Sunday, 30 September 2012

What is it? #2 revealed

photo: Kate Pressland
On Friday we set you the challenge of working out who left the footprints in the picture. They were found on Weston Moor, one of Avon Wildlife Trust's nature reserves and belong to a European badger (meles meles).

Badgers like to make setts in or near woodlands but often feed over nearby grasslands. Badgers are omnivores and eat a wide range of food including nuts, berries, mice, rats, hedgehogs, frogs and snails. Their favourite food is earthworms and they can eat up to 200 in one day!

They are brilliant diggers and have amazingly strong front paws. They can even dig faster than a man with a spade, making them the fastest digging animal on earth.

Badgers live in family groups, in underground in homes called setts. Some setts have been used for over 100 years by many generations of badgers. 

They tend to mark their territory with latrines (loos) and by rubbing their bottom on a tree or stone to leave their scent. Each badger has a slightly different musky smell which is how they recognise each other.Have you ever noticed that familiar smell of a parent or member of your family? Well, it's like for badgers all the time when they see their friends.

photo: Darin Smith

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bringing text books to life with secondary school courses

Did you know that Avon Wildlife Trust delivers courses for secondary school students?
We're proud to launch our new secondary website packed full of information on our courses and education centres, fresh ideas for out of classroom learning and some great ways to get your students out in the fresh air.
Year 8 Biscuit Bandit science challenge
Find out how you can boost your students learning and inspire them to enjoy the outdoors and book your class in for a day or residential school trip.  
From getting to know your new year 7's with a survival skills or wildlife filming programme to biological investigations with year 13's we offer a range of day and residential courses supporting the curriculum through exploring landscapes, investigating wild places and learning about the abundance of wildlife on our doorstep.
Year 13 AQA Biology Woodland investigation

Take advantage of our day visits from just £9+VAT per student or our  range of popular residential programmes from just £65+VAT per student to make the most of the holistic learning opportunities whilst giving your students that added excitement of life away from home in a safe and secure environment. 

The Learning Team for Avon Wildlife Trust is made up of an enthusiastic group of specialists with a wealth of experience in out-of-classroom learning. With you they can devise a tailored programme to suit the needs of your students and your KS3/4 and Post 16 syllabuses.  If you would like to know more please visit our website or contact Jo Morris, Learning Development Manager on 0117 9177270 ext 316 or

What is it? #2

photo: Kate Pressland
Can you guess who made these footprints? They were found on Weston Moor in the Gordano valley by our North Somerset Wetlands Project (NSWP) Senior Project Officer, Kate Pressland.

Thick mud is a great place to look for tracks and trails left behind by animals, so this is a great time to go out and about looking for clues.

Have you seen any near where you live? Have you been able to work out what they are?  If not, send us a picture and we'll try and identify them for you.

Find out on Sunday who the mystery creature was and see if your guess was correct. We'll give you lots more information about them then too!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

What is it? #1 revealed.....

photo:Julie Doherty
Well, were you right? The very cute creatures in this week's picture were dormice, also known as hazel dormice as their favourite food is hazelnuts.

They are nocturnal and mainly arboreal in the summer. This means that they live in trees, rarely going down to the ground. This helps to keep them safe from predators.

photo:Julie Doherty

The babies are born blind and the ones in the photo are still very young. They were found in a dormouse box in Avon. This box had been used to make a nest and contained several babies. The babies stay with their mother for up to 6 weeks and must weigh 12-15g before hibernation, otherwise they may not have enough fat stored to get them through the winter. At Avon Wildlife Trust we monitor a selection of dormouse boxes across the region, weighing and sexing all the dormice that we find so that we can get a good idea of how the population is doing. All our data goes to the People's Trust for Endangered Species which runs the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme.

You won't find dormice in Scotland or Northern Ireland and there are very few in Wales. Even in England they have become extinct in up to 7 counties. The dormouse is now considered to be in decline and extremely vulnerable and consequently listed as a Biodiversity Action Plan species. You can find out much more on this dormouse factsheet, compiled by Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust.

Friday, 21 September 2012

What is it? #1

Welcome to our first 'What is it?' quiz. Every Friday, just for fun, we will post a picture of wildlife that we've seen around Avon. See if you can identify what it is, tell us if you've ever seen it yourself and share your stories.

So, first up are these lovely creatures,

photo:Julie Doherty

Do you know what they are? Have you ever seen any? What do you think they eat?

Find out on Sunday - we'll post a new blog at 6pm with the answers and more information.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Were you right?

Yesterday I asked you if you knew what this little creature was (left). If you're still not sure, I'll put you out of your misery. It's the caterpillar of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, which will look like this picture on the right when it's an adult. Isn't that amazing! The adults hibernate over the winter but if the weather is mild they will wake up early. They can be seen all year round but more commonly hibernate until around March or April.They lay their eggs on nettles as this is the food that the caterpillars like to eat strangely. I have tried nettle tea and nettle soup and both were quite tasty but I think I'd like a bit more variety in my diet.

I also asked you if you could find out the common name for this helophilus pendulus hoverfly. Well, appropriately, it's also known as a sun-fly and I could see why yesterday. It looked like it was having a lovely time basking in the sun on the ivy. This is a very widespread and common hoverfly, with amazing markings. Hoverflies are really important pollinators and many have bright yellow and black patterns to mimic wasps and bees and keep predators away.

The larvae of this particular species are called rat tailed maggots and live in the water, so I imagine this one came from the pond at Callington Road NR. In the larval stage they eat rotting organic matter in the water and breathe through a long 'snorkel' that runs from their abdomen to the surface of the water.

These sunny days are great for spotting wildlife so next time you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you might see.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Callington Road nature reserve

It's a gorgeous day here today so I decided to go and explore Callington Road nature reserve in preparation for a new project starting in a couple of weeks with Ilminster Avenue E-ACT Academy. This project is part of Bristol city council's Wild City project and will provide field trips for students at the nature reserve so that they can discover all the amazing wildlife on their doorstep. Even before I got to the reserve I saw this little creature. Do you know what kind of caterpillar it is? I saw lots of these on my cherry tree at home last week too. If you think you know the answer leave a comment below.I'll post the answer on tomorrows blog so come back and check to see if you were right.

The sun was shining brightly and the first thing I noticed when I arrived at the reserve was the lovely red damselflies flying around the pond. Lots of insects were making the most of the late warmth of the bright sunshine. 

I saw this too, it's a type of hoverfly called a helophilus pendulus but it has a much more fun common name - see if you can find it out. It has brilliant patterns on it's back and was basking in the sun not far from the pond.

The reserve itself was full of berries and fruit which are really important for the birds and mammals who live here. At this time of year the hawthorn berries, plums and blackberries provide much needed energy as animals start to work harder to keep themselves warm. Today though, the birds were in full song, chatting to each other across the crisp, autumnal air of the reserve.

 If you fancy taking a look yourself, why not download our nature journal, made specifically for the Callington Road nature reserve. You can find it on our wildschools website here  and keep an eye out form more news of our project, we will keep our website updated with news and events.

Come back tomorrow to find out what sort of caterpillar it is and the common name for the hover fly!