Back in February, my Wildlife Watch group celebrated the last day of National Bird Box week with a session all about birds. It was half term so we had a bit of a smaller group than usual but everyone was really keen to get out on the reserve. The plan was to walk to the Kingfisher Hide and see if we could find different birds to the ones we had spotted from the Tower Hide the previous month, then follow up by making bird feeders in the classroom and of course filling in the next page of our scrapbook!
It’s feels like Spring is coming – we were totally surprised to see a pair of Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) waddling around the car park followed by an entourage of 6 tiny goslings! It’s really rather early for the eggs to have hatched but it has been a strange season, and in any case they seem to be doing OK. The geese had been nesting in the kestrel box near Tower Hide (follow this link to see a great photo along with Attenborough Assistant Manager’s comments on the story). Can you imagine being a tiny gosling having to make a 20ft leap of faith on your first time out of the nest?
When we got to the Kingfisher hide we spotted the Egyptian Geese again – I don’t know how they managed to swim ahead of us. I tried to take a few photos through my binoculars and I think you can just make out the little fluffy chicks although they are very well camouflaged against the gravel.
As we continued on the walk, one of our eagle-eyed Watchers spotted a heron in the reeds not too far from the path. While we were looking at it, a huge queen bumblebee came out of nowhere and buzzed around our heads. Everyone called on me to identify the species but I’m out of practice and couldn’t get close enough! I have a feeling it was a red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) because I did see any orange/yellow or white markings but I couldn’t say for sure, which is disappointing. Still: another sign of spring!
The view from the hide was magnificent. Although it was quite a cloudy day, when the sun shone through it lit up the golden reed beds and really made them glow. We saw teal and shelducks, the smallest and largest members of the duck family respectively, as well as other ducks including gadwall, tufted and mandarin.
When we got back to the classroom we wrote down all the birds (and the bee!) that we had seen out on the reserve. We’ve started a scrapbook, in which the one of the children writes a list of all the wildlife we’ve seen and a short diary entry each session. It’s really nice to have a record of what we’ve been up to so the kids can look back over it at the end of the year. Time got away from us while we were out in the hides and the session was nearly over but we quickly put together some pine-cone bird feeders (described in my previous post here) and some recycled tetra-pak feeders. The tetra-pak feeders are made by cutting a window out of the side of an old juice or milk carton, filling with seed (the easiest way is using a funnel and going through the lid!) and then poking a stick through below the window to make a perch. Finally, put a piece of string through the top and you’re ready hang it. Hopefully these will help encourage birds in our kids’ gardens 🙂
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