Well, what a great Big Schools' Birdwatch it's been! Our deadline for results has now passed, thanks to everyone who has submitted them, we can't wait to see how birds are doing in schools across the UK this year, and the results will be announced before the Easter Holidays!
I need to pass many thanks to all our guest Big Schools' Birdwatch bloggers, especially Colette Cotton from St Mary's who brings us this second update, including some blogs from her students!
Here are a few photos from our Y1 creating Bird Feeders and also their visit from the Owl man, who brought in a European Eagle and a Barn Owl.
The pupils loved the owls and were surprised at how soft they both felt and were quite frightened by the size of their wings!
We had great fun outside in the wind and wet making the bird feeders...very messy...but no peanut butter used as one child in Y1 has a peanut allergy.
Bird Watch Blogs from Year 3 pupils at St Mary’s CEP Folkestone
Hi, I’m Hannah and on the 22nd January both of our Year 3 classes went on a bird watch.
We were divided into 3 groups so we could hopefully, gather different data from around the vicinity of our school. This was because we were starting Data Handling in Numeracy and were going to compare the different results.
When I found out we were going to watch the birds I was thrilled. I learnt that we had to be very quiet and not move, so that the birds would come out.
Hi, I’m Stella and my group went to the Warren, where it was very cold with some snow still lying on the grass.
It was a lovely sunny day and we could see the White Cliffs where there are loads of seagulls. We also saw the blue English Channel, it was all great fun and something very different to do.
I learnt that we had to be very quiet so the birds didn’t fly away. Here are some of the birds that I saw…Herring Gulls, Blackbirds, Starlings, Robins, Pigeons, Sparrows and Magpies.
Hi, I’m Sky and my group went to the Warren as we were doing a survey about birds for the RSPB’s Great School Bird Watch.
I had so much fun, it was sunny and very icy and I nearly slipped and it was cold!
We saw loads of Sea Gulls (spelt by Sky, Sea Goals) , I saw 29, but my friend Stella saw 30 and Lucy saw 32! Stella loved looking at all the cool, awesome birds and liked the Blue Tit.
Finally, here is the completed graph showing St Mary's Birdwatch data!
Guest blog: Hattie's a woman on a mission. Her new year's resolution is to kick kiddie consumerism to the curb and raise her little boy without flashing mountains of cash - that's means plenty of imagination, DIY, recycling and fresh air. Check out her story at Free Our Kids. When we suggested she could have a go at making her own bird feeders and nest boxes as some family fun, she was definitely up for the challenge. Here's how she got on.
“Birds” said my two year old son, pointing out of the bus window. I didn't pay a great deal of notice, local birdlife in our area largely being split between pigeons with two feet, pecking in littered pizza boxes, and pigeons with one foot, hopping gloomily along the gutter.
But “birds,” he went on insisting, jamming a finger forcefully against the smeared glass. “birds! Birds! BIIIIIIRDS!” And that’s when I realised that they weren’t birds. Not in the real sense anyway. He was pointing at passing women.
I have NO idea where he picked this up. I swear, with hand on heart, that his father and I only ever refer to women in the most respectful of terms. But look, this is a boy growing up in the grimy East End of London where birds walk along the pavements carrying shopping or pushing prams, wildlife is on the telly and grass is a luxury, measured and marketed in feet by estate agents.
What’s in a name? And does it matter? My son is aware, after all, that there are real birds out there. And he knows that birds with wings and birds with bingo-wings are, for all the linguistic confusion, different species.
Besides, I, his mother, spent half of my childhood in the countryside. I love nature and I understand its value. But I couldn’t match a blue-tit to its name. I’ve never known the satisfaction of seeing a beautiful creature shoot past and saying, “Wow! There goes was a….”
On the other hand, I’m a firm believer that the world gives us toddlers for a reason. To test the limits of our patience and the depths of our drinks cabinet, sure, but also to give us a second chance to explore the world with curiosity.
There has to be an upside to the endless streams of “why?” after all. “Why is the sky blue?” Well… I’m not sure. A chance to go to the Science Museum and marvel at the space probes. “Why do chickens lay eggs?” An opportunity to visit the local city farm and speak to the experts.
And so to birds. I may not have learnt the different names during my own childhood, but maybe I could do it this time, through Johnny’s. So, in the spirit of discovery, and my wider New Year’s resolution to detox from kiddie consumerism for a whole year, I thought we’d spend the weekend in the countryside at the boy's grandparents and make some bird feeders. And then we’d camp out with a book on birds, binoculars and biscuits and see what we could spot. Just like Bear Grylls.
In the end, we got a little over-enthusiastic. ‘Some bird feeders’ turned into a bit of a bird-boarding house. Because it was SO. MUCH. FUN.
Do you know what was truly brilliant about this project? And what, actually, would make it an ideal half-term project? It’s truly multi-generational.
Our team consisted of me (in possession clueless enthusiasm, some Pinterest guides and the RSPB recipe for bird-feed-cakes) Grandpa (in possession of real ornithological awareness and a fantastic hoard of empty crates, egg cartons and twine) and Johnny (in possession of short-bursts of enthusiasm and a passion for binoculars).
It involves lots of different activities (cooking the feed-cakes, building, painting...) each taking only a short amount of time so able to hold even a truculent two-year-old’s attention. They could easily be broken up and spread up over a few days, too. And it would, actually, have been even better with some school age kids on board to help with the more complicated bits of painting, baking and assembly. On the other hand, it could be scaled up or down to suit any gang.
It’s free (if you’re the collecting sort who tends to have old boxes and things lying around ‘just in case’), fun and full of fresh air.
