Visiting Skomer Island

On Sunday 13th June I visited Skomer Island.

We went on a boat to get there. When we got on the boat there was a sign saying to check your luggage to make sure there weren’t any rats or mice hiding in there! That’s because they don’t live there at the moment and if they got onto the island they might hurt the seabirds. On some other islands with lots of seabirds, introduced predators like rats have caused big problems for seabirds and made numbers go down.

When I was on the boat I felt happy and excited. Quite soon after we left, we started seeing lots of puffins swimming and flying off to catch fish for their young.

Skomer is looked after by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. When we arrived there, there was a lady who talked to us and the other people from our boat. She told us about the wildlife there and she told us that it was really important to stay on the paths because the ground is quite delicate because of all the puffin and Manx shearwater burrows and it might break the burrows if you stand on them.

We went for a walk round the island. We saw lots of puffins! The puffins were coming and going from their burrows. We even saw some going in and out of their burrows and some were walking on the paths! Some puffins were digging. We saw a puffin go into a burrow and lots of mud and soil started to whoosh out! I loved the puffins! I thought they were cute and funny, especially their beaks. My favourite thing was watching them going into their burrows.

We also saw black and brown rabbits. Rabbits are good for the wildlife on Skomer because puffins and Manx shearwaters can use their old burrows and they keep the grass and bushes down so wild flowers can grow and they provide more food for the predators to eat so they might eat them instead of the seabirds. I was excited to see black rabbits!

Other birds we saw were guillemots and razorbills flying around by the sea and nesting on the cliffs. A long way out to sea there were gannets diving for food. Under where the gannets were diving there were dolphins! Mummy and Daddy definitely saw them and I think I saw one too. We also saw lots of seals on the rocks near the sea.

Skomer is extremely important for Manx shearwaters but we didn’t see any because they’re nocturnal. When we were walking around the island we saw some things that looked like cages. I asked the lady about them at the end and she said it is to do with some research being done by Oxford University to learn about how Manx shearwaters use the earth’s magnetic field to find their way around. Scientific research to learn about seabirds is important because it helps us find more and better ways to help them.

Visiting Skomer made me feel even more like I want to help seabirds and sea animals. Puffins are on the Red List for UK birds and they are listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. Puffins are doing well on Skomer but numbers overall are going down really fast. I think that’s sad because puffins are so nice! Overfishing is a big problem for puffins because it means there isn’t enough food for them. You can help by using the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) Good Fish Guide to make sure you only eat sustainable fish and by only buying fish that has a Marine Stewardship Council logo. I don’t eat any fish because I want them to be able to stay in the wild.

Climate change and pollution are also big problems for puffins and other sealife. The day after visiting Skomer my brothers and I did a beach clean at Marloes Sands to try and help sealife. You can help not dropping litter and by litter picking too. You can also help by using less plastic and trying to reuse and recycle as much as you can.

I think Skomer is a lovely and exciting place and I really want to go there again. I want to do everything I can to help seabirds and other sealife.

Please help sealife too. Thank you!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Garden Wildlife Surveys

Here’s my third video for National Children’s Gardening Week, all about how you can help wildlife in your garden. This video is about wildlife surveys you can do in your garden. Getting involved in wildlife surveys is a chance to learn more about the wildlife in your garden and it helps wildlife because it helps us find out how the wildlife is doing.

Here it is!

Here are some links to find out more about the surveys in the video:

Plantlife’s Every Flower Counts
Garden Moth Scheme (GMS)
BTO Garden Birdwatch
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count

I hope you enjoy doing some of these surveys!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Upcycling in the Garden

This week is National Children’s Gardening Week and I’ve been making some videos about helping wildlife in your garden.

My first video was about plants for wildlife.

My second video is about some ideas for upcycling in your garden. Here it is!

I hope you enjoyed watching it and I hope it’s given you some ideas!

National Children’s Gardening Week: Plants for Wildlife

This week is National Children’s Gardening Week. It’s about how fun gardens are for children. I like gardening and I especially like wildlife gardening and trying to make my garden as good for wildlife as possible.

For National Children’s Gardening Week I’m making some videos about my garden.

I have done one so far. It’s about plants that especially help wildlife. It’s called Plants for Wildlife.

You can watch it if you like!

Thank you for helping wildlife in your garden! Look out for my other videos!

