Tonight was the last episode of this year's BBC Springwatch. It was an amazing series, as they all are. If you live outside the UK, Springwatch/Autumnwatch/Winterwatch are a live TV series, three times a year broadcast from a nature reserve, featuring incredible filming about all the wildlife you can find here. You might remember I have been on BBC Autunmwatch before with Chris Packham and Winterwatch Unsprung earlier this year with Nick Baker. This year is it's tenth anniversary.
So if you're a parent, and your children has enjoyed Springwatch, and you want to find out more about wildlife, what can you do next ? Here are five simple ideas, based on things I have done and blogged about before. And as a kid, I can say that I enjoyed them all !
1. Just get out there
2. Visit a RSPB reserve
Springwatch this year has been filmed at a RSPB reserve called Minsmere. There was so much wildlife there and they had so much footage of amazing animals, not just birds. RSPB reserves are a great way to find loads of animals without disturbing them, and you can be a RSPB member very cheaply. I've blogged before about visiting RSPB Loch Leven, but there is also the Argaty Red Kite centre a few miles away which is a really good place to see red kites come and feed.
You'll need binoculars and a good bird book. Dad uses this one, which is from the publisher of my book, but he bought it well before they approached me.
3. Become an expert on a tiny area.
This year I have been focusing almost entirely on one small patch of woodland where I have been filming the pine marten. The wood is probably less than 150m x 50m but I have found so much wildlife near the wood, including red kites, sparrowhawks, hen harriers, jays, owls, kestrels, curlews, and skylarks, rabbits, foxes, mice, voles, and even a new born roe deer !
By visiting one small area regularly, you get more in touch with the nature that lives there. It just shows what you can find in a small area if you look hard enough.
4. Track animals when you're not there
Owl pellets are from when an owl or bird eats prey and swallows them whole. The birds later spit out "pellets" which are the animals bones and fur. You can dissect these pellets to find out what owls have been eating. I blogged about it here.
By finding poo you can see what animals live there. Pine marten poo is very distinctive and useful to working out where it has been hunting.
Footprints and 'slots' (for deer) show what animals have been there, how fast they were running, and how old they are. I blogged about finding deer slots, and then again about making plaster casts of animal footprints.
If you've been following my blog you'll know I love my trail camera. It's a small waterproof box with a sensor, a camera lens, and a light source, and it films any wildlife that trigger it. It's expensive, but very addictive, and you'll see all sorts of wildlife that you wouldn't normally get up close to.
5. Set a one hour challenge
This is something I did last year after breaking my leg. Pick a time - I did it early on summer mornings - and a spot in a wood. Be quiet and still, and record any wildlife you spot. I saw buzzards, cuckoos dunlins, roe deer, wrens, chaffinches, redstarts and woodpigeons.
6. Don't say no.
If you're a parent, your child will ALWAYS find something outside which interests them, even if it's a leaf, a rock, a type of plant, a bone, bugs, worms, a dead animal or whatever. Not all parents like all of these things, but even if you think it's yucky, or not interesting, doesn't mean your child will too. You might be wrong. It's important to be hygienic, and washing hands before eating, but most of what can be found out there can be picked up and brought home to be studied. Don't stop your children being interested in nature just because you don't like bits of it. My parents let me collect bones, and five years later, see where that has taken me !
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