With breaks for naps, lunches, diversions etc etc, it took us all day. Then we strung up our creation in a tree, sat by the back-door, armed with our bird guide and Grandpa and ate some digestives while gripping our binoculars. We may only have identified, so far, some blue-tits and a robin. But it’s amazing what a thrill it was to see them, eating the seed cakes we made and sitting in our orange-crate palace.
As for the naming of things, the boy may only have got as far as “blue birdies”. But I’m pretty sure he knows, now, that the winged ones in flight are just as exciting as their pavement-bound namesakes.
RSPB Scotland's Youth & Education Team reflect on their favourite childhood moments in nature, and remind us of an exciting new initiative to reward children and young people today who are protecting Scotland's natural environment for future generations to enjoy.
“Snail farming”, “camping trips standing under a towel in the rain”, “stickleback fishing in the glen”, “spying a glimpse of nesting seabirds on the Isle of Arran”, “creating a woodlice haven in my garden”. When RSPB Scotland staff were asked to reveal their favourite nature-inspired moment from their childhood, these were just a few of the wonderful stories that were shared through artwork. The chances are that most of us of a certain age will share similar memories, and these early experiences will have helped to shape and grow a connection to nature throughout our lives.
Fewer children are now enjoying these early experiences in wild places than their peers from 30 years ago, resulting in young people today becoming increasingly disconnected from nature. Without a connection to nature, today’s young people can’t enjoy the physical, educational and mental health benefits that access to the outdoors are known to bring. Not only that, but without such connections, they are also unlikely to develop feelings of responsibility to the natural world, and are therefore less likely to take action to protect and conserve our environment.
The good news is that experiencing the outdoors is still a natural part of many children and young people’s development, and when these like-minded future conservationists get together in schools or groups, their enthusiasm for wildlife and nature can help them achieve some amazing things! There are 23 RSPB Wildlife Explorer and Phoenix Groups in Scotland, filled to the brim with children and young people from 5 to 19 years of age, taking on conservation projects such as community wildlife gardening, building nesting rafts for ducks, and promoting the local wild places in their own communities.
This work is being replicated in schools and youth groups across the country, and RSPB Scotland wants to recognise these achievements in this years Nature of Scotland Awards, which celebrates excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature conservation. The Youth and Education Award is open to any school or youth group who can demonstrate that they have been involved in making a real difference to protecting and conserving Scotland’s habitats and wildlife. All the details you need to enter can be found in my previous blog posting here and on the Nature of Scotland website. Please be quick – the deadline is Friday 15th March.
Good luck to all the entrants - RSPB Scotland’s Education & Youth team can’t wait to see what Scotland’s schools and youth groups have to offer to this exciting new award!
Oh – and my favourite nature-inspired memory involves a sunshine-filled early morning walk, crossing the River Druie just outside of Aviemore, and seeing my first-ever osprey fly right in front of me and come to land in a pebbly island in the river to devour its fishy breakfast! We’d love to hear yours, so please share it below!
One Primary 5 class at Duddingston Primary in Edinburgh took part in the Big Schools Birdwatch this year, after being encouraged by one of their own pupils, nine year old Johnny Blairford. Julia Horton, from the Times Educational Supplement Scotland, joined in the fun, and you can read her full report here.
Johnny’s enthusiasm for birds began a few years ago he says, when he saw a documentary on TV about birds and how they fly. He was so keen for his school to receive a visit from the RSPB, that he took it upon himself to call and request a visit in the run-up to the Big Schools Birdwatch. Judy Paul, our Lifelong Learning Manager, who is based at Loch Leven reserve, headed over to Duddingston Primary to meet Johnny and his classmates.
After a morning of discussion and activities, the class decamped outside to see what birds were around. Using their newly found, and in a few of Johnny's classmates' cases, thier existing bird ID knowledge and birdwatching skills, the class were lucky enough to spot a flock of redwings, and a song thrush. This was a particularly special experience for them, as they had only just learnt from Judy that this lovely songbird has decreasing in numbers over the past thirty years.
Back indoors, and the class were super keen to be involved in preparing an impressive presentation, which was delivered this to the rest of the school at their assembly. This mini peer education session was extremely well received, proving that peers can be great advocates for imparting knowledge, particularly around conservation issues. Watching them in action, P5 teacher Kelly Inch said: "They have really listened and taken everything on board. To see them passing on what they have learned so quickly is incredible.”
If your class or youth group is involved in similar peer education initiatives to spread the word about conservation and encourage children and young people to grow a connection to nature, we’d love to hear your stories! If you're looking for ways to get started, why not try out some of our bird quiz videos made with the help of RSPB Wildlife Explorer Groups? You can find these here, in an earlier blog in the Learning Community.
The children at Boughton and Dunkirk primary school found the RSPB bird watching day fun, educational and exciting, with lots of new birds being spotted around the grounds. As a school, the bird that was spotted the most was the blackbird. All the children involved saw a variety of birds and recorded their findings.
“We saw fourteen birds altogether. Fieldfare birds need lots of berries. We also saw five collared doves” – Harrison & Kaitlen (yr R)
“We saw a blackbird and a robin. I saw a sparrow, it was a colourful bird” – Skye (yr 1)
“The ones we saw the most were 4 blackbirds and 4 carrion crows. We got to see a song thrush. They are really rare so we enjoyed it!” – Toby, Jacob, Harry & Gabriel (yr 5)
“We saw six black birds, two blue tits, one robin, one collared dove and a redwing.” – Thomas (yr 3)
Not only did the children spot the birds, but some also came up with fascinating facts about them!
“We saw a redwing. It comes to England when it’s really cold. It lives in Norway and Sweden.” – Lily, Maisie & Grace (yr 3)
All children had a great day and with this new found knowledge, will continue to bird watch to see what kinds of birds they spot.