Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Make your own Christmas Stars

With Christmas on its way, why not get creative and make some of your own decorations? It's a great activity to do with children and they can admire their creations through the Christmas holidays.

Whilst out and about in your local green space, collect twigs and take these home to start making a Christmas star! If you find any fur cones, bring them home as well as these look great decorated.


  How to make a Christmas Star:

1.  Select 5 of the straightest twigs (of similar thickness) and snap them to a similar length, depending on how big you want your star to be.

2.  Arrange the twigs in a star shape and glue into place at points where they are touching. Leave your star to dry overnight.

3.  When the glue is dry the following day, decorate your star however you like! Let your creativity fly! How about painting with glitter, covering with gold or silver tissue paper or wrapping with sparkley thread?

4.  When your star is finished, attach some thread and find a good place to hang it. You could even pop it on the top of your Christmas tree!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dolebury Warren's Late Autumn Fungi

I had a fabulous day out at Dolebury Warren on monday identifying late autumn fungi with expert help from local ecologist and mycologist, Justin Smith.

What a day we had! There were carpets of fungi to be found of every colour imaginable!  If you're out and about in Dolebury this autumn then have a look through the pictures below to see what you could find.

We found some very impressive fairy rings of Clouded Agaric. The size of fairy rings can be used to determine how old they are since they move outwards with time.

I enjoyed some of the Wood Blewit for my dinner, fried in garlic and butter...mmmm.

There was a huge array of different wax cap species that we found in the grass land areas of the reserve. These are often brightly coloured species with slimy caps. The slimey surface of many fungi acts as a protective measure against slugs and snails which although slimey themselves, are not so fond of other slimey things!

The bright colours of many of the wax cap fungi may make them appear poisonous however, a number of them, including the Scarlet Hood are in fact edible.

The distinctive smell of some fungi help in their identification. Rosy Bonnet (Mycena rosea) smells of radish; Clitocybe fragrans smells of aniseed and Hygrocybe nitrata smells of bleach (nitrous...hence the name).

Here's a few interesting ones for you:

The milk cap Lactarius deterrimus exudes droplets of 'milk' when damaged. This specimen gave a bright orange milk which turned dark red within 10 minutes.
You need to have a keen eye to spot Earth tongues. If you look carefully, you might see a few of these poking up out of the grass like little elf ears...or tongues!
And finally, the infamous Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) which we found nestled under some trees. It is probably the easiest fungus to identify with its distinctive red cap with white warts, and is often depicted in fairy tales alongside elves and goblins. This  fungus gained its name from the medieval tradition of breaking it into milk and using it to stupefy flies  for easy swatting.
There are more fungi photos from the day on our flickr page.

Thanks to Justin Smith for sharing his knowledge on a fantastic fungi filled day at Dolebury Warren!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Create your own Leaf Mobile

This time of year is beautiful with all of the rich colours of the falling leaves. Why not try and capture a bit of that autumn beauty to bring indoors by making your very own leaf mobile! It's a great activity to get kids outdoors and trying to find as many leaves as they can with different shapes and colours.

What you will need:

Colourful leaves
A heavy book for pressing (yellow pages work well!)
Clear sticky back plastic / contact paper
Tree branch (found on the ground, not on a tree!)

How to make your leaf mobile:
  1. Collect fallen leaves - try and find as many different types and colours as you can.
  2. Press the leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a couple of days to flatten them (the Yellow Pages work well!).
  3. For each leaf, cut two squares of sticky back plastic about an inch wider than your leaf.
  4. Peel the backing off one of the squares, lay it down sticky side up and place your leaf in the centre. Peel the backing of the second square and carefully place it on top.
  5. Punch a hole in the plastic above the leaf (at the stem end).
  6. Carefully trim the plastic around the leaf, making sure to leave a small border.
  7. Hang the leaves from a branch using thread and find a suitable place to hang your mobile. How about suspending it from a curtain pole?
  8. Now you can enjoy autumn all year round!
Have a go at identifying what tree your leaves have come from. Here's a leaf identification guide to give you a hand.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Hedgehogs still need help!

You may have seen Annie from the Help a Hedgehog hospital on Autumnwatch Unsprung last week. She talked about the importance of keeping your eyes open for the autumn orphans that are around at the moment.
photo: Gillian Day
Sadly these beautiful mammals have declined by 30% since the 1990's, mainly due to road casualties and loss of habitat, but increasingly, many young hoglets do not survive their winter hibernation due to a lack of fat reserves. Young hoglets need to reach 500g - 600g in weight in order to make it through the cold winter months so we need to do our bit by putting out fresh water and meat based pet food in this important time.If you do find a young hedgehog that you are concerned about, contact the Hedgehog Preservation society or a local group which you should be able to find online.

