Friday, 21 October 2011

Meet Sonny the hedgehog

A couple of weeks ago, on one of the last really sunny day of the year whilst eating his breakfast, my son noticed  a baby hedgehog outside our back door. Realising that it was very young and in need of food I offered it some mealworms and cat food, neither of which he would eat.
In a rush, a filled an empty box with dry leaves and brought him into the office where he was identified as being male. He drank some water and gobbled up a few live worms that staff collected from the Avon Wildlife Trust garden, after which he curled up and had a big sleep. Being an absolutely gorgeous creature and surprisingly receptive at being held, we all fell in love with him.
However, the next day he was taken to a hedgehog rescue centre in Stroud as he was only around 4 weeks old and still needed his mother's milk. A lovely lady called Carole is now syringe feeding him with special milk and keeping him on a heat pad until he gets a bit bigger. He has been steadily gaining weight ever since but it's unlikely that he will get big enough to hibernate and survive the winter. I'm hoping to welcome him back soon where I will keep him in a hutch and feed him through the cold months until Spring when he will be released into the wilds of my garden.
There's even been mention of having a girl too which will bring in new blood to the area and create healthier offspring so watch this space...........

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Autumn morning treats

What a beautiful chilly morning! Just behind the (Avon Wildlife Trust) Wild Schools office is Brandon Hill Nature Park. 

Lovely autumnal scenes this morning with the changing leaves, also treated to sights of squirrels eating a nutty breakfast and even spotted a jay!
 Now is a great time of the year to spot all of the abundant fruits, berries and nuts autumn brings, so why not get out into the woods and try some of our activities from our 'birds, trees and woodlands' learning resource page!   

Looking for nuts

The colours of autumn

Monday, 17 October 2011

Play our Guess that Skull game... not for the faint hearted!

Here is a Halloween-themed nature challenge! Can you identify what animals these skulls are from? We don't need spooky decorations at the (Avon Wildlife Trust) Wild Schools office - these skulls watch us whilst we work!

Skull A

Skull B
Skull C
Skull D

From left to right Skulls A, B, C and D
We will post the answers in a few days, so make sure you re-visit our blog  for the answers! Feel free to post your answers below!

Easton Primary School visit to Folly Farm

A fun day was had, packed full of activities at Folly Farm. The pupils learnt all about different habitats, the food chain and how some animals have adapted to become predators.
A strong favourite amongst the many activities was the pond dipping exercise. This involved carefully working around a small pond at the farm, to uncover what creatures lie beneath the pond weed! An array of creatures were discovered including newts, pond snails, dragonfly nymphs, water boat men and water skaters. We even took a closer look at some of them under the microscope and then tried to figure out what eats what!
Pond dipping

Another exciting  tasks was the dissection of owl  pellets. These are solid clumps of bone and fur that owls cannot digest, so cough up. They are extremely useful in identifying what owls eat. The pupils worked well as a team to investigate  the remains within the pellets and found shrew and vole skeletons. We also learnt how the owl has adapted to become a top predator, using his acute eyesight and hearing and deadly claws to catch small mammals. Interesting discoveries were also made during a  mini beast hunt in the woods, whereby microhabitats were searched and spiders, ladybirds, caterpillars, fungi and woodlice were found.
Finding small skulls in owl pellets

Hear, in their own words,  what children  from Easton Primary School learnt from their visit to  Folly Farm
For more information on learning outdoors at Folly Farm take a look at our website: 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Batty in Bath... Bats for Bath Walk

Last night the final bat walk of the Avon Wildlife Trust’s ‘Bats for Bath’ project
was held at the Bath Recreation Ground. With the autumn nights closing in, the darker evenings offer a great opportunity to spot and learn about these intriguing creatures, flying about in the night sky, before they hibernate in the winter months. 

Bat information on offer
The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Bath, along with other bat enthusiasts, attended the event that was led by Laura Plenty (Chair of the Avon Bat Group). Laura gave us an introduction to the weird and wonderful world of bats, the only true flying mammal that has evolved so that their hands are wings. Bats make up a quarter of all mammals, can catch prey using echolocation and are the only creature able to delay fertilisation so that they give birth during the spring when temperatures are increased and there is enough insects available!

The Mayor of Bath, Laura Plenty, Smarty the bat and a young bat enthusiast
She also explained that bats are a fully legally protected species, and that their decline (70 % over the last 20-30 years) has been brought about by increased urbanisation combined with the decline in woodlands since WWII and loss of hedgerows due to farming intensification.  She also highlighted that the caves and mines of Bath are an important stronghold for the rare horseshoe bat, with a quarter of UK horseshoe bats living at Brown’s Folly Nature Reserve (Avon Wildlife Trust). 

Smarty the rescued bat on display
 A real treat was the guest appearance of Smarty, a serotine bat rescued by Avon Bat Group that Laura now looks after. He is unable to fly because of an injury to his wing so cannot live in the wild. He is extremely cute and it was amazing to see a bat up close and hear the loud munching noise as he devoured some mealworms and beetles right in front of us! Then, armed with bat detectors, we headed out to find these fascinating clever creatures!

Getting a closer look
Bat detecting outside

Watching bats catching insects over the river
Want to find out more about bats? Why not visit the Bats for Bath website,  the Bat Conservation Trust or join your local Bat Group (Avon Bat Group, Wiltshire Bat Group) or you can hire a bat detector and audio trail from your local library for Brown’s Folly Nature Reserve in Bath, Willsbridge Mills, Wick Golden Valley and Warmley Forest Park in Bristol.
Bath's night sky

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Great Environmental Education Resource Links!

For all teachers, parents or anyone inclined to pass on info about the great wonders of nature to anyone who'll listen, check out the brilliant website, Nature Net. It has loads of information on ideas for games and activities;  "National What Week?"- a guide to the national and international dates in the wildlife calender; as well as useful links to other websites jammed full of useful environmental related information. We've picked out a few below so have a look and enjoy!

Sir Robert Hitcham's Primary School, Suffolk - loads of great information on this school website which has been mostly compiled by the school children.

Young People's Trust for the Environment - loads of useful information for both teachers and students. Brilliant factsheets available on animals and environmental issues.

The Environmental Education Network - Brilliant source of information on everything environmental.

Squirrelling around Badocks Woods

Beautiful Badocks Woods.
 Last week we made the most of the fantastic weather by taking out eight groups of children from Little Mead and Badock's Woods Primary School's in Southmead to their local nature reserve, Badock's Wood.

Thanks to funding from the Airbus Corporate Foundation, children from these schools were able to visit and learn about the history and wildlife within this wonderful woodland in their very own local community. Through engaging this younger generation with a nature reserve on their doorstep, the children will hopefully be inspired to go again and show their family all that they've learnt.
A woodland creature made
by one of the children.

The Little Mead Primary School children (years 2 and 3) and Badock's Wood Primary School children (years 1, 2 and 3) got involved in a range of activities from documenting the day using digital cameras to getting their hands dirty making their own woodland creatures out of clay...some of which apparently even had super powers! 

A nature palette from Badocks Woods.

   The younger ones brought out their creative sides by making their very own works of art on a nature palette, using all of the different colours, shapes and textures they could find around them. The highlight of the trip for many of the children was the squirrel test, where children tested their skills as a squirrel by hiding their nuts in the woodland which they then had to try and find at the end of the day!  

One child thinks carefully where to
squirrel away her acorn.

Thank you to all of the children and teachers from Little Mead and Badocks Woods Primary Schools for making it such a fun, nature inspired day out. I hope some of you have managed to go back to the woods and find your clay creatures!