Make Space for Bees!

Did you know that Ireland has 99 different species of bee? One species we know and love is the Honeybee that lives in beehives. Bumble bees are the big fuzzy ones – we have 21 different species of those and they live in nests in the long grass and hedges. But most of our bees are solitary species, meaning they live on their own either in cracks in trees or walls or in little burrows in the soil!

Bees are very important pollinators for many of our wild flowers and trees as well as fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, many of our wild bees are in trouble as we have less wild flowers and spaces for them to nest in towns and the countryside.

We can all make some space for bees at at home, school and work. Even a small garden or a balcony or a window box can provide food or shelter for bees, butterflies and other important pollinating insects. Here is a short video with some ideas for simple things that you can do to make your space more bee friendly.

Video produced by and shared with the permission of the Heritage Office of Galway County Council

The All Ireland Pollinator Plan has LOTS of information and activities that you can do to learn more about pollinators and make your space better for bees and all their insect buddies!

Download your copy of this handy booklet with information about making homes for pollinators.

Featured Image (top) is “Bombus terrestris V” by schnappischnap and is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Nature Diary April

Spring is definitely here now. Sunshine is heading our way, birds are singing and there are more insects around. The cherry is in full bloom and the blossom may be more on the ground than in the tree by the end of this fortnight.

The Blackthorn is starting to flower, and dandelions are rampant. Can you spot butterflies, hoverflies and other insects feeding on nectar?

Download: Nature Diary for April 7th to April 20th to see what you can look and listen for.

Who Am I? An Animal Guessing Game

Activity: Learn about Irish wildlife through a simple guessing game
Learning Objectives: Investigate Irish wildlife and farm animals and how we can respect them in the natural environment
Links to Curriculum:
SESE Geography Strand: Natural Environments, Strand Unit: The Local Natural Environment
SESE Science Strand: Living Things, Strand Unit: Plants and Animals
SESE Geography and Science Strand: Environmental Awareness and Care, Strand Unit: Caring for My Locality
Time: 30 mins
Materials: A list of the Who Am I? Questions included below, an image of each animal, crayons, colouring pencils or markers

Method:

  1. Explain to children that you will be playing a guessing game about animals, and you are going to draw the answers on your sheet
  2. Have a copy of each animal.
  3. Read through the clues with the children and they have to guess what animal it is and draw them on their sheet.
  4. Read through each riddle below, give the children a few minutes after each one to guess what the animal is and to draw it in on their sheet.
  5. Talk with them about what the answer is.
  6. Have they ever seen any of these animals before? If so where did they see them? How did it make them feel? (e.g. surprised, excited)


I live in an underground tunnel system called a sett,
I am a nocturnal animal which means I only come out at night,
I eat slugs, beetles and lots of earthworms!
You would recognise me by the white stripe that runs down my head
Answer: Badger


I make my home in woodlands and hedgerows,
I like munching on all types of bugs: worms, slugs, earwigs and spiders,
I am a nocturnal animal so you won’t see me out during the day,
You would recognise me by my prickly exterior!
Answer: Hedgehog


I am an arboreal animal which means I spend most of my time in trees,
I even make my nest in trees but I’m not a bird!
I have sharp front teeth that I use to split hazelnuts and tease seeds out of pinecones,
I have a long bushy tail that helps me keep my balance when I’m running up and down trees!
Answer: Squirrel


My name in Irish, Madra Uisce, means water dog,
As my name suggests I am an excellent swimmer!
I make my home on riverbanks, lakeshores and coastal areas,
I love munching on fish, eels and frogs
Answer: Otter


I am an amphibian which means I am cold blooded,
I make my home in nice moist places such as ponds, marshes or long grass,
My long back legs mean I am an excellent jumper!
Answer: Frog


I have no arms or legs!
I live in tunnels I create in the soil,
Although I have no eyes, my body can sense changes in light,
I eat the remains of leaves and plants in the soil
Answer: Earthworm

You can usually find me on a farm,
I have a thick fleece on my body that keeps me nice and warm in winter,
I even star in several well-known nursery rhymes!
Answer: Sheep

Reflection:
Is it important to protect animals? Why?
Are there actions we can take to respect farm animals and wildlife when using the outdoors?

Download

Download a resource sheet with everything you need to play the game: Who am I? Animal Guessing Game

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!

Resources:
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 informationhttps://www.leavenotraceireland.org/resources/educational-resources/primary-schools-resources/

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.