World Bee Day

Today is World Bee Day! Bees are really important because we need them to pollinate plants including a lot of the food we eat. But bee numbers are going down and they need help! Here are some things that we have done and you can do to help bees.

Flowers for bees
Flowers are really important for bees because they need them to get pollen and nectar for food. One of the most important things you can do to help bees is plant lots of bee-friendly flowers.

It’s especially important to make sure you’ve got flowers growing for as much of the year as possible so bees can find enough food all year round.

Some of the bee-friendly flowers we’ve planted this year are crocuses, sunflowers, cornflowers, allium, foxgloves, snapdragons, hollyhocks, cosmos, aster and beans. We’ve also made a big flowerbed full of lavender and planted thyme in old pallets.

I’ve taken cuttings from flowering currant, rosemary, honeysuckle, penstemon and blackthorn to try and grow more plants that bees like.

A good way to get more bee friendly plants for your garden is to watch to see how many bees come to different plants then ask if you can take cuttings or collect seeds.

Lots of wildflowers are good for bees. We’ve planted some flowerbeds full of wildflowers in our garden to help bees and other wildlife. Another way to help bees is to leave wildflowers like dandelions, green alkanet, buttercups and dead nettles that grow by themselves instead of weeding them out. When we were weeding our seed trays, I rescued all the red dead nettles and put them in a pot and they look lovely.

We also take part in No Mow May, run by Plantlife. In No Mow May, you have to not mow the lawn for the whole of May. This helps wildflowers grow in your lawn and that’s good for bees.

At the end of No Mow May, you can take part in the Every Flower Counts survey to find out how many bees your lawn can feed. It’s even better to begin in spring and let part of your lawn grow long and not mow it all summer. Last year, the flowers we got growing in our front lawn included bird’s foot trefoil, tufted vetch, common vetch, lady’s mantle, wood avens, bindweed, red clover, white clover, buttercups, groundsel, dandelions, daisies, cat’s ear, mouse ear hawkweed, lesser trefoil, fox and cubs and Welsh poppies. Lots of those flowers are really good for bees.

Water
Bees need water to drink, especially in the summer when it’s hot and dry. You can help by making a bee drinking station. You have to find a tray or shallow bowl and put stones in it for bees to land on to drink. Then you need to put it somewhere sunny in your garden, fill it with water and keep it filled up.

Homes for bees
Another way to help bees is to build a bee house. You need bean poles or special bee tubes about 15cm long or you can drill holes in a block of wood. The tubes or holes need to be between 4mm and 10mm wide and it’s good to have lots of different sizes so different bees can use them. You have to build a box with a roof to keep it dry and fill it with the tubes. Then you need to put it up at least 1m high in a sunny place facing east or southeast. Solitary bees like red mason bees and leaf-cutter bees might come and use a bee house like this to nest in.

Chemicals
Some chemicals like pesticides can be extremely bad for bees and can kill them! So you can help bees and other wildlife by making sure you don’t use chemicals like pesticides and weed killers in your garden.

When you’re shopping you can make sure the food you buy is organic so it’s grown in a way which doesn’t involve chemicals, which can help bees. We get organic veg boxes from Riverford.

Surveys
A good way to learn about bees and help to find out how they’re doing is to take part in bee surveys.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a survey called Bee Walk. You have to plan a route to go for a walk at least once a month from March to October and count how many bumblebees you see.

The UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme has a survey called a Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count). It helps find out how numbers of pollinators are changing. You have to find a patch of flowers on a sunny day in between April and September. You need to put down a 50cm by 50cm quadrat (square) and count how many open flowers are in it. Then you have to watch it for 10 minutes and count the pollinators that come to it. You can do this however many times you want to.

You can help bees too if you want!

Hedgehog Awareness Week 2021

This week (2nd-8th May) is Hedgehog Awareness Week! Hedgehog Awareness Week is a time to focus on helping hedgehogs.

My brothers and I have been using this week to help hedgehogs in our garden and tell other people all about helping hedgehogs too.

At the start of the week, we made two new hedgehog houses. We used instructions from the RSPB.

Then we made some hedgehog letters for everybody around our block. The letters told them about the hedgehogs that visit our garden, facts about them and how to help them and keep your garden safe for hedgehogs. I also made a template of a hedgehog highway and my brother Jake made pictures of a sad hedgehog trying to get into a garden and a happy hedgehog with a hedgehog highway to go through.

