Welcome to the second week of Maria’s February Nature Challenge. Maria is our resident Herbalist at Boundary Way and she’s been looking at how to get everyone more connected with Nature. She’s setting one challenge per day, for the whole of February, with a linked alternative challenge for people unable to get out or are short on resources. The idea behind these challenges is to get us outdoors and encourage us to get up close to the nature around us. In today’s blog post we are sharing the coming week’s challenges and can’t wait to see you all having a go. Remember you can share your challenge attempts with us using the hashtags #Mariasfebchallenge or #boundarywayproject or tag us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!
8th February Challenge – Bird Count
Now that you have got used to looking a bit closer at the nature around you our challenge today is to spend a bit of time getting to know the birds that live around us.
Here is a wonderful bird spotting activity with all the information you need from the RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-families/family-wild-challenge/activities/go-birdwatching/
Do you have a favourite spot on one of your walks that you could sit quietly?
Don’t forget to share your results with us – who can spot the most of?
If you can’t get outside: sitting at your favourite window what birds can you see. If there aren’t many how about learning a bit about the different types that visit your area, so you can look out for them next time you are out.
9th February Challenge – Winter Trees
Tree identification during spring, summer and autumn can be fairly easy when you can access the leaves and check them against different resources. In Winter it can seem a lot harder, but once you know what to look at it can be surprisingly easy. There is a lot to learn, but once you have the basics you will soon find that you start to recognise different trees more easily.
Our challenge today is to use the resources below to try and identify a range of trees on your walk or in your park. Tell us what kinds of trees you could find, which were the easiest to spot?
If you can’t get out and about how about trying to identify trees by their shape from a distance from a window. Or you could use the resources to find out the main features and draw silhouettes of winter trees – once you start you will find that they are actually quite distinctive.
10th February Challenge – Happy Hedgehogs
Did you know that hedgehogs now thrive in towns just like urban foxes? Below are some hedgehog facts:
- They are nocturnal – so you most likely to see one at night.
- They can cover over a mile searching for food in a night.
- They can climb quite well.
- They can also swim quite well, but garden ponds tend to have sides that are too steep for them to get out easily.
- They each have around 7000 spines.
- The best time to spot them is around dusk and they tend to be creatures of habit so follow the same routes day after day.
- They hibernate in winter in nests under sheds, in piles of wood or old rabbit holes, which they fill with dead leaves, grass and twigs (this is called a hibernaculum!).
- Their droppings are sausage shaped and shiny (about the size of your little finger) and if you look closely you can see beetle wing cases.
- Their tracks look like little hand prints in snow and mud.
Today’s challenge has two parts:
- Notice any likely hibernation spots on your walk and have a look to see if you can see any signs of hedgehogs, who may be waking up for spring. Use the facts above to help you.
- Collect some natural items to make your own hedgehog.
- What will you use for his body?
- What will you use for his spines?
Please share photos of your hedgehogs and let us know if you found any signs of any waking up from their winter sleep.
If you can’t get out: Can you make a hedgehog with things you can find in the kitchen? Can you paint or draw a happy hedgehog?
If you were a hedgehog where would you make your winter sleepy spot? Can you tell us a story about it?
11th February Challenge – Sensory Walk
Today is all about you – so far we have looked at nature big and small, but what we need to remember is we are not just an observer of nature we are in fact part of nature. So, today’s challenge is to give yourself permission to slow down and just breath!
- Go on your favourite walk
- Find somewhere where you can sit quietly for a few minutes
- Close your eyes
- Breath deeply and …
What can you hear? What can you smell? What can you feel? What can you taste? Open your eyes and what is the first thing that you see?
Share with us how you feel after doing this challenge, has it made a difference to your day? You could also do this challenge by sitting by an open window.
12th February Challenge – Hedgerow Hunting
Who has been eating here? Your challenge is to have a close look at your local hedgerows for signs that mammals have been out and about:
- Can you find any animal droppings?
- Is there any evidence of holes where creatures may live?
- Are there any signs of animals feeding?
- Can you find nibbled nut shells like hazel and sweet chestnut? (If you’re in the woods try looking on tree stumps – Squirrels like to sit there and nibble their hidden nuts)
- Neat holes in the shells tell you that a mouse or vole have been nibbling, whilst shells split neatly in two are the work of a squirrel.
- Are there any abandoned nests? Have a look inside you may find the remains of a feast of berries.
- If you are really lucky you may find owl pellets – you can track them down under nests and roosting places of owls (barn owls are the easiest to find but you need to have access to a barn!). If you do find some soak them in soapy water then use tweezers to gently pull it apart – you will find small bones and fur of the small mammals that owls like to feast on, if you’re lucky you may find a tiny skull, if you do compare it to internet pictures and see if you can identify the mammal it came from.
Share your findings and photos with us.
If you’re not able to visit any hedgerows or fields locally how about trying to have a look in your local park.
Urban areas often have foxes and they don’t like to waste food – they often bury their leftovers, but they do this badly – see if you can find areas of soil that has recently been dug – are there any feathers sticking out? If so, it may have been a fox. (They also bury all sorts of random things!). Other clues could be bins that have been overturned, torn refuse bags and chewed remains.
Fox fun fact: if you find grey coloured droppings with a twisting point at one end its most likely fox poo.
If you were a small mammal what wild foods would you like to munch on?
Can you draw a picture of yourself as a mammal. Share your findings and photos with us.
13th February Challenge – Mini Adventure Part 2
Today’s mini adventure will take us on an exciting adventure to a mini park with the most amazing visitor attractions!
Your challenge today is to let your imagination go wild and create a mini park with the help of your mini explorer.
You will need:
- A piece of brightly coloured string or wool or similar about 2 meters long
- An interesting piece of hedgerow or garden
- Some mini flags (you could make these out of cocktail sticks and tape)
- Imagination and lots of it.
What to do:
- Lay your string on the ground/around the hedgerow in a circle.
- Have a good look around your chosen spot – look for interesting features that could be something amazing in a visitor attraction.
- Use your mini flags to pin point the areas your mini explorer will take visitors.
- Show a friend or family member round your visitor park taking time to explain each attraction.
Examples of what kinds of attractions you might have to help inspire you:
- You may find a stone with a slug trail (or even the slug itself) – well it’s not a slug, it’s a giant blob creature from outer space that landed here many years ago and lives in a cave – sometimes it even does tricks (oh dear it’s a bit shy today!)
- A crack in the earth becomes the Super-Sized Canyon which fills with mud so fast in the rainy season you would be foolish to enter.
- A daisy could become the giant magical flower that has incredible healing powers and only flowers once a year.
- A spider’s web on some nettles could become the amazing trapeze artists with their magical threads.
Don’t forget to share your mini park with us – show us your favourite exhibits.
Can you use the instructions for the main challenge to inspire your imagination and create a picture or collage mini park. Can you tell us a story about it?
14th February Challenge – Love Nature
It’s Valentine’s day and time to show your love for nature!
On your daily walk today create a heart by something you love – your favourite tree, beside a bench, next to a pretty flower – you could create a heart of dropped leaves in your local park, you could use chalk if you have any, you could make twig hearts in the woods for other walkers to find. Maybe you could find a heart shaped stone. Whatever it is you want to show your love for all things natural.
Take a picture and share it with us.
Make a Valentine’s card for something that you love about nature – can you do a poem too?