Garden Birdwatching

Since I posted the instructions for making a Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder, I’ve been searching for a free downloadable guide to Irish garden birds. Such a thing is amazingly difficult to find. Then, lo and behold, in my Twitter feed this morning came exactly what I was looking for. The wonderful people at the Cork branch of Birdwatch Ireland have produced two perfect posters Irish Garden Birds in English, and Irish Garden Birds as Gaeilge. What’s more, they’re having a competition from 4th 11th April 2020 and all you have to do is identify and count the birds in your garden. So if you don’t already have a bird feeder, make one, and then join in their competition. If you’re reading this after the competition, you can still make use of their wonderful ID sheets to identify your garden birds. These two fellas were in my garden yesterday!

Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder
Irish Garden Birds in English
Irish Garden Birds as Gaeilge

What’s in your garden?

If you’re a seasoned gardener, you probably know exactly what’s in your garden, but I certainly don’t know what everything in mine is called.  And how do you figure it out? There’s literally thousands of plants.  They usually come from the garden centre with tags attached, but, by now, the writing on the tags is probably faded and the tags may even be lost.  NUI Galway botanist Marianela Zanolla has recommended some plant identification apps for you to try, and challenges you to count the number of species in your garden and contribute to a survey by filling in the number in this google form.

Download our ‘how to’ guide with listed apps: What´s in your garden?

We’ll feature wildflowers in a future post, and give you some ideas as to how you might identify these.

Mini Beast Hunt

Stay Local and have your own mini beast hunt – see what you can find.

Spring is well and truly kicking in now, and lots of creepy crawlies are starting to come out and about. So it is a good time to go out in the fresh air and take a closer look at nature. You can go on a minibeast hunt in your own garden. You’ll soon notice it’s teeming with wildlife!

Here are some really cool facts before you go out looking for small creatures hiding in the outdoors.

  • Minibeasts are ‘small creatures’, like worms, snails, insects and spiders. The scientific term for them is ‘invertebrates’ – a creature without a backbone.
  • Minibeasts make their homes in lots of places, both inside our homes (spiders) and outside under logs, stones or leaves, in ponds, in trees, in grass and in soil.
  • Some minibeasts eat plants or flower nectar; others eat other minibeasts!
  • Slugs have four noses.
  • Minibeasts are crucial for our survival: they recycle dead matter and waste products; they help with plant pollination; they are a crucial source of food in the ecosystem.
  • Some worms have ten hearts!
  • Worms have existed for around 600 million years.
  • Because they don’t have a backbone, minibeasts tend to have other structures which support and protect them. Snails have shells, while many insects and spiders have an ‘exoskeleton’, which is a hard casing on their outside.
  • The colour and appearance of minibeasts are key to their survival. Many minibeasts have very good camouflage, blending them into their environment so that they can hide from predators or creep up on prey. Other minibeasts, like the monarch butterfly, have bright colours to warn predators that they are either poisonous or might taste disgusting.
  • Most minibeasts tend to use their senses of smell, touch and taste to experience the world around them, rather than their sight or hearing. They use features such as antennae, small hairs or taste receptors to do this.

Can you find…

  • a worm after a spring shower
  • a bumblebee looking for nectar
  • a spotty ladybird exploring the grass
  • a slimy snail in a dark damp spot
  • a butterfly basking in the sunshine?

For more information

Nature Art

Today’s post doesn’t need downloadable instructions.  Just go to your door and see what you can find from nature to make a picture.  Maybe you have sea shells or pretty stones, or maybe conkers or pine cones lying around from previous walks.  Mix them with fresh leaves and flowers and see what you can ‘draw’.  Enormous thanks to Megan Smith for these lovely pictures.

Nature Art

Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder

Download our Plastic Bottle Bird Feeder instructions for  another activity that can be done without leaving home.  If you don’t have a garden or a yard, you may still be able to hang a bird feeder just outside a window where you can see it.  Pretty much everyone should be able to make one of these from stuff that you already have, or that can be bought from a supermarket.  Most supermarkets have bird feed too (check by the pet food).  You can improvise with any nuts but make sure they are salt free.  The plastic bottle feeder I made yesterday (in the photo) is proving to be super popular with our goldfinches, while our blue tits and coal tits seem to prefer the wire shop-bought feeder so far. What about yours? Tell us in the comments.

Leaf Rubbing

Friday 13th March was the first day of #LockDownIreland, but today is the first day of the more severe version so now we need activities that don’t involve going out even to the park.  Leaf rubbing is an activity more normally associated with autumn, when leaves are everywhere and are old and hard.  But it can be done in spring too as long as you’re gentle with those soft new leaves.  Just grab some leaves from your garden or yard (or even a pot plant!) and follow our quick guide to Leaf rubbing.

Make a vegetable garden

Ever wondered about growing your own veggies but don’t know where to start?  Look no further. Brendan Smith has written you A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Food in March/April.  It contains everything you need to know from preparing the soil, to what tools you might need, and how to keep the slugs down organically.  It doesn’t matter how little space you have – even if you don’t have an outside you can grow something in a pot indoors.