We delivered the letters and templates to 166 houses!

You can help hedgehogs too if you like!

Hedgehogs need to travel around 2km every night so a really good way to help them is to put a hedgehog highway (a 13cm hole that hedgehogs can go through) in your fence so that they can get in and out of your garden and into other gardens.

Other good ways to help hedgehogs are putting out water and hedgehog food or meaty cat or dog food. You can make hedgehogs a hedgehog house. You can leave a corner of your garden wild and make things like compost heaps, log piles and wildflower beds to help hedgehogs find food.

It’s important to tidy up netting at night so hedgehogs can’t get tangled up in it and pick up litter so hedgehogs can’t get stuck in it. It’s also important to check when you’re using strimmers, hedge cutters and lawn mowers in case there are hedgehogs and to check when you have a bonfire in case there are hedgehogs sleeping in it. You can make drains safe for hedgehogs by covering them up so they don’t fall in and you can make ponds safe by making sure they have sloping edges or a ramp so that hedgehogs can get out if they fall in.

If you want to learn more about hedgehogs you can play Hedgehog Highways: The Board Game!

Putting Out Nesting Materials For The Birds

At this time of year, birds are making nests. Putting out nesting materials for the birds to use is a way to help them.

We’ve been putting out sheep’s wool which comes as insulation with our orders from Riverford Dairy. We made a holder by weaving willow and put the sheep’s wool inside it, then we hung it up.

We also put some wool in a terracotta apple holder that came from the RSPB shop and we put some more nesting materials in an old children’s watering can and we hung that up too.

Other things you could use to put nesting materials in are a fat ball feeder, a hanging basket, old shoes, boots or crocs or an old teapot.

Birds have been coming to take some of the wool we put out!

You can help the birds by putting out nesting materials too! Do this quiz to find out what’s safe to put out!

Nesting Materials Quiz

Which of these are good to put out as nesting materials for the birds?

Cotton Wool

Dry grass

Dry leaves

Feathers

Human hair

Knitting wool

Moss

Mud

Pet fur

Sheep’s wool

Straw

Toy stuffing

Tumble dryer fluff

Twigs

Answers

Cotton wool: No! It’s best not to put out cotton wool as the threads are very thin and birds might get tangled up in them.
Dry grass: Yes! Dry grass is a safe nesting material for birds.
Dry leaves: Yes! Dry leaves are safe for birds.
Feathers: Feathers are a safe nesting material for birds and they are nice and soft to keep their babies warm.
Human hair: No! Human hair is dangerous for birds because they can get tangled up in it.
Knitting wool: No! Knitting wool is not safe for birds because they can get tangled up in it and a lot of knitting wool has polyester in which is a type of plastic and is bad for wildlife.
Moss: Yes! Moss is safe for birds and is lovely and soft to keep the babies snuggled!
Mud: Yes! Lots of birds like to use mud to stick their nests together so leaving a muddy patch in your garden is very useful.
Pet fur: No! Pet fur is not usually safe for birds because it might have chemicals like shampoo or flea treatment on. If it definitely doesn’t have any chemicals on then it can be okay.
Sheep’s wool: Yes! Sheep’s wool is safe for birds. It’s soft and good for insulation and can help keep their babies warm and snuggled!
Straw: Yes! Straw is safe for birds to use to build their nests.
Toy stuffing: No! Toy stuffing is made from polyester, which is a type of plastic. Plastic stays in the environment for a very, very long time and is dangerous for wildlife.
Tumble dryer fluff: No! Tumble dryer fluff often has tiny bits of plastic and chemicals in, which are dangerous for wildlife. It also isn’t a good building material because it soaks in water and can fall apart.
Twigs: Yes! Twigs are safe and lots of birds like to use them to build their nests.

We found an old bird’s nest on the ground in our garden underneath a bush.

Here are the things we found in it:
Twigs
Moss
Sheep’s wool
Dry leaves

As well as putting out nesting materials for the birds, it’s a good idea to make sure your garden isn’t too tidy to help the birds find all the things they need by themselves.

Hedgehog House

We made a hedgehog house. We made it using these instructions from the RSPB, but we changed it a bit to give it little legs to raise it up from the ground so the bottom wouldn’t get wet and soggy.

We started off with a big bit of plywood. We made sure we chose plywood from a sustainable source.

Then we measured and cut out the sides, front, back, roof and floor.

