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Nine great activity ideas for the summer


Summer's here: my school broke up yesterday! (Scottish schools break up before those in the small country to the south of Scotland). I've got a lot of stuff planned for this summer, and I'll blog about those later in the holidays

If you are ever bored and looking for something to do, I have nine great ideas that I'm going to share with you. I have done all of these and they are great fun ways get out with your family during the summer. So here they are....

1. An hour in the woods

Two years ago, in the middle of writing my book, I broke my leg. Since I couldn't go out walkingon the moors or the hills, as I had crutches, so I had to find a new way where I could watch wildlife: and that's when I discovered how much fun it can be to sit in the  woods for an hour and write down what I saw. It worked really well, as I got to see woodpeckers, redstarts and roe deer close up. So, grab your binoculars and a notebook and get watching ! (Note: if you're in Scotland, take midge repellent).

2. Take casts of animal footprints

Summer is a great time to do casts of animal footprints you find, as the mud has often dried and hardened.  When I went out, I had some plaster of Paris bought off ebay, and a few other simple things, and came back with a deer print in dried plaster

3. Get an outdoor pack together

If you are going out walking or exploring then you will need a rucksack filled with everything you need. In my rucksack I carry my waterproof jacket, a bottle of water, a climbing rope, plastic bags and small tubs for bones. It makes exploring safer (which makes your parents happier), and you'll have everything to bring back finds.

4. Visit a RSPB reserve

These are a great way to spend a morning. I have blogged before about the ones near where I live, including the red kite centre (which isn't actually RSPB), and RSPB Loch Leven which used to be called Vane farm. Take binoculars and a bird book, and sit quietly and see what you can see. RSPB cafes are usually pretty ace as well, and there are always interesting people there.

5. Dissect a bird pellet

If you are lucky when you are out walking you might find a bird pellet, often below a tree at the edge of a wood, or at the bottom of a fencepost. When an owl or a bird of prey eats an animal, it eats it whole, but its body can't digest the fur and bones, so it coughs it up in a small compressed pellet. I have dissected these loads of these before. They are not just a great way to find out what the bird has been eating, but also a great way to find really small bones like mice skulls. Here's my guide when I blogged about it before.

6. Start using a trail camera

Okay, so this is a lot more expensive than the rest, but it's worth it.Two years ago I bought my first trail camera, which is a small camera that is attached to trees or fence posts and takes a video when it detects movement. Every since then, it's been out in the countryside almost every single night, and from it I've got loads of really good videos of otters, pine marten and badgers, which I wouldn't have been able to observe as closely otherwise. Here's my guide to trail cameras.

7. Find old buildings to explore

Old buildings are amazing to explore ! They can range from small farmhouses to old deserted castles (pictured above). But be careful: old, deserted buildings can be really dangerous, so you need to be sensible and to know the risks and your limits. I have found loads from looking at a 1:25,000 OS map, together with the satellite photos from Google maps,  together with some old fashioned exploring. By doing this I have found old sawmills, WW2 bunkers, ice houses and a old Roman tunnel !

8. Look for animal bones (obviously !)

As you know, this is something I do all year round, but the summer is the best time to start collecting because you can go out most days due to the great weather, and it is light from 4am to 11pm, so you have loads of time ! Here is a post I wrote on where to find common bones.

9. Visit a museum

If all else fails and it is raining, then you can always go to a museum. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know I love museums: they are great ways to see bones that are really hard to find, like the Irish elk ( which I'm sure every museum is obliged to have by law ) I have been to loads of museums from small, specialist ones, like the Grant museum of Zoology to unusual ones like The Treasures of the Earth.  Here's a list of all the museums I have blogged about.

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