Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Cold spell!

The last couple of days have been very cold, so not a lot of visible activity going on in the garden at the moment. When the sun does come out a few bumble bees have been lazily buzzing from one flower to another. The main flowering plants left at the moment are the nasturtiums that are still flowering quite profusely. This big clump has self-seeded from the ones I planted in the window boxes last year.

Despite being almost decimated once by caterpillars of the large white butterfly, they have continued to spread in front of the house. This years second generation of large white caterpillars are still quite evident on the leaves. They are quite large now and almost ready to pupate - as long as develop quick enough before the cold weather sets in. The caterpillars are mainly eating machines, devouring leaves as they grow. They will shed their skin 4 times before they are ready to pupate. Just before they shed their skin for the 5 th and last time they crawl away to find a safe secluded place to pupate.

The caterpillar above made its way up the front of the house yesterday to find somewhere to overwinter. It will attach itself with silk thread and as it sheds its skin for the last time it will reveal the chrysalis. It will remain as a chrysalis throughout the winter until spring when it will emerge as an adult. Some species, such as peacock butterflies overwinter as adults. They will also find a safe place away from the worst of the weather, such as a hollow tree or a garden shed.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Sustainable Schools Project

Yesterday was the launch of the Enguage project, a Sustainable Schools initiative by West Sussex County Council. The project uses a specially designed susguage to measure the sustainability of individual schools. The results show schools where they are doing well and areas that they may need to work on to achieve sustainability in various areas including the school grounds, energy and water use, local procurement, waste management and recycling, well being etc.

The project then aims to guide schools with the aid of a group of specialists in ways that they can improve the sustainability of these different areas. I have been working on the project, with a fellow ecologist, as school grounds specialists. This includes encouraging biodiversity in school grounds and encouraging the use of the school grounds to study and experience wildlife. There are also many other areas of the schools curriculum that could be done outside in school grounds. And of course, time spent outside in the grounds whether it is active sport, drama or quite reading all add to the children's well being.

Here are a few pictures from the Launch

The project launch was hosted by Weald School, one of the pilot schools. The launch took place in the hexagonal library.

The display included a case study and a display stand, two laptop presentations about our work with school grounds, information, exhibits and literature.

Information about nest boxes, bird nest quiz and live exhibits; large white caterpillars, snails and damselfly larvae.

My IT based habitat mapping project, here are examples of several schools. Photographs depicting different areas of the grounds can be linked to the map. These can include both movies files and sound files, (the latter either animal sounds or children's descriptions etc.) linked to the photographs.

Example of how literacy, numeracy, art and other cross curriculum subjects can be used to study the school grounds.

If you would like to see more info about working with school grounds, check out the blog entry for June 2008 "National School Grounds Week."

If you would like to know more about the Enguage Project, check out the Enguage Project link on the West Sussex Grid for Learning below.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Summer stroll

A sunny day for a change so I decided to take a quick walk around Easthill Park before I started work. Just outside the park, a great spotted woodpecker was drumming and moving around in the branches. It reached the highest most branch only to be confronted by a sleepy wood pigeon determined not to move from its spot (picture below).
The woodpecker appeared to be trying to get the pigeon to move and gave up after a few minutes. Just to my right, a red admiral butterfly flitted from flower to flower in the shrubs.
As I walked around the park I saw or heard the usual birds, blackbird, robin, dunnock, sparrow etc. One carrion crow stood out from the rest as it had some white feathers.
It seemed to be hastled from time to time by the magpies which are also very common.
Grey squirrels were very active collecting acorns which they either eat or rushed of to bury.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Early yesterday evening a hummingbird hawk moth Macroglossum stellatarum visited the last red Valerian flowers in the corner of the garden. It zipped about, just like a hummingbird, with its very long proboscis dipping into the tiny flowers. I have seen hummingbird hawk moths from time to time in the garden, usually visiting the Red Valerian which is not surprising as Red Valerian is a Mediterranean plant species and hummingbird hawk moths migrate each year from the south of France. Hummingbird hawk moths are usually seen along the south coast between May and September. It is an example of a moth that is active during the day, so it is easy to spot.
The hawk moth is pictured below. Not an excellent photograph but is was very dull and in a dark corner.
This observation fits in well with the theme of this blog, "keep an eye out at all times because you never know what you will see or where". I had just gone out to the green house in the garden to pick some beans for our evening meal, between showers of rain, when I noticed the hummingbird hawk moth zipping past.