We cut a 13cm wide doorway on the front for the hedgehogs to get in and out.

We cut a small hole in the back and put a bit of old pipe in pointing downwards so the rain can’t get in, to let fresh air in.

Then we screwed all the pieces together to make a box. We also made a tunnel for the front to keep it warm and stop predators getting in.

We painted the outside but not the inside with wood treatment to make it last longer. It’s important to use water based wood treatment and not to put any on the inside because that might be bad for the hedgehogs.

We collected lots of dry leaves and put them inside to make a nice bed for the hedgehogs. We screwed some little legs on the bottom and we screwed the lid on so we can take it off again if we need to. We screwed the tunnel on too. Then the hedgehog house was finished!

We put it under a bush in our garden. Then we collected lots of sticks and piled them on top of it and round it to cover it and make it look like a nice home for hedgehogs and to keep it extra warm.

We waited… There was one night when a hedgehog kept looking at it and going in and out. Then the next night it did the same but the last video on our hedgehog camera was a hedgehog going in and not coming out again!

Then the next night the hedgehog woke up inside the hedgehog house and came out!

We hope the hedgehog might find a mate and have babies inside!

You can make a hedgehog house if you like so hedgehogs can hibernate and have babies in there and sleep during the day.

If you want to find out more about how to help hedgehogs, why not play my Hedgehogs Highways board game!

BTO Garden Birdwatch

This year we are doing a survey called the BTO Garden BirdWatch.

The BTO Garden Birdwatch is a survey run by the British Trust for Ornitholgy (BTO). It’s to find out how birds are getting on in gardens. You have to do it every week if possible. You have to count the birds which come to your garden during the week. You count the most of any type of bird you see at any one time. Then you have to submit your results on the BTO’s website. There are also questions about other wildlife in the garden like mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles.

So far this week we’ve seen: 6 house sparrows, 2 wood pigeons, 2 goldfinches, 2 blue tits, 1 dunnock, 8 starlings, 1 great tit, 2 chaffinches, 2 greenfinches, 2 magpies, 1 blackbird, 2 robins and 1 collared dove. We’ve also seen 1 hedgehog, 1 grey squirrel, 1 cat, 1 unidentified bumblebee, 1 buff-tailed bumblebee and lots of frogspawn.

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On some other weeks we’ve seen a blackcap, a sparrowhawk, a wren, a crow and long-tailed tits.

The BTO Garden Birdwatch is different from the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch because you do it every week and in the Big Garden Birdwatch you only get to put what birds you see in your garden in one hour but in the BTO Garden Birdwatch you get to put on all the birds you see during the week.

The BTO Garden Birdwatch is important because it means they can find out how wildlife is using gardens and how the wildlife living in gardens is changing so they can find out ways to improve the places where people live to help wildlife as much as possible.

If you’ve got a garden, you can take part in the BTO Garden Birdwatch too if you want!

Conservation Crisis

Conservation Crisis is a board game made by Tunza Games. You need to look after a wildlife reserve to try and save an endangered species. But there are poachers!

First you have to choose an animal to save. The choices are elephant, gorilla, rhino and tiger. You start at HQ and you have to go round the board. When you go round the board there’s lots of stuff to buy. Some of the things like vets and habitat restoration give you more wildlife. Some things like backpacker hostels and luxury lodges give you more money. And the rest, like rangers, livelihood programmes and fences help protect the wildlife. Halfway round the board is a poachers’ checkpoint. You can pay a bribe and whoosh straight past but you have to take a card which has bad things on. If you don’t pay a bribe you have to miss a turn while you go through the checkpoint. When you get back to HQ you have to turn over your bribe card if you have one, then you have to take an event card which sometimes has good things and sometimes has bad things, then you get donor funding and wildlife but you have to pay salaries for people like vets and rangers and teachers. Then you can go round the board again and choose more stuff to buy. It keeps happening until somebody gets an event card that says “Crisis averted”. Then the game ends and the person with the most wildlife wins!

I think Conservation Crisis is a brilliant game because you get to experience and learn all about conservation. You learn about the problems for conservation and some of the decisions and choices that have to be made. The problems are things like getting enough money, and poachers are a very big problem. You also learn about how important it is to work with local communities and help them with things like livelihood schemes. Bribes are no good! I especially like being able to choose what things to buy.

You can play Conservation Crisis if you want to! I think you will probably like it!