Some of you might be wondering about 'Sonny' that I mentioned in a previous blog. He was a tiny, hungry but very friendly autumn baby that I found in my own back garden.Thankfully, thanks to the great work that Annie and her team do, Sonny is making good progress and I hope to have him, and a friend, home soon to overwinter in a hutch in my shed. He still is less than 400g in weight and is therefore unlikely to survive the winter if he was released now so I am looking forward to giving him and his friend some TLC, along with some tasty mealworms, dried cat food and fresh water.

In the Spring they will be released into my garden so they can rummage around in the long grass, enjoy lots of tasty snacks from the piles of dead wood and compost heaps then sneak through the hole in the fence to my neighbours garden to explore the world beyond.

If you think you might have some hedgehogs around where you live, look out for footprints in the mud. Notice, the different shapes of the front and back feet and the distinctive tracks. You may also find hedgehog 'poo' on your lawn. This is very dark, almost black and you can sometimes see beetle wing cases within it.                                         For more information about hedgehogs and how you can help see our Wild hedgehogs website or become a hedgehog champion at Hedgehog Street -  a great project from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
I'd like to say thanks, in particular, to Carole at Help a Hedgehog for the care and attention she has given Sonny to restore his health and of course, to all those who care for hedgehogs around the country.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Exploring Brown's Folly Nature Reserve!

I took a trip out yesterday to Brown's Folly to take some pictures to include in the 'Nature Journal' we are currently compiling. It was a very misty morning with very atmospheric autumnal scenes.
Beautiful autumn colours!
A misty spider's web

All was very quiet, with just the 'swish' of walking through the thick carpet of leaves on the ground, until... 'Baaaaaaaahhhhhhhh'... I heard Daisy and Lou Lou , the two new residents of Brown's Folly!
Daisy and Lou Lou

These two gorgeous Wiltshire Horn sheep had moved in that morning and looked very happy indeed! You find out more about Daisy and Lou Lou here:

Find out about Brown's Folly Nature Reserve through our Wildschools website:

Follow us on twitter for all things educational, fun and wild!!/wildschools 

Monday, 7 November 2011

How to become a Nibbled Nut Detective!

Nibbled Hazelnuts                                 Credit: Preoccupations
 Autumn is the richest time of the year in the plant calendar as many bear their fruits and nuts. Nuts such as acorns, hazelnuts and chestnuts provide a welcome treat to small mammals as they fatten up before hibernating for the winter.

Venture out into the woods and try collecting as many nibbled nuts as you can find. Hazelnuts are the best for identifying what's been nibbling them. Use our nibbled hazelnut guide below to find out what's been nibbling yours! You might want to use a magnifying glass to get a better look.

Nibbled Hazelnut Guide
  • Squirrels split the nuts neatly in half.
  • Wood mice leave tooth marks on the nut surface and parallel toothmarks around the edge of the hole.
  • Common Dormice leave a smooth edge to the hole and their toothmarks are at an angle to the hole on the nut surface.
  • Bank voles create a round hole and leave tooth marks around the edge but not on the nut surface.
  • Great spotted woodpeckers break the nut into pieces or leave large irregular pieces.
  • Woodpeckers and nuthatches often wedge hazelnuts into crevices on trees to hammer them more easily.

Get involved and let us know what you found!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Victoria Park Primary School go Hedgehog-tastic!

Photo: Gillian Day
 A reception class from Victoria Park Primary School decided to choose The Avon Wildlife Trust as their charity for their school charity week. Feeling pretty happy about this, we decided to go in to the school and give them a morning full of hedgehog fun!

The children learnt all about how hedgehogs find their food by playing our hedgehog game - using their sense of smell to sniff out any slugs they wanted to eat and curling up into a ball if they smelt a badger!

Have a listen to the fantstic hedgehoggy facts the children learnt here.
We also got our hands dirty making clay hedgehogs with the group. Have a look at some of their creations below.

We rounded off the day with Ann's very own story, 'The Adventures of Spike The Hedgehog' whilst I acted out Spike's adventure in the Avon Wildlife Trust's very own hedgehog costume!

What a brilliant morning and great group of children. Thanks to the Yellow Class at Victoria Park School for choosing to support us!