilliant ID guide on the RSPB website but also discovered just how much swifts are in trouble.  “Their breeding numbers plummeted by 47 per cent between 1995-2014, making them an amber-listed species on the list of Birds of Conservation Concern”.  As a result, the RSPB would like to find out where swifts are seen and where they are nesting, so if you are aware of any, let them know by submitting your sightings to the Swift Survey.

20. A slow walk home from work in the heat called for a simple but pleasant act of wildness… a bit of bird identification using the BirdUp app on my phone.

What did you do for days 11-20 of #30DaysWild?

#30DaysWild Days 1-10

It is the 10th June today, meaning we are a third way through #30DaysWild.  Like last June, it has been a relatively rainy month so far, but I have managed to do my ten random acts of wildness:

1. I signed up for two online environmental courses through FutureLearn.  ‘Extinctions: Past and Present’ which starts on the 19th June.  This course is run by the University of Cape Town and will explore how life on earth has been shaped by five mass extinction events in the distant past and the crisis that biodiversity is currently facing.  The second course is ‘Elements of Renewable Energy’ which starts later in the year with the Open University.  I will be studying renewable energy using the four Greek elements: Earth –the Earth’s renewable energy sources, Air – wind power, Fire – the direct power of the Sun and finally, Water – hydropower.  I am very much looking forward to these, particularly the latter as on the 7th June 2017 the National Grid reported that power from wind, solar, hydro and wood pellet burning supplied 50.7% of UK energy – more than half of UK electricity for the first time!

2. One of my favourite lunch-time spots to visit when I am at work is Welford Road Cemetery.  It is designated as a Local Wildlife Site and is actually listed Grade 2 in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens, so it is used by many as a ‘park’.  I spent by lunch break walking around the cemetery, taking in the views and spotting plenty of wild animals.

3. Although I love to be outdoors, I have got to admit that I am a bit of a shade-hunter… but I decided to make the most of the sun and actually stayed out in it all afternoon painting my Grandma’s shed.  I, of course, wore plenty of sun-cream and a rather fetching hat!

4. Last year, I grew my own tomatoes for the first time and absolutely loved it!  The plants were still going strong well in to October and I ended up making tomato chutney for Christmas!  I decided not to grow any from seed this year as I only have a small yard and one suitable windowsill which has been taken up by chilli seedlings for a couple of months, but I was given some large tomato seedlings ready to plant out, so that’s what I did – replanted them in a grow-bag in my garden.

5. I have recently become a voluntary ‘Positive Impact Coordinator’ for the Environment Team at the University where I work.  As part of my role, I organised a ‘Fruit & Veg cake sale’ in my office and also volunteered on the main cake stall at the annual Sustainability Festival.  The event fell on World Environment Day and aimed to raise awareness of sustainable lifestyles whilst raising money for The Real Junk Food Project Leicester.  The main event raised £60 and I managed to raise another £40 for them from my cake sale!

cakesale

These are just some of the cakes that my workmates and I baked.  The idea was that they each contained either a fruit or vegetable and at least one fair trade or ethically sourced ingredient.  I made savoury cheese and courgette muffins and chocolate, carrot and cinnamon cupcakes with chocolate cinnamon buttercream!

6. I had quite a busy day, but managed to share some of my favourite wildlife footage from live cameras with my family and friends.

7. For a few weeks now, I have noticed a row of ants keeping busy at the bottom of some outdoor steps at work.  The numbers have gradually been increasing and on the 7th I noticed that there were a lot more than I had previously seen, so watched and studied their actions for quite a while!

8. It was raining on and off, but having not spent much time outdoors recently, I decided it was time to do a random act of wildness in the fresh air!  Luckily I managed to get out on my lunch break during a dry spell and walk around a local park.

9. A nice simple random act of wildness for the 9th.  I gave my workmate two tomato plants that were going spare.  I will definitely be asking for updates on their progress over the summer!

10. I sowed a virtual seed for Grow Wild!  Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and is supported by the Big Lottery Fund.  It is the UK’s biggest ever wild flower campaign and by sowing a virtual seed we can all help raise awareness of the importance of wild flowers and their impact on our well-being.  So join me and the 20,385 other people so far by sowing a virtual seed too!

Throughout the last ten days I have also been continuing to check the NTU peregrine falcon live stream footage, which has become less active as the chicks become more and more independent and of course, I have been watching Springwatch!  It has been brilliant seeing so many animals raising their young, watching wild birds fledge (including some jays) and learning how different birds and raptors nest!  I absolutely love the kestrel nest in the side of Sherborne village church – it looks cosy, sheltered and gets lit up beautifully by the sun at times.  

(Video from the Springwatch Facebook page)

One of my favourite stories on Springwatch so far has got to be the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines fostering an orphaned chick.  It began with three peregrine chicks having to be rescued from a nest in Shropshire after the parent birds were found illegally killed!  As a result, the orphaned chicks were fostered into carefully-selected nests in the wild – two went to a nest in the Midlands, and the third chick was fostered in the Salisbury Cathedral nest, which is currently being filmed and shown on Springwatch.  The footage of the orphaned chick meeting the single chick at Salisbury Cathedral, snuggling down together, being instantly fed by the adult female and being accepted by both adults as their own was a joy to watch!  You can read more about the story here.

It’s Time To Go Wild!

This June, the Wildlife Trusts is once again challenging the nation to do something wild every day for #30DaysWild.  I took part for the first time last year and had a fantastic month full of random acts of wildness, which you can read about here.

Your random acts of wildness do not have to be extreme – they can be small, fun, indoors or outdoors and are simply about experiencing, learning about and helping wildlife.  I have come up with some suggestions which you can use as inspiration.

For sunny days:

  1. Visit a nature reserve and enjoy a walk, bird watching or even bat detecting
  2. Do some wild photography
  3. Go wild in your garden to benefit wildlife
  4. Take time to stargaze on a clear night
  5. Make a bee waterer (using a dish, stones/marbles and clean water) to keep our pollinators hydrated

For rainy days:

  1. Dance in the rain
  2. Make a terrarium
  3. Become a member of a wildlife charity
  4. Write a poem about nature
  5. Learn cloud names and classifications

For days at work:

  1. Hold a fruit and veg cake sale
  2. Watch live wildlife footage on your breaks
  3. Go outside and take a walk at lunch
  4. Take a healthy packed lunch full of fruit and veg (maybe homegrown)
  5. Explore your workplace for plants and wildlife

For the kids:

  1. Camp in the garden
  2. Explore a forest
  3. Go on a bug hunt
  4. Press flowers and leaves
  5. Build an insect hotel

For people who are unable to get out and about easily:

  1. Do a mini garden birdwatch
  2. Watch a nature documentary
  3. Experiment with windowsill gardening
  4. Read a nature book or blog
  5. Do some ethical cooking

If you are feeling inspired and have other ideas of how to be wild for 30 days, you can sign up for the #30DaysWild challenge here.  You will receive a free pack of goodies including stickers, some wildflower seeds and a wallchart to help you plan your month, plus lots more ideas from the brilliant Wildlife Trusts.

Like last year I will be blogging about my #30DaysWild month and would really like to hear what other people do for their random acts of wildness!

My Big Garden Birdwatch Results

So the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is complete!  I hope you all had a wonderful time identifying and counting the birds and wildlife in your gardens or local parks.

This year I completed the survey at my in-laws house who live further out of the city.  Last year, at my childhood home, the birds played a trick on me and decided not to land, meaning I only counted a handful of birds.  I therefore wanted to see whether the location difference would affect my results.  As you may know from my post about the Robin, my own back yard is pretty small and bird-less.  I have a bird feeder and occasionally put out dried meal-worms, but do not want to encourage many birds as both of my neighbours have cats.  Luckily though, my Birdwatch location had several well-used feeders out ready, so it was as simple as pulling up a chair to the window, getting comfy with a cup of tea and waiting for the birds to arrive.  The hour ‘flew’ by and I managed to record twelve birds in total (from the garden and surrounding trees): 1 great tit, 1 robin, 1 blue tit, 4 woodpigeons, 2 house sparrows, 1 female blackbird, 1 collared dove and 1 carrion crow.  Throughout the rest of the day, many more birds landed in the garden including a wren, and the female blackbird returned on several occasions (she is a regular apparently).  A plump squirrel also made an appearance and stayed long enough for me to take a few photographs!

The lovely robin and squirrel who visited the garden during this year’s Birdwatch.

4, 383, 224 birds have been counted and submitted to the RSPB so far and I am really interested to see the final results from mid-February.  The results will help the RSPB find out what wildlife is thriving and what is in trouble, ultimately leading to “action to put things right”.  The survey started back in 1979 as a small children’s activity, but now has over half a million people taking part each year!  With the 38th year of data now being collated by the RSPB, the insight into UK wildlife is more accurate than ever… and it has already provided some fascinating information, for example between 2006 and 2016, the UK song thrush population decreased by a staggering 98% whereas the UK goldfinch population increased by an impressive 89%.  As of 2014, respondents have also been asked about other wildlife as well a birds in their gardens, so a greater picture is beginning to be painted UK-wide!

Did you take part this year?  If so, what birds and other wildlife did you record?

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

It is that time of year again… the clouds are grey, the air is chilly, but there are things to make us smile and feel warm inside.  The days are slowly starting to get longer, Winterwatch is back on our screens next week and of course, the RSPB is holding the Big Garden Birdwatch from the 28th – 30th January.

The Big Garden Birdwatch helps to build a picture of garden wildlife across the UK and we can all be part of the world’s largest wildlife survey!  I took part for the first time last year and had so much fun, despite only counting a handful of birds (it was a cold, windy day).  Amazingly, more than 519,000 people all over the UK took part in the survey and counted an incredible 8,262,662 birds over the weekend!  The top three spotted were the house sparrow, starling and blue tit.  I wonder what the top three will be this year!?

It is easy to do and is great for any age.  Just find a comfortable spot, inside by a window (which I am going to do this year), outside in your garden or even a park.  Then over a single hour on any of the three days, simply count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time. For example, if you see three blue tits together, and later you see four, and after that two, the number to submit is four (not nine). This makes it less likely that you will double-count the same birds.

I have already registered and received my pack.  If you would like to join me and thousands of others to count the wildlife that is counting on us, you can request a pack here.  If you order it to be sent by post, the RSPB also kindly sends a few little goodies including a coaster, packet of coffee and a lovely recipe for some biscuits (which are delicious – yes I have already baked some).

I will be blogging about my experience and survey results after the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend and would love to hear your results too!

ark1

© This photograph was taken in the summer, but I am sure the sparrow will make it into the top ten list again this winter.

Rocket Results

Back at the beginning of June, I blogged about a UK-wide live ‘Rocket Science Experiment‘ which I was lucky enough to do with over 8,500 schools and educational groups.  Everyone received two sets of seeds, one red and one blue – one set had been kept on the ISS in microgravity, whereas the other set had stayed on earth.  Without knowing which set was which, the seeds were grown alongside each other to investigate the impact of microgravity, radiation and space travel on seed germination and growth, to ultimately help form a “clearer picture of the potential for astronauts to grow their own food to sustain them on long-term missions”.

Due to the fact that our blue set took a couple of days longer to germinate and grow seed-leaves, my team guessed that the blue set were those kept in microgravity.

It has now been revealed which Rocket Science seeds went to space…

RHS Campaign for School Gardening